Ask a Vet about their story

I will be forever amazed how well our country treats veterans. Anytime I’ve traveled in uniform, it becomes hard to pay for a meal. This is especially true if I’m driving in the middle of the country where there aren’t a lot of military bases. This Veterans Day will doubtlessly be no different, and I’ll get reminded again that this is a country full of great people that care.

Over this past week I had a chance to interact with some of the older veterans from WW2 and Korea. Those veterans are disappearing at an alarming rate, and it won’t be long until they are gone. After that, we’ll eventually have nobody that lived through the Cold War. That time is coming faster than we think.

These veterans have stories that bring these conflicts to life. One WW2 veteran told me about the large number of plane accidents near his hometown. It reminded me that while we increased production of everything from ships to planes, it doesn’t mean it was the greatest quality. We cranked out Liberty ships in less than a month, but more than a few brittle fractured in half due to cold weather and poor welding. Planes and other weapon systems had similar issues. There are a lot of training aircraft on the bottom of Lake Michigan due to equipment failures.

The Liberty ship S.S. Schenectady, which, in 1943, failed before leaving the shipyard. (Reprinted with permission of Earl R. Parker, Brittle Behavior of Engineering Structures, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1957.) From: https://metallurgyandmaterials.wordpress.com/2015/12/25/liberty-ship-failures/

I would encourage every non-veteran reading this to not just thank a veteran this weekend for their service, but ask them if they have 5 minutes to share a story. Our veterans can become increasingly isolated in their own little groups, and after a while your sea stories get old in the same groups of people. Having even a brief chance to hear about something they did will help bring the conflicts alive. You won’t read these stories in a book. History books capture facts and numbers well, but history is made by real people who are far too complex to capture on paper. This Veterans Day gives us a golden opportunity to remember that and carry on these stories in our minds before they are lost.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Progressive indoctrination in US schools has reached dangerous levels

It is difficult to pinpoint just when progressive indoctrination began at the college level in this country, it began slowly and under the radar at first.  What is abundantly clear today is that indoctrination has reached levels that are hazardous to our constitutional republic.  You can see just how dangerous the level of indoctrination has become from the Federalist article 4 Reasons Socialism Is More Popular Among Americans Now Than Ever Before

The supporters of socialism are not simply the young, but they’re disproportionately young people who are college-educated. The more college they have, the hotter for socialism they get. According to a 2015 poll, support for socialism grows from 48 percent among those with a high school diploma or less, to 62 percent among college graduates, to 78 percent among those with post-graduate degrees.

Those on the left probably jump immediately to the conclusion that support for socialism is just a natural outgrowth of big brains and elite educations. But there is, in fact, a less obvious but ultimately far more compelling explanation: Something — something bad — is happening at universities to pull students toward the (far) left.

We have already seen above that what’s not happening at even elite universities today is a whole lot of education in important subjects such as history. What we are getting instead is a lot of groupthink and indoctrination. Universities have always skewed a bit left. But beginning in the early to mid 1990s (for reasons I’ve explained in some detail elsewhere), ideological diversity began to vanish entirely, as the leftward deviation turned tidal.

Unfortunately the progressive indoctrination has spread down to high schools and grade schools because progressives infected teaching colleges.  The indoctrination has also been spread down to this level by teacher unions. 

Multiculturalism has always been a vehicle used to spread progressive indoctrination. Here is a particularly ridiculous example I found on Breitbart  Seattle Schools Plan Curriculum to ‘Explore’ Cultural Appropriation of Math.

The Seattle school district is putting into place a K-12 curriculum that encourages students “to explore how math has been ‘appropriated’ by Western culture and used in systems of power and oppression.”

Here is a quote from the Breitbart article that was originally from an article in Education Week

In most places, if schools offer ethnic studies at all, it’s usually in a stand-alone course in high school. But increasingly, schools and districts are starting to sprinkle ethnic studies across the K-12 spectrum. Seattle is taking a highly unusual approach by weaving the field’s multicultural and political questions not just through all grade levels, but into all subjects.

Politically correct revisionist history has been a mainstay of progressive indoctrination.  It is a particularly dangerous one because it is meant to undermine the entire foundation of our constitutional republic.  This Daily Signal article Woke History Is Making Big Inroads in America’s High Schools chronicles the spread of this revisionist history.

Two years ago, the Indiana Legislature mandated that high schools offer an ethnic studies elective. As approved by the state’s Education Department, the class teaches about the contributions of ethnic and racial groups, various cultural practices, as well as such concepts as privilege, systematic oppression, and implicit bias. And now three states—California, Oregon, and Vermont—are trying to create authoritative statewide templates that, advocates hope, will make it easier for schools to adopt ethnic studies.

The statewide California ethnic studies curriculum was proposed in June by an advisory committee, composed of ethnic studies teachers and professors, and met with public outcry that such classes are designed to recruit students into political activism, indoctrinate them with ideological jargon, and promote the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Multiculturalism may seem warm and fuzzy on the surface however it is meant to tear down one particular culture, the culture of the United States.  Here are two great Thomas Sowell Quotes which sum up this sham.

Much of what is promoted as “critical thinking” in our public schools is in fact uncritical negativism towards the history and institutions of America and an uncritical praise of the cultures of foreign countries and domestic minorities.

What “multiculturalism” boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture—and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.

