Monday, December 23, 2019

Reasoning for the Season

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 
          ~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Image: Kevin Carden

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Christmas Crunch

It feels like Christmas has snuck up on us this year. Not only is it awkwardly placed smack in the middle of the week, but it follows a late Thanksgiving that prompted "Cyber Monday" falling a mere three weeks before Christmas Eve. So I doubt I'm the only one who's been chasing my tail all through December.

Today, at last, I'm done--shopping, at least. Now the gift-wrapping marathon yawns before me. Since I usually start buying gift items in August and squirreling them away, I'm usually shocked by the volume of boxes and bags that await my attention. Armed with Advil and a couple of wrist braces, I'm confident I'll power through in time for the big day.

So what's been going on this month in Washington D.C.? Not much worth mentioning, in my humble opinion. It's Christmas time; let's focus on the positive. If I had to choose one topic as happy news from our nation's capital, I'd nominate the exquisite White House Christmas decorations--for which Melania Trump, who oversaw every detail, will get nary a kind word from the alphabet media. However, I think the décor is beautiful and classy, just like the First Lady.

As someone who has a life goal of becoming merely bi-lingual, I've always been awed by fact that the First Lady speaks five languages. I'll bet all her gift wrapping is finished, too.

Melania Trump walks through "The Spirit of America" White House Christmas decorations ~ 2019

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Closing Ceremony

O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.

Today, the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the last survivor who will be interred inside the hull of the U.S.S. Arizona will be laid to rest.

There are three other Arizona survivors who have chosen to be buried with their families when they pass away. So today's burial aboard the U.S.S. Arizona of sailor Lauren Bruner, who was 21 years old at the time of the attack, will end this poignant tradition in American history.

Rest in peace.

Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Must Be Seen

While there is still time.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Royal Pains
I'm so saturated with political coverage that I need a complete and mindless change of pace. The key word in that intro is "mindless," so let's talk about Meghan Markle, the poor misunderstood royal.

Such a bother it is, being a rich, pampered, spoiled member of the royal family. People always fussing about you, and your slightest wish is their command. How's a person to function, being waited on hand and foot, night and day? Evidently, it's very wearing for the tender duchess.

I mean, think about it. Poor Meghan just had a baby a few months ago. Does anyone on earth understand how difficult that is? She certainly doesn't seem to think so. There she was, standing in Africa--Africa!--lamenting how hard her life is. Africa, where slavery is still rampant, AIDS is an ongoing epidemic, infant mortality is highest in the world, and women are mutilated--that probably wasn't the ideal setting to announce on television that postpartum blues mixed with media attention has really been a dreadful challenge. After all, "not many people have asked" if she's okay. (Well, don't look now, duchess, but you're not in Hollywood anymore.)

It's all been so stressful that soon she and her angst-ridden prince will be taking "a respite" in the United States. How fortunate for America, that we'll be blessed for a few weeks with these delicate, easily bruised souls. As my mother might say, "I can hardly wait."

Monday, October 28, 2019

Euphemistically Speaking

Twitter was jumping today with a bumper crop of hilarious, often wildly creative obituaries for a variety of evil historical figures. This entertaining burst of social media mockery was in reaction to the Washington Post's ridiculous "austere religious scholar" description of al-Baghdadi in its first revision of three separately published headlines announcing (and re-announcing) the news.

"Religious scholar"? Al-Baghdadi captured, tortured, and murdered countless people in brutal and horrifying ways, including beheadings and burning alive. He was a rapist who enslaved women and abused them for his enjoyment. The enormity of his crimes is incalculable. In his last act on earth, as a suicide bomber, he dragged three (revised to two) innocent children into violent death with him.

Yet The Washington Post didn't want us to forget that he had advanced degrees in the study of Islam. And the media has the nerve to wonder why we don't trust them.

But back to the fun on Twitter! In one post, Charles Manson is referred to as a "famous song writer and meditation leader." In another, Al Capone is a "noted self-made entrepreneur." Adolf Hitler is described as a "passionate community planner and dynamic public speaker." Those three air-brushed "obituaries," and many others equally euphemistic, appeared in the Daily Wire article, "Twitter Users Hilariously Savage The Washington Post With ‘WaPoDeathNotices’ Hashtag After Al-Baghdadi Bungle."

In my own Twitter feed, I saw another "obituary" that made me laugh. It described Hannibal Lecter as a "renowned forensic expert and food connoisseur." That about covers it all, right? Now pass the fava beans over to The Washington Post.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Substance over Style

Not even the elimination of al-Baghdadi, the long-hunted terrorist leader of ISIS, can get President Trump a moment's respite from the relentless drumbeat of media and Hollywood criticism. Apparently, only Democratic presidents are worthy of receiving credit for successfully overseeing the military operations that destroy these murderous monsters.

