Hidden Costs of Renewable Fuels


I received an email from my alma mater, Brown University, which linked to this story:

A new Brown initiative with Constellation and Energy Development Partners will transform a former gravel pit in North Kingstown into Rhode Island’s highest-capacity contiguous solar generation project.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As a major part of a campus-wide effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Brown University has finalized agreements for two renewable energy projects that are expected to produce enough combined solar and wind power to offset all on-campus electricity use.

The first project — a collaboration with Constellation, a national competitive energy provider, and Providence-based Energy Development Partners (EDP) — will create Rhode Island’s highest-capacity contiguous solar generation project across a 240-acre field on a former gravel pit in North Kingstown.

The 50-megawatt (DC) solar facility is expected to deliver 40 megawatts of converted AC power to the electrical grid. And use of the former gravel pit will avoid any encroachment on neighborhoods or large-scale tree-clearing, two quality-of-life and environmental concerns commonly associated with new renewable projects.

The North Kingstown project is expected to produce enough electricity to offset about 70 percent of Brown’s annual electricity consumption generated through fossil fuels. A second renewable energy project, an 8-megawatt wind power project being developed in Texas with another energy services provider, is expected to produce enough electricity to offset the rest of Brown’s annual use.

Cost is not mentioned in the article. When you’re charging $70K a year for tuition, room, and board, you probably don’t need to worry about no stinking costs. Also not mentioned are the energy costs to make and ship the solar facility to North Kingston (and the wind power).

When all these costs are figured in, how does it compare to buying power from an electric company? It could actually increase the use of fossil fuels. And, of course, solar panels wear out, need to be replaced, and the old ones are disposed of or recycled.

But it feels good to virtue signal.

Member Post


In the book Our Dumb World, the editors of The Onion stated that Portugal has 50% of the world’s cork and 100% of the world’s interest in cork. Shortly after I read this, I happened to be in Portugal, and saw at a newsstand the Portuguese-language edition of National Geographic, and the cover story was […]

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Quote of the Day: Rumor Has It


“Ad calamitatem quilibet rumor valet.” (Every rumor is believed against the unfortunate.)Syrus, Maxims.

“Extemplo Libyæ magnas it Fama per urbes:
Fama malum quo non velocius ullum;
Mobilitate viget, viresque acquirit eundo;
Parva metu primo; mox sese attollit in auras,
Ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubilia condit.
* * *
Monstrum, horrendum ingens; cui quot sunt corpore plumæ
Tot vigiles oculi subter, mirabile dictu,
Tot linguæ, totidem ora sonant, tot subrigit aures.”

“Straightway throughout the Libyan cities flies rumor;—the report of evil things than which nothing is swifter; it flourishes by its very activity and gains new strength by its movements; small at first through fear, it soon raises itself aloft and sweeps onward along the earth. Yet its head reaches the clouds. * * * A huge and horrid monster covered with many feathers: and for every plume a sharp eye, for every pinion a biting tongue. Everywhere its voices sound, to everything its ears are open.” — Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), IV. 17

The power and potency of a rumor were well-known to the ancients. (I invite the classically trained to correct these translations if it is necessary.) In an era before any real form of mass communication, we witness the destructive power of rumor and its spread like a virulent plague. Note that Virgil was highlighting this in his national epic, a story all Romans would know. I distinctly remember the destruction unleashed by rumors running rampant in the classical literature I read. Perhaps these sources from two millennia ago have something to teach our modern pundits and journalists. Then again, rumor is the majority of their business.

Especially relevant to the Covington Catholic situation is the quote of Publilius Syrus, a former Roman slave who earned his freedom through cleverness and wisdom. I read this as a reference to how people mobilize against the scapegoat, the outgroup, the person on hard times. Someone goes from possibly socially awkward to a member of the Nazi KKK that dines exclusively on kittens and puppies. The false story spreads faster than the truth because people want to believe it.

I think everyone here is on the record denouncing the leftist outrage mob and conservatives who assumed every person in a MAGA hat was like the Nazi trolls they saw on Twitter or otherwise deplorable. It was an act of stunning evil and should prompt some serious introspection.

Just keep in mind how dangerous rumor and social contagion can be so that you yourself do not help the monster take flight…

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Chavez and his successors turned prosperous, oil rich Venezuela into a disaster. As was so often the case, Obama embraced the hard Left. Yet our media is still in love with Obama and doesn’t ask him hard questions about why him embraced such an awful man who destroyed his country. And looking at resemblances between […]

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Is AOC Dangerous?


Award-winning actor and Twitter master, James Woods thinks so and he may have a point. In a nation where the average citizen can’t correctly identify the three branches … er, chambers … er, branches of the federal government, or who believe that members of Congress sign bills into law, or that Climate Change will wipe out civilization in a mere 12 years, then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a.k.a., AOC) is the perfect candidate.

Her basic knowledge of economics, politics, history, and science aligns quite nicely with a large segment of the American electorate and not just the same electorate who voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton but all of the younger voters who hated Clinton or didn’t have a chance to vote because they were too young or slept through Election Day in their parents’ basements or were blocking traffic in Portland and similar urban environs.

Still, some might consider it progress to transition from a known sociopath to a clueless socialist were it not for the fact that most socialists, either already are, or end up becoming sociopaths who murder the masses in their claimed efforts to create utopia for the masses. Socialist-capitalists Sean Penn and Jamie Foxx may have just spit out their tequila drinks and teetered in their poolside lounge chairs at this last remark and I’m sure would beg to differ and point out the utopian wonders that are Cuba and their beloved Venezuela.

But surely AOC isn’t being taken seriously by voters at large even if I promise not to call you Shirley. Or is she? Axios is reporting that 74% of Democrats surveyed would consider voting for AOC.

Exclusive: A new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll finds that 74% of Democrats (and people who lean Dem) would consider voting for Ocasio-Cortez if she were old enough to run for president. (She’s 29; you have to be at least 35.)

One must assume that these surveyed monkeys know who AOC is (even if they’re not too hip on the age requirement for POTUSes … POTI?) and at least aware of what she represents even as they might be hard-pressed to tell you why certain socialist-embracing regimes and Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro, and other socialist despots were probably not good for their respective and often starved, imprisoned, impoverished and exterminated populaces.

For news anchors and reporters and some in the inside-the-beltway pundit class, AOC is a breath of fresh air because she makes them look intelligent by comparison. No word as yet whether she gives Chris Matthews a tingle up his leg. Will keep you posted. She’s also cuter, perkier, and bubblier than her elder colleagues on Capitol Hill like the often bewildered and sputtering Speaker Pelosi or Chuck “Quasimodo” Schumer. And in the celebrity tar pit in which America finds itself mired, someone who is perkier and bubblier rather than actually intelligent, well-read, wise, and grounded in critical thinking and ethics naturally rises to the top and pops. AOC seems to be popping up in a lot of media outlets.

On a related note, check out the positive and glowing subcategories when one Googles “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez images.” Certainly no algorithmic <cough> bias here:

Still, AOC is new at the game of politics. At the moment, her non-fact-based claims and tired old Marxist slogans seem to be resonating with large swaths of the electorate even as they annoy the multi-millionaire and billionaire septuagenarians and octogenarians in her own party, who it must be said have had more history playing their Marxist sympathizers while engaging in insider trading, or investing in cattle futures, or other lucrative ventures from the evil capitalist system.

The journey of AOC is likely to continue to be a weird and wonderful trip with occasional missteps and laughs for the more conservative cognoscenti but to ignore this rising star of the left, as James Woods warns, would be a mistake. Because, even though someone may not be playing with a full-deck and are unaware of how evil their ideas are, that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as dangerous as a duplicitous, more seasoned sociopath; other smarter people can use them for their own ends.

In the ensuing years, take special note where AOC derives her financial support. Thankfully, we have about six years and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez may have sunk in popularity by the time she is eligible to run for president … or not. Never underestimate the feelings of the American electorate because in America facts aren’t as important when the ends justify the means.

Woke Chess


Chess, as a game, has undergone some rules changes over the years. Moving a pawn two spaces forward on it’s first move, for example, or the en passant to counter that. This time the rules have changed more than at any time since the middle ages, and I’m providing this guide for you to help understand the new rules.

We begin with the King and Queen. The word ‘Queen’ might be taken to be offensive to the LGBTQQI2S community, so please refer to the piece as ‘Princess’. This give something for little girls and little boys to aspire to.

To combat historical inequality between the genders and in order to emphasize that women can do everything that a man can do, the Princess now has the ability to move one space in every direction just like the king. This replaces her previous movement pattern of any number of spaces in any direction.

Also, please do not refer to the Princess by xir previous gender; xe’s preferred pronouns are xe and xir. Our hope with this change is to make the transgender community feel welcome in all aspects of our sport.

To make sure that African Americans of all countries don’t feel less welcome we’re allowing black to go first. Also note that to combat stereotypes against darker hues the color should only be referred to by the full phrase ‘black is beautiful’.

