Oscar Goes to Church

 

(I write a blog featuring how churches and clergy are presented in movies called “Movie Churches.” The following is this week’s post. And it just so happens that the movie with the best church will probably get Best Picture on Sunday.)

The Academy Awards are this Sunday. I’ve seen all the nominees for the 2020 Best Picture Oscar and must say there is very little church or clergy in any of the films. This is quite thoughtless of the Academy to give so little thought to the needs of this site. If a film like Just Mercy or A Hidden Life had been nominated I’d have a little more to work with, but no…

A majority of the nine films nominated (five: Ford vs. Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, Jojo Rabbit, and Marriage Story) have no direct reference to churches or clergy. But the remaining four have minor ecclesiastical references. 

Parasite (my favorite film from last year) had a passing church reference. The poor family in the film makes money folding boxes for a local pizza parlor. And that pizza parlor gets a major order from The Love of God Church. And that’s it. (For what its worth, I tend to be more favorable to churches that serve pizza.)

Little Women has a prominent clergy character, but they try to keep that on the down-low. The film is based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel (released in two parts in 1868 and 1869.) The story tells of a mother and her daughters, the Marches, struggling to get by while Father March serves in the Civil War. In the book, it states quite plainly that the father serves as a chaplain with the Union Army. In Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the novel, the word “chaplain” is never used. One of the daughters, Jo (Saoirse Ronan) talks about her father (Bob Odenkirk) going off to serve the Union Army and wishing she could join him, certainly giving the impression that he is serving as a soldier. The only clues we have of Father March’s profession is when he officiates over the wedding of one daughter and the funeral of another. We really get no indication of the quality of Father March’s ministry. There also is a church in the family’s town that is featured prominently in a number of shots, but we never see the Marches (or anyone else) step inside it.

The Irishman is the only of this year’s Best Picture nominees that makes prominent references to the church and clergy. This isn’t too surprising considering it was directed by Martin Scorsese who often works with religious themes (The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun) and more specifically, Catholicism (The Silence). This is the story of mobsters, particularly Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro) and Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and their involvement in the killing of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa. These vicious, cold-blooded men are active in the Catholic Church. In the film, we see several baptisms and a wedding in Catholic Churches (Christian statuary and iconography are featured throughout the film).

The film follows these mobsters as they age, and near the end of Russell’s life, he begins to attend church regularly. Frank teases him for this, but Russell says, “Don’t laugh, you’ll see.” And Frank does eventually find himself in a Catholic nursing home being visited by priests. Frank doesn’t seem to feel much guilt for his past, even for the people he killed. But a priest encourages him, “I think we can be sorry even when we don’t feel sorry, it’s a decision of the will.”

1917 doesn’t have a formal church or clergyperson. But it does have the most moving worship service I saw in a film from last year. The film tells the story of two soldiers given the assignment of taking a message to the front lines. One soldier reaches a troop about to go to battle. It is quite evident that the men are scared. One of the men stands before them and sings a folk/gospel song, “The Wayfaring Stranger.” The song tells of a journey of God’s redeemed across the Jordan to see their loved ones, “I’m only going over home.” We do see war-torn churches and hear church bells in the film, but this moment of worship is true church. If I was giving steeple this week, that service would get four steeples out of four.

About a Dog

 

There is a story about a dog in the Everett, WA, animal shelter. It describes the dog as a “gentle giant.” It is a Mastiff/Akita mix, weighing 150 pounds. Giant, indeed. This is the description of this dog from the KOMO Web site:

This Mastiff and Akita mix is a very happy 6-year-old gentle giant in need of an owner who has experience with large, strong breeds. He is smart, knows a few basic commands and is always willing to offer a paw. The home must be cat and dog free, the shelter advises. Bo also requires a securely fenced yard and is not suited for apartment living. Children in the home should be dog savvy and at least 12 years old.

Does this sound like the description of a “gentle giant?” Follow the link for a video and the complete story.

Member Post

 

Former congressman Joe Walsh (no connection with the Eagles’ former guitarist) has dropped out of the race to replace Donald Trump on the ballot as the Republican nominee. Story here. What is best in life? To crush the Demoncrats, see their acolytes driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their media.  

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Counting the Cards in Nevada

 

President Trump is putting Nevada in play for the 2020 election. The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage project has always been a political hot potato and a hole in the ground into which Congress pours money. Senator Dean Heller, like Senator Reid before him, is opposed to the Yucca Mountain project, and there are likely not the votes to force the issue. Now the story in important Las Vegas news outlets is President Trump is on Nevada’s side.

This is very savvy. Presidents, Congress, and bureaucrats have been talking but never actually acting to use Yucca Mountain. Over decades, surely smarter answers have emerged than transporting and concentrating high-level nuclear waste in one location.

Now we have a president throwing the bovine scat flag on the old game, enabling real solutions to surface for serious consideration. Yet another win for America on many levels.

  • Nevada wins, gets what people demand.
  • Nuclear power wins if real waste management emerges, removing waste as obstacle to construction.
  • Environment wins with waste management and more non-greenhouse gas energy.
  • Homes, businesses get more megawatts of reliable and truly “green” power at affordable prices.
  • More nuclear power means more ability to power more electric motors, fill more batteries.

Child Abuse?

 

Is it possible that the most common form of child abuse in America today consists of parents sending their children to school?

Not all schools, just 98% of them.

  • The curriculum of most schools is lousy.
  • The pedagogy at most schools is junk.
  • The institutional culture of most schools is unfortunate.  Administration is top-heavy, impersonal, and bureaucratic.
  • The social culture of most schools is lousy. Pop Cult, badly dressed, foul-mouthed.
  • The political culture of most schools is hard-core left-wing.
  • Families and their children attending government schools in particular will find themselves subject to much greater government tracking and regulation than non-affiliated families with children. Your child is much more likely to be arrested if he attends a government school and you are much more likely to have a child protective services case opened against you than if your child doesn’t attend government schools.

