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Trump, Pelosi, Schumer Debate in Public

 

Ignoring the content for a moment of this video, I just want to say: I love this. I love that this exchange took place in front of the American people. Pelosi wanted to shut down the disagreement, to go behind closed doors, cut some sort of deal, decide how to couch it to the American people, and claim they got agreement on something. I love it.

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How Do We Increase Our Membership?

 

The big sites are just killing us; we need some new ideas. Well, why don’t we use some of their strategies? What do you mean? We could demonetize some of the users who have ideas we don’t agree with, like YouTube does. Don’t be silly; none of the posts are monetized in the first place. […]

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Veneration: The Practicing Jew

 

They live their lives by a sacred code; it isn’t secret, but few people actually know its inner sanctum. Life entails a commitment to consciousness, discipline and faith, and because of the lure of everyday secular life, many fall away, believing they are not up to the task or are unwilling to comply with the demands. Those who remain are deeply committed to living virtuous lives, to raising loving and principled children, and to following the Law.

They are practicing or Orthodox Jews who embrace Torah, love G-d and revere acts of kindness. I have witnessed these three qualities among my practicing Jewish friends, and I venerate them for the life choices they have made.

If you have seen my posts on my Jewish observance, you know that my return to Judaism is still in its nascent stage. I won’t describe my own life, except to say that in terms of the people I am describing, I am quite a distance from achieving their dedication to a Jewish life. So let me tell you why I hold them in such high esteem.

Their Love of G-d is Palpable – they don’t necessarily talk about their love, but their words, actions and deeds reflect their desire to serve G-d, not just because G-d expects their service, but they feel called to serve Him. Every action, whether it is practicing a mitzvah (commandment), keeping kosher, wearing particular clothing, observing the Sabbath—all of these are not just demonstrations of obedience, but are acts of love. It is a love that not only fills each practicing Jew’s life, but affects everyone whose lives he or she touches. Especially beautiful is that (I believe) the more they seek a connection to G-d, the more love they experience with G-d. It is a wonder and blessing to witness.

Lifelong Commitment to Learning—for some practicing Jews, this commitment applies to diving deeply into Torah and its related books. But I admire a number of Jews who demonstrate their thirst for learning and understanding by also exploring many secular topics. (You may be aware that many of our members on Ricochet fit this description.) They want to know more. They are willing to do their homework. They ask serious questions. They contribute to the conversation. And boy, are they smart! And I know that with me in particular, they are patient about answering questions and receiving feedback. That exchange is what lifelong learning is truly about.

Engaging Children—Practicing Jews often have large families. G-d asks the Jews to have children; giving birth to beings that are reflections of G-d’s image is a miracle. Having many children also perpetuates the Jewish people and the teachings. These Jews believe it is a loving obligation to not only have children, but instill in them a love of G-d and Torah.

Following the Mitzvot—people who are not Jewish may feel that following the 613 mitzvot or Jewish laws must be difficult; it can certainly be demanding, depending on one’s circumstances. But a practicing Jew isn’t worried about future punishment, and thus follows the mitzvoth; instead, the conscious observance of mitzvoth is, again, an act of love. (Even as limited as my practice is, I am growing into this understanding.) I know that I am not alone when I express my dismay in “not doing enough”; I’ve been told that many practicing Jews feel much the same way. But G-d does not expect or even want us to be perfect; He simply wants us, at any given time, to be the best we can be, and then move on.

Generosity—I have experienced the generosity of every Jew with whom I’m acquainted, whether they are personal friends or friends on Ricochet. When I first came to Ricochet, the focus of practicing Jews, as I described my own journey, was encouragement, support, graciousness and kindness. Never once has a person told me that I should be doing anything other than what I am doing (although they may have wished to do so), or told me that I’m not doing enough. I’ve learned after posting something regarding Judaism that I’ve made mistakes in the information I share; Jews occasionally have, with kindness, corrected me; at other times, they probably just smile to themselves and see that my learning process is flawed but sincere.

Over time, I’ve learned who some of the Jews are on Ricochet. Since I don’t belong to a Jewish community, I’m deeply grateful for your presence. I also have many friends on Ricochet who are not Jewish, many who are Christian, who have also been supportive and caring, of me, the Jewish people, and Israel. I’m in your debt and so very appreciative. And those practicing Jews who live in Israel, I am so grateful that you are holding down the fort.

I know that the practicing Jews who have read this post, and those of you who know practicing Jews, know they have all the flaws that everyone has: limitations, anger, self-centered attitudes, impatience—all those things that remind us we are human and can try to do better. Still, I honor those of you who have chosen to live as practicing Jews; you are my inspiration, as we all choose to serve G-d.

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The Desecration of a Cathedral in Vienna

 

Let me say at the outset that raising money to battle the scourge of AIDS is a good thing. Doing so by putting on a satanic celebration in a consecrated Catholic cathedral is horrific. Sadly, or shockingly, that’s what Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, in his wisdom, permitted in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna a few days ago. As Tradition In Action reports:

A man stands on top of the altar rail of St. Stephen’s Cathedral with an open camo-jacket showing his belly and holding a bottle of beer. He walks like a drunk, he sings like a lunatic, he acts like one possessed. On the same rail are skulls, candles and jars, giving the impression of a satanic orgy. During his performance other macabre and delirious-looking actors and actresses enter the scene. Then, devils appear onstage and flaunt their seductive cajoleries.

Regrettably or thankfully, no videos of this most recent desecration have surfaced. Cardinal Schönborn, in his zeal, has permitted the use of the cathedral before for raising funds for battling AIDS but also to celebrate alternative lifestyles traditionally not permitted by the Church including, according to Norvus Ordo Watch:

 …“youth masses” (that) have featured everything from a “cardinal” sending text messages during “Mass,” to psychedelic vestments, role plays, stage diving, superstitious “care dolls,” throwing paper planes, pornography displayed during a sermon, rock music, disco lights, artificial smoke, flame throwers, balloons, and exceptionally provocative, ambiguous, and blasphemous event theme titles (such as “Topless,” “The Spirit is Sexy,” and “Take It All Off”).

Here is a video from an earlier celebration in the cathedral:

Father Johannes Maria Schwarz, is an Austrian priest with a great deal more sense than the Viennese Cardinal, and a greater understanding of the sacred and the profane, commented on the recent desecration as Life Site News reports:

“I am ashamed of my Church in this and in other questions,” he writes. “We do not fear the Almighty anymore! Nothing is anymore holy for us! We trample upon the souls that are entrusted to us!” There would surely have been another way of promoting the “great initiative of Father Gerhard Lagleder,” who works with HIV patients, Father Schwarz politely adds. Moreover, Schwarz saw that Hochmair the actor was dancing on the communion rail, “with a bottle of beer(?) and microphone” in hand, with Cardinal Schönborn observing from the first row.

The communion rail is an “extension of the altar,” Schwarz pointed out.

“Did one now really forget the significance of the altar rail?” he asks. “Also at St. Stephens’ Cathedral? That is to say, there where the faithful, at all Masses, still receive the Living God at that holy extension of the altar? It seems so.”

Saint Stephen is venerated as the first martyr of Christianity for promoting Christ’s teaching and denouncing Jewish authorities at the time. He was tried by the Jewish authorities for blasphemy and stoned to death. Saul of Tarsus (later Paul, the Apostle) witnessed his execution. The first church honoring the saint in Vienna was completed in 1160 and was made much larger into the cathedral that stands today around 1511.

Keep in mind that Schönborn is considered in some circles to be one of the more conservative and orthodox cardinals. Not sure if those circles include pentagrams or not.

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The White Sea-Baltic Canal

 

To add to the prior posts on Solzhenitsyn, this passage from The Gulag Archipelago remains the most vivid in my memory 40-plus years after reading.

The Gulag Archipelago is not dry history, instead brimming with passion, anger, contempt, caustic wit and acerbic asides. The accretion of detail on person after person, on trial after trial, on lawless and arbitrary decrees, and on the squalid dehumanizing world of the camps is relentless and overwhelming, and the translation by Thomas P. Whitney captures it all.

Below is an excerpt from The Gulag Archipelago Two, from a chapter entitled “The Archipelago Metastasizes,” which tells the sorrowful tale of the building of the White Sea-Baltic canal in the early 1930s. Stalin demanded the building of a canal that would allow the passage of Soviet naval vessels from one sea to the other in order to avoid the Arctic Ocean, setting a 20-month deadline for completion. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners were assigned to its construction. The canal was dug by hand without any mechanical equipment under terrible physical conditions and brutal oversight from abusive guards with 250,000 perishing during its construction. Poorly designed, the canal never functioned as planned.