While black is beautiful retains the full selection of pieces white is now restricted to pawns and one king. White pawns reaching the final rank will no longer be ‘promoted’, they will become woke. Woke pieces will aid their 99% brethren in throwing off the shackles of their 1% king.

Lest anyone be offended by the historical and present-day crimes of Christianity, please refer to bishops by their new name; Imams. No move which might sacrifice an Imam is considered legal to avoid any unfortunate jokes about suicide bombers. As a culture can’t we move past that?

As a nod to our poor and housing-disadvantaged brethren all knights will be replaced by more castles. We aspire to a world where no one, regardless of their knighthood, will have to worry about where they’ll sleep tonight. To that end too captured pieces will no longer be immediately removed from the board but will have a chance to recover in the state-funded healthcare system.

Finally, while recording games in the algebraic system, please avoid using the letter “H” and the row 8 because of their white supremacist connotations. It is recommended that you skip to I and 9 respectively.

Thank you all, and please have a blessed day as you enjoy this game we all know and love cohabitate with.

Father O’Callahan and Sailors Who Fought to Live


Father Joseph Timothy O’Callahan was called Padre Joe by the Protestant sailors, and Rabbi Tim by the Jewish sailors aboard the USS Franklin. A Jesuit priest who taught cosmology, mathematics, and physics at Boston College and Holy Cross College felt that he had a calling to serve his country as a Navy Chaplain.

Chaplain O’Callahan was aboard the USS Franklin on her darkest day and earned a Medal of Honor for heroism on that day. On March 19, 1945, St. Joseph’s Day:

Suddenly, at 7:07 am, a Japanese Yokosuka D4Y Judy bomber flashed out of a cloudbank and hurtled down toward the Franklin at 360 miles an hour. The carrier’s 5-inch and 40mm guns opened up on the plane as it released two 500-pound armor-piercing bombs, pulled up, and turned away only 50 feet above the flight deck.

The first bomb slammed into the forward hangar deck, ripping a great hole in the three-inch armor plate and setting fire to fueled and armed planes. The second bomb smashed through two after-decks and exploded on the third deck near the petty officers’ quarters.

The USS Franklin became a raging inferno due to aviation gas and explosions from stored ammunition. Father O’Callahan fought his way through the damage and smoke to get up on the flight deck. In spite of suffering from shrapnel wounds, he ministered to the wounded and dying and organized firefighting crews and the jettisoning of live ammunition from the carrier.

His Medal of Honor Citation tells his story far better than I can:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945.

A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt. Comdr. O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament.

With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them.

Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.

Here is a link to the story of USS Franklin, and Father O’Callahan. The sailor in the photo with Father O’Callahan was Yoeman Blanchard. He survived and was suffering from smoke inhalation. He described receiving the Last Rites as a wake-up call.


What the Heck Is Going on Around Here?


Just for fun, I’m going to list the opening sentence of the first 10 posts on the member feed. See if you notice the same thing that I did:

1) It started when I found a body and discovered a man.

2) From a forgotten camera, here’s something I photographed in Istanbul, at the end of my 2010 overland trip from Slovenia to Turkey:

3) Ad calamitatem quilibet rumor valet.

4) Arguments against Trumpism (however good or bad you believe it to be) are not, have never been, and never will be, arguments for progressivism.

5) A document has been posted on the internet that contains personal information for a number of conservatives, mostly NeverTrumpers, who jumped the gun (an understatement for some) last Saturday on the Covington Catholic School boys incident.

6) Monday, 21 January 2019, was a bright day for the Valley of the Sun.

7) You know, I’ve always wondered about marsupials.

8) Okay, so despite his numerous claims, it looks like he wasn’t really a Vietnam veteran.

9) Amazon Video is not merely a tool to watch Hollywood’s best; it is perhaps the best way of getting content with good writing, good acting, and good production values.

10) Science cannot tell us whether we should or should not do or allow something, but it can help us understand what that thing is.


Ok, so imagine if a new visitor were to read those first 10 opening sentences, and then try to explain to someone what this site was about. What would he say? Heck, what would you say? How do you describe the literary equivalent of Brownian Motion?

I’m not really sure either. But I like it. Whatever it is.

So carry on, everybody. With whatever it is that you’re doing out there. I don’t understand it. But I like it.

Amy Reviews Amazon: “A Very English Scandal”


Amazon Video is not merely a tool to watch Hollywood’s best; it is perhaps the best way of getting content with good writing, good acting, and good production values. “A Very English Scandal” is a three hour miniseries that does not disappoint on that front.

The three episode series is based on the “novelized true story” of Jeremy Thorpe, a mid-century Liberal Member of Parliament, and the circumstances that led to his trial for conspiracy to murder his alleged lover Norman Scott. The show is probably the most true “based on a real story” story one is likely to ever see, as while Mr. Thorpe has since passed on, his estate has threatened libel suits for previous retellings of the events. As such, while the exact dialogue and character attitudes may not be what actually happened, they are based on witness testimony in court.

The plot, it goeth thusly: Jeremy Thorpe was visiting one of his friends in the early 60s when he met a young stable groom named Norman Josiffe. Jeremy offered his card to Norman to come visit, and a year later Norman came looking for him. Jeremy seduced Norman, put him up in a flat as a “kept man,” wrote him love letters on Parliament stationary, and tried to get him a permanent job. Jeremy refused to get him a promised National Insurance benefits card, though. The two separated, and appeared to go their separate ways. Jeremy increased his power in the Liberal Party, getting married and having a child, while Norman changed his name to Norman Scott and drifted through a series of short-term jobs, a doomed marriage, and various friends trying to help him out. And periodically he would appear in Jeremy Thorpe’s life, demanding his promised National Insurance card.

Obviously, a homosexual sex scandal would not be good for Thorpe’s political career, so he would use friends to try to pay Scott off and eventually began to talk about having Scott killed to shut him up permanently. This is perhaps the most tragi-comic part of the whole story, as Thorpe’s friends delay and delay and by the late 70s finally promise that they know people who could do it quietly and professionally, but end up contacting the most idiotic string of characters. One finally agrees to do it, but is so incompetent that he merely kills Scott’s dog. He goes to prison, and when he gets out, he tells the papers his story of being a hired hitman. This prompts a police investigation, and Thorpe becomes the first MP charged for conspiracy to commit murder and inciting murder. He lucks out with a judge so blatantly prejudiced against Scott that it’s mocked for years later:

The show as a piece of media is top notch. Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott give fantastic performances that keep both men flawed but relatable. Grant’s Thorpe isn’t particularly cruel or hateful; he’s just a man trying to hide a past mistake. Whishaw’s Scott is an intriguing mix of vulnerability and strength. (As an aside, the real Norman Scott disagreed with the performance, saying it made him look too weak.) Production values are great, giving a real feel for the times.

For being a story nominally about a gay sex scandal from a time when sodomy was illegal, it does have a very modern, #metoo type feel. Swap Norman Scott for Norma, and the story feels like it could play out the same. The powerful man preying about a young inexperienced person from a broken home, the unkept promises, the victim coming forward to denounce the powerful man, and even the split between those who believe the victim and those who insist that a bastion of the Liberal Party would never do such a thing.

Ricochet Silent Radio, Part 3: Lord Protector of the United States


Turn down the lights! It’s time for another Ricochet Silent Radio adventure in our ongoing series…Tales From the PIT!

Yes, you’ve tuned into 1954’s boldest new radio sensation. Rocket with Ricochet into the infinite horizons of the far-off world of the future. At the beginning of the 21st century, one man will uphold justice…by breaking the law! In parts 1 and 2, we followed the journey of John Mantle, a.k.a. Judge Mental, former spaceman, computer expert—and arrow of vengeance—whose intelligence and ruthlessness brings him to the attention of Skipsul Harrigan, deputy to the President of the United States. Mantle is press-ganged into Federal service, acting as confidential White House liaison to rich financiers and industrialists like Gregory Arahant and Jason Rudert. The country is already in a state of chaos, approaching civil war when a devastating series of events leaves John Mantle in command.

Incredible…but possible! Is this a Buck Rogers fantasy, or could it be a deadly accurate prediction of America’s tomorrow? Ricochet’s imaginary network brings you a daring glimpse into what just might be–(Theme music climax)–Tomorrow’s world!

Tonight, part 3 of this week’s four-part story: “Lord Protector of the United States”.

The voice of Judge Mental:

It was chilly, just before dawn in Washington when we landed at Andrews Air Force Base. The rain was turning into frozen hail. It stung my face, but I didn’t much care. After what I’d been through, you really don’t notice. I walked across the desolate airfield to my new Federal heli Skycar. The Army pilots saluted and opened the hatch. I strapped myself in. As the turbine hum slowly rose in pitch, I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up it was daylight. We were at the White House south lawn.

It was an endless season of funerals, grief, and anger over the 2900 people killed in New Mexico. A time for vows of vigilance and national revenge. On posters, bumper stickers, and thousands of angry graffiti scrawls, the simple symbol of the number 29—decimal equivalent to the binary date in US notation, “011101”–became America’s battle cry in the new century.