My Mother Is the Silent Majority

 

The silent majority is pretty quiet. Go figure. The masses beaten about the brow, continuously, that they are racist, misogynist, not compassionate, bigots, xxx-phobes… The silent majority is told they are simply wrong, actually simple, ignorant, and unenlightened. We are deplorable, bible thumping, gun toting rubes. That is how the world perceives and loudly proclaims us. Of course we prefer to be silent. My Mom, G-d Bless her. She is 91 years old living in Buffalo, Holy Cow, it gets a lot of snow, NY. She is one of the silent ones for sure, but doesn’t feel like the majority people. She is not normally, nor historically, a fearful women.

She has traveled the world, taught English in Japan, was robbed while a bank teller, and testified against him despite threats that she would be killed, worked as an RN in a psych ward. She was an international tour guide and travel agent. and that is only 20% of her amazing journey. Yet she is scared to admit she supports Donald Trump. Her lifelong friends Hate (with a capital “H”) the president. In their perception he is an XXXist. and if you support him you also must be an XXXist. (there are to many xxxists to list, but be sure, that if you support Donald Trump, you are many of them! )

Her advice: She never brings up or discusses anything political even though her friends often do, and she opts to remain silent about her beliefs, passions and moral limits. She remains silent because of her fear of the vitriol and venom that would be heaped upon her by the friends and neighbors if they knew… Dad has been dead now for 11 years. She needs her friends support and friendship more than she needs political acquiescence. She continues to live in the 1 acre lot ranch home, which I and elder sibs were born in . She relies on these church and neighbor friends since we kids are gone geographically. They are good people, they help shovel the driveway, bring her mail in from the cold. But she fears she would likely be shunned by these lifelong friends, if she were to reveal her passion for DJT.  Her simple advice, don’t tell them.

I can’t live the same way. It is important – nay, it is critical to my health and mental status to know that there are others, who share and support some of my views. So thank you Ricochetti, for letting me know I do not stand alone, That not only do many people share my thoughts, but there is a number of you well scarred from the battles from voicing your beliefs. Thank you for the testament to your church and country, and for being a sanity check while I wade through my daily battles.

respectfully

Nohaaj.

no tags required, except maybe #heartfelt

Member Post

 

Maybe they are feeling their oats following Mitt Romney’s discussion that his religious beliefs informed his decision to vote to impeach Trump. The three newest stores over there all take shots at Christians who support Trump. https://thebulwark.com/the-gospel-according-to-mad-king-donald/ https://thebulwark.com/the-closing-of-the-conservative-mind/ https://thebulwark.com/trumpvangelicals-are-bad-at-politics/ It would appear that some people have not read their copies of “How to win friends […]

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Coronavirus 2019n-CoV: Are You Paying Attention?

 

I have been watching the chart below:

The Coronavirus has been raging in China since sometime in December 2019. We’re now over 30,000 cases and over 500 deaths. What seems to be established at this point is that persons without symptoms can be a source of contagion and the exposure to symptoms period is about 13 days. They are still trying to calculate the N factor, which is how many people will get sick in the future for each person who gets sick now. Estimates are a factor between 2 and 4; so basically, they don’t know.

I feel for the Chinese people, but what I have my eye on is where else it is going. Look at the next two screengrabs:

Did you see it? Japan has the most cases outside of mainland China. In the first chart, it shows 46, in the second grabbed a couple of hours later it shows 86! Earlier it was reported that 10 of the “Japanese” cases are actually amongst 3,700 cruise ship passengers quarantined and anchored off Yokahama on the Japanese coast. Oh, joy for those cruisers who will now be onboard and going nowhere for two weeks. Has there been a jump in the number of passengers testing positive for Coronavirus? Similarly, a cruise ship is also quarantined in Civitavecchia on the Italian coast with an ill Chinese couple amongst the 6,000 passengers.

On the first chart, the scale makes the yellow line (outside of mainland China) almost flat. But when will that line start to emulate the rate of growth of the mainland China line? The US has taken action to limit this by quarantining persons coming from China and denying entry to passengers from China who are not US citizens or permanent residents. But we are two or more weeks behind asymptomatic contagion before these restrictions were put in place. So this is something to keep your eye on as February goes on.

Member Post

 

Newton Minow once described TV as “a vast wasteland.” The new Fall lineup (discovered while I hacked into Sandra Bullock’s personal files the networks’ web sites) proves Mr. Minow’s point. Take a look! New Sitcoms The Big Bang A financially-strapped, Nobel-Prize-winning physicist falls back on the oldest profession to make ends meet. Hilarity ensues when […]

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Pelosi’s Behavior Already Paying Dividends

 

The tears-heard-round-the-world (it also works as “tears-heard-round-the-world” … pesky homonyms!) Where was I? In Republican circles, Nancy Pelosi is already Public Enemy #1; she’s always been chum for Republican-waters (I meant “chum” as in “shark-bait” not “chum” as in “pals”… pesky homonyms!) Her antics will be the gift that keeps on giving. Pelosi’s behavior at the SOTU will be seen in a great many ads from the GOP. (Pesky acronyms!)

Speaking of commercials, check out this gem from conservative talk-radio host Kevin Jackson: Click here to view.

Vice President Pence Is Right

 

Reviewing Vice President Pence’s brief remarks at the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast, I was caught up short by the phrase he always uses. It was a phrase I heard him use in a large non-denominational church in Mesa, AZ, when he was the VP candidate in 2016. It was fitting then but, oh, how much more fitting today.

Here it is in the context of remarks by Vice President Pence at the 68th Annual National Prayer Breakfast, emphasis added:

You know, when Karen and I travel across this country, and when the President and I travel, we — the sweetest words we ever hear are when people will reach out, grab a hand, and say, “I’m praying for you.” And you know when people mean it, and it’s always a blessing.