Solzhenitsyn is unsparing in his portrayal of this debacle and near the end of the chapter recounts a visit he made to the canal in 1966 as he was completing the book and of the official tour he took:

“It’s so shallow“, complained the chief of the guard, “that not even submarines can pass through it under their own power, they have to be loaded on barges, and only then can they be hauled through.

And what about the cruisers? Oh, you hermit-tyrant! You nighttime lunatic! In what nightmare did you dream up all this?And where, cursed one, were you hurrying to? What was it that burned and pricked you — to set a deadline of twenty months? For those quarter-million men could have remained alive. Well, so the Esperantists stuck in your throat, but think how much work those peasant lads could have done for you! How many times you could have roused them to attack — for the Motherland, for Stalin!

It was very costly“, I said to the guard.

But it was built very quickly!“, he answered me with self-assurance.

Your bones should be in it!

The chapter ends with this summing of accounts:

My Lord! What canal is there deep enough for us to drown that past in?

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Quote of the Day: Solzhenitsyn on Freedom

 

“You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

As others on Ricochet have noted, today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. As it is my turn to provide a quote of the day, I thought it appropriate to draw on his fund of wisdom for today’s quote.

Freedom is a theme I often return to for quotes of the day, perhaps because freedom is so important and so rare. Free men (and women) can achieve things thought unimaginable, precisely because they have the freedom to do unimaginable things. When your “betters” (whether your “betters” be government bureaucrats, hereditary aristocrats, or bien pensant social justice warriors) circumscribe your freedom to think and act thing that could have been accomplished go unaccomplished. This because those things fall outside the conception of these self-appointed “betters.”

And yet because we in the United States have had freedom for so long, it seems we have ceased to value it. Many seem willing to step inside the cage and allow others to lock them in so they have a safe space. Then they discover that safe space has turned into a prison they cannot exit, and their future consists of dancing for the amusement of those whom they allowed to lock them into that cage.

Solzhenitsyn achieved the freedom discussed in his quote. He was robbed of everything and gained the freedom to write One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago. It is a means of gaining freedom I hope all of us in the United States never experience.

Long live freedom and damn the ideologies.

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at 100

 

Arrested three months before the defeat of Hitler’s Germany, his first reaction was like that of the millions he would later write about: “Me? What for?” A decorated captain of an artillery battery that had fought its way deep into East Prussia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was at the time a committed Marxist-Leninist. He even fantasized he was being whisked to a meeting with Stalin. In fact, military censors had read his letter exchanges with a boyhood friend, also in the army, in which they criticized Stalin (“the mustachioed one”) for having deviated from the path laid down by Lenin.

It was more than enough to earn Solzhenitsyn a sentence of eight years imprisonment in the labor camps, to be followed by “perpetual exile.” He served all eight years in various camps, plus three years exiled to distant Kazakhstan, where he worked as a teacher of high school mathematics before his sentence was annulled in 1956 in the wake of Khrushchev’s “de-Stalinization.”

Born 100 years ago today, Solzhenitsyn was educated in the sciences, but his lifelong love was literature and writing. In the camps, where writing was prohibited, Solzhenitsyn used matchsticks and rosary beads as mnemonic devices to preserve 12,000 lines of his verse that he would later publish. What brought him to his country’s and the world’s attention, however, was the publication in 1962 of his One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a fictional but semi-autobiographical account of a day in the life of a Soviet political prisoner (zek) in Stalin’s time.

The publication of Ivan Denisovich was a sensation, not least because it occurred at all. Its account of arbitrary arrests and violent, inhumane existence in the labor camps was thought to serve the Kremlin’s cause of discrediting the Stalin era, and it seemed to signal a new openness in Soviet society. The moment was fleeting, however, as Khrushchev’s ouster in 1964 presaged a renewed hardening among the authorities, and Solzhenitsyn found he could not get permission to publish his next two novels, The First Circle and Cancer Ward.

The leadership had not reckoned, however, with the power they had unleashed with the arrival of Solzhenitsyn as a public figure. No longer a “Soviet man,” Solzhenitsyn’s camp experiences, especially the rich relationships he formed with fellow zeks (many appear as characters in his works), had gradually and irrevocably turned him into an implacable foe not just of Stalinism, but of the whole totalitarian edifice of Soviet ideology. For Solzhenitsyn, it was all built on violence and lies, and he was determined to expose the truth of it to the world.

That he did. For ten years Solzhenitsyn labored secretly on The Gulag Archipelago, a three-volume account of the Soviet prison system, which he thoroughly documented began with Lenin in 1918. Parts history, memoir, and philosophy, the work also relies on the accounts of 227 zeks who reported their experiences to Solzhenitsyn. He later wrote that he produced this monumental work out of a duty to communicate “the dying whisper of millions, the unspoken testament of those who had perished.”

When the KGB discovered a copy of The Gulag Archipelago in 1973, Solzhenitsyn signaled to supporters in the West that they should publish the first volume, which years earlier had been smuggled abroad and translated into French and English. In February 1974, the Politburo ordered him arrested for treason, stripped of his citizenship, and expelled from the country on a plane to West Germany. Later joined by his wife and children, they eventually settled near a small town in Vermont.

Admired as he was in the West while a Soviet citizen and dissident, in exile Solzhenitsyn’s relations with public figures of both left and right were often uneasy. President Gerald Ford refused him an invitation to the White House to avoid disturbing the policy of “détente” with the Soviet Union. Harsher and more numerous were his critics on the left, many of whom seemed offended that Solzhenitsyn’s humanism was not of a secular kind but derived instead from the Christian beliefs of his early youth to which he had returned. Criticism intensified particularly after Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard University commencement address in 1978, in which he assailed with his usual vigor aspects of mediocrity and decadence in Western culture.

What his critics never understood is that for Solzhenitsyn, politics was never the main thing. Over the course of a lifetime, as he explained to his biographer, he had moved “ever so slowly towards a position … of supporting the primacy of the spiritual over the material,” a philosophy to which all his works are a testament.

As with his literary forebears, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn’s writings are rooted in Russian history and culture, but the themes are universal. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, his speech addressed literature and its relationship to culture and the human spirit: “Art inflames even a frozen, darkened soul to a high spiritual experience.” A self-described optimist, Solzhenitsyn was convinced that “[i]n the struggle with falsehood art always did win and it always does win! … One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.”

Historians generally agree that the moral force of Solzhenitsyn’s writings, particularly The Gulag Archipelago, contributed significantly to the fall of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the non-Russian Soviet empire in Eastern Europe, and in the West an end to the idolization by many of Soviet communism. When it occurred, and all his writings were allowed to be published there, Solzhenitsyn returned with his wife to Russia in 1994, where he died in 2008.

Solzhenitsyn’s singular legacy is like that of a true-life character he wrote about and memorialized in one of his stories. He was that “righteous one without whom, according to the proverb, no village can stand…. Nor any city. Nor our whole land.”

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Our Honored Forebears

 

Staff Sergeant Canell, squad leader, finished with inspecting the personnel and moved on to the vehicles. The Staff Sergeant was exacting, two previous tours in Iraq had taught the young leader that there are no second chances, and that if a troop didn’t make his own good luck, ain’t no way luck was going to be a lady.

Pre-Combat Inspections (PCIs) were, in the young staff sergeant’s mind, the most important part of being a leader. Meticulously inspecting everything that would contribute to individuals and the unit’s ability to shoot, move, communicate and survive had to be inspected, assessed and cleared. Troops that had their individual and crew weapons and equipment good to go and ready to rock would perform well. Troops that didn’t would get themselves–or worse, their brothers and sisters in arms–wounded, maimed or killed. In Canell’s mind, there was no excuse for letting subordinates roll out the wire without every bet hedged in their favor. As always, the squad leader’s own vehicle was inspected first, with the two squad team leaders observing.

First, the squad leader inspected the form 5988E on a clipboard by the vehicle commander seat. All preventative maintenance, checks, and services had been performed. For those fixes needing more than just a liberal application of elbow grease, the order number to higher for either parts or service was clearly annotated. The vehicle was, at least as far as the paperwork was concerned, was Full Mission Capable; good to go.

The Staff Sergeant purposefully made PCIs formal affairs; a little bit of pucker factor would help encourage excellence.

“PFC Woodford!”

Yes, Staff Sergeant!”

“Do you, as the driver, have any qualms, reservations or hesitations about taking this vehicle out the wire for a combat patrol today?”

Negative, Staff Sergeant!

And on, through each of the four vehicles of the squad, and each element of “shoot, move, communicate, survive” contained in or on the vehicle.

A/1/1a, the vehicle that always led the squad, had Corporal Stanton as the vehicle commander. The vehicle was better known though, for its dynamic duo driver and gunner, PFC Tavares and SPC4 Taverson. The two knuckleheads were insane. SSG Canell felt like whenever the two could be kept from drifting over to the “spooky” side of the FOB, where the Green Berets and SEALs hung out, just to get into a fight, just to say they got beat up by a SEAL, was a win.