There is nothing this president can do that will ever earn him an encouraging word from the elites who so blindly hate him. So why should he even try? He's drawing verbal fire because he didn't inform Congress first; again, why would he? They would leak it immediately, and The New York Times would be announcing the news instead of the president.

I, for one, am focusing on results. Al-Baghdadi is dead, and that makes the world a better place today.

As I'm sure an overwhelming majority of Americans do, I join President Trump in thanking our "soldiers and sailors, airmen, and Marines," along with their commanders, for this crucial accomplishment. They are, as the president stated, "the very best."

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Founding Truths

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.
 ~ John Adams

Attorney General William Barr gave what I think is one of this century's most important American speeches at the University of Notre Dame last week. The full text of his address is linked here, from the Department of Justice website. I think every American should read every word of it.

The left-wing reaction to Barr's honesty is telling. The vicious, vituperative nature of the outrage against him is to be expected, but it is also indicative of a deep fear--a terror, even--of the truth. Rather than tearing Barr down with their slanderous insults, secular elites are calling attention to their own moral bankruptcy. It's not a pretty sight. Paul Krugman's sneering column is but one example of Barr's critics completely missing the point.

Barr is not promoting any specific religion, but rather the need for a "system of values" in which we are self-governing. "Moral values must rest on authority independent of men’s will," states William Barr. Translation: God's laws should rule human behavior. The secular left goes out of its collective mind at the slightest suggestion of God's authority. A fact that was so obvious to our nation's Founders is woefully unapparent to our woke progressives today.

Leaving criticism aside, Barr's remarks are also receiving their fair share of praise, as well they should. Townhall's Terry Jeffrey calls the speech a touchdown; I like to describe it as a grand slam.

In his address, Barr quotes James Madison: "We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves." As he expressed Madison's concept:
This is really what was meant by “self-government.” It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislative body. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.

Here Barr reminds us of our nation's founding as a "great experiment" in self government--not merely as a political structure, but as a personal way of life. This is what the Founders believed would allow the country to succeed; it is this belief that has powered the building of the unique nation we are fortunate enough to have.

The great American experiment was a huge gamble by the Founders, and the entire game is at stake today. Are We the People still up to the challenge of self government? Or has our U.S. Constitution become "wholly inadequate" to the people we are now, as John Adams warned it could? Values, virtue, and time will tell.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Worst Lessons

I've been traveling during the past week or so. When I'm on and off planes, I like to bring my Kindle along. An e-reader is unbeatably easy to pack, and there are no worries about a hard copy book suffering bent pages or ripped covers.

There are several unread books queued up in my Kindle, for I still prefer to hold a book in my hands, turn pages, and measure my progress with a bookmark. (I also prefer to avoid having my reading habits tracked and recorded by some unknown scribe of the cyberworld.) But when I'm on an airplane and on the move, I catch up on Kindle reading.

In light of current political events, I decided to read a book about President Obama. It's titled The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama, co-authored by Matt Margolis and Mark Noonan. I was never a fan of our 45th president, but as most conservatives did, I suffered through his two terms with fatalistic resignation. I accepted that he was president, and that his presidency would end in due time; I hoped the country would survive relatively intact until it did.

I'm not sure that the country did survive intact. In reading The Worst President, seeing all of Obama's transgressions against the rule of law and the Constitution laid out in stark sequence, I was left incredulous at the flagrant offenses he got away with so easily. The compliant left-wing media didn't challenge him, and the Republicans didn't have enough stomach to sustain any confrontation. Obama's opponents were punished, national institutions were weaponized against citizens who disagreed with him, due process was often ignored. Today, look where we are.

If President Trump had committed even one of Obama's numerous executive overreaches, he would've been impeached immediately. In fairness, take just one situation--Obama's hot mike moment with the Russian president: "After my election I have more flexibility." Can you imagine the political elite's reaction if President Trump had said that? Can you imagine their reaction if it had been Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, who had gotten a political leader fired in exchange for financial aid (and to benefit his son) and then bragged about it on videotape? Of course you can; we're living through their reaction to far less.

The Worst President in History is a depressing read, but it's an important one. Barack Obama's presidency was historic for many reasons, perhaps none so significant as the instigation and fomenting of ever-rising levels of intolerance in our national discourse. Obama found ways to divide us whenever he could. Americans used to be able to argue and debate politics in a respectful manner; that ability is largely absent now. I, for one, blame the person that I agree is the worst president in our history: Barack Hussein Obama.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Sobering Facts

When political events become this murky and convoluted, Victor Davis Hanson is my go-to source for sorting out the facts. Hanson's "Impeachment Coup Analytics" confronts the disturbing reality that the goal of impeaching Trump is not justice in government, but Democratic victory at the polls in 2020.