And so, I want to encourage you to continue to avail yourself of the opportunity to pray. Pray for all of those in positions of authority. And at this National Prayer Breakfast, I’d encourage you to, in these divided times, pray for America, for all of the American people.

For I truly believe that those ancient words that Americans have clung to in much more challenging times than we could ever imagine in our day are still true today, that if His people, who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He’ll do like He’s always done through the long and storied history of this nation: He’ll hear from Heaven, and He’ll heal this land, this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

So thank you for joining us for this year’s National Prayer Breakfast. God bless you all. And God bless America. (Applause.)

VP Pence is not claiming that America is the chosen nation. He is reminding us that believers have an obligation to turn from self-regard, self-reliance, and self-importance, turning their attention upward and praying in that spirit. Of course, there is a bit more to the verse, a bit that does not go down so easily (see that humbling selves part):

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

—2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

The cultural restoration we need is not so much in the Federalist Papers as in the Psalms, if you will. The verse invoked by VP Pence is in the context of a series of conditional promises from the Lord to King Solomon as he completed the dedication of the Temple.* I found Vice President Pence’s reminder quite timely, and believe his claim to be true.

It will take more than elections, more than a great man, more than some campaign to take back civic culture and education.** The good news is that we do not need to wait for an election, or a leader, or a campaign to pray.


* 2 Chronicles 7, King James Version (KJV)

Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house.

2 And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house.

3 And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord.

5 And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.

6 And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the Lord, which David the king had made to praise the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.

7 Moreover Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat.

8 Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.

9 And in the eighth day they made a solemn assembly: for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days.

10 And on the three and twentieth day of the seventh month he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the Lord had shewed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people.

11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord, and the king’s house: and all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of the Lord, and in his own house, he prosperously effected.

12 And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice.

13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;

14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.

16 For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.

17 And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments;

18 Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel.

19 But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them;

20 Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.

21 And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus unto this land, and unto this house?

22 And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them.
King James Version (KJV)

** In rummaging through news websites, I ran across an excellent piece by a professor from BYU. He is speaking from a different church tradition than mine, but Prof. Hal Boyd‘s words complement the thrust of this post:

Disciples aren’t ultimately bestowed that lofty title because they succeed in inserting their favorite scripture into a primetime television spot or find a way to lobby dogmas into an omnibus appropriations bill.

As important as evangelism or legislation aimed at the good continues to be, genuine discipleship comes as human actions conform to high ideals — as we allow, in the wisdom of Hamlet, a divinity to shape our ends.

[…]

It may be, in the end, that heaven is less concerned with how each senator votes on impeachment and far more concerned with how we all — as political actors and as citizens — comport ourselves in relation to one another and to what extent we choose to act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.”

Make Architecture Great Again

 

The brutalist J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington, DC, built in the 1960s.

Donald Trump is finally courting my vote. His administration has leaked a draft executive order concerning the design of federal buildings. The Washington Examiner reports:

The Trump administration may be crafting an executive order that would require all new federal buildings to be designed with a classical appearance. The Architectural Record claims to have obtained a copy of the order, ‘Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.’ According to the report, the order makes reference to the architectural taste of the Founding Fathers, who styled buildings from ‘democratic Athens’ and ‘republican Rome.’ The order critiques modern architecture under the General Service Administration’s ‘Design Excellence Program’ for failing to integrate ‘national values into federal buildings.’ It claims the quality of architecture produced in the modern era is ‘influenced by Brutalism and Deconstructivism.’

On cue, the architectural establishment threw a tantrum. The American Institute of Architects released a statement “strongly condemn[ing] the move to enforce a top-down directive on architectural style,” adding that “[a]ll architectural styles have value and all communities have the right to weigh in on the government buildings meant to serve them.” Fair enough. But the Chicago Sun-Times, which evidently sees itself as the guardian of all that is good and holy in design, has this to say:

[Trump] would demand that the buildings be designed in architectural styles of centuries past, extending his reactionary instincts to the very brick and mortar of government. . . . Trump’s order would hurl architecture back into a bygone era when women wore bonnets, men wore tricorn hats and the only acceptable design for a federal building was a knock-off of a classical Greek or Roman structure.

Heh. I’ll note only this: Perhaps it’s time to make knock-offs great again . . . like the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the White House, and all the Smithsonian buildings. Some knock-offs, those. Moving on:

A state-mandated architectural style that retreats so resolutely into the past is an implicit negation of the best of American and world culture over the last few hundred years. It is also the stuff of authoritarian regimes, which always distrust the new and unexpected. It doesn’t go unnoticed here that Mussolini, Franco and a particular failed German art student all pushed for a singular, classically inspired state architecture intended to project tradition, order and the superiority of the state.

Ah, yes. The go-to argument among modernist intellectuals. Prefer columns and cornices to amorphous blobs of steel and glass? Fascist! Not thrilled with the “new and unexpected” melting butter-cubes, cheese-graters, and squatting insectoids that pop up in modern cities? Hitler! Prone to artistic nostalgia? Die in a ditch, brownshirt scum! It’s true, of course, that bad men used good architecture for bad purposes. Why should that stop us from pursuing good architecture? Bad men also wore pants. I don’t suppose that we’re obliged to adopt the kilt or the toga, no?

In all seriousness, I’m not in full agreement with the proposal. I’m no fan of the executive order, and I’d rather the state not decree an “official style.” Still, why shouldn’t the federal government have some say over the design of its own buildings? In a bygone time, when women wore bonnets and men wore tricorn hats, there was no need for such heavy-handed guidance. All architects could be trusted to create something beautiful. Now, they can only be trusted to create . . . something. I, for one, would welcome a return to the old way of designing.

Until that time comes, I’m content to sip from my glass of cool, refreshing, and oh-so-delicious modernist tears.