The ongoing Congressional boycott was similar to something that once happened in Wisconsin. A quorum simply refused to seat itself and fled federal jurisdiction, or so they thought. For the second time in 140 years, the real possibility of bloodshed over secession hung in the air.

(Announcer:) The three remaining judges of the Supreme Court ruled that the formal departures from the US made the existing Constitution invalid. Therefore, the country reverted to British 18th century common law until a new and modified US Constitution could be ratified. Under those rules, Judge Mental’s temporary powers were confirmed and legalized. He was proclaimed as Lord Protector of the United States, with few effective limits. As the new Oliver Cromwell of the 21st century, he wasted no time demanding action.

(Judge Mental:) “Most of Congress has refused to take its seats for more than two years. Gentlemen, I have decided it’s my responsibility to take on the job that the people’s so-called representatives have shirked. I don’t want executive branch dictatorship. I am invoking the Walker Act and the Congressional powers it confers to state legislatures. They will become the Federal legislative machinery for the duration of the emergency.”

I turned to a Signals colonel. “Is it possible to provide secure, identity-proven NXN terminals in the state capitals?” “Yes, sir. Most state capitals already have the latest NXN-Gamma level cipher, and the others can be quickly installed or upgraded.”

“You are to arrange any needed technical assistance with Navy Signals, the Army Signal Corps, and the Army Corps of Engineers. From now on, those who choose to participate will vote via teletype directly from the floors of the state legislatures. Washington, the federal district, isn’t needed anymore as a seat of government. We still run school tours through the Capitol, don’t we? From now on, and until the opposition regains its senses, that’s all that will happen there.”

My job was going to be as short-lived as I could make it. The consensus in the press was the emergency would last something like two years, and privately I agreed. More lasting arrangements needed a president and a functioning national government. But there are certain short term advantages to dictatorship, and I was determined to make the most of them, so that a bloody civil war was not the first order of business for a new United States.

The largely pacifist western “Compact” states made good relations, trade deals, and eventual customs union with Mexico a priority. But when they attempted to sell Hawaii to Japan, they triggered a fight they couldn’t win about shared national property.

Because of that over-reaching of the Mountain Left, businessman Jason Rudert defeated his domestic opponents in the Western Alliance, the “ruthless utopians”. He was a friend, but now he was the Salt Lake City boss of the WA and a tough negotiator.

This was a hard deal and a vital one. The US would buy a fifty-year lease on the Hanford, Washington and Los Alamos, New Mexico nuclear labs from the Western Alliance, which didn’t want nuclear weapons, and agreed to share Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory with the South, which did. So far, conflict averted. But after that, the South stopped making deals altogether.

Gov. Tommy Smith’s grieving widow Julie was elected acting governor of Arkansas by the state assembly, and de facto president of the American South by acclamation. To the surprise of many, she showed right away that she didn’t see herself as a figurehead, meant to keep the seat warm for the next governor. She knew her husband’s agenda; she helped formulate it. With iron determination and a flair for publicity, she was going to implement it at all costs.

Being lenient with the West made the North’s strongest unionists uneasy. That’s when someone leaked the Judge Mental name into the papers, a sensational scoop that everyone seemed to have at once. It was a shock, I admit, but I went ahead and preemptively released the information about my unsanctioned execution of the men who caused the space station incident. The public reaction was surprisingly muted.

For one thing, there had always been rumors that the man who was a hero for killing three space pirates had maybe not entirely retired from the craft. Back in the days when I walked the corridors of Capitol Hill for Skipsul, it lent a certain intimidating presence to my persuasion visits, as I well knew. The newspaper stories confirmed that I’d only killed obviously guilty killers. Putting “Judge Mental” out in public was a political sneak attack that fizzled. But I knew in my gut that from that point onwards the label would stick to me indelibly, like General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, and it did. Even my fans shouted it as the motorcade went by.

Gradually, the intelligence services presented the unpalatable, bitter truth about January 11, 2001: it was a dreadful one of a kind accident, not an act of war. I couldn’t believe it at first, but they had the facts down cold. Satellite footage proved the nuclear chain reaction began, not ended, at the nuclear material storage vaults that obliterated the town of Torreon, New Mexico, twenty-five miles away. It was safely behind a mountain range, right? With the prime staff up in Meadow Lake working on the launch, the third string messed up. Bad, but within specs. It should have ended there.

There was never supposed to be unshielded fissionable material within two miles of any working vault, but the military trains that loaded and unloaded in Torreon were backed up four deep because of delays and rail closures for the VIP banquet. Refined atomic ore buckets were lined up through the mountains to Meadow Lake like a string of firecrackers. And the final stick of dynamite was the spaceship, which was supposed to be buttoned up well before any civilians, let alone the President, were allowed on base. One screw-up after another.

It made for infuriating reading. But everyone who deserved a reprimand, censure, firing or court-martial died in the chain of explosions, and had already received the fiery judgment of a far harsher Judge than I.

To be honest, each of this country’s three emerging national leaders continued to use innuendo about who might be responsible and who might have benefited, even after we’d all received private briefings on the truth. In other words, to differing degrees, we all lied, but only for the time being as we adjusted to the unexpected facts and prepared to brief the public on them.

Jason would have to admit that what happened had nothing to do with foreign reaction to America meddling abroad. Julie’s people, all her radio host friends, would have to stop hatching conspiracy schemes about how lifelong enemies of the South martyred the President and the Governor who were prepared to make peace. And I couldn’t use January 11 as a reason for indefinite rule. Nor did I want to.

The “South problem” was tougher than the “West problem”. Broadly, much of the west was as liberal in some respects as the east. It was less interested in New York and Washington’s wars. It didn’t really want independence; under better circumstances, it probably would have simply settled for some autonomy, a little more elbow room.

But the South was once again crossing the Rubicon, regardless. First, it was the breakup that everyone seemed to want and no one expected. By two years later, it had turned into the breakup that everyone expected, but fewer people wanted. Unlike 1861, however, one man was empowered to make a deal with the South.

After all, it’s not like slavery was at stake. Not this time. On the contrary, this time Negro and white southerners alike were singing from the same hymnbook—literally–and with two-thirds of Black America still below the Mason-Dixon Line, they were a powerful voice. Some of the grievances, like tariffs or the strength of the dollar, could probably be worked out. Arahant had already presented such a plan. But a deep resentment of the North, cultural as much as anything else, had lingered for more than a century.

It went both ways. In the Boston press, photos of Arahant leaving the White House were captioned King Copperhead, Treason’s Financier, Ready to Strike! Of course, I was mentioned as well. The Globe had an editorial cartoon of me as Lord Protector, blindfolded, oblivious to Lady Justice being molested by a gang of evil gray coated Confederates. There was something more than principle here; there was a real disdain for the ways of the South, its deferential manners, its religious leadership, and its culture.

In the middle of all this, Governor Julie Smith arrived at the White House gates “unexpectedly,” that is, unexpected to everyone except, clearly, the assignment desks at the networks, with live TV cameras conveniently pre-placed at the White House fence, with her three adorable photogenic children, all of them dressed in 19th century prison clothes. Along with about 80 million other people, I watched it on TV. I picked up a phone. “Damn it, what are you waiting for? Let her in. Get those stupid cameras off. Someone go down and take care of those kids. Prison clothes. Of all the stunts…”

The guard had served five presidents. “Chief, it’s just her. She sent the kids back to the hotel in a cab”. I walked down to the front of the building and met Smith just inside the entrance. Photographers surged to the threshold. The rapid blitz of the flashbulbs was blinding. We’d seen each other at the funerals. Now we were both on edge, aware that what we were about to say to each other privately could lead to millions of more funerals.

“Governor…”, I said. She nodded curtly in response. “Lord Protector. Thank you for receiving me on such short notice”. We ignored the screamed questions of the press and entered the White House.

Her prison clothes made a rough sound as she walked. I found myself resenting the theatricality of the stunt while understanding why she did it and why it was so likely to be effective. It was not, strictly speaking, just a stunt. One of the options handed to me was a mass arrest of separatist political leaders of the South. The thought of them in the hot sun, chained together in road gangs and breaking rocks with sledgehammers was irresistible to a certain class of advisers. I fired them all. But she didn’t know that.

Gov. Smith had put some thought into how she’d begin. She had the virtue of directness.

“I’m from a town called Russellville. A lot of our great-grandfathers died in the Civil War.”

“I’m from a town called Reynoldsburg. We also lost men in that war. In fact, I’ve also got kin on your side of that line, Julie”.

I dislike the trappings of the Oval Office. We went into the map room. Julie’s voice was polite, even conciliatory, but resigned, clearly expecting nothing good even as she delivered her bottom line.

“I can tell you that the people of the South sincerely appreciate the sensible, overdue efforts that the Protector is making to preserve the United States. I decided I might as well show up ready for prison. Because I am not going to submit”.

“Arahant claims we can separate without destroying the economy of north or south. Atlanta and Denver already have their own US Mints that could be de-federalized. We could share the dollar, for real, if that’s the problem. What are your intentions, Governor?”