If current national economic conditions prevail, impeachment is the only way to prevent Donald Trump's second term.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

It's Not for Them to Say

Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good will and kind conduct more speedily changed. 
John Jay, The Federalist Papers

I'm watching with increasing incredulity as one elite after another pronounces, in one form or another, that it's time for Trump to go. Actor Robert DeNiro, that erudite expert of vocal expression, and politician Bernie Sanders, the Marxist wannabe presidential candidate, are just two examples of the flat-out "throw him out" mentality.

And we shouldn't overlook that master of improvisational theatre, Representative Adam Schiff, who has called for the president's resignation. Now that certainly would make things easier for the Trump haters, wouldn't it? The pathetic crop of Democratic (read "Socialist") candidates fuels their desperation. They are increasingly terrified that Donald Trump might--just maybe, quite possibly--win a second term.

But shouldn't that be up to the voters?

Never mind that there's a presidential election next year, in which "We the People" will have the opportunity to vote for a different president--if we so choose. No, our privileged cultural rulers have proclaimed that we don't have time to wait for such niceties as elections. According to them, their say-so should be good enough to rid the country of the rightfully elected president, the rule of law and the voters all be damned.

Where is the outrage over this planned coup d'état? The Founders are spinning in their graves.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

At Any Cost


So fearful are Dems of next year,

That Trump's second term is too near;

They can't let him win,

And so they must spin

"Impeachment" 'til he's out of here.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Weather--or Not

So apparently it's not enough to have our own puffball politicians, media talking heads, know-it-all university professors, and clueless Hollywood celebrities telling us how to live our lives. Now we also need to put up with a snot-nosed Swedish teenaged brat lecturing us about how terribly destructive we are?

I don't think so, sweet pea. You should've stopped your snarling at "This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school..."--three totally correct statements--and sailed back to your Swedish indoctrination camp.

I've been reading about the coming global apocalypse since 1970. By the way, we were all supposed to be dead by now. Yet despite our poisoned air, the doomsayers seem to be quite well and capable of complaining nonstop, often at the top of their climate-damaged lungs.

Don't take my word for it. Read "Epic Fail" in the Federalist, which will walk you through seven failed environmental predictions. Also check out ten of Al Gore's dire predictions that never happened. Yes, that Al Gore--the godfather of climate change (formerly global warming).

I don't know if it's because of the recurring idiocy surrounding us, but I'm feeling like a renegade tonight. A few mortal sins against the totalitarian climate controllers are in order. I think I'll go screw in a couple of incandescent lightbulbs (there's some contraband in the garage), then I'll let the water run while I brush my teeth. After that, I'll toss in a load of laundry during peak hours. When I'm all done running amuck, I'll drink a nightcap through a plastic straw and throw it away in the trash can--not the recycle bin.

I learned several decades before you were born, dyra barn: If you're going to go wild, go big.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Trump's Secret Weapon

President Trump was in San Diego today. There was a lot of coverage of the president's visit in local media.

One radio commentator I listen to on my evening commute had attended the president's fundraising luncheon at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. Having just been in Los Angeles, one of the stories President Trump told the luncheon guests was about the Beverly Hills voters who today all profess to despise Donald Trump. Yet Trump won a healthy chunk of Beverly Hills in the 2016 election. When Beverly Hills residents are asked how they voted in 2016, their answer usually is "none of your business."

"I got 100% of the 'none of your business' vote," joked the president. It's true, and it didn't happen only in tony Los Angeles suburbs. I know many people who will never say publicly how they voted, but I'm fairly certain they voted for President Trump. Secrecy is the hallmark of the Trump voter; that's what makes the 2020 election such a wildcard. There is simply no scientific way to project how people are going to vote.

As election season draws near, pollsters need to beware. If voters tell you that they're "thinking about it," or they "haven't decided yet," or worst of all--that "it's none of your business"--they're probably in Trump's column. That's what happened in 2016, and I suspect it will happen again.

Just why is the president coming to California? With statewide politics being the hot mess that they are today, I'm will to wager that even this bluest of blue states is in play.

Photo: San Diego Union Tribune

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Record Player Debate

"Just take those all records off the shelf
I'll sit and listen to 'em by myself"
- G. Jackson, T. Jones - sung by Bob Seger

I watched bits and pieces of the Democratic presidential debate a few nights ago--bits and pieces being the operative phrase. If there was a coherent strategy for future policy offered by any of the participants, I missed it.