Another World

 

My wife and I spent yesterday afternoon at the Willamette National Cemetery. We were there for the interment of her stepmother. She was going be interred next to Karen’s dad. Karen’s dad began WWII as a sailor in the Merchant Marine and, before the war ended, was a sailor in the US Navy. While waiting to be escorted to one of the shelters for the memorial service, Marines arrived for another service. So we missed the endless parade of pundits for the Senate verdict on President Trump’s impeachment.

Karen’s dad was a farm boy from North Dakota and joined the Merchant Marine to escape the farm, and a chance to see the world that existed beyond the Dakota plains. He saw a bit more of that world than he bargained for. On his first voyage, his ship was sunk by a German U-boat. He and some of his shipmates found themselves in a lifeboat and watched as the U-boat surfaced. They thought that the Germans were going to finish the job they started. The sailors on the U-boat gave them some food, and then gave them directions on the course they needed to follow to get back to the US coast.

Karen’s stepmother was a kind and gracious woman. Years ago, our daughter almost entered the world in their living room. We made it to the hospital in time; about an hour after Karen went into labor, our daughter was born.

There was some laughter and tears on that cold, rainy day yesterday. Two blended families sharing memories of someone they loved, and who loved them, and later talking about children, and grandchildren.

Karen and I didn’t miss anything yesterday in the big world; we had everything we needed in our little world.

Group Writing: The Queen of Advice

 

The most important piece of advice I can give you: don’t take my advice. It’s not that I give bad advice — at least most of the time. But I’ve spent the last 40 years trying not to give advice. Giving advice can be an obsession, and I’m trying to cure myself of it. Let me tell you why.

For most of my life, I thought everyone was entitled to my advice, whether they wanted it or not. So I felt free to offer advice for any number of reasons:

  1. They clearly didn’t know what was good for them, based on the choices they were making historically.
  2. I was older and wiser than they were.
  3. I had better information than they had.
  4. They weren’t all that smart to begin with.
  5. I couldn’t stand to see them suffer from their own awful decisions.

I could go on, but it’s clear that I had their well-being at heart — sort of.

Until I realized I was acting like an arrogant jerk.

First of all, I recognized that even if I was asked for advice, they might not want advice at all, but only someone with whom to share. They wanted a sympathetic ear. So my first rule was to “sense out” the reason for them talking with me.

Even if they asked my advice, I would ask them what they thought the possible solutions might be. If I could put my ego aside, I might discover that they were actually the best resource for their own answers.

If they shared potential answers with me, and I was concerned whether their options would be satisfactory for them, I would explore their reasons for their options and how they thought they would be helpful. If they weren’t totally exasperated with me by then, and really wanted my input, I’d often voice my reservations about their ideas rather than give them advice.

Does this process sound like one giant dodge? In some ways, it is. But I have a good reason for doing it:

  1. I like to feel I can help empower others and nudge their minds to problem-solve.
  2. I have to avoid using the opportunity as a way to boost my own ego about how smart, clever, and powerful I am.
  3. I also have no way of knowing all the details and subtleties of the situation, and if a critical factor is not shared with me, any advice of mine could be disastrous.
  4. I also realized that I wanted to give advice because I couldn’t bear the idea of watching them suffer from their own poor decisions (especially if I’d witnessed them before).

Here’s one situation that was a great lesson for me. I knew someone who kept picking terrible guys to be in a relationship with her. They were liars, cheats, and manipulators, with huge egos. (I actually met some of them.)

This woman was pretty insecure, and she very much wanted a man in her life. One day she said to me, “I don’t know why I keep picking men who are jerks!” Rather than give her advice, I said, “I think you know early on that they’re jerks. In fact, if you paid attention to your reaction to them, a little bell would go off in your head chiming ‘Stop!’ I think you might be ignoring that bell. You’re a smart woman. Just listen to that little bell.”

That might be advice, but I refrained from psychoanalyzing her, criticizing her, criticizing them, or lecturing her. I felt like she really heard me.

She still ended up marrying a jerk, but I’m pretty sure she knew what she was getting into.

And I didn’t feed my obsession to give advice.

So if you feel compelled to give advice, you might ask yourself whether it’s for your benefit or theirs. But then, you don’t have to take my advice…

Envy and Entitlement: The Immorality of Socialism

 

“I want these billionaires to stop being freeloaders,” demands Elizabeth Warren during an interview with CNBC.

“This extraordinary, unprecedented concentration of wealth and power and privilege must be broken apart,” says the former Texas congressman, Beto O’Rourke, to a cheering audience at his first presidential rally, “and opportunity must be shared with all.”

“Am I going to demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes? Damn, right I will!” Bernie Sanders spewed at a CNN town hall.

These are sentiments from Democrat politicians on how to cure American’s problems. They are not alone, as 51% of 18- to 29-year-olds favor the redistribution of other people’s wealth, or the trendier title, socialism. I do not agree with socialism; mathematically it will not work. Historically, it has not worked. Not even close. Its body count is 100 million strong and growing as it has most recently destroyed the once vibrant economy of Venezuela.

But those are topics for another day. I want to focus on why socialism is simply immoral in its practice. In the words of modern-day sage Dennis Prager, “Socialism breeds envy and entitlement.”

To be considered in the top 1%, you need an annual income of $480,930. The top 10% of taxpayers make at least $138,031, although this varies from state to state. Bernie Sanders has proposed raising taxes on people making $250,000 or more.

I want to tell you about a couple I know very well. Because of the personal nature of this information and the fact that they don’t like the spotlight, I’m going to call them Mike and Jenny. Mike and Jenny are not billionaires, they are not millionaires, not even by a long shot. They are small business owners who fall in the top 10% range, and whenever taxes are raised at any level: local, state or federal, they feel it — like a nightstick to the knee cap.

Let me give you some background. Jenny’s parents were small business owners and they did well for themselves. Mike was raised in a very large family and was dirt poor. His family grew their food, fixed their cars, mended their clothes, and built their home. Both families worked hard, very hard, for everything they had, and those traits were instilled in Mike and Jenny.

