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“No Religion, Too” – John Lennon

 

First and foremost, one must remember that to achieve the revolutionary goals of Marx and Engel, there can be no alliance except to the state. Christianity, Islam, the Jewish faith, Buddhism, Hindi, all major religions, promote alliance to a philosophy or an entity that is not the state, and represent a potential threat to the state and are thus, contemptuous. The church was banned in the Soviet Empire; revolutionaries murdered clergy and forced Christianity underground. Churches were closed and priests were hunted down and executed during the Mexican socialist takeover. The church was exiled in Cuba and currently faces much difficulty and enmity in Venezuela. The Chinese have effectively banned not only religion, but anything that even remotely resembles religion like the infamous crackdown on the practice of Falun Gong. For the Left there can be no quarter, no safe spaces, no organizational philosophy and no church to rival the state.

Of course Leftism, as espoused in the US in its rarified progressive form among the academy, the media, the Democrat Left and certain elites, would never openly contend that religion is its adversary. (Obama’s depiction of heartland Americans “clutching their guns and their bibles” was an unusual slip of candor.) In fact, progressive liberals are at best only marginally aware that the statist nirvana they seek is really the same overarching state falsely conceived, prophesied and promised by radical atheists Marx and Engel. For the reflexive progressive Left in the US, religion is simply in need of sufficient reform to become sympatico with the correct progressive worldview, that is, it needs to move to the Left. Hard. Only the few true communists and socialist know that this must eventually lead to the effective dissolution of religious affiliation, but no one will ever admit this fact. It is the outcome that shall not be named. Rather, it is accepted that traditional religious dissolution is simply a part of the natural evolution, the progression, to a socialist or statist world where rational secularism naturally replaces irrational faith.

The Catholic Church, as powerful and enduring as it would seem to be, is hardly exempt from this cycle of dissolution. The erosion of the size and influence of the Catholic Church with the advance of democratic -socialist governance in Western Europe threatens the very viability of the faith. Despite theological opposition to abortion and contraception, reproductive rates in western countries are well below sustaining rates. Contraception and abortion are generally free in Europe (though they may be time restricted or require waiting periods.) The Church is losing its congregation and influence in what should be its stronghold, its own backyard. Its congregants are dying off and are not being replaced. In the meantime, post WW2 generations have embraced secularism, relegating the Church to a status of cultural anachronism and impotence.

European secularism is simply a part of socialism; that is it represents the acceptance that there is no power, law or authority other than the state. Secularism has virtually taken over in Western Europe. The secular state requires no weekly attendance, no tithes (just taxes and then disproportionately on the corporate and the rich), no moral indignation, no confession and no final judgement. The only sins are crimes and they are only punished if successfully prosecuted. All the old venal and carnal Christian sins are barely sins at all! This, the progressives tell us, is freedom! But it is not. First and foremost, it requires acknowledgment of the supremacy of the state; from it comes all authority, all ownership and all power.

Only the state can protect and free citizen from the preening moral judgements of religious moralists and zealots. The democratic socialists in Western Europe may have not banned religion, but that does not mean that they hold organized religion in less contempt than a fully communist China or Cuba. It has simply supplanted religious faith by demanding the supremacy of secular law, claiming this to be a kind of supra-moral redemption freeing Europeans from the religious idea of sin and obligation.

Though the US is far more religious than Europe, it is not exempt from a similar erosion. The Left has used the courts in a largely successful movement to strip all religious reference from public life. Left leaning courts have upheld the idea that any expression of religion in public buildings or institutions constitutes a “state sponsorship” of religion. This misguided reasoning has hijacked the US Constitution’s prohibition against the establishment of a state religion (ala Britain’s Anglican Church) even to the point of banning the Ten Commandments from displays in schools and courthouses.

Secularism is on full display among US progressives and with this movement comes all of the vulgarity and Orwellian language expected when secularists are freed of any notion of religious moral certitude. Although no pregnant woman ever referred to an unborn baby as a fetus, in secular America, an unborn child in the language of the Left is nothing more than a parasite or a byproduct to be sold. Marriage, once a religious sacrament between a man and woman, is now just a celebrated party and a flimsy contract among two adults of any sex. Euthanasia is just another choice, not self-murder. In the US, the progressive Left is using the secular state to erode traditional religious moral belief, and hence to place itself above and in opposition to religious moral teaching.

The question then arises, why would mainstream Christian faiths embrace a political movement that opposes their teaching? The answer to that is simple; they are deluded and deceived. Facing loss of congregants in a progressive world where religion has been rendered, if not a moral anachronism, then at best irrelevant, they are tricked into joining with the Left in their various progressive causes in hopes of gaining reciprocal support. Yet, despite this their numbers wane and their churches close.

There is nothing wrong with a Church’s identification of injustice, with the establishment of a religious movement against injustice or with a Church’s leadership on moral and ethical questions, on sin; these endeavors are what freedom of religion and expression are all about. Progressives embrace an anti-war state, not because of a sudden pacifist conversion, but because they see the military as both a political opponent and as a diversion of public resources they would rather spend elsewhere. Unwitting clergy from nearly all religions and denominations, reflexively pacifist, join in the anti-war movement unaware of the underlying progressive (and dangerously naïve) motive.

On the other hand, the civil rights cause, which was initially a religious-led movement, was later conveniently hijacked, corrupted and taken over by progressives. Social Justice, the current progressive iteration of the civil rights movement, is a misnomer; it is now simply the age old idea of generational guilt; that is reparation paid to those who blame hereditary mistreatment for their inability to thrive. The objective here is to force the state to enhance the current system of reparation beyond minority preference, affirmative action, progressive taxation and a guilt-free, gratitude-exempt, welfare state. “Social Justice” is not really a progressive cause per se, however it is embraced generally by the Left as it supports their notion of state control of wealth and economic outcome in a general sense. In it they find compliant political allies.