The two had taken to calling themselves “The Terrific Tavar Twins,” based on some ridiculous sci-fi series they were reading. Beautiful knuckleheads.

Looking into A/1/1a, SSG Canell sighed. The squad leader eye-rolled Corporal Stanton, in a “we’ll talk about this later, but I got this” kind of way.

“Private Tavares! Specialist Taverson!”

In unison, “Yes, Staff Sergeant!

“You asked, and I–through the goodness of my sentimental heart–agreed, that you could triple up on the basic load for the ‘240. And I see my munificence hereby shat upon!! Why is this extra ammunition not strapped down?”

Pause. In unison, “No excuse, Staff Sergeant!

“PFC Tavares, if your vehicle is hit, while you are driving, by a well placed, Iranian-made, Jihadi emplaced EFP, what will cause the most damage to you and your crew as the vehicle goes dynamic due to blast effects?”

“Uh, Sar’n’t…”

“I’ll tell you what will do the most damage, Private: All that extra steel in heavy boxes with sharp, pointy corners that you have not tied down! Listen up, ‘Terrific Tavar Twins,’ you fail to secure your load again, the only Fury you’ll need to worry about is that of my boot up your ass! Are we clear?”

Pause. Mutual glance. “Clear Staff Sergeant!

“Good, now tie down your load, before I’m forced to do things to you that make your mothers weep. And, say a prayer for Corporal Stanton. You two have screwed him. Im’a have a piece of his butt and you two are to blame. I’m hopin’ he has no mercy on you, and PTs you til you think your gonna die. But that’s his call.”

And on. The squad leader got through each vehicle. Every thing was mostly squared away. Every radio passed the commo checks. They were ready. Half an hour til they exited the wire.

Staff Sergeant Canell told the squad they were released within the launch area (which had a tent with USO cookies and coffee, big screens with news and sports, and some ping pong tables).

The squad leader went around to the side of the launch rec tent. The smoking area was staked out. To one side, there was a row of cruciform lumber. SSG Canell took the opportunity to remove body armor and head gear and hang it off one of the wooden “crosses.” The dry wind across the deployment shirt was a gift from above. The Staff Sergeant unpinned her hair and shook it loose, then held it up above her neck for some “cooling” breeze. She figured she had about 10 minutes to relax thus before getting back to the launch line before anyone else and prep her squad of misfit children for rolling out the wire.

Krista Canell lit up a Marlboro light and tried to empty her mind. The squad was prepared, the boys were ready to rock. A female squad leader had to be squared away. Her previous tours, and her loss of comrades in arms on those tours, had made her the right leader for the job. She had had to overwhelm the meatheads on the squad with sheer competence. Following her battlefield displays of competence, she’d had to dissuade the “mom” role a lot of the guys wanted her to fulfill. She figured she was now solidly labeled as a “big sister with bad attitude.” She could live with that.

Her Military Police unit had taken some egregious hits. The Infantry guys and Civil Affairs guys and all the others could roll out the wire with varied agendas that kept the jihadis on their toes. The MPs, though, had to man specific security points, both inside and outside the wire, and routs to and from were limited. Which meant that Jihad Johnny didn’t have to do a whole lot of creative planning to bring the hurt. The unit’s second squad had taken an egregious hit just last week. The Platoon Leader had been accompanying that patrol. RIP.

Word was battalion was sending down a stud to replace the KIA platoon leader, but Canell hadn’t seen hide nor hair of a newbie LT walking the grounds.

Canell punched out her Marlboro and lit another. When they hit the gate out the wire, she had a plastic can of Skoal in one of the combat pockets on the sleeve of her shirt. She did a grin/grimace; Ma would be so disappointed. Sure, ol’ man tobacco might kill her, but right now the prime candidates for killin’ her ass were Johnny Jihad and Sammy Sectarian. She’d battle the demons of tobacco later if she had the chance. Right now, keeping her squad alive was the priority. She knew her blond hair, freckles and slightly buck teeth had not aided her assumption of leadership in the squad. But she had won them over. The squad was her charge. She’ll be damned if she’d let anything happen to them.

“I’m guessing you’re Staff Sergeant Canell?”

Canell turned and saw a First Lieutenant standing on the edge of the smoker’s pit. He was tall and lean and hardass, Asian; looked like you could cut diamonds on his cheekbones.

“Yes, sir, I’m Canell. Can I help you with something? Sir?”

“I’m Lieutenant Yazawa, your new PL. I’ve heard good things about you and your squad. Figured I’d strap-hang this patrol and get to know the squad.”

“Oh. That’s awesome. Sir. And will Sergeant First Class Payton be joining us, too?”

“No, the Platoon Sergeant will be hanging with third squad. My understanding is that PCIs are complete and you’ll be rolling out in the next twenty?”

“Ah, yes, sir. I was just about to kit back up and get ready to shove my band of happy retards into their vehicles.”

LT Yazawa didn’t smile, but Canell thought she saw maybe a lip twitch. Lip twitches were good, from an LT. Tics were bad.

“Outstanding. I’ll ride in your vehicle. Just observing. You run the show, I just want to get in the know.”

“Yes, sir, that’s…great. Uh, welcome aboard, or something.”

“Yes, I’m sure you’re so happy you can hardly stand it.”

“Hardly. Sir.”

SSG Canell re-donned her armor and kit. She clipped in the single point release on her M4, and headed back out to the line of her vehicles, idling and ready to step off. She felt the spritz of adrenaline that she always got before they moved outside the wire. Canell headed toward her vehicle, glad that it was only the new LT, and not the Platoon Sergeant accompanying her patrol; she’d gotten enough grief as it was, for something she wasn’t going to compromise on.

The Platoon Sergeant, from guidance down through the First Sergeant and then the exalted Battalion Command Sergeant Major, had been on her ass for carrying a piece of non-standard equipment. Rightly, the Bn CSM had declared that every troop would have all the same gear in all the same places on their load-bearing equipment. Canell knew that made sense. Everyone’s first aid pouch was in the same place. Everyone’s radio, ammo, and explosives were located on each troop in the same place. That made sense. If you need to grab something off a fallen comrade, you shouldn’t be rootin’ around trying to find a troop’s first aid kit to staunch his wound. But. The NCO chain had declared that nothing extra could be added to personal kit.

Canell carried a tomahawk. Years ago, greats-ago, a great-grandaddy captured it as a Texas Ranger during the Commanche wars. Her family had carried it in WWII. Her grandaddy had carried it in Vietnam. Her father had borne the tomahawk into battle during the first Gulf War. Her big brother, an Army Ranger, had carried it into Afghanistan after 911. He had bestowed the hunk of steel with a hickory shaft upon her when she rotated into Iraq on her second tour. Now on her third tour, there wasn’t no way that the tomahawk wasn’t going to be damn well affixed to her kit. First Sergeant and Sergeant Major had a problem with that. Well, they’d get over it. What she didn’t need though, was the new LT getting all obstreperous about it. The tomahawk was slid into a ring that MPs usually carried billy clubs in. LT would get over it. Canell just didn’t need a spat right before they launched.

Canell saw to her squad mates mounting up and getting ready to roll. The new LT, this Yazawa guy, was kitted up and standing by her vehicle. After getting everyone set, she approached her own vehicle, and pointed to the rear door behind her seat as the vehicle commander. “That’s where you go. Sir.”

Yazawa pointed at her kit. “I see you’re carrying some non-standard equipment, there, Staff Sergeant.”

Canell bowed up, just a little bit. “Yes, sir. This ‘Hawk has been in my family about a hundred and fifty years. It’s seen more combat than the two of us ever will. It goes with me. Sir.”

Yazawa’s lip twitched. “As well it should. And, hey, big Sarge, you are not the only one carrying a family heirloom into the fight.” Yazawa turned, and Canell saw what was either a small-ass sword or a big-ass knife hanging at his waist. “This wakizashi has been in my family for over 350 years. I don’t leave home without it.”

Canell grinned. “Roger that, sir.”

They both sat the Humvee, and Canell radioed for the formation to move out the wire.

Two hours later, the security patrol was about a third of the way through its rout. Canell had downed two Ripits and copious amounts of water. Funny how on patrol she never needed to pee.

The patrol was about 800 meters from the next security checkpoint they were to check when they got hit. Canell couldn’t have said whether the shock from the blast of the IED or the plume of smoke and dust registered first. She saw CPL Stanton’s Humvee rock up and around, and then a hail of all kinds of fire was pouring into her squad. Her squad. Canell hit the radio, we need QRF, we need air up and eyes on now, all vehicles status up now. Stanton’s vehicle wasn’t responding by radio but she saw Taverson up on the M240, laying down fires. A second IED went off to the rear of the patrol. Canell could see jihadis massing on the far side of a low wall to the formation’s right, shooting and looking like they were getting ready to assault the squad. Her squad.