But I happened to be watching when former VP Joe Biden advised parents to play "the record player" to increase children's vocabulary. Perhaps that's good advice; right there, "record player" is a term that kids today would need to learn. It could double as a history lesson, leading to a discussion of leisure listening habits in the golden days of yore.

Of course, Twitter was on fire with comments and wisecracks about Biden's unfortunate reference to the turntables of old. My laugh-out-loud moment came when I saw the tweet appearing below:

Nothing against the former vice president; how could you not like "Uncle Joe" Biden? But I think he'll have lots of time to devote to his record collection after the Democratic convention next year.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Revisiting a Favorite

I was hunting for a movie to watch last night. Is it just me, or is Netflix charging more money for less content? After about fifteen minutes of scrolling in vain to find a decent show, I retreated to the "Search" feature and looked up my favorite actor, Denzel Washington.

There it was, from 2010, one of my favorites from my favorite--The Book of Eli. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. It's the story of a lone road warrior in a post-apocalyptic world who believes he is called to preserve the Bible from extinction. The scenery is grim, the action is violent, and the story is riveting. Even knowing the ending--which, as a repeat viewer, I did--it's a fast-moving two hours.

In Hollywood's golden age, the renowned director Frank Capra cast James Stewart (another of my favorite actors) in the leading role in such classic films as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life.  I'm paraphrasing, but Capra once said in an interview that Stewart had the ability to make the viewer believe that the action was happening at that moment, on the screen.

I agree with Capra about James Stewart. For our current times, I would choose Denzel Washington as the actor most gifted with the ability to convey that rare sense of presence. A quote often attributed to screen great Spencer Tracy says it this way: "Acting is fine. Just don't get caught at it." In my opinion, Denzel Washington never does.

Monday, September 02, 2019

The End of Summer

It doesn't really matter what the calendar says or what the weather does; Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer. I've seen a lot of summers in my life, and their conclusions all share certain commonalities.

 Below are a few I always notice:
  1. The days seem to grow shorter in the fall more quickly that they grow longer in the spring.
  2. Parents are delighted at the prospect of having the kids back in school all day.
  3. Children never agree that they've had enough vacation and it's time to go back to school.
  4. Every family seems to be shopping for school supplies on the same day.
  5. Back-to-school traffic jams, with swarms of kids darting into the road from all sides, are always heart-stopping.
  6. It will be a week or so before pencils and notebooks are available on store shelves again.
  7. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas plans suddenly become topics of conversation.
  8. September is a terrific time to find extra space for your blanket at the beach.
  9. There may still be a heat wave or two, but people say it's "the fall."
  10. Everyone expresses disbelief that "this year is going by so fast."
Even in sunny Southern California, the seasons wax and wane. Bidding farewell to summer is always one of the year's most wistful moments.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Glimmer of Hope

The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.
~ Margaret Thatcher

I read about 22-year-old Morgan Zegers' new nonprofit organization, Young Americans Against Socialism, and felt that warm hopefulness that only good news can deliver.

Young Americans Against Socialism is a very good idea whose time is long past due. Americans touting the benefits of socialism have no idea what they're talking about. They were born and raised in the United States, a land of plenty, a haven of comfort, freedom, opportunities and advantages undreamed of throughout the overwhelming majority of human history. Their way has been made easy, largely by the fruits of capitalism. For the most part, they don't realize how much they are risking by flirting with the stringencies of socialism.

Young Americans Against Socialism. YAAS. Yes!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Reveling in Reading

I'm so tired of the news, aren't you? It's just downright depressing. This is summer time, we should be enjoying ourselves. So let's talk about books!

Aside from instilling in me a devotion to Christianity, the best thing my father ever did for me was teaching me to love reading. Dad was a natural teacher, and starting in my toddler years he used bedtime stories as cleverly disguised lessons. By the age of four, I was a beginning reader. As I got older, I started reading on my own before bedtime, and I've never stopped. Reading is my sanctuary, my therapy, and my continuing education.

For the past few years, I'm usually reading several books at once. I haven't read multiple books simultaneously since my college years as an English major; but, hey, I'm in my sixties now. So many books, so little time. The advent of the e-reader has facilitated this multi-reading experience; I'm usually toggling downloaded books along with hardcovers and paperbacks. It's great fun.

For decades I would read novels almost exclusively; but now, I find I'm leaning more towards non-fiction. I think this transition manifests a need to learn all I can before I begin forgetting everything I ever knew. That's just my theory. Anyway, below are a few books I've enjoyed since June:

The Last Year of the War, by Susan Meissner
This is a novel that doubles as a history lesson. It's the story of a German-American teenager whose family is sent to an internment camp during World War II. She forges a lifelong bond with a Japanese girl in the camp, and the tale unfolds around their enduring friendship. Written in the first person, the story is told with impressive historical detail and haunting poignancy.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann

This is a grim documentary of a forgotten and shameful period in early 20th century American history. The abuses and crimes that were perpetrated against the Osage people are sickening and horrific. But the author gives some very late justice by bringing the atrocities to light.