In fact, all “victimhood” movements – feminist, gay rights, transgender rights, have evolved as politically correct offshoots of the progressive hijacking of the black civil rights movement in America. One can only wonder how Martin Luther King, Jr. or Roy Wilkins would react to “Black Lives Matter” or the current media cacophony over transgender rights. Left turning clergy in the US willingly join these new crusades hoping to catch some of the excitement and moral certitude of the original civil rights leaders. In doing this, they only alienate themselves and their denominations from the many who see these spin-off movements as political, irrational and self-serving.

Open borders represents yet another tenet of the progressive left. However, progressives see open borders as the means to ballot dominance. Progressives believe that these new immigrant voters will be easy to convert to secularist Americans. They come from socialist states. They are natural Democrats and ready for the better, less corrupt form of US socialism. Progressives find close allies in their open border recruitment effort in religious leaders ready to embrace any idea to help the poor. Lost in this discussion is the abject failure of the migrants’ native countries with their socialist, Left leaning and corrupt governments.

Then there is “climate change.” Climate change is not really a Left-Right issue; it is a progressive rallying cry of wolf magnified and adopted by the modern progressive left. It presents a political short-cut, a quick chance for the state to consolidate its authority over money and commerce, the prime directive of statism and socialism generally. Money is the true source of power through which all progressive goals are accomplished. When Left leaning religious denominations and clergy join progressives in the call for state action on climate change, they have truly embraced the whole progressive agenda. The science of this debate is highly questionable and the proposed solutions, spurious. And as for its theological implications, they are are nothing if not all progressive politics.

Recent progressive tolerance, even support, for Islam is an interesting dynamic. There is no religion more in opposition to the progressive movement, more adversarial, and yet progressives are reluctant to pose any kind of resistance to what would be staunch opposition if the same accommodations were requested of Christians or Jews. Prayer rooms and special accommodations are offered to Muslim students in public schools. Public washing stations are provided for Muslims in government facilities. No complaints arise when the tenets of Islam are taught in public schools. Progressives seem frozen by a misguided sense of political correctness when it comes to Islam, an inability to assume that Muslims actually embrace Islamic theology, or that making this assumption somehow makes them prejudiced. This is an absurd blind spot among progressives.

On the other hand, the progressives Left, especially in Europe but also in the US (especially in the Academy) shows nothing but antipathy toward Israel and Jews generally. This anti-Semitic streak exists even though Jews, especially in the US, are generally strong supporters of progressive politics and generally identify as liberal progressives. Much of this antipathy may just be old-fashioned Jew hating, but Israel’s pugnacious insistence on its existence as a singular Jewish state is a direct affront to the Left’s idea of multiculturalism, open borders and world governance.

When mainstream religious leaders and denominations join with and support progressives, they are embracing an enemy committed to their destruction. Like many fellow travelers before them, many unwitting religious leaders and their affiliations have joined with progressives and become them, fully embracing the idea that men, in the form of the state, can enforce a poverty, sin and conflict free world without tyranny. They see this egalitarian world, the world of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as a religious ideal, except they seem to have ignored the telling verse “and no religion too.” The fact that they cannot see that they are facilitating their own demise is maddening. Utopia, that is heaven on earth, is the stuff of fools. As many times as men attempt such an enterprise, it fails, people suffer and in the process, human progress ends. We will never get it right. You would think that any believer in original sin would get that. They don’t.

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An Incivil Matter

 

The balloons went up. They were up nightly at the abandoned train station outside Haqlaniyah, Iraq. We were convinced it was a coded message. The colors of the balloons would change each night and their groupings also seemed more than haphazard. Our S-2 shop never did figure out the messages of the balloons, but we had every reason to believe those messages weren’t meant to be friendly to us.

We were the First Battalion, 23d Marines, a Reserve Marine Infantry battalion mobilized and deployed to take charge of about 100 miles of the Euphrates River from Haditha to a bit south of the City of Hit, back in 2005. The battles of Fallujah were over and, unknown to everyone except us, the focus of the enemy’s efforts was on Haditha. To this day most Generals don’t seem to acknowledge that fact, they just thought that an understrength battalion spread that thin must have been getting hit so much because we were reservists. We were understrength because they took one of our companies away from us to guard the Air Station at Al Asad. After we lost 48 dead and well over 100 wounded badly enough to be sent home, the lesson the Generals learned was to never put a reserve battalion on the line again. Strangely, they replaced our battalion with two full strength American battalions and three top notch Iraqi battalions, and Voilà! Peace broke out in the region. Let’s just say I disagree with the lesson to be learned.

One of the things people often complain about nowadays is the “Rules of Engagement.” Of course, the rules of engagement are classified, so unless you were there and briefed on the rules, you have no way of knowing what the rules were — but that never stops people from arguing about them. There are always rules of engagement of one kind or another, and when we were in Iraq, they were generally permissive compared to later years. What I didn’t like was not so much the Rules, but the attitudes of our Nation toward its use of the military.

The balloons were a symptom. But with the balloons, we weren’t sure something was up, we just suspected what they were used for. It’s the Mosques that angered me. Nightly the enemy used the minarets to announce to the cities their anti-American and anti-western propaganda and they’d urge the people to kill us. We weren’t allowed to do anything about it. Because we’re polite, I guess.

Forty-eight men in my battalion were dead. We were polite about it.

Another movie is coming out about Iraq, “Thank You for Your Service.” It’s probably meant as a tribute to the military, and perhaps many in the military take it that way. I don’t think I will. It’s another symptom of the attitude of our Nation and its use of the military.

The movie is about a soldier who does his duty and does it well. He’s not Audie Murphy, he’s an everyman who does good and faithful service and his comrades trust him. It’s another PTSD movie, perhaps, or at least another movie about how hard it is to come home from war. This rankles me. I want to see a war movie where the good guys don’t have problems adjusting. The conflict should be the enemy, not home. I guess that would require a different attitude of our Nation toward its use of the military.

Why do we have a military? I think I know. I don’t think our nation in general knows. We allow our military to fight an enemy by letting them preach their attacks on us with loud speakers from minarets. Why? Instead of cutting down balloons and running out the vagabonds squatting on the unused train station, we sit and wonder what they mean. Why? We invade a country and establish a local government that we allow to tell us what to do before the war is even completed? Why? We don’t require people that we conquer to observe the Bill of Rights and allow them to continue oppressing their people. Why?