Married in their early twenties with a combined college education of one year, they scrimped and saved for three years to become owners of a distributing business (think middleman, like Dunder Mifflin). That means they took a risk and a large loan to buy the rights to a business. If they did well, it meant money in their pockets (eventually). If they didn’t, well, that’s the risk you take. Thankfully for them after decades of hard work, frustrations, prayers, plenty of mistakes, and countless hours repairing worn-out work trucks, business is good and they are finally reaping the fruits of their tireless labors.

The far-left ideology of wealth redistribution suggests that certain people, like Mike and Jenny, don’t deserve their money — but the rest of the country does. This is immoral.

1) They already get taxed more than most.

Our federal tax rate is already progressive, which means the more money you make, the higher percentage your tax rate. A $250,000 gross income is currently taxed at 35%; that means $87,500 goes to the federal government. Bernie Sanders wants to take more.

Also, small businesses like Mike and Jenny’s get taxed up the wazoo, on average 19.8%.

If you are an employee and receive a W2 from your job, about 15% of your gross income goes to Social Security and Medicare; you only pay half as your employer pays the other half.

When you are self-employed you have no employer, so you pay that 15% entirely yourself. On top of that, you pay other taxes like state, unemployment, and sales; it adds up quick.

Let me put this in perspective. For years my husband was self-employed while I was a regular W2 employee. His gross income was 30% less than mine, even after deductions (write-offs for his business expenses), I paid 11% in federal taxes while he paid 14%.

If you are so envious and entitled to the wealth of others, try paying your taxes like they do.

2) They are penalized for growing their business.

Capital gains tax applies when a person or business sells something for more than its purchased price. So if you buy a piece of equipment, you pay sales tax. When you sell that equipment, you pay taxes (again) on the profit you made in the form of a capital gains tax.

When a business sells something and makes a profit, they then can turn around and use that money (or capital) to invest in their business; hire more staff, give raises, contract with builders and utility companies, etc. When a business grows it brings more jobs and money to a community. That is how capitalism works.

When the capital gains tax is high, why would a business want to sell anything if they have to give a large chunk of that profit to the government? In their 30 years’ experience, Mike and Jenny notice when the capital gains tax is high, they and the many business owners they know don’t sell their capital because they don’t want to get taxed at such exorbitant rates. So they hold on to their money instead of putting it back into their business; their business does not grow and neither does the surrounding community.

They find the opposite is true when the taxes are lower. And the higher your tax bracket – you guessed it – the higher your capital gains tax.

3) They work really hard for their money.

There has been a lot of attention on teachers these past couple years, and the hard work and long hours they dedicate to their jobs. I understand this because I have been a teacher. After getting to know Mike and learning about what he does, I can honestly tell you that my busiest week as a teacher is normal for him. Leaving the house at 3:30 a.m. (you read that correctly), often putting in a 12-hour day, a 60+ hour workweek tallies up quick. Between time spent at his office, loading his trucks, delivering to customers, managing his staff, payroll, repairing trucks, maintaining equipment, racing two hours away to corporate to manage a fire, taking work home every day including weekends; it does not stop. Jenny also puts in time, helping wherever needed be it deliveries, paperwork, or customer relations. According to a New York Enterprise Report, this is the norm, as small business owners work twice as much as regular employees.

Sick days? Those don’t exist. If you have a dire emergency, customers still need to get their product. Broken shoulder, three feet of snow, or a pesky cold…

…still don’t get you a day off.

Vacation days? Those didn’t happen for the first four years and were few and far between. It took about 15 years until Mike and Jenny could take regular vacations, even still those are interrupted with phone calls and worry about the business … it’s not really relaxing.

Now you might be thinking, That is the profession they chose and they are compensated very well for it, no sympathy here!

You are correct. They did choose that profession and its consequences. Here’s the thing though: they do not complain or look at those who make more than they do and demand a piece of their wealth. Entitled and envious people do. They made their choices and blame no one for what they lack, relying solely on themselves to advance. Entitled and envious people blame everyone for what they lack, and demand that others make them advance.

4) They are generous with their money.

This is the biggest irritant for me. Leftists like to demonize groups of people; clumping all individuals together and branding them with negative labels, in this case, “greedy.” A commonplace lie about the rich is that they oppose having more of their own earnings taken by the government, therefore they are greedy. This is a smear to make socialists come off as generous and benevolent, even though they are the ones advocating to take other people’s money.

Mike and Jenny are some of the most generous people I know, be it with their money, time, or resources. From volunteering hours with Boy Scout and church groups, hosting weddings for people who cannot afford the costs, gift cards left for hotel housekeepers, looking after the elderly and widows, housing family and friends, planning funerals, donating to causes close to their heart; service is at the core of their lives and it is incalculable to put a price tag on the generosity they’ve bestowed to others.

They are not alone; according to the latest data, 51.6% of charitable donations came from households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more. According to his tax statements, Bernie Sanders’ charitable donations come to 5% of his income; I pay more than that.

5) They are smart with their money.

Rich people don’t get rich from being dumb with their money. For example, The National Study of Millionaires found that millionaires usually spend less on monthly groceries and dining out than the average American. Mike and Jenny are not dumb with their money, they do not live a lavish lifestyle — at all. Their beautiful 2,800-square-foot home is a far cry from the single-wide trailer their kids were born in. Mike built it from the ground up—literally. From the foundation to the roof, his hands put in the time every night for a year, saving them thousands. Still, their home is modest, as is their appearance. In fact, if you saw them you’d have no idea of their success.

They also live within their means and use what they have. They’ve put over 550,000 miles (yep, you read that correctly) into a ragged old truck they bought used in 1991, and the thing is still going strong! Mike finally updated to a shiny new vehicle … in 2010. Let me make this clear: Mike was 50 years old the first time he bought a brand-new vehicle for himself. According to Credit Sesame, the average auto loan balance for consumers under 25 is $12,128, and $10,778 for the 25-34 age group.