Knowing: Memoirs of a journey behind the veil and choosing joy after tragic loss, by Jeffrey Olsen

I'm a bit of a nut on near-death experiences (NDEs), and this was the most dramatic one I've found. How do you go on living after half of your family has been killed in a tragic accident? The author, armed with insights from the mysterious beyond, explains how he rebuilt his life.

This summer I've also reread a couple of books I especially love:

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Before I went to see the recently released movie, I wanted to refresh the story in my mind. It was like revisiting an old friend. (Kevin Costner sounded very much as I had imagined Enzo would.)

A Grief Observed, by C.S.Lewis

When a former coworker was recently widowed, I recommended this book to her. It was my guidebook the year my husband died. I read it several times then and reread it again last month. I doubt it's possible to read too much of C.S. Lewis.

Below are books in progress now:

The Egg and I, by Betty McDonald
I remember seeing this hardcover book in my parents' mahogany bookcase; I'm reading it on my Kindle. A lighthearted classic from the mid-20th century, it wouldn't be published today--too politically incorrect--but if you have a sense of historical perspective, it's quite enjoyable.

Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passion, Pastimes, and Politics, by Charles Krauthammer

This book groups thirty years of Krauthammer's writings into sections of what is important in life. I miss Charles Krauthammer--his calm intelligence, quiet confidence, and wry humor. This book is like bringing him back for a one-on-one visit.

Books up next ~

Knowing that I love to read, friends often loan me books. The two below are "on deck" on my nightstand:

Eve: A Novel, by Wm. Paul Young
Young is the author of The Shack, which I read when it was first published. I enjoyed it, so I'll give Eve a go.

House Rules, by Jodi Picoult

It's been quite a few years since I've read a Picoult book, but I trust my friend's "thumbs up."

With several pairs of reading glasses stashed both upstairs and downstairs, it appears I'm set for happy reading straight through Labor Day weekend. May you be so fortunate.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

More Questions than Answers

One must look both along and at everything.

~ C.S. Lewis

There is nothing to be gained by expounding upon the national horrors of this past weekend.  Too many people are doing far too much talking. There's plenty of blame, accusations, insults, hatred, and anger on the airwaves, eclipsed only by the amount of stupidity contained in the diatribes.

None of the rough words are going to accomplish anything useful to help the country find its way through to peace. Nothing I see indicates that any of the bloviators care much about the victims. The dead and wounded amount to mere, convenient fodder for various left-wing political agendas. It's a sickening situation. How did we get to this awful place?

It's very easy to blame the president--too easy. The deterioration of our culture has been in progress for quite some time, long before Donald Trump was in the White House. In all the frenzied news coverage, nobody mentions that there were twenty-four mass shootings under President Obama's watch. Why is that, I wonder? I don't mean to imply that the two dozen shootings were Obama's fault, any more than El Paso or Dayton are Trump's fault. That's too one-dimensional, too simplistic of an explanation. Something much deeper is going on in America at a fundamental level, an illness that is eroding our societal foundations.

What has brought us to this dark point in our history? Obama's 2008 election coincides roughly with the birth of the smart phone and the dramatic rise of social media. Could that be the reason? God and religion have been systematically eradicated from the public square in recent decades, and "Nones," people who don't identify with any religion, are increasing. Does that fact contribute to our cultural rot?

How about impact of the 24-hour news cycle, the fractured family structure that so many children grow up under, the lack of courtesy, respect, and community we feel for one another compared to a half century ago? What about the lack of consequences for wrongdoing in so many public schools today?

I'm fairly certain that numerous contributing factors have brought us to this sad and frightening time. I just wish I knew what they are.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Seeing Stars and Bars

I am often asked “Why do Southerners still care about the Civil War?”… Because it is unique in the American experience. Defeat was total, surrender unconditional and the land still occupied. ~ Tim Heaton

When it comes to the current controversy surrounding the Confederate battle flag, I find that I am able to understand both points of view.

By today's intolerant cultural standards, that probably makes me a racist. Nevertheless, I can see both sides of the argument.

First of all, this flag is part of our national history. I realize that the Nazi flag was part of Germany's history, also, but I'm talking about the United States at the moment. Our country fought a long and bloody internal war over two opposing ways of life. We weren't pursuing global conquest; we were tearing each other's throats out, brother against brother unto agonizing death. In fact, it was the bloodiest war in our history. The rift was entirely within our own nation--a violent, devastating family fight, so to speak. The northern states fought under the Stars and Stripes; the southern states fought under the Stars and Bars. Every soldier was an American. I can understand why those Americans whose ancestors died and/or suffered because of the Civil War (also called the War Between the States, or--popular with Southern citizens--the War of Northern Aggression) would want to commemorate that sacrifice by flying the Confederate battle flag.