Enemies don’t respect politeness. Our military does not exist to bring care packages to the world and prop up oppressive regimes and religions.

Why can’t Hollywood make a truly heroic war movie? Because we don’t win wars. We don’t win wars — not because we don’t have weapons and the mechanical ability to win wars. We don’t win wars and we don’t see heroic war movies because of the attitude of our Nation toward its use of the military.

Just as in recent politics we are seeing a new way of thinking that brought Trump to office in an effort to change the attitude of politics, we need a new way of thinking about our military. Our military needs more incivility.

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A New Democratic Party Vote Mining Initiative?

 

As many of you know, I’m the father of a 24-year old severely Autistic young man who lives with me. My son has always been speech challenged. He is non-conversant and expresses himself with only rudimentary requests. “I want this” or “I want that” or “Disneyland” or “car” or “walk”, or responses like “No, thank you!”, etc. My son enjoys watching YouTube, Disney movies, Star Wars, and the occasional Hitchcock film (especially Vertigo). But he doesn’t understand what happens in the news and certainly doesn’t understand politics. Let’s face it, a lot of us don’t really understand politics either but we do a good job of faking it and get by.

After his eighteenth birthday, I also became my son’s legal conservator (along with my ex-wife) so I could retain certain rights and controls over his well-being – where he lives, his healthcare, managing his day-to-day care in working with caregiving agencies and the local Regional Center, etc. The State of California, through the probate court system, checks in with my son’s welfare every few years by sending out an investigator from the public defender’s office prior to a scheduled court hearing in front of a judge. This is generally a good thing to make sure that individuals in the Special Needs community are being well-cared for and not abused.

During the visit, the investigator asks various questions about my son’s health, his doctors, his medications, checks out his bedroom and then asks my son the occasional question which he replies with an unintelligible response or by completely ignoring the investigator.

Prior to the court hearing, I am sent the investigator’s written report that will be reviewed by the judge. Here are a few of the questions asked and what was checked for my son’s response (I’ve bolded what the investigator checked):

Advisement:

When informed that he is under a conservatorship and told the name of the conservator(s), the conservatee

Made no intelligible response

Replied:___________________________________

Did not respond in any manner

When asked if he wished to continue to be under conservatorship, the conservatee:

Made no intelligible response

Replied:___________________________________

Did not respond in any manner

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Voting Rights:

The conservatee is able to communicate a desire to participate in the voting process

Yes

No

This is a change from previous recommendations/status

Comments: The conservatee is verbal and able to express a desire to participate in the voting process.

Needless to say, the information under the Voting Rights section is false and a complete fabrication…especially since I was in the room and this question was never asked of my son. If it had been asked, my son would have been non-responsive, would have responded unintelligibly or would have asked to go to Disneyland.

Unfortunately, my son doesn’t have a clue what it means to vote or what the words “ballot”, “politics”, “elections”, “candidates”, “mayors”, “governors”, “senators”, “congress”, “measures” or even “judge” mean. In a voting booth, my son would be apt to destroy the machine once he found that it couldn’t do much other than let him spin the dial around and around. It wouldn’t be pretty.

So, I called the investigator on it and her response was essentially that this is how the court wants the information to be filled in. I asked her if this was a new Democratic Party Get Out The Vote initiative. She laughed. I told her I was concerned that an absentee ballot would be issued in my son’s name. She replied that I shouldn’t be concerned.

Look it’s clear that there are millions of voters who are more intellectually endowed than my son…but there are also millions of voters who haven’t a clue about current events, history, the American Idea, the Constitution, the law, what it means to mishandle top secret documents or lie to Congress or the FBI, or have a clue about any of the candidates they vote for or issues that they vote on. How else does one explain Maxine Waters or the popular vote for Hillary Clinton? Of course, my son does know quite a bit more about life and current events than the thousands of deceased Democrat voters who continue to vote in successive elections. So, there is that.

I’ll be visiting the court on Tuesday with my son and look forward to bringing this topic up with the judge. Perhaps the judge would like to ask my son directly whether he wants to vote. That will be fun.

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God Bless Them, and May God Help Us Keep Building Them

 

A little Yazidi girl sits in the middle of a firefight, clutching the corpse of her mother. She’s right in the middle of a firefight. No way she’s going to make it. Vagaries of war right?

Not when there’s a Free Burma Ranger and two US SF guys on site.

FBR: I’m getting her.

US SF: We got your back. We’ll suppress.

So all three needlessly (except for, you know, saving the life of a strategically/operationally/tactically unimportant little girl) expose themselves to fire, and pull her out.

Note: I have no idea what the SF advisors’ Rules of Engagement are. But, based on experience, I’ll hazard a guess that the ROE stated something like “may accompany authorized partners up to the last covered and concealed position before the objective.”

Probably went something like this:

-Hey, ‘Ski.

-Yo, Smitty.

-I know we’re supposed to stay here, behind the berm, but do that tank up there right in the middle of the fight look like cover?

-It do.

-An’ if we’re behind it, are we concealed?

-We are.

-So, shall we move forward?

-We shall.

In related news, there was a green-on-blue attempted massacre at Shaheen. The turncoat Afghan commando fired a RPG round into an SF team’s hootch (I have no idea if it was a tent, a CHU, or a pre-existing building). The RPG seriously wounded seven troopers. One guy toward the back, that had his tactical belt on, but no plates, no helmet, slung his M4 and ran toward the threat out front of the hootch, with his M4 in the “low carry” position. When he got outside, he caught the second RPG round right on the “main” body of the M4. It didn’t, for whatever reason, explode, it ricocheted; it knocked him on his keester. He dropped his primary and transitioned to his secondary, a M9 Beretta 9mm pistol, and dropped the faithless, jihadi bastard. Probably saved the lives of every guy in the hootch.

This is my old unit. I got sources. I’ll keep you posted on whether this troop (deservedly) gets the MoH.