“I realize I’m not leaving you a whole lot of good choices. You are respected and for the most part, very well liked across the region. If there were an election for president, you’d be the winner by a mile. But for us, it is too late to vote in US elections. The South just wants out”.

“You realize, of course, that our experts estimate that the north has subsidized your roads, bridges and other facilities”.

“We dispute the numbers”, she said. “We would agree to an honest neutral commission finding the right sum. If that’s what retrieving Southern honor requires, we will sell bonds and we will pay, no matter how long it takes”.

This must have been the longest pause I ever took. I sighed and plunged ahead.

“Okay. Forget the money. We’re not going to ask for a settlement. You’re free to go”.

“Sir?”, she said, not understanding what I’d just said.

“You. The South. I will sign your formal document of independence, no strings attached. You are free to manage your own affairs. If you want it that badly, only a tyrant would stop you. And I’m not that tyrant. Well, not that particular tyrant”.

“I can’t believe this day ever came. When is this effective?”

I checked my watch. It was 7:25 pm. “How about 9 o’clock? Think we’ll get an audience?”

For the first time, she laughed. “Yeah. And they’ll be amazed. Delighted. Joyous”.

“Just one thing, Governor. This is going to be one of the most watched occasions in American history. Would you mind terribly if we sent someone down to the women’s wear department at Hecht’s to pick something up for you? Because those prison clothes are not the way this moment ought to be remembered.”

And that’s the way it would be. I had no real choice; if that’s the way they felt, we were eventually going to let them out one way or another.

Julie Smith spoke first. Her voice rang out with dignity and pride. “Our long national story together is changing and there is no going back. However, and let the years to come know this, at this critical time the United States has chosen the path of peace, respect, and even generosity. The Greater South will never forget this moment”.

I wasn’t surprised when a reporter asked, “Sir? Lord Protector? Are you aware that an authoritative study says the South should pay back the North for hundreds of billions of dollars of Federal investment?

“Yes, I’ve read the study”.

“Sir, is that not a significant national interest that you are obliged to defend?”

I welcomed the chance to answer. “The South has traditionally provided manpower for America’s defense in numbers far, far outweighing their population or their share of America’s wealth. There is an imbalance in blood that is incalculably greater than any imbalance of treasure. An honorable nation should not expect a literal repayment of either debt, and an honorable nation would not accept it.”

I turned away from the cameras. “Thank you, gentlemen”, I said as the press conference ended. I made my way out of the blinding lights into the protective cordon that followed me everywhere now. One of the network anchors was speaking, live, at the side of the room. “You have just heard the Lord Protector of the United States”.

I was struck by a glimpse of the faces on a trio of young reporters, hustling towards the phones in the back of the room. On their faces, I saw shock. Understandable enough. But I saw something more. Fear. Anger. Directed at me. For the sin of avoiding a war.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to Part 3 of “Lord Protector of the United States”, a production of Tales From the PIT. Tune in tomorrow night for the next part of John Mantle’s historic path through the fantastic world of 21st century America!

Ricochet members featured or mentioned in tonight’s show include @judgemental, @juliesnapp, @jasonrudert and @arahant.

Disclaimer: Ricochet Silent Radio is a mark of satire, not an official part of Ricochet. Regarding the use of Ricochet members as fictional characters: Dialog, attitudes, and actions attributed to them are not their own.

This is the Ricochet Silent Radio Network.

Renovating Britain after World War II


In the early 1960’s, my suburban Chicago 5th grade (very progressive!) male teacher was exchanged with a male teacher from suburban London UK, who taught me in the 6th grade. The exchange included their families, with my older brother becoming good friends with the British teacher’s eldest son. I heard many stories about life in England, including men having one good wool suit worn each day to work, unlike my father who had many suits. Their car engine was so small that it seldom went faster than 30 MPH. The British son was amazed while going down a country hill with the engine struggling to get to 45 MPH. At that time in America, most highway traffic was about 65 MPH, and even Germany rebuilt and significantly added to the unlimited speed Autobahn in the 1950’s.

So why was Britain so slow in renovating after the war, compared to the devastation in Germany and Japan? Some say that the 1948 Marshall Plan helped the other countries, but Britain received the most (26%) aid, followed by France (18%) and West Germany (11%). Most British industry was intact, with major destruction centered on housing around London, due to the night aerial bombing and V1 / V2 weapons near the war’s end. Rebuilding housing is not trivial, but simpler than most other infrastructure. But the key reason occurred in July 1945, even before World War II was over.

Winston Churchill, voted the Greatest Briton of all time, decided to hold a general election in 1945. During the war, the major parties (Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal) had a coalition government. Churchill was an enormously popular war leader, but the people wanted change – a “peace dividend.” The Labour party’s slogan was “Socialist and proud of it,” depicting Capitalism as evil. Labour won nearly twice as many seats (393) as the Conservatives (197), selecting Clement Attlee as the new Prime Minister. Labour’s plans included nationalizing major industries (mining, power, transport, iron and steel) along with the Bank of England. King George VI offered Churchill the Order of the Garter, to which he commented “Why should I accept from my sovereign the Order of the Garter when his subjects have just given me the Order of the Boot?

Along with America and Canada having intact post-war manufacturing facilities, Britain was still a major world producer of ships and the leading European producer of coal, steel, cars and textiles. British scientists developed key technologies, including the cavity magnetron for Radar and jet engines, with the famous General Electric J47 developed from the Frank Whittle design. Britain produced the first passenger Jet (Comet) and even Rolls Royce still produces jet engines today. Labour policies started the British “Brain Drain” of the 1950-1960’s, and even today Britain continues to lose 10% of its educated workforce, being replaced by “low skilled migrants

As previously discussed, post-war housing was a major problem. During the war, the Greater London Plan (1944) was a blueprint for reconstruction and relocating Londoners and their jobs to new towns around the capital and other parts of England. Before the war, many lived in housing without running water. Labour prolonged the problem by tearing down slum housing while building urban council flats. The New Towns Act (1946) gave rise to eight towns outside the metropolis. The Town and Country planning Acts (1947, 1968) gave authorities control over land purchase and development in London. Even bombed out areas of London were not developed until after the 1960’s, unlike with Germany and France.

Besides the housing debacle of post-war Britain, the Labour party greatly reduced British living standards by continuing war-time rationing. Before the war, the British were better off than the Continent. Rationing continued into the early 1950s, ending around Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 Coronation. People continued to plant food in small gardens and allotments established during the war. Britain did not starve, but tasty items (sugar, milk/butter, eggs, and meat) were hard to get. Tea and coal were still being rationed in 1950. Even clothing was also rationed, giving Princess Elizabeth trouble with her 1947 Wedding Dress! Rationing became a continuation of the wartime ‘make-do-and-mend’ culture. *

As suggested by Ricochet member @seawriter in a comment, renovation of Britain didn’t occur until 1979 with Margret Thatcher. Even with Lady Thatcher’s reforms, it is less prosperous than Germany and about equal to Japan. The post war British experience with Socialism should be a warning to all who are seduced by its charm.

* The austerity and bureaucracy of the British post-war culture permeates George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Nevil Shute novels, and Terry Gilliam’s movie Brazil.

Member Post


A document has been posted on the internet that contains personal information for a number of conservatives, mostly NeverTrumpers, who jumped the gun (an understatement for some) last Saturday on the Covington Catholic School boys incident. I have seen this document myself. Not too many people, relatively speaking, have viewed the document itself at this […]

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Member Post


Okay, so despite his numerous claims, it looks like he wasn’t really a Vietnam veteran. And, sure, he gets his jollies being a professional victim, and picking on high school kids. But, come on. At least he’s probably a real Native American. And, let’s face it: not everyone who’s made that claim can honestly say that. Right?

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The Ultimate Prize for Journalists: Get Trump


But the ultimate prize [emphasis mine] has proved elusive for the scoop-hungry journalists competing to join the reporters’ pantheon alongside Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose methodical news-gathering for The Washington Post helped bring down a president alleged to have broken the law.

This is from a column on Monday by Jim Rutenberg of the NYT (talking about the Buzzfeed story). Stephen Cohen pointed this out yesterday on the John Batchelor Show.

For the past two years, the MSM has launched an unprecedented attack on the president. About 92% of the stories about him are negative; this with the economy roaring ahead. It’s reasonable to credit at least some of the growth to his policies. As Prof. Cohen, a leftist, pointed out, reporters should be reporting, not engaging in advocacy journalism. And they wonder why conservatives mistrust them.

Anti-Religious Left is on a Roll


It’s not news to describe the Left as anti-religion. But they seem to be unabashedly attacking Christians and Jews more often with little criticism from their own members. Still, some people from the Right are not afraid to speak up. Although Ben Sasse is often criticized for his comments on Donald Trump, his call for the support of religious freedom was admirable.