This is the same demographic petitioning, protesting, and screaming that the “freeloaders” at the top, like Mike: pay-off their student loans, buy their contraception, provide them free college, subsidize $15/hour wages for their minimum skills/minimum training/minimum education jobs, and foot the bill for their health care.

Envious and entitled people make these demands. And such demands are immoral.

This couple is not unique in their qualities. I know a man who built an incredibly successful one-person business through his own unrelenting efforts, and if you met him you’d have no idea of his immense wealth because he’s just a normal, good guy.

You will find commendable and despicable behaviors on both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum; I’ve known the daughter of an Upper East Side Socialite who was bratty, spoiled, and manipulative. I’ve also known the daughter of an Upper East Side Socialite who was kind, caring, and down-to-earth. I’ve been snapped at by a country club woman for not knowing she meant “half salad” when she ordered “a salad” and I’ve been screamed at by a single mom who demanded free childcare, no strings attached, simply because she was a single mom.

I’ve seen people, more times than I can count, lie on applications so they can “qualify” for more government benefits. I knew a single mother who lived almost entirely off taxpayers; housing, childcare, Medicare, food stamps – yet she somehow managed to get breast implants. I know another single mother who made a lucrative career for herself being a housekeeper; owning her home and two vehicles, she worked tirelessly to create a great life for her family. I’ve waited on uppity old couples who treated me like I was the help, while others treated me like a granddaughter. And I’ve sat in the most humble of homes with people who personify the old adage, “they’d give you the shirt off their back.”

It’s not a money issue – it’s a character issue.

Every person is an individual and deserves to be treated as such. Didn’t someone famous once implore Americans to judge a man by the content of his character…

Oh, that’s right! Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream where the peoples of this nation would not judge a man based on the color of his skin. I argue he would add to that what they wear, where they live, what they drive, what they do for a living, or how much money they make. His dream was one of people looking at the individual and seeing them for who they truly are, not what our prejudices see. And lately, our country has fallen for some very destructive and false prejudices about people with money.

Which America are you part of? The envious and entitled crowd whose coveting of stuff, other people’s stuff, is so blinding they see fit to change the very foundation of the greatest country the world has ever seen. Or are you a part of the America Martin Luther King envisioned? The one that judges individuals by their character, never spiteful but learning from their successes.

That is the America I was raised in. And the America I choose to be a part of today.

What You Can Do

  • Educate yourself about what socialism really is. Research: William Bradford, John Smith, and the agricultural socialism of Plymouth and Jamestown, Carl Marx, Frederich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez.
  • Register to vote.
  • Vote for candidates who demonstrate they understand how amazing America is and don’t vilify the rich and successful.
  • Work or volunteer for a campaign.
  • Pray for our country.
  • Don’t demonize others. All ____ people are not all _____ all the time.
  • Stop judging people by how much money they make. Stop judging people based on how you imagine they are. Stop judging people — that’s it. Just stop judging people. You’ll be better off. So will our country.

Crossposted here.

Abigail Writes Thomas

 

On May 20, 1804, Abigail Adams wrote an old friend, Thomas Jefferson, expressing her condolences on the recent death of his daughter, Mary, who had died at Monticello on April 17 at the age of 25. John Adams and Jefferson first met in 1775 at the Continental Congress, quickly becoming friends despite very different temperaments and backgrounds. Jefferson met Abigail in 1784, when Congress sent him to Paris to join Adams in representing the new country in Europe. They became close, with Abigail becoming very attached to young Mary Jefferson, serving as her surrogate mother (Jefferson’s wife, Martha, died in 1782).

During the Adams presidency (1797-1801), a rift (more like a chasm) had grown between him and Jefferson, his Vice-President, over policy towards France and England and the Alien and Sedition Acts, while Jefferson secretly funded a newspaper which printed harsh personal attacks on Adams. Anyone who thinks today’s politics are uniquely rough should take a look at the vicious nature of 1790s politics. There was very little direct communication between the two during those years and none after Jefferson became President in March 1801 and an embittered John and Abigail returned to Braintree, MA.

Abigail’s letter conveyed her own grief and sympathy for Jefferson and contained a hint of invitation to reopen communication. Some excerpts:

…reasons for various kinds withheld my pen, until the powerful feelings of my heart, have burst through the restraint, and called upon me to shed the tear of sorrow over the departed remains, of your beloved and deserving daughter…

The attachment which I formed for her, when you committed her to my care: upon her arrival in a foreign Land: has remained with me to this hour…. The tender scene of her separation from me, rose to my recollection, when she clung around my neck and wet my Bosom with her tears…

That you may derive comfort and consolation in this day of your sorrow and affliction …  is the sincere and ardent wish of her, who once took pleasure in subscribing Herself your Friend.

Jefferson responded and the two exchanged five more letters over the next six months. Reading the correspondence, you can feel two people with genuine affection for each other trying to figure out a way to reconnect, but unable to do so. The correspondence first goes awry when Jefferson’s initial response included an attempt to justify his position on the policy differences that drove the wedge between he and Adams. Jefferson “lived in his head” to an extent beyond most people of his day (and, for that matter, any day) and his inability to understand others shows in his approach to Abigail. Abigail, who was as politically opinionated as both her husband and Jefferson, engaged with him on the policy issues once Jefferson made the mistake of reopening the wounds, and the tone of the letters became increasingly contentious. On October 25, Abigail wrote in a final letter:

Having once entertained for you a respect and esteem, founded upon the Character of an affectionate parent, a kind Master, a candid and benevolent Friend … the Heart is long, very long in receiving the conviction that is forced upon it by reason. Affection still lingers in the Bosom, even after esteem has taken its flight. It was not until after circumstances concurred to place you in the light of a rewarder and encourager of a Libeller … that I withdrew the esteem I had long entertained for you.