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Mortgage Deduction Phaseout

 

As Richard Epstein said on The Libertarian, one of the deductions he is highly in favor of eliminating is the Mortgage Interest Deduction.

I propose a phaseout of the deduction starting with a deduction cap of $60,000 for the first year and reducing it by $2,000 per year over 30 years.

The current max for a mortgage size is $1 million. A $60k deduction is equivalent to a 6% mortgage at this debt level — a rate very few people are paying.

The 30 year phase out period means that everyone will have plenty of time to adjust to the new normal. People with current mortgages and those who buy soon should be mostly unaffected since 30 years is the standard payment plan, the share of interest one pays decreases over the life of the loan, and interest rates are well below 6% right now.

Home prices will have a tremendous amount of time to adjust, and so there shouldn’t be any big shocks to the market.

Best of all, we’ll have eliminated one of the biggest market distortions, shown that entrenched deductions can be eliminated, freed up a bunch of revenue we can use to flatten the tax code, and gotten the government incrementally closer to that “postcard sized” tax form we all want.

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News of the Future – The Democrat Leader

 

(Washington, D.C. / March 26, 2085) – Two congressional aides for House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi pushed the anodized aluminum cart encasing most of her body, which included a monitor that displayed her vital signs onto the stage, in the Democratic Caucus press room so she could address the gathered members of the media.

CNN Reporter: Leader Pelosi, you’re looking remarkably well today.

Pelosi: Who?

CNN Reporter: You, ma’am. You’re looking very alert and healthy.

Pelosi: I am a – – I am a dynamic – – I saw a pretty…a pretty cloud this morning…and a duck.

MSNBC Reporter: Happy Birthday, Madame Leader, how does it feel being 145 years young?

Leader Pelosi turned her head which began to bob slightly and stared vacantly at the reporter. There was an uncomfortable pause.

Fox News Reporter: Uh…Ms. Pelosi, we understand that there has been some dissension in the ranks of your party and some rumblings given the many election losses that perhaps, despite the remarkable advances in medical science and technology, you should consider stepping down and make way for a younger Democrat member of Congress to assume your role as Minority Leader.

Pelosi: – – ling.

Fox News Reporter: Excuse me?

Pelosi: Duck…ling. Not a dog. Not a duck. Ling. Ling. Duckling. Ha, ha.

Fox Reporter: Ah, yes. Very good.

Pelosi: We are a strong party. With…with bowling…bold ideas. President Bush!

Washington Post Reporter: Madame Leader, do you think perhaps that your party is having difficulty communicating what some of those bold ideas are and connecting with younger voters? After all, your party in the House now only holds 18 seats…and seven seats in the Senate.

Pelosi: In the beginning…was the Word. Think about that. It’s wonderful.

Washington Post Reporter: Uh…

One the leader’s congressional aides stepped in front of the microphone.

Aide: “Thank you all for coming. We’re going to take the leader to a private dining room now for some cake.”

Pelosi: “Cake.”

The reporters filed out of the room.

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Trump Needs a New Hobby

 

President Trump (how strange it still is to type that) is an avid golfer, which does seem fitting as practically every president in the last 30 years has also been a golfer. Of course we beat constantly on Obama for golfing, and GW Bush was mocked for the same, even though he soon stopped as he felt it dishonorable for president at war taking leisure on the greens (not that the media gave him one iota of credit for this).

Clinton had a rumored reputation of being a horrible cheater on the fairways (no surprise as he was a cheater in other matters too), and now The Donald is taking media flak for golfing. Apparently one of the latest attacks has been on his committing the faux pas of driving his cart on the greens.

Whatever. My rare golf games usually involve watching the other sort of embarrassing faux pas – that of inebriated relatives hitting on the girls driving the mobile refreshment carts, or losing an entire box of balls on the front 9 to water hazards and swimming pools (sidebar: who would want a house built right next to fairway?). But golf is respectable. Golf is intellectual. Golf is…. presidential! This is why I say President Trump needs to find a new hobby. He should take up shooting. I’d settle for trap or skeet shooting, I mean he doesn’t need to go full Ted Nugent and use a full-auto (legally registered) M-16 and nail wild boars from a chopper (and I don’t think he could pull it off anyway) but he should have a more… well… Red-State hobby than golf, and that should be shooting. It would also one-up Vlad the Putin.

Vlad is a Judo champ. Vlad likes to ride horses while bare-chested. These are sooo European. They’re cultured. They’re refined. But Trump with a gun would be Indiana Jones in the Cairo market, tired, ticked off, and just ready to shoot the show off. What could be more red-blooded American than Trump maybe trying his hand at an IDPA match? Or bagging turkeys? John Kerry tried that one and he just didn’t look the part, but Trump could look the part. Well, assuming he doesn’t insist on gold-plating his Mossberg, which I suppose I shouldn’t put past him.

Still, I confidently predict that if Trump takes up shooting, and ditches the golf, he’d already have a lock on 2020. It’s Red-State to the core, it would give him solid ground for tweeting nasty things about New York gun laws, and dang it but it’s just a lot more fun! So President Trump, I implore you, sir, to throw your custom clubs in the closet, grab your MAGA hat and gold-rimmed sunglasses, and join us at the range. It’s the best.

And we won’t mind if you start tweeting unbelievable hunting stories, it’s just part of the game.

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Otto Warmbier and the Triumph of the North Korean Propaganda Machine

 

What are we to make of the strangely incurious reaction by most media outlets and commentators toward the charges levied by the North Korean regime against Otto Warmbier? Even if one accepts that civilized countries should tolerate the manhandling of their citizens by thug regimes for such ridiculous “crimes,” I find it odd that nobody is really questioning the facts surrounding his arrest.