Senator Ben Sasse called out his fellow Senators on blatantly using a religious test to interview Brian Buescher, nominee for U.S. District Judge for the District of Nebraska. Mr. Buescher was a member of the Knights of Columbus, and he was disparaged for his membership by Senators Kamala Harris and Maizie Hirono. Senator Sasse wasn’t going to stand for it, and called for a Senate resolution:

. . . to unanimously reaffirm our oath of office to a Constitution that rejects religious bigotry. It is useful to regularly remind ourselves that Americans are a First Amendment people. Each of the five freedoms in the First Amendment: speech, press, religion, assembly, protest, they define who we are.

He also said:

This isn’t a Republican belief; this isn’t a Democratic belief; this is an American belief. This is a super-basic point: no religious tests. If someone has a problem with this resolution, what other parts of the Constitution are you against? Freedom of the press? Women’s right to vote? Freedom of speech? This isn’t hard. No religious tests for serving on the federal bench. We should in this body rebuke these anti-Catholic attacks.

Maize Hirono felt called to respond:

If my colleague, the junior Senator from Nebraska, wants to embrace the alt-right’s position by offering this resolution, that is his business.

The March for Life was just one more excuse for attacking Christians.

Congress has also witnessed attacks on Jews from its own members, particularly from Ilhan Omar, who was challenged recently for her comments on the conspiracy of the Jews to hypnotize society.

Religious people are being condemned from all sides. When our own Congressional leaders fearlessly insist on religious tests and double down on their actions, we should be worried.

How do you see this situation?

Through A Tweet, Darkly


I understand lynching now.

The way the Covington boys were treated brought me a moment of clarity. The fundament for this understanding came not from the left (I know what to expect from them) but from the right. Watching in near real-time as thinkers, writers and pundits that I may not agree with but used to respect go off like Roman candles at the mere hint of a whiff of the notion that white teenage males wearing MAGA hats were everything bad in this world was a wake-up call. Those poseur “conservatives” are every bit as intellectually brutish, morally smug, and ideologically craven as those leftists that I despise so.

First, if you went off on a hair trigger after seeing a sliced and diced snippet of film taken at a political event and published by the mainstream media and assumed the very worst about people ostensibly on your side, then you are stupid. You aren’t bright enough to have gleaned the least clue as to the left’s hate-mongering, smear-hungry, hysterics-reliant playbook. Congratulations, you got played. It did not even occur to you that the March for Life would bring leftist provocateurs out of the woodwork to ply their sinister and dishonest trade. Really? Not even a little bit?

You are also stupid because, despite all your proclamations and protestations about being reasoned, balanced, phlegmatic thinkers, you cannot resist turning your opponents into two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. That’s what muttonheads do. Despite your smarts, you cannot see your opponents as three-dimensional moral agents. You cannot take a digital moment to ponder “why would they do that? Did they do that? What are the odds this happened as stated?” Sad.

Your provided aid and succor to those that would take your liberty, your property, and your legacy because you don’t like MAGA hats.

If you were willing to cast every aspersion upon a bunch of kids and throw in with the rabid digital mob that wanted to dox, punch and kill these kids, then I beg you to take some time for introspection. If you could do that digitally, then you could, in the flickering light of the torches, help body surf the rope over the crowd to string up that uppity black boy that allegedly looked inappropriately at a white girl. Honest truth.

C’mon. Wake up.

I wouldn’t presume to ask you to study critical thinking, reason, and rhetoric. You had to have had all those classes, even if you didn’t internalize them. I would admonish you to get off of Twitter. It’s hurting you. It’s hurting the way you think, the way you process information, and the way you weigh variables. I don’t know if it’s the thrill of being part of a digital mob, the instantaneous feedback, or them there dopamine hits all the egg-heads talk about, but it brings out your worst self.

If you are addicted to dopamine, c’mon down; I’ll teach you how to generate it unilaterally, internally. Because you aspire to be a conservative, I’ll give you a rate.

Leftist Hypocrisy Is Not Hypocritical


Conservatives promote a type of government that they would like to live under: limited government, lots of individual liberty and responsibility, federalism, property rights, low taxes, freedom of speech, and so on.

Leftists promote a type of government that they want others to live under, but that they would not want to live under themselves: high taxes (for other people), limited freedoms (as long as we can do what we want), controls on education (although the wealthy can afford decent schools), limits on freedom of speech (for political opponents), high taxes on gas-guzzling pickup trucks (because leftists don’t farm, and they use public transportation). Etc etc etc.

This is why leftist systems often end up building walls to keep people in, while conservatives build walls to keep people out.

This is also why leftists are often accused of hypocrisy. When Al Gore tells you to drive a Prius while he travels by private jet, that seems hypocritical. When leftists say that you should not be allowed to own the same guns that their own bodyguards carry, that seems hypocritical. When Hillary Clinton thinks that you don’t pay enough in taxes, while she uses every imaginable trick in the book to avoid paying taxes herself, that seems hypocritical.

But I really don’t think it is.

Conservatism is about the pursuit of happiness, for everyone. Equal opportunities, and restriction on the wet blanket of government. Freedom to think, speak, and live as you see fit. There are ethical, moral, religious, and practical reasons behind all this, but the hoped-for result is a better society for all.

Leftism is about none of those things. When you get right down to it, leftism is about control. Controlling freedom of speech so no one will be offended. Controlling which cars we drive so we can control the weather 100 years from now. Controlling the schools our children attend, so we can control what they think. Controlling how resources are allocated throughout our economy via taxing, spending, and regulating. Controlling what health care resources are available to who at what time. And so on and so forth. All those issues have very little in common, except for their common ultimate goal: control.

Leftists are uncomfortable with the unpredictability of the crazy world we live in. Surely they could help people and prevent suffering if they could exert some control over the chaos of modern society. I think most of them have good intentions, even if their goals and tactics are, well, absolutely insane. Giving more power to fewer people has rarely worked out well in the past. But of course, we’re smarter now, we could do better. It’s hard for me to comprehend the arrogance required to think that centralized control systems can make things better for people. But gosh darn it, they keep trying, bless their hearts.

Conservatives, in general, don’t like being told what to do, and have little interest in telling others what to do. Liberals are more comfortable with both. So conservatives attempt to establish rules that they would like to live under, while liberals attempt to establish rules that they would like you to live under.

This is why I don’t view leftists as hypocritical. It’s not about them. It’s about you.

Hillary shouldn’t pay more taxes. She spends her money properly. You should pay more taxes. Because you might spend your money improperly. Obviously.

You could call that philosophy a lot of things, but I don’t think you can call it hypocritical. We should just call it what it is: Tyrannical.

When conservatives accuse leftists of hypocrisy, they’re just being polite.

We should be less polite.

There’s a lot at stake. You can’t defeat an enemy that you can’t name. And control leads to tyranny, control is the enemy of freedom. We should fight the advance of tyranny with clarity. Not politeness.

Ricochet Silent Radio, Part 2: Lord Protector of the United States


Turn down the lights! It’s time for another Ricochet Silent Radio adventure in our ongoing series…Tales From the PIT!

You’ve tuned into 1954’s boldest radio sensation. Rocket with Ricochet into the infinite horizons of the far-off world of the future. At the beginning of the 21st century, one man will uphold justice…by breaking the law! Last night, our story began in the distant year of 1997, with the turbulent saga of John Mantle, a young spaceman whose improvised, desperate defense of the space station against a trio of orbiting pirates returns him to Earth as a hero. Hard times and the challenge of a new national data bank call him back to Federal service, but the covert opportunity to mete out his own justice to the men who paid for the pirate raid can’t be resisted for long.

Invited to a gala White House reception, Mantle meets Skipsul Harrigan, special deputy to the president, who uses proof of Mantle’s vigilante activity to blackmail him into acting as a government agent.

Is this a Buck Rogers fantasy, or could it be a deadly accurate prediction of America’s tomorrow? Ricochet’s imaginary network for classic radio drama brings you a daring glimpse into what just might be–(Theme music climax)–Tomorrow’s world!

Tonight, part 2 of this week’s four-part story: “Lord Protector of the United States”.

(Voice of Judge Mental:)

As I left the White House, I was relieved that my custom retro Studebaker was still parked on Pennsylvania Avenue, as immaculate as when I left it. Regrettably, you couldn’t be sure of that nowadays, with everything seeming to go downhill. I slid in, pressed my foot down on the rheostat, and the classic ’54 Stude silently glided into the electric hum of Washington’s afternoon traffic. My destination was a pyramid-shaped building, the local headquarters of the legendary financier Gregory Arahant. Traffic was light. I had a few idle minutes to think as the car moved along the glistening blue surface of the photoelectric roadway. The Studebaker’s tiny antenna-like stalks grazed the sides of the traffic lane, picking up current.

The President didn’t spend much time with the big businessmen who funded his party. He made an exception for ancient spymaster Gregory Arahant. In his twilight years, the enigmatic Midas of American espionage was still said to be a half-century ahead of the rest of us. A call to the White House from Arahant’s office had to be returned immediately, and as it happens, the old man was a big fan of rocketry who loved hanging out with the Space Corps. Skipsul handed me the Arahant portfolio, to be a secret courier and go-between and—it was hoped—to become a confidant.