In the John Adams papers is a note, dated November 19, 1804, and found appended to the correspondence:

The whole of this Correspondence was begun and conducted without my Knowledge or Suspicion. Last Evening and this Morning at the desire of Mrs. Adams I read the whole. I have no remarks to make upon it at this time and in this place.

Happily, contact between John Adams and Jefferson was finally renewed with Adams’ letter to Jefferson of January 1, 1812, triggering more than 150 further letters between the two before their deaths on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.


I was reminded of the episode below by the recent post from @susanquinn quoting Abigail Adams.

Member Post

 

I am drawn toward the warmth of a fire, as are most people I suppose.  In the dead of winter there is always room for a good story.  this wee we have seen several of these and I say: Burn the lot.  I present for your reading pleasure a classic:   The Cremation of Sam McGee […]

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Did Trump Park in the Wrong Spot?

 

I was doing work in a government building once and I parked my vehicle, and it created a huge fuss. The reaction was ridiculous, it was a personal affront. It wasn’t that someone had to walk a couple feet further, I had devalued them as a person.

It was rather enlightening, and amusing if I’m honest. This person had worked for years diligently and carefully, moving up the ladder, getting better pay and finally, recognition by getting a choice parking spot. In Canada, this is a taxable benefit. It was a measure of importance and stature. I had insulted them, devalued them. It was indeed personal.

This whole impeachment fuss comes down to something quite ridiculous. Trump had the temerity to expose the Biden Family influence-peddling scheme. We have been instructed, not told that the arrangement wasn’t illegal, what Trump did was illegal, immoral, a threat to the Constitutional order. He must be removed from office.

Interestingly, if you poke around a little, not a lot, just a smidgen of curiosity some interesting tidbits fall out into the open. Kerry. Where have I heard that name before? Oh yes, John Kerry’s son was involved with Biden’s son. Hmm. Then we learn that Romney has someone on his staff that is connected somehow to this as well.

Nothing illegal of course. Illegal, meaning it violated a law passed by Congress, the Senate and signed by a President.

How common are these arrangements? If someone did a deep dive, wrote an article with the title All the Useless Sons of Washington, what would we learn?

I have some suspicions. That these arrangements are considered one of the natural perks of office, that they are very very common. That U.S. foreign policy isn’t conducted by Ambassadors or the President, but in fact by these connections where influence is gained by paying a useless son of Washington. That much of the animosity towards the US in other countries stem from this corrupt and demeaning practice of having to listen to these idiots to get favorable treatment by the US Government.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the guy simply had a bad day, a fight with his wife or something like that. It wasn’t about the parking spot.

I’ve been instructed by everyone from the media, politicians and esteemed conservative voices that is isn’t about the parking spot.

Legacy GOP Exposed

 

Let’s take a look at the Republican Party’s last two nominees before Trump in 2016.

John McCain famously reneged on two signature issues the traditional base voters wanted, immigration reform “build the damn fence!”, McCain exclaimed when running for re-election to his Senate seat, and the repeal of Obamacare.

Much of the criticism, and even some of the outrage, was muted due to McCain’s illness (although he could have retired) but now that the official mourning period is over, and all the lamentations from Democrats have subsided, it’s time to revisit that treachery in light of the next nominee’s betrayal.

Forensic analysis of the 2008 McCain campaign suggests self-sabotage, and a cursory look back through the life of this man certainly bolsters that theory. Others speculated that McCain, never one to respect the conservative wing of the party, actually threw the fight, took a proverbial dive, and/or simply never cared enough to win.

Our 2012 nominee was ruthlessly attacked and mocked by Democrats, and every Republican defended him without fail.

Sure, his conservative record was a bit spotty (to say the least), but he was adept at explaining conservative ideas. In those days, influential Republican pundits, well-schooled in conservative thought, emphasized rational debate as the primary method to win over engaged Democrats and Independents. Of course, using the hammer/nail analogy, if you’re a scholar in conservative thought, everyone looks like a student. Weekly Standard and National Review readers were in the distinct minority, but Jennifer Rubin was widely read in the Washington Post, Mona Charen had a column in USA Today, and Ross and David graced the pages of the New York Times. The other method proposed was pandering to the millions of Hispanics for whom the party had willingly left the back door open to appease their donors.

To many, Romney was an icon of upstanding morals, a graceful decent man who would certainly fulfill the role of President-as-Prince  so many conservatives longed for. He wouldn’t get October surprised by the media. Not this guy!

Having lost the culture war, many Republicans desperately longed for a virtuous avatar in the White House to role-model America back into being decent, traditional, moral, family-oriented wholesome people. The slogan could have been, Make America(ns) Good Again.

Now in retrospect, we see yet another man who rose to the pinnacle of Republicandom going squarely against the voters and other elected Republicans. In all of Congress, every Republican representative in the House voted against impeachment, and every Republican Senator, including several historical fence-sitters (Collins, Murkowski, Alexander) voted for acquittal, except one Mitt Romney. The Senator from Utah apparently has a uniquely brilliant rationale for his vote other Republicans, including most Utahans he purports to represent, cannot see.

This legal insight is so important that Romney is willing to be the lone dissenter among every elected Republican and side with Democrats.

This is exactly what John McCain did in signaling thumbs down as a deciding vote on the signature Republican issue.

This is now the legacy of the two previous Republican presidential nominees. In the meantime, it’s fair to ask what has become of ex-Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner. Denny Hastert?

Obviously there was, and still is, something horribly wrong inside the Republican Party. It can’t be more obvious.

On Irrelevance: Mitt Romney and NeverTrump

 

Mitt Romney has been able to make himself feel relevant again, for a fleeting moment, to the class that really matters to him. The major media network NBC, its baby sister known as MSNBC, as well as CNN have all declared him a “profile in courage”. All those who hate the existence of Donald Trump, because he has proven to actually be relevant, are allowing Romney another five minutes or so of self-delusion before he will again fade back into their midst. When tested his conservatism wasn’t that severe after all.