Most of the articles and commentary I’ve read (including those by people sympathetic to his plight as well as the “white frat boy had it coming” crowd) accept uncritically that Mr. Warmbier took down a propaganda poster in a restricted area of his hotel (to their credit @jaynordlinger and Jim Geraghty appear to be notable exceptions, but the Smart Girls and many other Ricochet podcasters appear to have accepted the factuality of Mr. Warmbier’s offense). This despite the fact that:

(1) Mr. Warmbier’s roommate says that he was never alone long enough to do the deed, and never gave any indication that he was even thinking of such a thing,

(2) his roommate’s account of the final day of their trip clearly suggests that Mr. Warmbier, as an American traveling alone, was deliberately targeted for kidnap by the regime,

(3) the North Koreans have a long and time-honored tradition of kidnapping foreigners for various purposes, including to use as leverage in the next round of interminable talks,

(4) the North Korean regime habitually lies about everything,

(5) Mr. Warmbier’s confession, wrung out of him at great duress, was clearly written by a non-English speaker, and paints a counterfactual picture of a poverty-stricken, churchgoing Methodist Warmbier family (Mr. Warmbier’s family does not appear to be in any financial distress and are non-observant Jews), and

(6) the only other evidence presented is a grainy video in which the poster is clearly visible but the perpetrator’s face is never seen.

In short, there is more evidence that Kim Jong Il golfed a 38 under-par than that Otto Warmbier actually removed a propaganda poster as he was accused. Yet media outlets across the political spectrum are almost uniformly uninterested in examining these claims, and accept them as true. A victory for the North Korean propaganda machine, I guess.

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Winners and Sore Losers

 

From Michael P. Ramirez:

A huge reason why Trump prevailed is because so many simply stopped trusting Media coverage. Although it may be short-lived, I’m enjoying a political phase where ideas seem to be worth more than millions of dollars. It’s also been amazing to have my friends and family call to talk about hearing Trump’s actual speeches, rather than just discuss the coverage. Are more Americans shaking off the pretty words of the Obama years and realizing that the only hope and change that counts is a better job and a plan for the future?

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Quote of the Day – Life

 

“It’s a great life as long as you don’t weaken.” — My Mother 

Marge, Maggie, or Peg was my Mother. She was born today in 1911. She was the oldest of eight. She had two sisters and five brothers. They lived in a three-bedroom home without indoor plumbing on the second mountain east of Pittsburgh. Everyone thought they were rich. Her father owned a coal mine. This mine consisted of a hole in the hill, a tipple, a black man named Rufus, a pickup truck like a dump truck, and a mule. Rufus took the mule down the shaft, dug the coal and the mule pulled it up the shaft on to the tipple and dumped it into the truck. Her father delivered it to local homes and tried to collect the money. He was apparently better at the delivery part than the collection part. They were not rich. Around 1925 the mule died. My mother’s father, my Grandfather also took the job of the mule. He died within a year. They say he just wore out and died. Mom was 14.

My mom was born two years before Eleanor H. Porter wrote the novel Pollyanna. If you look in the dictionary under Pollyanna there should be a picture of my mother. She was the most optimistic, positive, happy person that may have ever lived. We used to kid that mom could cross an eight-lane interstate in the rain with a blindfold and not get hit by a car or a drop of rain. She of course became a second mother to her siblings. Each were required to save their lunch bag they took to school and walk the railroad tracks and pick up coal that fell off the hopper cars and bring it home to heat the house.

Mom went to a one-room schoolhouse for grades 1 through 8. She then went to a consolidated high school and graduated first in her class. She was also the prom queen. She looked like a movie star. From high school she went to nursing school where she also graduated first in her class. By this time the Great Depression had set in. The only job she could land was a Public Health Nurse in the worst part of town. Everyone told her not to take it but she said, “I’ll treat them like I want treated and everything will be fine.”

On her first morning, after seeing several families and having no problems other than strange looks, she was passing a boxing gym. Imagine she is in her white uniform including a big white nursing hat and she is also the only white-skinned woman for many blocks. A young man was coming out of the gym and asked her if she was trying to get killed or something. No, just trying to help, she answered. He asked for the list of people she was to see for the week. He took her that day and for the rest of the week to each address. His name was Nate and he was the toughest man on the Hill. No one gave her a bit of trouble ever. He later became a neighborhood leader and civil rights activist.

My dad was engaged to a girl named Harriet. His sister, who was a nurse, brought my mom home with the idea that she would be perfect for Dad. Neither knew her intentions. Within 15 minutes Dad called Harriet and broke off the engagement. He married Maggie married a year later. They planned to have a big family (dad was one of seven). My sister was born in ’39 and mom and dad suffered three miscarriages and a still-born in the next six years until I was born in ’45. They had two more miscarriages before my brother was born in ’49. They mourned every one of those babies.

Mom was not a feminist. She was a strong person with a wonderful mind and body that happened to be a woman. I doubt she ever gave feminism a thought. Having five brothers may have helped. All my uncles said that they couldn’t take her in a fight until they were old enough to know they should not try. All but one of the five served during the War. One was killed, another made the Air Force, spending his career flying in three wars. They all called her Marge. My dad called her Maggie, and her friends called her Peg for some reason.

In 1956 the Sisters of the Holy Ghost (now, Holy Spirit) began building a home for the aged at the end of our street. Seeing that we were all in school, my mom volunteered. She began emptying bedpans, then formed a woman’s auxiliary to raise money. They had summer fairs and fashion shows and such. She was the president of the auxiliary for many years. Later the Nuns asked her to be on the board. Mom later became the president of it for five years. The board consisted of two doctors, two judges, two of the Nuns, and her. People would ask why she was president and her answer was “why not?”

I asked her more than once what she meant by “life is great as long as you don’t weaken.” She said that I would know as I got older and don’t weaken. As my dad was dying, he asked me to take care of his beautiful Maggie, and not to let anyone take advantage of her. I told him not to worry, she wouldn’t let anyone near her to take advantage. He pleaded it will not be a stranger that takes advantage, it will be someone she loves. It ended up being her oldest druggie granddaughter that did (with her consent), who abused her mentally, physically, and financially until I caught on, had her arrested, and put in rehab.