If there’s one thing that Skipsul’s briefing drummed into my head, it was to “Never doubt Arahant’s ability to pull strings at such a high level that his handiwork appears to be spontaneous, with no intervention, let alone his. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Capital shifts around the world, whole industries abandon some countries and thrive in others…acts of God? Or acts of Arahant?” Skipsul finished his own thought. “And if you can’t tell the difference, what does that say about Arahant?”

I’d meet with Arahant many times but I never forgot what he said to me that first day. “You never know the whole truth”, he told me sternly, “Even if and when you do, the future doesn’t know. They never hear it, they don’t want to hear it, or they forget.”

I obeyed orders and kept my mouth shut. As months went by, Skipsul was apt to send me anywhere to do most anything. It turned out my political instincts weren’t bad. If he trusted you, specialties didn’t mean a thing. He never mentioned the words Judge Mental again, but my form of home-grown justice, however tacitly sanctioned, was unlikely to slip his memory, and I knew it. Fact is, he liked to have a little something on everyone. It gave him an unspoken edge. He handed me another portfolio.

Jason Rudert was a rich Utah industrialist and a political donor, with connections to the president. Skipsul spelled out the stakes for me. “The West is becoming a major pain in the keister”, he said sourly. “The Six State Compact is slowly turning into a de facto rebellion west of the Rockies”. With an informal new name that was beginning to stick, the Western Alliance, it was spreading well beyond the original six states and across the Mountain West.

I was told to ride out to Salt Lake City with Rudert for a private talk and to pick up a briefcase. This Jason is a crafty man in a slightly dubious trade or two; mining, radio, and magazines among others. Now he was interested in politics. His latest fortune came from buying the Dime Aduzzin vending machine empire. Shopping was becoming more of a hobby than a necessity for many housewives, as their Home Automats were always supplied with favorite dehydrated foods by contract with nationwide services of Coca-Cola, Safeway, Armour’s, Borden’s, Nestle, or any of the others whose colorful delivery trucks dotted the suburbs.

A government driver took me out to the airport. To my surprise, we were taking a jetcopter, not a jetliner. I stood on the tarmac gazing at it. Ford and Chrysler were the world leaders, puffing up their balance sheets with new profits from these small, nuclear-fueled jet helicopters, but this one, I noticed, was built by Hughes Aircraft—a western company. It was all but impossible to buy one privately; they were rationed, and the Federal government took most of them for official business. Jason Rudert, needless to say, had connections. We shook hands. He’d seen me looking at the copter. “Four million dollars”, he said with a smile. “Let’s go for a ride”.

He could afford it. My monthly delivery guy barely gave me a look during his five-minute visits to reload the Dime Aduzzin Home Automat and empty the coins. Think of the sound of those clinking coins in the kitchen vending machine, multiplied by ten million homes, multiplied by maybe 300 times a year, times fifteen years. Serious coin, any way you look at it.

Minutes after getting underway, the pilot signaled for seatbelts with an urgent warning buzzer. His first officer, the power reactor operator, kicked the plutonium pedal for a downshift shot of superheated steam, which hit the twin turbines with an unearthly, shrieking wail. I was kicked back into my seat by the helicopter’s rotary wings snapping back like a Chinese fan. Within the smallest fraction of a moment, the turbojet thrusters hit. The acceleration was breathtaking. In less than a minute we were a supersonic streak thundering westward.

The deafening shriek of turbine spin-up and the window-rattling BOOM of the transition to horizontal flight became a familiar, much-detested sound of American life in that era. It became the sound of government, more precisely of unwanted, imperious government everywhere the elite deigned to lower themselves to the level of the people. And now I was part of it.

But to Jason, it was a new toy. “How do you like it? How’s it measure up?”, he asked. I was impressed, I had to admit. “Quite a ride even for a spaceman”. Then, while maintaining his cordial smile, he abruptly got down to business.

Jason explained some of the roots of the West’s growing independence. “The country is unevenly developed, of course. There are plenty of aircraft factories out here, but the West really needs markets for our mining and agriculture. You Washington guys could be more helpful”.

“Well, we’ll try to fix that. But if you’re going to stick with us, there’s such a thing as a common foreign policy, and there, you Western guys could be more helpful”.

The Utah billionaire shrugged his agreement. “Sure. I actually agree with you. But most of our people don’t. Pacifism is always around in our area. Especially in parts originally settled by the Scandinavians and Germans. We’re not the South. We have a live-and-let-live, kind of relaxed morality out here”.

“Except for Utah”, I said. He grinned and said, “Yeah, except for us”.

We went subsonic. Rudert’s home, Salt Lake City, was at first just a tiny patch of white below an infinite horizon. In minutes it filled our view, a vast sprawling western city. Jason pointed out the towers of SLC’s Temple Square as they glided by below us like tiny, fragile toys. “That’s where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs. Oldest show on radio.”

As we circled, he said he hoped the growing strains in the nation could be resolved by sensible compromises. He handed me a briefcase to be passed on to Skipsul at the White House. He wasn’t shy about showing me what was in it: several hundred thousand dollars. We snapped the locks shut without a word.

We landed on a floodlit field. Jason waded into the happy, excited crowd to sign autographs. I slipped away while Jason walked into a blitzkrieg of flashbulbs.

Soon I became a regular on “Air Rudert”, the weekly shuttle to Salt Lake City. Even in a VIP’s cushy leather chair, I felt that turbine run-up to 40,000 rpm, hearing the exact pitch of the whistling note when it suddenly cuts out and the shock of rocket thrust takes over. The routine was usually the same. We talked about politics, and whatever Jason wanted from the White House. It was always something straightforward. At the end of each ride, he handed me another briefcase. It was friendly but we knew it wasn’t friendship. I was a junior cog—well, okay, a rising cog—in the White House wheel, the federal data wizard, the government’s one-man data bank. Jason had a hyper-profitable, store-killing nickel and dime empire. Let’s face it; this was potentially a very useful relationship for both of us.

(Music rises and fades)

Announcer: You are listening to “Lord Protector of the United States”. This is Ricochet. Lion Radio News will be coming up at the top of the hour. Don’t forget to tune into “The Lion Roars!” with Senator Joe, on most of these MGM Ricochet stations.

(Local ID) This is KRCH 980, Los Angeles, from the home of screenland.

Announcer: Say fellows, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and there’s no better way to show that special lady in your life that she’s picture-perfect than bringing home a Polaroid Land camera. Sharp, vivid photos in one minute. And there’s no developing lab needed. No one sees the pictures but you! The perfect Valentine’s gift. Polaroid, $69.95. Available wherever fine cameras are sold.

And now back to tonight’s episode of Tales From the PIT.

(Musical bridge to next scene rises and fades)

Announcer: Involved deeply? Enough to practically become shadow president Skipsul Harrigan’s own shadow. He learned Skipsul’s ways of being trusted by those in power. Mantle was soon dispatched to Capitol Hill to learn the fine arts of leaning on politicians.

(Voice of Judge Mental) Yeah, I squeezed Congress to pass Skipsul’s favored bills. One was a constitutional amendment that allowed the president to appoint a temporary successor since his own vice president resigned after announcing that if he were ever to assume office, he could not and would not faithfully execute his predecessor’s policies. The states balked at ratifying it, though. By now the country had bigger political problems.

Announcer: Factionalism was tearing the country apart. Peace was opposed by the rise of a new, stridently moralistic social movement within the “old” US, a faction that rapidly became the mortal political enemy of the South. Most of the incoming Congress refused to take their seats.

(Male voice, Southern accent:) To control lawlessness, a new faction in the east passed a law taxing bullets at $50 per round. Many said, “This will not stand”. But by then, it did. Eventually, the Feds got to nearly every importer, manufacturer, and owner. It amounted to outlawing bullets, which unlike guns, were held to have no constitutional protection. There was a ready and much hoped-for substitute, the new and allegedly non-lethal disruptor ray guns, nicknamed “Reagans” after a movie actor from the cowboy films of the Forties and Fifties. The “gun decision” to appease a northern majority inflamed the South.

(Female voice, Southern accent:) Seeing the West get away with whatever they wanted in the name of autonomy and human rights, the South became more restive about being tethered to Washington. The unauthorized selection of Arkansas Governor Tommy Smith as a regional leader empowered to speak for the South, even in a carefully limited “advisory” role, raised tensions, despite endless denials that a new Confederacy was being born.

(Judge Mental): I was dispatched to handle it. That meant talking to Arahant. Although his base is Detroit, he is of Southern ancestry, a human link between the increasingly opposed power centers of Washington and Atlanta. These days, many people compared him to Judah Benjamin, one of the masterminds of the old South.

To the end, the Western Alliance held out hope that Texas would join them, but Texas hearts were with Dixie. That one fateful decision would electrify the country and transform American history.

Arahant was in Wichita, Kansas, preparing for a western jaunt that would take him to San Diego for a summit with Jason Rudert, and then onwards to the territory of Hawaii. I was in St. Louis, introducing some of the brewery boys to the facts of political life, and I arranged to join Arahant for the first leg of his trip. He’d drop me off in New Mexico on his way west.