We all want to feel relevant to those that matter most to us. Sometimes the key to our inner peace is the honest definition of what they are. And yes, they can change depending on our rate of maturity or insight.

Yesterday, February 5, 2020, was not the first time we have seen Romney buckle when faced with being an outcast from the class where he feels the warmest. It came in front of us all in a televised debate. He allowed himself to be cowed by a biased “journalist” whose name we can barely recall from pressing the very relevant point that the Obama administration had willfully abandoned Americans to die in a foreign land.

I still waver back and forth about the relationship between the so-called modern progressive Democrat Party and the bulk of the media. The only question is which one is really pulling the wagon and which one is holding the reins. But they both belong to the same class, the political class. The media, those who “serve” throughout the administrative state, those who chase elective office and those who find it warm and safe to thoughtfully stroke their chins while being pundits to others who thoughtfully nod are all in the same class. One can have a safe membership in this class if they understand their place. Far too many of what I have come to call “professional conservatives” cherish that membership.

While some can make an honest argument about parts of Donald Trump’s persona, his real sin has been that he has challenged the relevance of these class members, and he has exposed it.

They consider Trump a class apart. And so does he.

Romney did not hesitate to court Trump for the position of Secretary of State. A simple “search” can find the picture of them having dinner together as the former candidate graciously offered to help guide the successful candidate through the forests of foreign policy, perhaps adding a needed touch of professionalism to this peasant uprising.

But his offer was rejected. And somewhere in all of this Donald Trump was “classless” enough to point out that Romney himself had lost a race that was winnable. But that would have required him tearing up his membership card.

Despite turning into a Never-Trumper after the rejection, Romney again did not hesitate to ask for the president’s endorsement in the 2018 Senate race in Utah. That is the Utah he had just recently moved to where there was an empty seat. President Trump endorsed him and was rewarded with an immediate flip by Romney back to Never-Trumper status.

Mitt’s feelings might not have been that different from those of his father from whom the younger Romney inherited his class membership card. George Romney must not have been too comfortable with having a B actor from Hollywood invading the realm. He, like most of the “establishment” GOP, undercut him whenever possible.

Reagan was relevant. There were real outcomes from his conservatism. But because of that he could never be fully accepted by the political class.

Donald Trump is relevant. Things actually change and move. And all that change and movement makes it oh-so apparent how really irrelevant the professional pundits and political class “conservatives” have been – for decades.

All that change and movement are also poison to another division of that political class, the dominate one. It is what I have come to call the Saul Alinsky members. They have had their way for some time now. The America of today is distinctly different from the America of 1900 because of them. There are times when the ball moves more slowly than others but they know that the compliant members from the lower “conservative” division will not risk their status by actually changing the entire course. This division is panicked by a serious change of direction and real outcomes. The more outcomes, the more desperate they are.

But these Alinskites are even more desperate because they now have a serious challenge from an even more overtly radical division. Their rise makes the issue of re-electing Donald Trump even more important for those intent on preserving the principles and vision of the Founding.

In the final analysis, all members of the political class have a real problem with the relevance of the agenda that the peasants were finally able to move forward by voting for an impolite outsider. That agenda had been either ignored or slow-walked by all certified (or is that certifiable?) members of the political class which pushed the grass-roots Tea Party to the corner. It is that agenda they hate most of all.

Romney’s vote was against that agenda and against the Constitution which protects it. That vote will get him a pat on the back from the Georgetown crowd and a brief clap from a media that would gladly turn on him in a second. But it is the relevance of that agenda that has to survive for the sake of that Constitution.

This Week’s Book Review – Frozen Orbit

 

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.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Frozen Orbit’ is science fiction at its best

By MARK LARDAS

Jan 25, 2020

“Frozen Orbit,” by Patrick Chiles, Baen Books, 2020, 336 pages, $16

The United States is sending a manned space expedition to Pluto. Not to put the first humans on Pluto but because they’re not the first humans to reach Pluto.

“Frozen Orbit,” a science fiction novel by Patrick Chiles, starts with this. The time is the very near future. Magellan, with a four-astronaut crew, is heading to the outer planets.

Magellan, a reusable nuclear-powered spacecraft, was originally to be sent to Jupiter on its first mission. Other outer planets were to be visited on subsequent flights. Then NASA officials learned the Soviet Union secretly sent a three-man expedition to Pluto in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed.

The Soviets launched it secretly because their Arkangel spacecraft was powered by nuclear bombs and could trigger a nuclear war. It was kept secret because something the cosmonauts discovered proved so dangerous the Russians destroyed the return capsule as it approached Earth landing years later, long after the crew’s death.

Magellan’s mission is to find out what that discovery was.

As with his previous novel “Farside,” Chiles builds a story blending a plausible but unlikely scenario, hard science fiction and an entertaining and gripping plot. Could the Soviets have secretly launched a manned mission to Pluto? The technology of the Arkangel mission is rooted in 1960s technology, and the 1980s Soviets were paranoid and grandiose enough to attempt Chiles’ scenario.

Chiles nails the atmosphere of a NASA-run human spaceflight mission in the 21st century, the jargon of the mission controllers and astronauts, and the bureaucratic infighting characterizing today’s NASA.

He packages everything in an entertaining story, one that compels readers to keep reading to learn what comes next. The scenario and background don’t overwhelm the story. Rather they are the scaffolding on which a gripping tale is formed.

Readers experience the wonder the astronauts feel on a remarkable voyage, groan as the Earth goes crazy as the expedition progresses, and thrill to a powerful conclusion.

“Frozen Orbit” is science fiction at its best — a novel that could have fit its 1950s and 1960s silver age, updated to the current century.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.