Mom never did weaken but her mind did. At the age of 77 we began to notice things going wrong. She was diagnosed with dementia. My siblings and I hired her a companion for the day and we took turns with the nights. We tried to keep her at home as long as possible but it was impossible to hire help 24/7. When she was 84 we put her (against my wishes) in a home other than the one she volunteered at all those years. My brother and sister were blinded by the new bright and shiny place near where she lived. After a year and a couple of falls, they realized their mistake. It was left to me to pay a visit to the Nuns. There was a year wait for the dementia unit. The head Nun said they had never since 1956 moved anyone ahead on the list but there is always a first time. Bring your mom tomorrow. She earned it. They had a room for the night nun nurse to sleep in the unit. My mom didn’t get that room but another patient did. They wouldn’t tell me where the night nun slept. They were the most wonderful women. BTW the dementia wing had my mothers name on it. She never told me they named a building for her.

George the Cop was one of our neighborhood policemen who keep an eye on me as I grew up in my town of 5,000. He knew me all too well but never arrested me, just gave me a lot of guidance. My mom hadn’t lived in our home town for 20 years when she died in 1998. My siblings, the funeral director, and I agreed that at the age of 87 it would be a small funeral. We agreed to have a afternoon and evening viewing and a mass the next day. George, who by then had retired, was making a few bucks helping the funeral director with traffic control. The morning of the church service George came up to me and said that yesterday’s viewings were the largest one-day event ever in the history of the funeral home. George estimated there were over 3,000 people. The line to get in was around the block. People I had never seen nor heard of praised my mom for help she had secretly given them.

She had some other sayings. ” Be nice to people and they will be nice back” and “treat people like you would like to be treated.” To me, whenever the circumstances warranted, she would say, ” knock them dead.” And “make sure to have fun.” “Never bet that the world will end you’ll never get paid.” “Take care of your pennies; the dollars will take care of themselves.” ” You’re a good egg.” “It’s the good life that gets you.” ” Your best dreams take place while you are awake.”

Happy Birthday Mother. I love you.

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Defaulting to the State

 
Police Ofc. Jeronimo Yanez and Philando Castile.

David French has written twice about the verdict in the Philando Castile case: the first when the verdict came down; then again when the dashcam video was made public. Of Yanez (the officer who shot Castile) he wrote, “he still panicked, and he should have been held accountable. The jury’s verdict was a miscarriage of justice.” After the video was released, he wrote why he believes the verdict came down as it did. “When I saw that palpable panic, I immediately knew why he was acquitted. The unwritten law trumped the statutes on the books. The unwritten law is simple: When an officer is afraid, he’s permitted to shoot.” [emphasis mine]

This is not the only unwritten law we follow in our criminal justice system. We’ve built and operated the entire thing to default to the defendant over the state; some would say we do so to a fault. The idea was first espoused by Voltaire who wrote in 1749, “that ’tis much more Prudence to acquit two Persons, tho’ actually guilty, than to pass Sentence of Condemnation on one that is virtuous and innocent…” which was expanded by Blackstone in 1783 to be “For the law holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer…” and multiplied in 1785 by Benjamin Franklin to read “That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.” When the power of the state is brought to bear on a citizen, we’ve held that it is a greater injustice to imprison the innocent than to set free the guilty. My question is this: does the maxim hold when citizens are holding the state to account?

Jeronimo Yanez did not unholster his weapon as a citizen. He did not fire seven shots lethally into the body of Philando Castile as one either. He did so with the full power and authority of the government. In his interaction with Castile, Yanez was the state. The state killed a citizen for no reason greater than fear. If we default to the side of the citizen in cases where liberty is at stake, then why do we default to the state in cases where life is lost? Why do we follow the unwritten law that when an agent of the state is afraid of a citizen, he is permitted to take the citizen’s life?

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Father’s Day and the Longest Day of the Year

 

Here it is, the gloaming, Midsummer Day. On a deeper, darker gloaming, in another place in 1960, we kids danced around outside and then Dad came home from work. It had been one of his long days. He looked tired out, even wearing a shirt and tie, and he was carrying packages and smiling.

Father’s Day and the Solstice are close together; that had not been clear to me until this year’s Ricochet reflections on both matters. I am grateful to have the connection made: as I look out on the gloaming at my place, I recall the earlier place and time.

He was a Dad who was proud and happy and grateful to bring home gifts.

He must have gone to the dime store some time that day. He thought of each of us, and for me brought an Indian warrior on a black horse. It was a little like the one above, but plastic instead of lead, less detailed, and there was no war bonnet, just a feather on a headband. It was wonderful. It was mine from him, and the expression of happiness on his face as he gave it to me on the walk toward his house is the main thing, and the thing I will not forget.

A man wants a home and a family. Someone to come home to is repeated so often that it can happen that we no longer feel its truth. This Father’s Day season we lucky ones remember our Dads. This evening I would think on how Dads remember us, if they have had us; hope for us, if their prospects for fatherhood seem fair. And for those who yearn, and yearn, know that you are thought of, and hoped for, that you may know this happiness as well. Best wishes for the happiness of all Ricochet fathers past, present, and future.

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Summer’s Bustin’ Out All Over

 

Ah, the first day of summer. And, if you’re a larger-busted woman, the first day of a season not really designed with you in mind. Even if you’re not big-busted, just older, or physically odd in some way, finding attractive but modest summer clothing whose modesty doesn’t draw too much attention to itself can be tough.

High-riding bands and pit-cleavage.

There are many causes of bustiness. One is just being heavier. Others are busty even at lower BMIs, and may spend most of their lives trying to wrangle themselves into normal-size clothing, which, especially during sleeveless season can lead to unfortunate spillover effects. Many women already wear the wrong size bra, causing not only discomfort, but needless dowdiness. At least during colder seasons, a dowdy bustline is more covered up. Not so in summer, when high-riding bands and pit-cleavage can escape the confines of clothing for the world to see.