New Mexico was home to America’s biggest atomic weapons lab, as well as the launch site for its atomic-powered rockets. After 45 years in Earth orbit, mankind was ready at last to reach for the Moon. Four men, all old colleagues of mine, were about to take the ride of a lifetime, of anyone’s lifetime. For a decade, it was planned to take place sometime in 2000, but technical delays and plenty of caution moved the launch date into the second week of the new year.

Arahant had a gorgeous, spanking new rotary wing aircraft waiting on the tarmac at Wichita. The Fifties-style chrome script on its nose read “Chrysler Atomicopter”. We boarded and prepared for the flight. Arahant’s faint smile tipped me off that something was up. The heli lifted off the ground and rapidly ascended…in near silence. I braced myself for the sudden increase in pitch. It didn’t happen. Quietly, the surging aircraft switched over to horizontal flight. It was astonishing. I raised an eyebrow and waited for an explanation.

“The secret is called RTG, a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. No more whistling teakettles. No more shrieking steamcopters. No compressors, turbines, or gears. This is pure electric. New and exclusive chemical thermocouples. It’s almost the same reactor, safe as can be, but it’s generating the juice directly, without moving parts”.

“It’s amazing”, I agreed. “Even revolutionary”. We were making incredible time. “It’s built in Michigan”, he said proudly, “But the lab work was done at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama”,

“Hmm…Detroit and Alabama. So you make money off this two ways, Arahant”.

“By the time I’m done, I’ll be making money off this fifteen ways, Mantle”.

The helicopter soared over the foothills of New Mexico and soon began an endless climb up the side of an immense mountain range. The only sign of man was a tiny line of a road that snaked its way up an incredibly steep path. In the shuddering up-and-down wind drafts between the peaks, even this super-chopper was bobbing like a cork. We passed above the tree line and then a band of barren rock that rose for another mile before it reached the white and blue realm of pure ice, nothing but glistening, razor-edged vertical ice. The spinning blades strained against the thinning air. The scale was overwhelming. So was the cold, despite warm clothing, the sun glaring through the glass bubble of the canopy, and a heated cabin.

Sandia peak now rose into majestic view against the blue sky. On the sides of the peak, Albuquerque’s huge microwave horns were pointed towards Chicago and Los Angeles. At its summit, like a most exquisite Christmas tree topper, was a shining bundle of thousand-foot tall silver needles, the world’s highest television antenna complex, bristling with electronic spikes glistening in the sun. The friendly chatter aboard the helicopter faded to awed silence.

The nights before my own space flights were usually spent with other spacemen in Albuquerque’s bars and nightclubs. I knew the city well. The White House didn’t pull any strings to get me into their limited lodgings on base, so I used my old Space Corps connections to find friendly accommodations on the other side of town, the fun side of town.

The launch would be at noon on January 12th. I checked in the night of the 10th. Almost immediately, Signal Corps operators rang the hotel room phone. It was Skipsul, with the president’s entourage. We bantered briefly about me being stuck in the boonies while Skip was enjoying the on-base VIP accommodations that the Corps somehow always manages to deliver to the political brass. He confessed that he was getting worn out by the pressures of the job. “I just talked with the Boss Man. We’re starting to talk about you as my replacement. Think about it”. We’d meet before the launch. Skipsul had to run.

Before sleeping, I watched TV coverage of the upcoming launch. As the space program was a shared national project, Arkansas Governor Tommy Smith, the emerging political leader of the South, was being treated as a full partner of the US president. They were starting a gala reception together right this minute, in front of the floodlit Moon rocket. This was a surprising amount of time spent on the political significance of the north—south meeting. “Could they head off a new civil war?” the commentator asked breathlessly, hyping everything up as usual.

I was in a reflective mood, but politics was far from my mind as I drifted off to sleep. I sure would have liked to be on tomorrow’s Luna run. But I and everyone else knew that my image would always be tinged with death.

I was awakened by the shock of a blinding flash of light. The room was instantly flooded with heat. Military training kicked in. I threw himself to the floor, gasping, my heart pounding. This isn’t happening. It’s a bad dream. It’s—and then a terrifying BOOM shattered the windows. I grabbed the end of a sheet to use as a breathing mask against the dust and powdered glass in the air. Dazed, I stumbled to find my shoes, sidestepping shards of broken glass everywhere. Outside I could hear shouts, cries, and dogs barking. The bedside clock stopped at 2:15. When the light faded enough to look, I stared out at what I knew was going to be there; a massive mushroom cloud rising over the rocket base at Meadow Lake, twenty-five miles to the southeast. The wind was blowing away from the city, so I had time for a look at survival routes. There was debris on my window ledges, along with everywhere else. The distant towers of the spaceport had been reduced to a mountain of rubble, with gigantic shards sticking up.

For hours afterward, I was in torment; there had to be something I could do. But there wasn’t. All the Albuquerque stations were off the air; the tallest aerials in the world were blown down. Shortwave news reports were speculating about tens of thousands dead. Over and over I resolved to go down to the street to see what I could do, anything that I could do, but each time I made the decision I would see someone else come out of a building, and be immediately swarmed by police, and pulled back in.

At the edge of the range of my binoculars some of Isleta Pueblo, a town beyond the south side of the city, was on fire. Some of the parked cars were on fire, and over the next few hours that fire burned up one row and down the next.

Hours went by. The radio said that the city of Albuquerque would be okay, but everyone was to shelter in place. More emergency vehicles were still arriving, and a hospital a couple of blocks south of me became a staging area for ambulances. They backed them in, diagonally, on both sides of the street, filling up the entire block. And then they never moved, because they weren’t finding anyone alive.

Just before dark, they started landing helicopters on a strip of grass. They were going in and out continuously, up to three at a time. With the sun going down and the power off, the fires were lighting up the neighborhood like a scene out of Hell.

Grim-faced Secret Service men pounded on the door of my room, rushed me downstairs into one of the helicopters, and we flew fifteen minutes to an air evacuation post. There, someone handed me a phone. It was so noisy it was hard to hear Skipsul’s recorded voice, coming from a medic tent. He was clearly in death’s throes. “I am informing you…of presidential incapacity. He is dead. It is your duty to take over temporary executive power. That’s all, John. Farewell.”

Stunned, speechless. As I looked up, trying to make sense of it all, I saw the uniformed men looking at me as they approached wordlessly, ready to serve. In their eyes, I saw fear, pity, and respectful awe. They waved me towards a plane. Air Force One.

We were northbound into the moonlit night, my next move a mystery even to me. I was going to uphold justice even if it meant breaking the law. I would make a desperate attempt to save the country even if it meant violating the Constitution. Now, in legal fact as well as in name, I was the tribune of the people, racing forth to administer rough justice. Their justice.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to Part 2 of “Lord Protector of the United States”, a production of Tales From the PIT. Tune in tomorrow night to follow John Mantle along his fateful path into the fantastic world of 21st century America. To read the story from the beginning, please click here.

Ricochet members featured or mentioned in tonight’s show include @judgemental, @skipsul, @jasonrudert and @arahant.

Disclaimer: Ricochet Silent Radio is a mark of satire, not an official part of Ricochet. Regarding the use of Ricochet members as fictional characters: Dialog, attitudes, and actions attributed to them are not their own, but in this episode, significant portions of Judge Mental’s descriptions of 1/11/01 in this fictional story are based on his own experiences in the aftermath of 9/11/01, (Witness, Part 2).

This is the Ricochet Silent Radio Network.

(Three chimes)

My Open Letter to Nick Sandmann


Dear Nick,

I am writing this note to you in the hope that it will be just one of the thousands of similar letters you will receive expressing both support for you and your friends after what took place at the Lincoln Memorial. I’d also like to express great pride in the restraint you showed and the gentlemanly approach you took with the person who got in your face with a hand drum. In the midst of all the early, and totally erroneous and evidence-free, things which were said about you and your friends, and with a feeling that something just did not feel right about what I was hearing (not to mention that I also have a MAGA hat which I wear with pride!) I decided to do that which I now wish more “tweeters” and “Facebookers” and “journalists” had done — study the matter further and look at the actual video of the incident. After I did that, and continued reading many articles which were written with a more reasoned foundation, I became more and more upset at what I was seeing, and, at the same time, more and more proud of your conduct and that of your friends. I should explain there is a reason I took such a personal interest in this incident, beyond feeling a general sense of revulsion at unfair treatment of anyone, is due to my many decades of practicing trial law in many Courts for a number of decades.

Back then, I was also surrounded by a group of protesters who were expressing their disagreement with certain decisions being made in the War on Terror on the Plaza at Santa Fe, New Mexico. In doing this, they were, of course, exercising one of the most sacred rights passed to us by our Founding Fathers in the form of the First Amendment, “…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” While not questioning, for a single moment, their right to do so, I decided, wrongly as it turned out, that they might be willing to listen to some facts contrary to those I was hearing from them, as they differed dramatically from what I had learned in my study of those policies. As I walked up to them to attempt to introduce them to some facts it did not seem they had considered, it became quickly apparent that they not only were not interested in hearing anything which conflicted with their own contentions, but that a couple of members of their group were getting greatly agitated by my mere presence (on, of course, a public space) and it became quickly obvious that my continuing attempt to have a discussion with them was not going to be conducive to my good health.