“All vehicles, gunner’s fire right, keep eyes left. Watch for friendlies, I’m on the ground.”

Canell bailed the Humvee and moved toward a break in the wall, from which all the small arms fire was coming. She rolled over the break and on the far side saw all kinda jihadis shooting at her squad, her boys. She leveled up her M4 and started shooting as she moved forward in the little trench behind the wall. She got close and, in the press of bodies, aiming wasn’t really necessary. She felt supporting fires coming from behind her, over her right shoulder, but didn’t stop to check who had followed her into the trench.

Her M4 ran dry and she flipped a mag switch without thought or hesitation. She was now walking on the bodies of those she’d shot, without being sure they were done and she was clear. There was still a swarm in front of her. The person supporting her from behind had moved up so that they were virtually shoulder-to-shoulder. Canell’s weapon clicked dry again. As a mere Staff Sergeant, she didn’t rate a sidearm, and because the US Army was so super-duper high tech, neither Canell nor any of her squaddies carried bayonets.

Without a thought, Canell dropped her carbine on its sling and pulled her tomahawk from its ring on her belt and got to cutting. Her (butthead) Ranger big brother hadn’t just handed her the weapon; he’d spent hours training her to use the weapon, burning into muscle memory how to best employ both the ax-head and its tail-end spike, and how with a thumb-stroke to rotate between the two. Canell, if she had a thought, was only thinking of her boys and taking the heat off them. She hit the press and alternated low and high with the swift, savage strokes of the ‘hawk.

The crowd of jihadis was thinning when Canell knew she was dead. One of the last hadjis in the line was bringing his AK-47 up to bear, and Canell knew she wouldn’t reach him in time to stop his killing her. Here’s hoping them thousand dollar plates work. Canell reached forward as far and as fast as she could. Her ‘hawk swept down through the shoulder of the threat and well into his clavicle, keeping the threat’s weapon from coming all the way up. The jihadi reflexively jerked the trigger, and Canell felt her left leg jerk from under her, like she’d been damn mule kicked. She fell forward knowing she couldn’t do anything to stop the next shot. Knowing she was dead.

She saw the jihadi try to lever the muzzle of the AK back up with the arm she hadn’t ruined, when his head seemed to leap from his shoulders. LT Yazawa moved beyond the still-falling corpse and took out the next two jihadis behind him with that skinny, big-ass knife of his. Strangely, weirdly, that seemed to be the end of the line. Canell thought, good, my boys are safe. She managed to rotate onto her back to see the sun, and watched it fade to black.

Krista Canell woke up in what she figured was the CASH (Combat Support Hospital). Her head felt muzzy and she had about the worst case of cotton mouth ever. The lights were dim and she could tell she was hooked up to that machine that went beep. She felt a dull, throbbing ache in her leg. Not painful, but full of bass. She looked around and saw a cup with a straw on the lap table next to her bed. She grabbed it and greedily sucked down the ice water in it. She settled back, content but for that throb in her leg. Then she jerked up. She’d heard all type-a stories of troops feeling aches and throbs in limbs that were no longer there. She reached down and felt her leg. It was there. Her hands walked down her leg as far as she could reach. Her leg was there. She fell back and slept.

When she woke up, she saw the razor-sharp silhouette of LT Yazawa by her bedside. Guy was so erect, he made her spine hurt just lookin’ at him.

“Hey, sir. I screw up the SITREP, or something?”

“No. Your team covered for you. SITREP is good. You got over.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The docs say you only got soft tissue damage. You’re damn lucky that round didn’t break your femur. You have a couple days before they evaluate and either MEDEVAC you to Germany, or see whether you can rehabilitate on site and return to duty.”

“Hey, sir, I’m good, I’ll rehabilitate and go RTD.” Return to duty.

“It’s the doc’s call, based on your condition. If you can RTD, that’s great. But you need to give him the right feedback. If you can muscle up and get back to work, that’s great. But if you can’t look me in the eye and tell me you can hit that trench just as well as before, then you need to bow out. Your squad deserves that.”

That gave Canell pause. “Yes, sir.”

LT Yazawa reached under his chair and pulled out a couple items.

“The boys told me you’d want this.” Yazawa handed her her leather bound bible. Canell felt herself getting a little teary.

“Yes, sir. Thank you. Thank them for me.”

“Absolutely. And we all knew you needed this, to help with the healing.” The LT handed her her tomahawk.

Canell seized up a little bit and held the ‘hawk to her breast. “Thank you. Thank you, sir.”

“You heal up, now, Staff Sergeant. That is a direct verbal order, understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

Yazawa got up to leave.

“Sir? I saw you, in the trench, using that long-ass knife–“

“–It’s a wakizashi–“

“–right, using your whatsits. Did you ever think you would use it? I mean, you carried it, but did you ever think it would be a weapon you used?”

Yazawa paused. “We both carried the weapons of our forebears. Not because we thought we would need them, but because we wanted to venerate those who had fought so hard, so long ago, to give us what we have today. No. I never thought I would use the weapon of my ancestors, but I’m darn glad I had it.”

“Me, too, sir.”

“Heal well, Staff Sergeant.”


Since we’re talking veneration, this post was inspired by this incredible young lady. God bless her and those like her.

Also, I needed a Nippon-American name. Thanks to Al Yazawa (USMA, ’89) for letting me use his. ‘Course, he stopped his man-killing ways years ago to become an MD. Quitter.

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Will David Beat Goliath in Chicago?

 

The Chicago Tribune has an article about a college student running for alderman, who has run up against the Chicago bosses.

…David Krupa, 19, a freshman at DePaul University who drives a forklift part time. He’s not a political powerhouse. He’s just a conservative Southwest Side teenager studying political science and economics who got it in his head to run for alderman in a race that pits him against the most powerful ward organization in Chicago.

Krupa needed to file 473 signatures of ward residents to get on the ballot. He got 1,703. But an unnamed group went around afterwards and asked residents to sign an affidavit revoking their signatures on Krupa’s petition. The only problem is that more than 2,700 revocations were turned over to the elections board to cancel signatures on Krupa’s petition.

An attorney for Krupa says that a review of the revocations reveals only 187 matches between people on Krupa’s petition and people who signed revocations. In other words, 2,609 people who didn’t sign the original petition filed revocations anyways.

(Personal side question: Why do the revocations matter? If the 187 matching signatures are subtracted from Krupa’s petition total, he still has enough to run for alderman. It is a pet peeve of mine that newspaper articles often fail to address obvious questions.)

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Speeding revenue

 

The amount of money generated by speeding tickets is concerning to me. It’s also completely understandable. A small town near me annexed a few miles of a nearby 4-lane state highway and more than doubled their annual tax revenue in the first year, just from speeding tickets. So the local politicians got more money to […]

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Quote of the Day: Dietrich von Hildebrand vs. Hitler

 

Dietrich von Hildebrand was a Catholic philosopher and early opponent of Hitler. I could quote many passages from My Battle Against Hitler: Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich, by John Crosby and Dietrich von Hildebrand, but here’s a taste of his thought:

I had already heard about statements by…that the only thing still necessary was for Hitler to find his way to the faith and to convert…This was a horrid blend of equivocation and an attempt at self-deception. To begin with, there was far more to be decried in Hitler than his personal lack of faith, namely his entire gruesome doctrine, the totalitarian state he had created, and the spirit of his collaborators.

This remark would have been meaningful in the case of a great and enlightened monarch, whose only shortcoming lay in not being a believing Catholic. Yet in the case of Hitler, everything was permeated by the spirit of the Antichrist, and so everything had to be rejected – nationalism in its entirety, from top to bottom. Even Franz von Papen, who at least in his private life gave the impression of being a fervent Catholic, had taken part on the abolition of every liberty and in the use of terror. Had Hitler actually converted, he would in consequence have had to dismiss all of his subordinates, dissolve the Third Reich, and immediately turn himself over to a court for his many crimes. It was therefore total nonsense to believe that Hitler was only lacking faith and nothing more. Certainly one should pray for him, as one should pray for every criminal, for the eternal good of his soul, but one should simultaneously pray that he be removed from his position as soon as possible, that Germany and the entire world be freed of him.

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It was overcast and gloomy all day…then this happened

 

See how you’re rewarded if you’re just patient? I had been staring at my computer screen, going through emails then glanced out my window and almost fell out of my chair. I raced downstairs and out the front door with my cellphone to try and capture it. An amazing sky. I realize that this isn’t […]

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Is Marketing Lying?

 

I used to think that marketing was silly: a better mousetrap sells itself, surely? Of course, I used to think that about libertarianism as well.

As I grew, I came to realize that if nobody knows about your mousetrap, then you can hardly expect them to beat a path to your door. So you need to advertise.