The solution may be as easy as checking to see whether you’re wearing the right size bra. Even clerks at boutique bra stores who really should know better may lowball cup size and highball band size on bustier women just to match what they have in stock. Fortunately, it’s not so hard to measure yourself at home. Bustier women who have some sewing skills may even be able to alter more commonly-available bra sizes to fit, and save some dough. I’ve done this alteration, and it works, though my seams don’t lie completely flat (the secret of the alteration is going wayyyy up in band size to give yourself room to take in).

If bra shopping is an exquisite feminine hell, swimsuit shopping may be even worse. Many of us have reasons to look for more modest swimwear, especially as we age. Not everyone is comfortable showing off their cellulite, stretch marks, or sagging flesh; nor is merely staying thin a guarantee of avoiding these blemishes: thin or fat, our body’s collagen weakens as we age (or, like me, you could just be born with congenitally weak cartilage).

Olympic-style swimsuits

Olympic athletes wear fairly full-coverage swimsuits – at a fairly full-coverage price (hundreds of dollars)! The coverage and compression of those suits can be simulated at less cost by pairing a legless racing swimsuit (I use Tyr) with a pair of men’s knee-length Speedos. For those who wish to cover their arms as well, knee-to-elbow one-pieces sold as “sun protection” swimwear, often for “surfing and snorkeling”, work well, too (there are also models that cover wrist to ankle). These solutions are highly functional, but not particularly “girly”, especially if you’d rather not turn your potatoes into pancakes, if you know what I mean.

L: elbow to knee suit; R: legless suit & Speedo

Swimwear with built-in bras is supposed to do better than squashing your chest flat. But even this is subject to pitfalls for bustier women – sometimes literal “pitfall”, if bustage escapes confinement to give you that lovely pit-cleavage. Sometimes, you get lucky, and find bra-sized swimwear that indeed matches the bra size it claims to match. Other times, there’s nothing for it but to take matters into your own hands – and I don’t mean spending your day at the beach uplifting your mammaries manually. Rather, I mean, sewing a bra that actually fits you into your swimsuit. The good news for small-banded, large-cupped women is that band size doesn’t matter for these projects, meaning you can use whichever size bra (be the band ever so huge) whose cups alone fit.

Theoretically beautiful swimdress. Frowny face indeed!

Right after I had my first kid, I wasn’t just larger-busted than I’d ever been, but also considerably heftier. That’s when I bought my first knee-to-elbow swimsuit. I also, in a sort of forlorn hope, ordered an inexpensive swimdress that at least looked good in theory. When the swimdress arrived, though, it gave me quite a frowny face. The built-in bra contained maybe a quarter of what it should have. I don’t even want to describe what it looked like: it wasn’t pretty. I was able to cut the built-in bra out and substitute one of my own – or rather, substitute a cheap bra whose band (which I didn’t need) was way too big, but whose cups actually fit. Here are some pictures of the project:

Oh, look! A halter top!

I’ve mentioned pit-cleavage a fair few times by now. One thing I’ve noticed in my various fashion misadventures is that, if you’re a woman prone to pit-cleavage, a halter top, which applies force along a strap going up and in toward the neck, rather than up and out toward the armpit, is sometimes all you need to de-cleavify those pits. Another thing: Plus-size models are still… models.

Even more robust halter top.

They might be zaftig, but they’re perky. And whatever perk nature hasn’t supplied, Photoshop can. As a sag-sack myself, even when I was a skinny teen, fuller-figured women with antigrav adipose strangely fascinate me. I remember encountering one Rubenesque young thing in a string bikini at a swimming hole once – completely flawless skin. Not a striation or dimple to be seen. It was a wonder of nature, I tell you!

But most of us will not be so blessed. As shown in the photo of my postpartum swimdress project, leggings extending below the knee are fine to swim in, too. They make special leggings for swimming, but non-swimming leggings will work if you’re OK with them wearing out fast. If you’re a swimdress sort of lady, or would be, if swimdresses covered your legs better, leggings go about as well with swimdresses as tights go with real dresses.

These days, it seems there are more options than every for less-skimpy swimwear. This is great news for those of us who love to swim, but who don’t love showing all we’ve got to all and sundry. After all, for many of us, modesty and vanity aren’t exactly opposites. What are your favorite tips for keeping cool in the summer heat without revealing too much?

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FBI Says Stop Looking at Me!

 

Mollie Hemingway uses much more polite language than I would in covering the FBI’s “nothing to see here” whitewash of the targeted assassination attempt on the GOP congressmen:

So what does the FBI decide this information means? Well, the takeaway of the briefing was characterized well by the Associated Press headline about it: “FBI: Gunman who shot congressman had no target in mind.” The Associated Press reported the FBI:

  • believes the gunman “had no concrete plan to inflict violence” against Republicans,
  • “had not yet clarified who, if anyone, he planned to target, or why,”
  • believes he may have just “happened upon” the baseball game the morning of June 14, and that the attack appeared “spontaneous,”
  • are unclear on the “context” of Hodgkinson’s note with six names of members of Congress,
  • does not believe that photographs of the baseball field or other sites “represented surveillance of intended targets,” and
  • “painted a picture of a down-on-his-luck man with few future prospects.”

If I were Putin, I’d be jealous of that level of disinformation. Perhaps they’ve hacked the KGB disinformation manuals.

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Led Gently to the Slaughter

 

I have troops of ants streaming across my bathroom floor. A helpful Facebook friend recommended liquid ant traps which he promised would kill the entire colony at its source. I dutifully purchased the traps and placed them in the corner of the bathroom where the ants seep in.

The traps work through deception. Scouting ants are constantly seeking food and water to feed the queen and her many children. If you place the trap in the way of a scout, he finds it, and tasting manna, heads back to the nest, leaving a trail for the colony to follow. A line of ants appears. They become a revolving walkway, transporting thousands of ants from the crack in the wall to the trap and back again. The ants take the food of death back to the nest, where they give it to their young, to the queen, to the entire colony. Only hours later, the seductive poison acts upon them all, and they disappear forever.