And there is always the question of First Amendment rights. If "freedom of speech" includes the right to burn an American flag, why is simply displaying a Confederate flag an illegal act?

On the other hand, the economic system of the South incorporated an intrinsically evil institution--slavery--and displaying the Confederate flag affirms approval and acceptance of that evil and the centuries of human misery than resulted from it. In addition, the Confederate flag symbolizes a fractured nation, a country destructively divided against itself. Hoisting such a divisive symbol isn't a good idea, particularly in our culturally hysterical and politically hostile atmosphere.

So where do I stand? I say no, please don't fly that flag. We're all Americans, a century and a half past the end of that bitter conflict between the states. Let's put the "United" back in front of "States" and keep all of us together under one flag.

But if it means that much to someone to fly the Stars and Bars--well, theoretically, this still is a free country. Go ahead and fly your antique flag. I'll ignore you; but I wouldn't try to stop you.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Game of Numbers

There are more things in heaven and earth...than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Not everyone is into signs and omens, and that's fine. But if you're not, I'd like you to consider some statistics from the baseball game that the Houston Astros played on the night they celebrated the Apollo 11 moon mission.

It was July 22, 2019, a game observing the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11. The Astros (their name is a play on the word "astronauts," of course) wore caps emblazoned with the Apollo 11 logo. They were paying homage to Houston, their team's town and home of NASA mission control, in honor of the historic moon landing.

The setup is important; thanks for bearing with me.

On to the game stats:
  • Houston won 11-1
  • The 11th run scored during an interview with Rick Armstrong, son of Neil "first man on the moon" Armstrong
  • There were 11 men at bat during that inning
  • It was the 11th win for Houston pitcher Gerrit Cole
  • Cole struck out 11 batters
  • Yordan Alvarez hit his 11th home run
If the recurring numbers in the statistics are all coincidences, then the moon is made of green cheese. Probably 11 gazillion pounds of it.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Yearning for the Moon

We ran as if to meet the moon.

~ Robert Frost

"We came in peace for all mankind."
Fifty years ago today, I sat in my parents’ living room just before 11:00PM Eastern time, watching breathlessly as Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module’s ladder and into history. I remember it like it happened last night.

For anyone old enough to remember living through them, the 1960s were a fraught and fractured decade. In many ways, that time was more perilous than today’s political polarization. The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the Western world stoked the fear of nuclear war. The Vietnam conflict raged and grew more bloody and controversial, inciting a bitter and passionate anti-war movement that divided and demoralized the entire country. Between the fall of 1963 and the spring of 1968, three national leaders, all full of hope and a promise of better tomorrows--President John F. Kennedy, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy--were all brutally assassinated, shot down in their prime.

The Civil Rights movement caused terrible social unrest, violence, and many deaths. In 1965, the lingering curse of racial strive erupted in destructive riots in Watts, a Los Angeles neighborhood.. Race riots continued in Detroit in 1967, and in many U.S. cities throughout the decade.

In 1968, almost exactly one year before the moon landing, there were violent riots in the streets at Chicago’s Democratic presidential convention protesting the Vietnam war. Demonstrators, as well as news reporters and doctors who had come to assist, were beaten and gassed by police. In the 1960s, it seemed as though America would never be at peace, either at home or abroad.

Throughout this turbulent decade, 1960-1969, one shining silver thread ran its unifying way throughout the dark tapestry of domestic angst and upheaval: the NASA space programs. The initial Mercury program was proof of concept that we could put astronauts into space and orbit around the earth and see them successfully return. The Gemini program, with its dramatic “space walks,” followed as practice and preparation for astronauts who would actually visit the moon. The Apollo program had the actual moon landing as its mission; it was not without its tragedies. But the U.S. persevered in its mission; that's what Americans do. The vast majority of Americans in the 1960s, despite all their dramatic differences of opinion, were enthusiastic supporters of the space program. It seemed to be our national candle in the darkness, a light we could all see and focus on together.

It was in 1961 that President Kennedy had pledged to put an American on the moon by 1970. It happened. Americans reached for the moon, and we touched it. It is an enduring achievement of which every American should be immensely proud.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Mad Days of Summer

I've noticed a theme in the news this summer; have you? It seems everyone's angry.