This was still a pretty juvenile understanding, as I am sure you appreciate. After all, a great many successful things (whether mousetraps or religions) are sold not because they deliver a dead mouse or a ticket to heaven, but because the market is somehow tickled by the pitch. So marketing is not just about making noise: it is about finding a way to speak to your audience.

In general, this has been pretty hard for me to wrap my head around, but the data just keeps coming back: people value the packaging of a gift, the ambiance of a restaurant, the solidity of not worrying about the future – even though none of these things makes a whit of physical concrete difference to our lives. And even with this, marketing is so much more than these things!

Most things that are promoted or sold are not needed for human survival or even physical luxury, but they clearly fill human needs nevertheless. How else can we explain the appeal of fireworks or music or religion? And just as we are attracted to some things, we are repelled from others: the fear of the unknown and too much freedom (libertarianism’s Achilles tendon).

Marketing is also a central subject in the Torah.

When Ruben wants to save Joseph from the pit, he tries to command his brothers, but they ignore him; he did a lousy job of marketing, and it meant that his mission failed.

Judah, by contrast, cajoles the brothers, identifies with them, and sells them on the idea of selling Joseph for a profit. We have no idea what Judah was actually thinking! But we know what he said and that it worked; his brothers listened to him because he was persuasive. He was engaged in marketing.

As Joseph Cox has pointed out, Biblical Joseph in his lifetime developed what we now call marketing: he went from telling people what HE wanted them to hear (his narcissistic dreams), to telling people what they needed to hear (the dreams of the butler and baker), to telling people what would achieve the purposes of everyone involved (the dreams of Pharaoh).

The amazing thing about marketing is that while it has to have at least some tenuous connection to empirical information (a beauty product should not make one repellent, for example), it does not – ever – seek to share all known information about a subject. Marketing is selectively choosing what you want the listener to think about; it does not seek to share Truth but merely useful information.

So when Joseph interprets the dreams of the butler and baker, he tells them what they want to know – how the dreams matter to them. But this is not merely a parlor trick; if it was, the Torah would have just said, “They had dreams, Joseph interpreted them, and they came true.” But the Torah does not merely summarize: the dreams are detailed and specific.

Again, as Joseph Cox points out, the dreams had another meaning as well: they presaged the future of Egypt and Israel (in 300 years, Egypt would be plagued and then beheaded, while Israel would grow fat and be delivered into the hands of G-d). But biblical Joseph does not say this out loud; we cannot even know if he was aware of this interpretation! Just as with Judah’s “how do we profit from killing him? Let’s sell him!” The Torah is telling us that what really matters is what Joseph said: he told the butler and baker what they needed to hear.

When Joseph is later brought before Pharaoh and asked to interpret the king’s dreams, Joseph tells Pharaoh what Pharaoh needed to hear, and what would work best for Joseph’s future as well: “Seven years of plenty, and seven years of famine.” This is marketing at its best. But what Joseph does not do is suggest that the seven alien ears of corn and cows represent Israel coming into Egypt and devastating the host!

Both interpretations are probable – or even, with the benefit of hindsight, certain. But the true marketer picks his words with care, selecting the part of the story that works best all around.

We must follow the path of Yosef. By seeking the achievement of others and the honor of G-d, we can be blessed with the stories that will make the world see our success, and not our destruction, as the pathway towards achieving their own dreams.

G-d grants Abram success in the battle of the kings, but the world ignored G-d’s miraculous role – so G-d doubles down by promising (and then delivering) a much more showy event in the Exodus, designed to force the world to acknowledge that G-d exists, to birth a nation through a grand spectacle.

At the same time as the plagues and the Exodus, G-d is conducting a parallel marketing campaign to the Jewish people, one with different goals. In other words, G-d knows his audience, and tailors his words and actions accordingly! G-d is marketing!

What Joseph and Moses and G-d are doing is not a lie – but it is certainly being selective with the truth. And I think the Torah is making this quite explicitly into a virtue.

Think of a marriage. What we choose to say matters: no marriage could survive if every passing thought was voiced. The best marriages are between people who choose to see the positive in the other person. This is how beautiful relationships are built, not on the bedrock of Complete and Absolute Truth. Those who insist on telling it as they see it are terrible at human relationships.

Recognizing the positive is only part of the proverbial elephant, but it remains a part of the elephant nevertheless – it is usefully true in itself. And the Torah’s descriptions of Joseph and Moses and G-d all make it clear that marketing is front and center in the campaign to grow and thrive and to build holiness.

As Rabbi Sacks put it: “For Jews, holiness lies not in the way the world is but in the way it ought to be.” And how do we “sell” what ought to be? By imagining and promoting a vision for the future – by marketing something that does not now exist! (There is a risk of being accused of charlatanism, of course.)

It seems to me that the line between marketing and lying has nothing to do with the visions themselves: a marketer is a crook when they knowingly act in bad faith. But if they believe in their vision themselves, no matter how adventuresome it might be, then they are honestly doing what mankind is supposed to do. When we market, we are trying to sell the world on a vision of how the world ought to be. And if that vision is consistent with holiness, then marketing is G-d’s own work – and we are His agents.

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Beto O’Rourke Raises (and Spends) a Record Amount

 

The UT Football News (AKA The Austin American Statesman) occasionally does non-sports coverage. On December 7th, in fact, they reported that Robert “Beto” O’Rourke raised $80.4 million in his race to lose the Texas US Senate seat to Rafael “Ted” Cruz. Of course, being primarily college sports reporters, they don’t have quite the skill to either properly analyze the numbers relating to that contest or conceal damning information about the candidate they were obviously gaga for during the entire campaign.

Beto O’Rourke spent $77.6 million of that $80.4 million, almost twice what the Cruz campaign spent. He did end up with 822,924 more votes than the generic Democrat NPC who ran against Cruz in 2012, but spent $76.9 million more to do it. That means every extra vote cost more than $93. And that doesn’t include all the free publicity he got from the fawning national media. The Football News calls those numbers “eye-popping” and “record breaking,” but they can also be called “inefficient” and “wasteful.”

Of course, Cruz spent more money to get fewer votes than in 2012. Maybe you should spend a little more time in Texas, Rafael.

I also note that $1.3 million of the donations to BO* had to be returned because they were from foreign donors and exceeded contribution limits. Now I know that for most of you, $1.3 million is a rounding error, chump change. Still, that was more than the Democrat NPC spent on the campaign in 2012. If a reporter had some skill beyond analyzing the effect of a groin injury on next week’s game, they might ask some questions about this. Questions such as “Who was exceeding the limits and by how much?” and “Who are all these foreign donors?” Instead, the story just mentions it like it’s no big deal and goes on.

Also, they leave out the little detail about returned donations when comparing Cruz’s finances to O’Rourke’s. Of course, there could be a number of legitimate reasons for this:

  1. “Oopsie, we forgot.”
  2. “Cruz didn’t have any illegal donations.”
  3. “The numbers for Cruz were so small that they made our preferred candidate look ridiculous by comparison.”
  4. “A breaking story about the UT mascot’s hay consumption didn’t leave us enough space to put in those numbers.”

Beto has received some (muted) criticism for taking money and attention away from other candidates who might actually have won. For instance, assuming that a certain candidate was at least as inept at turning money into votes, $5.1 million would have made the difference in the governor’s race in Georgia. And only about $4 million would have turned both the senate and governor’s races in Florida. But it was very important for BO to lose by an amazing 2.6% instead of a less-amazing 3.3%.

And it worked! BO is now in third place in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. (Behind Joseph “Joe” Biden and Bernard “Bernie” Sanders.) And those losers in Georgia and Florida are nowhere to be seen, despite doing much better than our Beto. So, after consulting with his ego family, BO has decided to renege on the promise he made during the campaign and “look at” running for president.

I think that “cultural appropriation” is hogwash,** but it seems to be a very important concept to Democrats. I therefore find it odd that Beto is allowed to appropriate the name of a Hispanic. When he jumped to third place in the running for 2020, he pulled ahead of people like Elizabeth “Liz” Warren, Cory “Spartacus” Booker, and Kamala “Kamala” Harris. By the Democrats’ own standards these three are real minorities and/or women, as opposed to being a fake Latino. They have also each won at least one statewide election, ahead of Beto’s zero. I will admit that BO does a better job of awkwardly riding a skateboard and playing chords on a guitar. And man does he look sharp wearing a backpack!

 

 * Wow, he has the same initials as another empty suit poser with presidential ambitions despite having limited accomplishments. Quel coincidence!