People are like ants in more ways than one. Most of our kids would starve if we didn’t put food in the refrigerator, and in the case of the toddlers, shove it into their mouths. It’s the basic parental responsibility: feed the children. Some of us do a better job than others. My kids get hot dogs on busy nights, pizza on special occasions, and steak and salad if I’m feeling frisky in the kitchen. What parent hasn’t curbed the candy and soda on school nights or disguised extra vegetables in spaghetti sauce? No one sets out to create childhood diabetes or hyperactivity. We know instinctively that good food is essential.

We feed our children’s minds, too. Charlotte Mason, the 19th century English educator, said that the food of the mind is ideas. Not facts, not job skills, but ideas.

What does it mean to feed the mind on ideas? Perhaps the easiest way to describe it is to help you recall that moment when you first fell in love. I don’t mean your love for that special person, but the love you have for a field of study, a hobby, or your work. Do you remember it? Can you relive the exhilaration when you first read Hamlet, programmed your first computer, or realized how economics really works? That was an idea you fell in love with.

The mind thrives on ideas. It swallows them up, gorges itself if given the chance. The more ideas you give a child to work with, the more his mind grows. You can chase the metaphor further: the more beautiful and true the ideas, the greater the mind grows; conversely, you can poison a mind with bad ideas or starve it till it withers and dies.

With few exceptions, our schools and colleges either eradicate ideas or promote pernicious ones. For many teachers and parents, the ideas look good on their face – tolerance, multiculturalism, social justice, equality of outcomes, resistance – and it’s easy to find fresh new books to idolize victimhood. Textbooks are dumbed down, low-quality, full of facts and images in distracting sidebars and relying on dull or pejorative text depending on the mood of the committee who wrote them. Nothing beautiful, true, or good there, only bolded text to regurgitate on the next standardized test.

As conservatives, we exult in this basic truth: ideas have consequences. The ideas of today become the facts of tomorrow.

Down the street from me, a flock of kids exit the middle school and meander to the mall, blocking traffic, horsing around with shopping carts, pushing people out of line in Walgreens. Even at this young age, hormone-driven as they are, ideas are forming in their minds about how to treat other people and their responsibility to society. They are the future voters of America.

When mobs form on college campuses, they are simply putting what they’ve been taught into practice. They’ve imbibed the idea that shouting down and threatening speakers one finds objectionable is how one builds a compassionate society. They care a great deal about compassion, it seems.

The media shrugs its shoulders at the youth of today. Who knows why they’re hiding in their mother’s basement for years, texting during church, marching for women’s rights in pink hats, and posting “Terminate Trump” memes? Who can say what drives a person to punch an old man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat? It’s a function of social media. An anomaly. A pubescent fling. Worse, they chalk it up to economics. There are no good jobs anymore, they say.

Does this really matter? Common Core is all about training our children for the 21st century job market, isn’t it? We should be happy for our kids to graduate, get a STEM job, and support their families. If they stay off welfare and contribute to the national economy, isn’t that enough?

While Republican candidates campaign for charter schools, vouchers, and more accountable schools, the steady diet of insidious ideas continues. Instead of reading Homer, children recite “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Rather than memorize the “Gettysburg Address,” they look for racist micro-aggressions in current affairs. In first grade they are learning to write persuasive essays and give speeches; they have no ideas, they only know how to argue.

We should know by now that education is never amoral. A good education for a free citizenry is entirely a virtuous enterprise. Some of us on the Right understand this. We have opted out, whether with private schools and homeschooling or with arduous re-education after school every day. We read The Chronicles of Narnia and Shakespeare around the kitchen table; we explain the purpose of the electoral college; we talk about the virtues of honor and hard work; we make the time to pray.

Far too many people take no action. They send their children to public school because that is what a good American does. It’s free. It’s easy. It’s comfortable.

Last night I watched the line of ants streaming to the trap and back into the cracked seam in the bathroom wall. They’ve been doing that for two days. I think it might never stop. They’ll just keep taking the elixir back to nest. It will go on forever. Until it doesn’t.

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Father’s Day Find: The Nash Wrench

 

My grandfather died in early 1984. He had been a mechanic most of his life, from the time he dropped out of school at age 14, right up until he retired at the age of 70. After his death his tools sat idle in my grandmother’s basement, until her own death in 1995. My father cleared out the old workroom, with its boxes of taps, punches, wrenches, reamers, sockets, hand drills, wrenches, and specialty tools acquired or made over the 50+ working years of his father’s life. Some of the tools he took for himself, some he compiled to make a starter tool set for me, but so very many more were stored in plastic totes and shoved to the back of his garage, there to sit idle for the next 22 years.

When I undertook my own interest in old cars (3 years ago now) I started to ask after the old tools. They were buried underneath a mountain of clutter, but I did eventually unearth them, and I have periodically rummaged through them mostly as an exercise in identification. At first I hardly knew what they were, but as I have gained experience and knowledge I have been able to identify more and more of them. My father could usually fill in the blanks when I came across the more mysterious or obscure tools, like the palm ratchet or the threaded-stud remover. My father is 70 himself now and keen to remove the clutter, so he was quite happy for me to go through them in more detail this past weekend, and especially for me to take whatever I might be able to use. So while he and the my daughters visited I rummaged and poked around, and it was at the bottom of one tote that I unearthed this wrench.

At first I thought I had found a tangible link back to my grandfather’s time as a mechanic at his wife’s uncle’s Nash dealership, what with the wrench emblazoned with the word “Nash”. The forging marks, according to the internet forums specializing in old tools, indicate that this wrench was cast sometime between 1923 and 1925 by the Bonney Forge, and that seemed to fit with what I half remembered of family lore. It turns out this wrench was, while as old as it appears, of a different purpose. I had thought only of Nash, the car maker, but I suspect that this really was for a different Nash, the pump maker.

You see, from the late 1950s until his retirement, my grandfather worked for Seagrave Fire Apparatus as a field service mechanic. They sent him all over the country to repair fire engines, and one of his typical repair jobs was to tear apart and rebuild the water pumps, and I’m guessing that this was the wrench’s real purpose – removing and replacing the gland packing nut on pump shafts. (see here for what that means: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuffing_box)

I’m curious what other tools I might unearth.