A lot of people--most of whom have a lot to be happy about, if they only would stop to think about it--are wasting a great deal of time and energy in this supposedly carefree season being absolutely furious. Joe "Come on, man" Biden is angry at Kamala Harris over the debate smack-down. The foul-mouthed, spoiled brat soccer star Megan Rapinoe is angry at President Trump for daring to invite the team to the White House. Rep. Ilhan Omar is angry at Tucker Carlson of Fox News, and Carlson is angry right back at her. The ever-entertaining Alexandria "AOC" Ocasio-Cortez is angry at Nancy Pelosi, who in turn is fed up with AOC's nonsense. It's all very tiring.

Of course, the word "racist" comes up in just about every story. Didn't the media/politicians/elites/celebrities get the memo yet? Americans are over and done with this played-out old platitude. Most of us aren't racists. We know it, we know the media knows it, and we're sick of it being trotted out with almost every headline.

It's July, for corn's sake. Summer's finally here. Take a swim in the pool. Go to the beach. Ride your bike. Do some yardwork. Sit out on your patio. Visit with friends. Have a barbecue. Eat some peaches. And by all means, turn off the news.

A special note to disgruntled politicians, outraged reporters, and offended sports stars--you should take some time to count your money. Who knows? That might cheer you up. And please, all you steaming summer malcontents, try to simmer down. If you don't, it's going to be a long, weary haul until Labor Day.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Celebrating Old Glory

The first flag of the United States of America

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Our Flag since 1959 - Long may she wave.

Monday, July 01, 2019

A Thankless Job

A couple of posts back, I commented on how President Trump can never do anything correctly as far as Democrats, the legacy media, and various other elites are concerned. He is bad news no matter what he does, and reactions from the left to his response to Iran and his overtures to North Korea are further proof that Trump can't win.

In the Iran situation, he called off an air strike minutes before it began because he decided that the human cost was too great. The president thought that one hundred and fifty dead Iranians was not "proportional" to what Tucker Carlson of Fox News called "a broken robot." So much for the warmongering, wild-eyed maniac in the White House that is "temperamentally unfit" to be president.

Of course, now the chorus of critics claims he's indecisive, he's playing a dangerous game, he's giving mixed signals. Call me crazy, but I find the signal very clear--if you kill Americans, Iran, the next time will be different. But then, nobody asked me.

With North Korea, this president is breaking ground that was unfathomable even three years ago. We don't know if it's going to pay off, but there have been remarkable strides. Trump got them to the bargaining table; North and South Korea leaders are now talking to each other; and this past weekend, Donald Trump became the first sitting American president to step foot in North Korea. I find the newly minted breaks in the North Korean logjam under this president to be especially impressive. Democrats and media talking heads are not impressed, though. Because he actually seems to be making measurable progress with North Korea, the verdict from the lefties is in: Trump admires authoritarian dictators.

It's all very wearying. It must take a great deal of energy to constantly recast every presidential action as a doomsday event. It's time and energy that could be better spent getting the country back on track with infrastructure bills, a decent budget, immigration and healthcare reforms, focus on the opioid crisis, among other national priorities.

But listen to me, wishing that politicians would actually do their jobs. It's like waiting for the Democrats and/or the media to say "good job" to the president.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Pathetic, in Any Language

"All in all, Democrats spent far more time talking about how they would help illegal immigrants than about how they would help the voters they most need to win over--the white working-class Obama voters who pulled the lever for Trump in 2016."
- John Podhoretz

¿Viste el debate? No, yo tampoco. Oh, excuse me...what I meant to say was, did you watch the debates? No, me neither.

And I'm glad I didn't, because snips of it were trapped in a continuous do-loop of sound bites all the live-long day. Immigration seems to have been a big theme, with several candidates breaking into Spanish to address voters. Way to unify the country, Democrats. Pander to the illegals, not to the lawful citizens.

Do these presidential hopefuls truly believe that Americans--and I include Hispanic citizens--won't see through this condescension? You can call it patético, or you can call it pathetic, but everyone understands when they're being patronized. From what I've heard from the debate so far, I don't think President Trump has much to be concerned about when it comes to the 2020 election.

Is last night's collection of characters really the best we can do for presidential candidates? And, as if last night hadn't been painful enough, a second debate is being televised tonight. Nobody can tell me Americans aren't strong.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Iran, Iran, but I Got Nowhere

Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing. ~ Aristotle

President Trump knows better than anyone what will happen in the wake of Iran's attack on a US drone. No matter what course of action he takes after Iran's shooting down of a United States military asset over international waters, he will be criticized and condemned as a threat to national security.

If Trump takes action--any action--against Iran in retaliation for this blatant act of war, he will be blasted by Democrats and their media partners as a dangerous warmonger. If he chooses to take a wait-and-see approach with no immediate response, he will be labeled an ineffective windbag, a paper tiger whose word means nothing.