** Duh, just look at my nom de plume.

 

 

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The Distorted Echoes of History

 

There has been much discussion on whether history repeats itself. Some say that it doesn’t but that it rhymes. Others, that it echoes. I may be in the latter camp. Could Catholics in Britain today be singled out for arrest for promoting orthodox Catholic teaching that is characterized as ‘hate speech’ because it runs counter to the dictates of the politically-correct regime? In a nation where the ruling class (whether Labor or Tory ministers) and complicit media scolds believe that everyone in Britain and the Commonwealth has the right not to be offended and that rudeness, sarcasm, or pointed criticism are modes of speech that could rightfully throw someone in prison — it may be an inevitability.

Here are descriptions of what constitutes a ‘hate crime’ and a ‘hate incident’ from the City of London Police department. Please note the subjective nature of the claim and the apparent lack of necessity to provide any evidence of the offense. With other crimes, say theft or murder, there typically is an evidentiary requirement that something has actually been stolen or that someone has, in fact, been murdered. In what’s described below merely expressing an opinion or even stating a fact, for example, that Catholic doctrine finds that homosexuality is not in accordance with God’s natural law or that it is unacceptable could be characterized as a hate crime because the “offended” party could claim that the speech was motivated by prejudice or hate — without proof. (emphasis mine):

Hate crime

The City of London Police will not tolerate any form of hate crime. We are committed to ensuring your safety.

A Hate Crime is defined as:

Any hate incident, which constitutes a criminal offence, perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice or hate.

Hate Incident

“A hate incident is any incident, which may or may not constitute a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice or hate.

What can I report?

Any incident where you or anyone else has been targeted because they or you are believed to be of a different:

race

religion / belief

sexual orientation

gender identity

or have a disability.

Hate crimes are directed against people because of some aspect of who they are, most typically because they are from an ethnic minority or visible religious minority, or because of their sexuality.

Hate crime covers a wide range of behaviour, for example verbal abuse, racist or homophobic graffiti or physical assault. A crime can be classed as a hate crime if the victim or witness see it as being so.

If you are the victim of what you think is a hate crime, it is not your fault. You have the right to live your life free from abuse and violence, whoever you are. You do not have to live with hate crime.

Police are trained to deal with hate crime with sensitivity and tact. They will not treat you differently because you are from an ethnic or religious minority, or because of your sexuality.

Of course, there’s a certain familiar and queasy feeling in the gut that a Catholic may feel about the notion that Catholics who openly articulate Catholic doctrine can be arrested, incarcerated, and interrogated by the British police. One need only travel back some 450 years or so to the reign of the first Elizabeth which, contrary to the consensus of successive generations of historians, modern romance novelists or filmmakers, was actually not one of religious tolerance by the monarch who deftly unified Protestants and Catholics to bring about a glimmering golden age of splendor. On the contrary, closer examinations of the Elizabethan Age by numerous contemporary historians are serving up a much, darker more tyrannical, more murderous picture of the period, akin to a Stalinist police state, and new appreciations of the Earl of Essex and many prominent Catholic intellectuals who had fled England, and were critical of the regime and the tyrannical enforcement to prop it up by Elizabeth’s close advisors (the Cecils, in particular).

From Shakespeare and the Resistance: The Earl of Southampton, the Essex Rebellion, and the Poems that Challenged Tudor Tyranny, author and Shakespeare scholar Clare Asquith (Shadowplay) writes in her Introduction:

Stephen Greenblatt’s influential 1989 analysis of the plays, Shakespearean Negotiations, drew on a series of long-held assumptions about Elizabeth’s reign. Power lay with the queen: yet, in material terms, she was weak. She had no standing army, no bureaucracy, and no police force to speak of. She relied instead on theatrical display and rhetorical persuasion: and with such success that, though ‘a weak and feeble woman’, she retained power for almost fifty years—and commanded the devotion of her subjects throughout, which, as she often declared, ‘I do esteem more than any treasure or riches’. This was an age, then, when theatricality was the source of power: a great starting point for Shakespeare scholars.

But late Tudor power is not seen this way anymore. Instead, the latest body of evidence indicates that Elizabeth presided over a highly successful police state. In the view of Curtis Breight, her weakness had from the start compelled her ‘to make alliances with some of the most clever and ruthless men ever to control the English state, lawyerly humanists who knew how to weave plots and engineer harsh legislation’. Scholars such as Breight paint a picture of a country kept in check by terror and by the deliberate fomenting of aggressive wars abroad. They have highlighted damning evidence of the corrupt political dominance of Lord Burghley (William Cecil) and his son Robert, and have revised the traditional image of their doomed opponent, the Earl of Essex. So brilliant was the propaganda machine under the Cecils that Essex has been seen ever since his fall as an inept victim of a struggle between court factions. Over the past twenty years, however, thanks to the work of scholars led by Paul Hammer and Alexandra Gajda, Essex has emerged as a political and intellectual heavyweight whose ideals and character mobilised all those who had become disgusted by the self-serving rule of what was then known as the regnum Cecilianum, the reign of the Cecils. Power, it now appears, resided not in the dazzling spectacle of the queen, but in the iron fist of her ministers: and this means, say historians, that as far as Shakespeare goes, the historicists have got the story wrong. Elizabeth’s men, as hitherto marginalised evidence demonstrates, were experts in the use of torture, intimidation, propaganda, and the use of agents provocateurs to create the ‘mass paranoia’ of a society ridden with informers.

Catholicism had been outlawed by Elizabeth. Hiding priests was a high treasonous act but merely discussing points of Catholic doctrine in public, like a mention of purgatory in an alehouse in an unguarded moment, might likely run afoul of the authorities and result in fines, imprisonment, torture or even public execution. Like Stalinist Russia and the Soviet Bloc countries, neighbors became informers and were compensated for ratting out Catholics who were suspected of, or in fact dared to, secretly celebrate mass, have their children baptized, or were guilty of recusancy by not attending the new church’s mandated services which they believed was heretical and would result in the eternal damnation their souls. Personal property, jewelry, silver, goblets, and articles of clothing, and other finery were often confiscated when recusant Catholic homes were raided.

Catholics in Elizabeth I’s England are often depicted in romance novels and films as crazed assassins or depraved priests (bookmark that thought) and almost never as the majority population at the time who were comprised of the toiling and devout peasantry, the merchant class and the Catholic nobles. Catholics took great care in negotiating their way through a thorny labyrinth of new recusant laws, dictates, and compelled oaths for fear of severe financial penalties or loss of their homes and property. But that’s all water under the Tower Bridge…or is it?

What’s happening in post-modern, multiculturalist, politically-correct Britain today as it pertains to orthodox Catholics is an echo of the past – specifically that first Elizabethan era – but like all echoes, they are fainter reminders of the original noise and, in this case, have distorted over time. The salient and quite disturbing difference is that Catholics, who in Elizabeth I’s reign, were aligned with their clergy and relied upon them for spiritual guidance and who protected them from arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution — this time find themselves fighting both the British group-think regime and their own corrupt clerical hierarchy that makes a mockery of Catholic teaching and flirts with heresy and schism. An influential contingent of cardinals, bishops, and priests in the Curia are either militantly homosexual themselves or actively promoting a gay agenda for the Church, and so have much in common with the attitudes and sympathies of the British ruling class.

Thus, the conundrum for orthodox Catholics is that while they are defending Catholic doctrine in the public square or in social media not just in Britain but around the world, their own clergy are actively defiling it, thus destroying the Church’s credibility as a moral authority that speaks with one voice. A great deal of the blame for this hole into which the current papacy and the episcopacy have shoved orthodox Catholics should rightly be placed on Pope Francis for his suspect incompetence, his Peronist duplicity and his demonization of those calling for investigations and the purging and purification of the clergy. But Francis should also be understood as the result or poster child of elements that have sought to attack the church from within for countless decades.

Now I’m reasonably sure that in our enlightened age, Catholics in Britain will never really have to hide the fact that they are Catholic…uh…much. Or that Catholic churches will be shuttered (or ransacked and destroyed as they had when Elizabeth’s dad went a bit wild) but it is highly probable that Catholics may begin to be investigated and possibly incarcerated on charges of ‘hate speech’ for relating what Catholic teaching on homosexuality has been for close to two thousand years.

The stage seems to be set for suppression of orthodox Catholic ideas. To wit…

Bishop accuses BBC’s gay film of hostility toward Catholics

John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley sent a letter to the director of BBC Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon, outlining his concerns of the corporation’s treatment of Catholics in a recent short film titled Homophobia in 2018, Time for Love.

In the letter, he accused the film, which was published on the BBC’s digital platform ‘The Social’, of blaming hatred toward gay people on Catholics, citing Catholic teachings and liturgy.

The film also includes a clip which says the Catholic Sacrament of Holy Communion “tastes like cardboard and smells like hate”.

Bishop John wrote: “In the current climate of growing hostility to Catholics I would appeal that the BBC guard against adding fuel to the fire. In that regard I would ask that the corporation now reach out to Catholics to understand their concerns, that they are being portrayed in a prejudicial way.