The reason, Nick, that I relate this story to you is one of the main reasons I decided to dig much deeper than so many people took the trouble to do was that the moment I saw the smile on your face in that photo which caused so many to jump to so many wrong conclusions I remembered the discomfort I experienced in that confrontation on the Santa Fe Plaza.

Nick, I have two sons, and should either one of them have conducted themselves in exactly the same manner you did, under those highly tense conditions, I would have been immensely proud of them. I just want to be sure that you know there are so many parents who took the time to understand the facts who are so proud of you at this time. In the hope that this might be the best way to get this letter to you.

Thank you for being a gentleman under such trying circumstances.

Sincerely, Jim George

Member Post


Dear Elizabeth Nolan Brown, I think you missed something in your otherwise terrific piece on the recent strange reluctance of Democrats to press for approval of over-the-counter birth control pills. The clue is found here: Yet under the current status quo, obtaining birth control generally requires a specialized doctor’s visit and fee plus a separate […]

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Member Post


Quelle surprise. The man who has lied about his deliberate engagements aside white Catholic teens at the March for Life protest, has claimed (or did he?) That he may or have led people to believe that he served in the Vietnam War. Apparently if he did, I could imagine Senator Blumenthal was his C.O. right […]

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A Tribute to Earl


What does it mean to be a man? It occurred to me this morning that my friend Earl is the epitome of what we want in a man, what we should expect from a man, and I’m proud and honored that he is my friend.

I’ve written about Earl before on Ricochet. He is a tall, lean black man, a Progressive and one of the kindest and most self-reflective persons I know. He is also 86 years old, declining from a multitude of health conditions including early Alzheimer’s. He loves to discuss ideas and ask deep questions; I would often ask him what he thought the answers were to his questions, because I knew at some level he had his own heartfelt, often profound answers.

Last year I disbanded our meditation group; I decided to continue meeting with Earl who attended regularly and was our timekeeper. (In referring to our walking meditation period, he asked once where else he could go and have nine lovely ladies following right after him. That’s Earl.)

When the meditation group ended, Earl and I decided to meet on Monday mornings, first meditating for a period and then having an ongoing discussion on a book by Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart.

At first, we continued to meet at my house, but then Earl had a “heart event,” which I assume is something like a heart attack, but the doctors aren’t sure. It was a health setback for Earl, and rather than discontinue our meetings, I suggested I go to his home. Meanwhile, another person who was fond of Earl and liked meditating with others was delighted when I invited her to join us.

This morning Earl was looking well and yet very frail. He insisted on answering the door himself without his walker, and when he opened the door he looked cheerful; on the walk back to the sofa, he was steady. After we sat down, I asked how he was, and he rolled his eyes, saying, “Oh, the usual…” clearly avoiding the topic. I think he gets tired of running through all the latest diagnoses, although he almost always mentions the Alzheimer’s. Even though he’s still coherent, the future outcome of losing his mind is (understandably) frightening and disturbing.

Earl is a man who has always relied on his intellect, and it’s served him well. Early on he was trained in clinical psychology, monitored lie detector tests, was a New York cop, and eventually became a defense lawyer. You don’t want to know some of the stories he’s told me about his clients. For years, he talked about retiring and finally at 84, he turned his practice over to his partner. I think he was tired, seeing the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and beginning to look more closely at his career decisions to defend criminals.

This morning, it was just Earl and me. (Our other friend was home with a cold).

We sat quietly in meditation for 20 minutes and then turned to the book to review the section we’d chosen. We’re still early in the book where Pema Chodron is in a life crisis due to a change in her life and work situation. Her world is caving in around her, and she doesn’t know (at that moment) what to do. I think Earl can identify with her. More and more, as we’ve discussed the book, Earl’s remarks are less cerebral and more personal. We can all relate to a time in our lives when life seems to be falling apart, and the initial options for action seem limited.

When our time was up, we chose the next section of the book to study. Earl spoke with his deep, resonant voice and said what he says every time we meet: “You know, there is nowhere else I can have these discussions. People would think it’s not normal.” I replied with mocking objection, “Are you saying I’m not normal?!” Earl shook his head and said, “Thank goodness you’re not.” I always remind him, too, that our discussions are a blessing for me, too.

He walked me to the door, slowly and carefully, ever polite and gracious, not a sexist bone in his body, and he could care less that I’m white.

He’s taught me a great deal about courage and acceptance.

I look forward to our next Monday meeting.

Renovating Memories


You know from my user name “Cow Girl” that I’m from the West. In fact, western Wyoming. But, despite the bronco buster picture, the “cow” in my name refers to the dairy cows that were the center of life during my childhood. My parents had six daughters and two sons. The sons came along in the second half of the family, so we four older girls spent a great deal of time and effort feeding, milking, and cleaning up after the cows. It was just about everything we did all summer–hauling hay, milking, hauling more hay, milking, etc., etc.

Then in the winter, the schedule was:

  1. get up and milk the cows,
  2. go to school,
  3. come home from school and milk the cows,
  4. eat supper and do homework,
  5. go to bed,
  6. repeat.

Our dad spent most of his day while we were in school taking all that hay back out of the sheds where we’d stacked it all summer, and spreading it out on the snow-covered pastures to feed the animals. The milk cows also got fed that hay, but they were a little more pampered, and got to stand at a covered manger adjacent to the hay shed. My dad filled it with hay every day while we matriculated.

The barn, then, was the center of our life. It was a classic red barn, just like you see in the toy department, with a pointed roof, Dutch doors, white trim boards. I think we even had a weather vane. We definitely had lightning rods.

This is me:

My first memories of the barn are from being the “babysitter” with my sister. I was five, she was four, the baby was our first brother, who was about six months old sitting in the red wagon while we watched over him. We were parked in the dirt yard near the open barn door, so our mother could keep track of us. She was being helped by our two older sisters who would have been nine and ten, while they milked the two dozen or so cows. My dad would have been irrigating alfalfa up in the fields. It was June, it was beautiful, we’d play with the baby, and make little leaf-boats to float in the shallow irrigation ditch just over the fence.

By the time I was eight, my mother no longer needed to help with milking, because we girls were old enough (13, 12, 8, 7) to do it in the evening on our own. Good thing, too, because she had another baby by then, and Daddy was still busy doing field work all summer. In the winters, Daddy would feed animals, then he’d come in at the end and help us finish up. He was always available for the mornings, so whoever was a “big sister” at the time would take turns going out to help him.

Mind you, this was a really long time ago — the ’50s and the ’60s. The year I graduated from high school and went off to college (which was a refuge from milking!), 1971, my dad built a new barn — a modern dairy, with pipelines and a big tank to store the milk. Previously, we’d carried the milkers from cow to cow, and put the milk into big cans, which were kept in a water tank overnight for pick-up by the cheese factory each morning after we’d milked. So, the old red barn was only used to store hay in the loft, and house calves where the milking had been done in the Old Days.

Naturally, it fell into disrepair. My grandfather, who’d been the painter, fixer, and builder had grown old and feeble and no longer could keep up with it. My dad was diagnosed with leukemia, and couldn’t keep working as a farmer. By then, we four “big” sisters were all married, and so were most of the “little” kids. The brother that I’d watched in the wagon took over the farm, and was able to have my dad around for a couple of years to give expert advice before Daddy passed at age 61. My brother made a living there for almost two decades before he faced the reality that there wasn’t a way to make a small farm profitable in that area, anymore.

Here’s where the renovation part comes in: 20 years after my dad died, we realized we’d better save that barn, or lose it forever. We sisters had all married Husbands-With-Skills, so on a long weekend one summer, we all gathered at the site of where we’d (literally) been raised, and renovated the old red barn. They put in new rafters to keep the roof up there; re-hinged the doors, and made a couple of replacements; laid an all-new tin roof; and, finally, we painted.

By now, many of our children were young adults, so they pitched in while Grandma/Mama supervised. It was a blast! Everyone told everyone else what to do, and then those people would ignore the bosses, and do a good job anyway, because they already knew what to do! So, the end result was a total face-lift for the farm!

One sister didn’t make this photo.

And…memories flowed like the irrigation streams that used to criss-cross our fields. We laughed and talked and told stories we’d shared a million times. We agreed to disagree over different versions of shared events. Our children were all so glad that none of their mothers had married farmers.

Less than a year later, one of our sisters (she’s in the pink shirt picture with the blonde hair) died suddenly from a heart condition. The year following that, our mother also died, but she was ready to go, as she had assured us those last few weeks.

Now, none of our family members actually live on that property. My brother moved to a better job, but he leases the farmland to a guy. Some of my sisters are neighbors. But, every time, I make it up there to the beautiful valley in the mountains, I cannot resist taking pictures of that place that made me who I am today. I feel lucky to have been born raised in a barn.