So, as usual in the current political climate, the president can't win. He never gets a moment's credit for the flourishing economy, the stock market boom, the jobs explosion, the foreign affairs accomplishments with North Korea and Mexico. You'll never hear anyone mention that he foregoes his annual salary--and I don't care how rich he is. It's his paycheck that he's giving up.

When he opens up and speaks to reporters, they use anything he says against him in the most negative context possible. The House of Representatives doesn't do a lick of work except try to destroy his presidency. His really is the loneliest job in the world.

It's true, the president causes a lot of his own problems. I could do with less of the petty drama and juvenile outbursts. But there's no doubt that I feel much better about the safety of the country than I did three years ago.

President Trump has nothing to lose. The knowledge that he will be railed against holds no fear for him. He's not a politician; he's the president. His habit is to follow whatever course of action he thinks best for the United States, often in a surprising manner. You'd think Iran would've noticed that by now.

Iran, shooting down a drone? Iran, going nowhere.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Executing a Protest

About twelve years ago, I was working in the Regulatory Affairs department at a medical devices company. The company's products were sold globally, and one of our customers was China. I had to become a notary public for this job because one of my duties was processing apostilles, the legal documents often required for international transactions.

At one point, we had a large sale pending with China, but my daily emails checking on the status weren’t being answered. My manager was constantly asking me for an update on the China order.

Finally, after about ten days, I received an email from a brand new contact in the PRC. It opened with the obligatory apology about being tardy. Then, with bone-chilling nonchalance, I was informed that recently "the minister of health was executed" and the necessary reorganization that followed had caused the delay. Moving right along, this most disturbing email of my life (so far) concluded with the statement that the signed documents were attached and a very polite "thank you." (You've got to love a happy ending.)

For a long while, I sat in stunned silence, rereading this message. "The minister of health was executed...." .That certainly explained why he was missing from the "cc" list. Just another day at the office in China.

I remembered that incident today as I watched video footage of the protestors in Hong Kong, fighting for their "rights"--which do not exist under communist Chinese rule. I admire the protestors' conviction, their courage, and their ideals, but I'm not optimistic about their success. China will win, and the protestors in Hong Kong will pay dearly--as a certain unfortunate Chinese minister of health would tell them, if he could.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

A Day Beyond Time

US Veteran Jack Gulman was 18 when he landed on Omaha Beach (AFP / G. SOUVANT)

Most of us probably have a memory in our lives that seem to stand outside of time. Whenever we think of it, the memory is fresh, vivid, and enduring. If we're fortunate, it's a good memory. We relive the details of that moment as though it is happening now. It's a life moment beyond the reach of time.

I'm sure the soldiers who survived D-Day seventy-five years ago today carry that life moment as though it occurred this morning. No doubt they have remembered it, the friends they lost, and the horrifying things they saw, every day of their lives. These fragile men in their nineties, many walking with canes or sitting in wheelchairs, were the terrified teenagers and young adults who stormed the beaches at Normandy. These soldiers, barely past childhood, by the strength of pure courage, sense of duty, and devotion to their brothers-in-arms, forced tyranny into retreat and rewrote the history of Western civilization.

There aren't many of them left, these treasured heroes. But they are indeed "the pride of our nation...the glory of our republic," as President Trump so sincerely praised them. To a man, they seem to reject the honor. Like all heroes, each one refuses the title and extends it instead to their friends who died. Yes, the fallen soldiers are heroes. But we know, all of us who have lived in freedom, comfort and prosperity because of their unimaginable sacrifices--we know the survivors are heroes, too. For they have led long lives of honor, goodness, and integrity despite their life sentence of remembering with brutal clarity that horrifying day--June 6, 1944. D-Day. A day beyond time.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

A Book for the Season

“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.”

In between Memorial Day and Flag Day, coming up June 14, or perhaps by Independence Day on July 4, there's time enough to read Sen. Tom Cotton's fascinating book, Sacred Duty: a Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery. There is so much to learn within its pages.

In a past job, I was fortunate enough to work closely with a decorated Vietnam veteran who had once served as a member of the Old Guard, the military regiment that serves at Arlington. He shared with me a very small piece of what Senator Cotton's book explores in detail. For example, in answering one of my questions, my U.S. Army veteran coworker explained how the soldiers serving at a military funeral know the exact moment to begin folding the flag in perfect unison. 

For a more brief summary of the Old Guard's duties, read Senator Cotton's recent speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan. It's packed with little-known facts about both the Old Guard and what has been fittingly called our "national shrine," Arlington National Cemetery. Both the book and the synopsis are so worth reading--and remembering.