“When it comes to important public debates about the wellbeing of the human person and the truth and meaning of human sexuality Catholics feel their views are becoming increasingly marginalised, almost criminalized”.

And…

Student union stops Catholic Society talk

The student union at University College London (UCL) cancelled a scheduled talk by a Catholic apologist last week, prompting concerns about freedom of speech on campus.

Union officials said the talk could not go ahead because protocol had not been followed. But one of the union’s officials had earlier called for students to disrupt the event, calling it “bigoted”.

UCL’s Catholic Society had invited Catholic apologist Peter D Williams to deliver a talk on “defending our right to have our own view on homosexuality”.

No doubt, Queen Elizabeth II’s extensive reign, like her namesake’s, will also be characterized as a golden age of prosperity where the arts and sciences flourished; but additionally where health was expediently provided to all without any waiting, hitches, gross errors, or needless amputations; where Muslims (the majority of whom have clearly and happily embraced the LGBT community) and Christians lived together in harmony with only a few beheadings, gang rapes, the occasional bus explosion, interrupted music concert, or rampaging vehicle that may have inadvertently run over a pedestrian or two; where massive wind and solar farms provided all the energy necessary for everyone, all the time and kept the ice caps from melting; where British subjects were free to express their thoughts on a wide-range of topics as long as those expressions didn’t hurt the feelings of anyone hearing or reading them; and where Catholics were told to keep their yaps shut about their mean-spirited and old-fashioned doctrines that offended certain oppressed gender identity groups, many of whom were in the Catholic clergy in successive committed same-sex relationships with one or multiple partners and who also enjoyed partying from time to time with young seminarians and occasionally altar boys.

My sense is that, if this article gets any exposure, the UK Parliament may be inclined to ban me from vacationing in England ever again. Hateful person that I am. Perhaps I should have focused on Spain instead.

Of course, here in America, no one would ever be arrested or imprisoned for politically-incorrect speech, though one may want to keep monitoring the climate of the times and avoid offending any state-sponsored religions.

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The Police Blotter Quote of the Year Award

 

The award for The Police Blotter Quote of the Year goes to Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed.

Being convicted of criminal offenses create a lot of hardships for offenders.

I never knew that. I always thought that those who committed criminal offenses created hardships for their victims. Professor Medwed made the comment defending the newly elected DA of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Rachel Rollins. Here is the list of crimes that Ms. Rollins will decline to prosecute when she takes office.

Rollins, 47, has been widely hailed – and widely criticized – for her well-publicized “Charges to be Declined” list, which she has featured on her campaign webpage.

With rare exception, offenses of shoplifting, trespass, threats, and larceny under $250 will no longer be prosecuted, as well as disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and “minor driving offenses,” according to the list.

Breaking and entering will not be prosecuted, as long as the perpetrator makes sure the property is vacant. Alternatively, those who commit break-ins of occupied homes because they are cold or tired, but don’t damage anything, will also be in the clear.

Offenders won’t have to worry about going to court over receiving stolen property or underage drinking, and won’t be held accountable for wanton or malicious destruction of property, either.

Cases where an offender is charged with resisting arrest and nothing else will also be turned away, as well as any instances where the person resists arrest while being charged with another offense on Rollins’ “Charges to be Declined” list.

“In the exceptional circumstances where prosecution of one of these charges is warranted, the line DA must first seek permission from his or her supervisor,” Rollins’ website noted.

Making threats will also be permitted, with the exception of those related to domestic violence.

The good citizens of Suffolk County might want to make sure their business, homeowners, and renters insurance premiums are paid-up, at least while they’re still affordable.

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December 11, 2018, is Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 100th Birthday

 

Think Google will commemorate it in its banner? Place your bets.

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This Week’s Book Review: Seapower States

 

Free markets and representative government combined to create unprecedented wealth since 1800. During the 20th century, three major conflicts were won by the coalition better representing those two traits.

“Seapower States: Maritime Culture, Continental Empires, and the Conflict that Made the Modern World,” by Andrew Lambert examines the roles maritime cultures play fostering progress. Lambert holds that nations depending on seapower must necessarily favor free trade and possess representative governments.

He examines five nations that became world powers through embracing maritime culture and seapower: Athens, Carthage, Venice, the Netherlands, and Britain. All five gained power through trade — and more importantly, exchange of ideas. He argues they achieved this because all five had decentralized, representative governments made up of people whose livelihood depended on trade. This allowed the best ideas and the best leaders to rise to the top.

He also examines the major rivals of each state — continental powers favoring a strong central government with a command economy set by that government: Persia and Sparta against Athens, Rome against Carthage, Imperial (and later Revolutionary) France against Venice, the Netherlands, and Britain. He explores the wars fought between the rival piers and what led to victory or defeat in each case.

Lambert differentiates between seapower (controlling the sea and trade on it) and naval power (possessing a strong navy). Continental powers can build and sustain strong navies (as did Rome and Russia in examples given in his book) and even defeat seapowers with their navies. But while seapowers use their navies to protect trade, continental powers use their navies to project land power. Rome invaded Africa, and Russia used its fleets to flank Sweden and the Ottomans.

He also examines sea states, nations which developed seapower, but didn’t become dominating nations. These include the ancient Phoenician cities of the Levant coast, Rhodes, and Genoa.

Lambert argues what makes seapower states dangerous to continental states is they foster innovation. This is destabilizing, as new technologies often undermine the authority of central governments. “Seapower States” offers insight into the direction the modern world may take due to tensions between liberty and centralization.

“Seapower States: Maritime Culture, Continental Empires, and the Conflict that Made the Modern World,” by Andrew Lambert, Yale University Press, 2018, 424 pages, $30

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

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More Ricochet Posts Make It Big

 

I recently had an article accepted for publication at the scholarly journal Science and Christian Belief. The article “Can Faith Be Empirical?” began its life as a number of Ricochet posts. Portions of my article bearing the serviceable (but totally uncreative) title “Augustine and William James on the Rationality of Faith,” recently accepted for publication at The Heythrop Journal, also had an early life as a Ricochet Group Writing Post.

As I said the last time this happened, I don’t think the title of this post is quite accurate: When a bit of academic writing makes it to Ricochet’s Main Feed or Most Popular box, then we can say that that bit of writing has made it big. Still, it’s always nice to be published. The Ricochet posts in question are:

Best philosopher mustache (Iqbal)
Best philosopher beard (James)

Like the earlier Ricochet posts, the academic articles cover a good bit of Augustine, William James, C.S. Lewis, Allama Iqbal, and the Dalai Lama. Note that that’s William James, Augustine, and . . .

  • a 1900s philosopher representing Christianity in its interaction with modern empiricism,
  • a 1900s philosopher representing Islam in its interaction with modern empiricism,
  • and a 1900s philosopher representing Buddhism in its interaction with modern empiricism.
Clean-shaven?!?!!? (Lewis)

Obviously, one or two things are missing between Islam and Buddhism. After writing the Ricochet posts I found the sources I needed for the bigger picture now covered in “Can Faith Be Empirical?”:

  • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a 1900s philosopher representing Hinduism in its interaction with modern empiricism;
  • and Eliezer Berkovits, a 1900s philosopher representing Judaism in its interaction with modern empiricism.

In closing, I like to think this is evidence that Ricochet is awesome.

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A Jew Who Loves Me

 

How do you know if someone loves you? Well, I will tell you how.

I was ill and could not come to morning prayers for several days. On the fourth day of my absence, I get a call.

“I know you are not feeling well, so please do not go outside today. It’s very cold.”

Somewhere up in his 80s, my friend has a mother’s love for me.

He is Hungarian. At the age of 11, he was taken to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Most of the kids sent there were later transported to Auschwitz. But he remained there, working in the kitchen and, through luck and miracles, somehow survived. In Israel, he worked as a driver for government ministers for many years and then as a manager of a public parking garage.

On Friday afternoons, he collects one of each of the many Shabbat weeklies that are dropped off in a bundle outside the synagogue, and puts them in a pile for me. He knows I like to read them and just does this because, I think, he loves me. And after prayers on Shabbat morning, before we go our separate ways, he looks at me with a smile and kisses my forehead.

I love him too, of course, and have listened to him tell me about his childhood for hours. He always has a complaint about something but follows each complaint with a smile and a chuckle.

When his wife died, he looked at me with a half smile of resignation and sighed.

He often visits a daughter and a son who live in Gedera, about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. Each is married and each has three sons. Oh, how he loves those grandsons!

He has another daughter who lives with him. I have met her, a pure soul radiant with innocent astonishment at every little thing. The love of her life was killed in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Since then, she has never entertained the thought of love or marriage with anyone else. But she takes care of her father with deep devotion and motherly love.

I think I know where she learned to love like that.

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Quote of the Day: Bad Design

 

“Too much redesign has to do more with fad and fashion than with fitness and function. It is change for the sake of change. Such redesign is not only unnecessary, it is all too often also retrogressive, leading to things that work less effectively than those they were designed to replace.” – Henry Petroski

Like with Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, and other great thinkers, the ability to simplify knowledge and explain it to everyone is a major talent. Henry Petroski has written many such books, starting with To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design. His quote above reminded me of a 1970s digital design textbook with an appendix called “The Engineer as a Dope Pusher,” which stated that just because a new technology exists, it’s usually not the best choice. The main example was the household clothes dryer, which used a spring powered mechanical timer with a dial to control drying time, rather than a fancy digital electronic interface. I still have a 1988 Maytag electric dryer with the mechanical dial, the only maintenance being a $30 heater core, with the matching washing machine needing a belt tightened. So why are simple devices becoming more complicated and less reliable?

The major cause of bad design is government interference. Our cars are more complex, with turbochargers, direct injection, and 8/9 speed transmissions to squeeze another 0.5 mile or so per gallon fleet average. Even though water is plentiful over much of the US, toilets are regulated to 1.6 gallon per flush. San Francisco is saving over 20 million gallons of water per year, but their sewers weren’t designed for such a low flow. The modern gas containers with spring-loaded nozzles actually spill more fuel than the older simple nozzle with a vent. And so on.

Another cause is the herd mentality of people. If rich people are buying expensive front-loading washing machines for the “environment,” then the middle class (and even some of the poor!) follow that example. Modern washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, and other appliances typically last six to 10 years, mostly due to poor quality parts and “Energy Star” designs that stress a smaller motor. A properly sized motor (like in my Maytag) can last 30 years or more. As with low-flush toilets, the extra water and electric costs of a top-loading washing machine are relatively minimal for most of the country.

I could go on, but you get the idea. As Pogo said:

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‘Woke’ Activism Is a Dangerous Religion

 

So argues a new book by Daniel J. Mahoney, reviewed currently in City Journal by Gerald J. Russello. Philosophers have been seeking to replace the strictures of both religious faith and politics since the Enlightenment, and it seems that they have nearly achieved their project at last. The new faith does not have a formal name as yet, but several observers have described it as “Humanitarianism.”

Humanitarianism is itself a religion, and as Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule has argued, modern secularism has its own eschatology (the eternal overcoming of “hatred”), its own sacraments and holidays, and various prohibitions and commandments, usually centered around specific groups. Coupled with the rise of various would-be pagan religions and the cult of the self, these movements represent a retreat from rational reflection on politics.

That eschatology (meaning, the beliefs associated with The End, that is the ultimate destiny) should terrify us all, for it is unbounded by any goal, and barrier, or any moral lines. It simply latches onto the eternal defeat of “hatred,” which is a term that has been denuded of meaning, and now relegated to mean a failure to affirm any other person’s choices or self-definition, no matter how destructive. To fail to affirm is to “hate,” and to “hate” is to be an enemy of all.

But Humanitarianism infects more than one might suppose.

Augusto del Noce [wrote] that, with modernity, “everything becomes purely an object of commerce. This is symbolized by the disappearance of modesty; in the most elementary forms everything is reduced to ‘water, sleep, sex,’ falling, in short, into pure animalism.” Kolnai, too focuses on modesty and the range of intimate relationships that virtue was meant to regulate. For the humanitarian, living up to or in accord with virtue is unnecessary because virtue is unnecessary—the category implies that people may want something that is not good. “Humanitarianism,” explains Mahoney, “ultimately impairs human cognition, since a horizon that deifies undifferentiated ‘human needs’ has a hard time acknowledging the ‘unpleasant,’ the truly morally demanding dimensions of the moral life.” [emphasis my own]

Put another way, we have lost the ability to tell others that their very way of living is unvirtuous. The Left wants to affirm every self-definition one could invent (and label as oppressors those who refuse to affirm), while the Right is afraid of morally censuring anything that appears to be free commerce, even if such trades violate human dignity.

Socialism was difficult to oppose when it first achieved international popularity. It took decades for the horrors of socialism in practice, and the brutality it required, to be acknowledged, and few even today are willing to label Socialism as a religious belief system. But in time, Western Civilization did at least come to understand at some level that socialism was dangerous, and was able to oppose the worse expressions of it (even if now those memories of its horrors are fading again). Can Western Civilization rouse itself sufficiently to recognize this new cult? Time will tell. Perhaps it won’t and will fall into this new totalitarianism, or perhaps, enervated and disunited by the radical individualism therein, busy destroying itself in a vain attempt to defeat “hate,” it will be unable to oppose the other totalitarianism promulgated by China.

Regardless, we should all recognize that “Woke” politics may very well be foretaste of a new totalitarian secular cult.

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When the Culture War Is Fought in Your Front Yard

 

“God hates divorce. God loves divorced people.” Those are the words of a pastor I used to know.

I hate divorce, too. I hate, hate, hate it. For the record, my parents are married and have been for over 50 years. I have been married for 26 years as of a few days ago. My parents have had their issues, my wife and I have had ours. We were close to divorce about five years ago, but God intervened and rescued us from our arrogance. My mother’s parents were divorced when she was a toddler, her dad being a raging drunk who beat my grandmother. My wife’s parents were both married and divorced multiple times. Beyond that, divorce has never touched me in any real personal way.

Until this morning. My son, 13, just came up from his long slumber to say that his friend’s parents are getting a divorce. I guess they’ve been having trouble for some time, they’ve talked about divorce before, but my son says it’s for real this time: she has a lawyer.

Call me a girly man if you must, but I’ve got some tears in my eyes as I write this. I hate that my son has to bear some burden in order to support his friend (though I love him for doing so). I hate that his buddy has to go through this, the uncertainty, the worry that it is his fault, being torn between mom and dad.

I’m not sure what else to say other than, if you pray, perhaps you’ll pray for Isaac and his family.

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And Justice For All

 

The killers of my maternal grandmother’s cousin are still alive and kicking, living just a walk away from most of grandma’s relatives. On November 16, 2018, 39 years after the Vietnamese forced them out of power, two Khmer Rouge senior leaders, Nuon Chea, aka Brother Number 2, and Khieu Samphan, its head of state, were sentenced to life imprisonment by the UN-backed tribunal for genocide against the Cham and Vietnamese minorities during their reign of terror.

Chea, who is already 92, and Samphan, 87, pleaded not guilty and are already serving life sentences for crimes against humanity from previous verdicts. The new verdict for Nuon Chea also includes crimes committed at S-21, the Khmer Rouge’s notorious prison where more than 20,000 people were tortured and killed; among them were two of my maternal great-uncles.

Prosecuting the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders was never even talked about until Prime Minister Hun Sen forced it. The Khmer Rouge were never mentioned in the Paris Peace Accords, which gave the UN authority over Cambodia. Furthermore, the regime still retained Cambodia’s seat at the UN until 1982 even when it became clear that it had committed mass atrocities. During its occupation, the UN had never attempted to capture a single Khmer Rouge leader and end the civil war. Even by 1997, there were still parts of Cambodia that were not safe to travel because of Khmer Rouge guerrillas.

After a lengthy negotiation which started at the request of the Cambodian government in 1997, on June 6, 2003, the UN and the Cambodian government signed an agreement to set up trial proceedings against the Khmer Rouge senior leaders.

To start, the tribunal, formally called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, was problematic. It was set up as a mixed UN-Cambodian court, where every international judge and prosecutor was paired with a Khmer counterpart. Once again, the court was set up to try the Khmer Rouge senior leaders, those responsible for the worst crimes committed. In that sense, the killers of grandma’s cousin are nonentities, not even worth mentioning. But then there is Im Chaem, who oversaw the killing of tens of thousands of people as a Khmer Rouge mid-level official in the northwestern zone from 1977 to 1978. In 2015, the tribunal charged her with crimes against humanity, including mass murder, extermination, and enslavement. But in February of 2017, the tribunal’s judges dropped the charges against her.

The Cambodian government has always fought any efforts to prosecute anyone beyond the Khmer Rouge senior leaders. Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge cadet, often warned that more trials would potentially lead to civil war and chaos. The case of Im Chaem is not an isolated one. Meas Muth, the Khmer Rouge naval chief, was charged with genocide of the Vietnamese minority, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and homicide. The charges against him are likely to be dropped as well.

After the sentencing of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, the Cambodian government declared that there are no more Khmer Rouge leaders left to stand trial and that the process has ended. Fifteen years and nearly $300 million later, the tribunal convicted three men, the third one being Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, who ran S-21. Two other defendants, Pol Pot’s sister-in-law, Ieng Thirith, and her husband, Ieng Sary, died of old age during the trial.