It will be extremely difficult to turn the tide back on this progressive indoctrination but it is something we must do to save our constitutional republic.  Ending Common Core and all other federal intrusions, while taking local control of K-12 schools, are important steps in the process, along with completely relaxing the iron grip of teacher unions.

Baseball and Game-Playing

Boston Red Sox 2018 World Series Championship ring that I’m sure Peter likes seeing again.

by baldilocks

Yesterday, a goodly portion of the Washington Nationals visited the White House in celebration of their victory in the 2019 World Series and at least two of the players were pummeled on Twitter for openly being fans of President Trump. I’m sure the two players will console themselves with that beautiful ring they get to wear.

In contrast, there were several players who skipped the White House visit. I didn’t notice much talk about them. But, of course it was their choice to make.

It’s a safe bet, however, that the latter received a digital pat on the back from the usual suspects. We know that it’s a safe bet because we have some comparative information

[R]etired Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady turned down Obama’s invitation to come to the White House and were met with strong criticism from media.

Thomas’s decision not to visit the White House in 2012 was widely criticized. U.S. News & World Report writer Susan Milligan headlined a story on the incident that said his decision was not brave, “it was just rude.” ESPN writer Joe McDonald wrote that Thomas chose to put himself above the team through his decision not to attend.

“When the president of the United States invites you and all your teammates to the White House to honor your Stanley Cup championship, you go and represent the team,” McDonald wrote.

Emphasis mine.

Hahahahahahaha!

Of course, we know that this only applies when the president is a Democrat and it double applied in the lone case in which the president was of African descent.

And then there is a whole other category of rules for Orange Man Bad.

If I were a team owner, I’d make it mandatory (in the contract) for all players and coaches to attend a White House gathering in the wake of a championship victory – unless there’s a life or death emergency — regardless of who the president is. That or get fined/traded.

But I guess that’s why I’m just a broke blogger.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Open Skies and Comcast Cable: Both things that need to be cut

One of the Russian Open Skies Aircraft
By Oleg Belyakov – http://www.airliners.net/photo/Russia—Air/Tupolev-Tu-214ON/2007280/L/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17241781

Anytime President Trump goes to cancel a treaty, it sure causes a ruckus. Open Skies, a treaty we’ve had with Russia and 32 other countries since 2002 (although the idea traces back to 1955) that allows flights by very specific aircraft with very specific imaging equipment to fly anywhere over the countries of the signatories. It was designed as a mutual-trust building measure to help the then-Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries build trust with their NATO counterparts.

Now President Trump doesn’t see any point to it. Similar to the INF Treaty, Open Skies has outlived its usefulness, for a lot of reasons:

China is a bigger threat. Yup, China. China is absolutely loving the world created for it by the post-World War Two winners, and has benefited tremendously. Not being constrained by Open Skies, INF, START, or a host of other treaties, it remains openly belligerent to its neighbors. Dropping out of US-Russia agreements allows us to restart negotiations and add in China.

We have other surveillance. Open Skies flights are announced in advance, and both sides take steps to limit what can be observed. The actual usefulness of the flights is pretty limited. Plus, with advances in satellite technology, the flights don’t add much value unless you don’t have access to any satellite imagery. Given that you can purchase public imagery, the Open Skies treaty is increasingly becoming irrelevant.

It’s a swipe at Russia. Russia continues to behave aggressively. Ukraine? Georgia? Still missing pieces of territory. If you’re in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, you’re not exactly comfortable with this trend. This, on top of Russia’s push to legitimize tactical nuclear weapon use, makes them increasingly dangerous. Why reward that behavior?

Open Skies is like Comcast Cable. The subscription gives you so little, yet benefits the other side an awful lot. You know you can do better, but that inertia to keep it remains.

We need to cut the cord on Open Skies and all other deals until Russia stops invading its neighbors.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

A political horror story – This is what the US would be like if the Democrats win in 2020

In honor of Halloween I decided to write a truly horrific article.  This is the absolutely scariest scenario I could possibly imagine for the United States as we know it – the Democrats not only taking the White House, but also taking control of the Senate, while maintaining control of the House. 

For proof of the truly catastrophic consequences of this scenario we only need to examine the campaign promises of the Democratic presidential candidates, the Democratic party platforms, and the track record wherever Democrats and other leftists have been in control to implement their policies. 

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and other Democratic presidential candidates are pushing wealth distribution.  There are no betters examples of the devastating consequences of this tragically flawed economic policy than Venezuela and California.  History has provided everyone with numerous other examples of the economic carnage that would result from this deeply flawed idea, but that won’t stop the Democrats from implementing it here if they won control.  The entire US would rapidly be transformed economically into California, then into Venezuela. 

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have openly talked about nationalizing different private industries, and I believe others would do the same.  ObamaCare was an attempt to nationalize the entire US health industry and that was a disaster.  All industries were nationalized in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, with epically horrific results.  The same would happen here.

Nothing can strangle a business more rapidly and thoroughly than government regulation.  The Democrats would overburden US companies with so much red tape the economy would quickly sputter to a halt.

The Second Amendment would quickly be gutted if the Democrats won control.  They would not accomplish by altering the Constitution.  It is clear to everyone that they would enact extremely strict gun control through unconstitutional legislation and activist judges who would gut the Second Amendment,  Only criminals and the government would have guns making everyone vulnerable to criminals and government tyranny.  One candidate has even talked about out right gun confiscation, that won’t end well at all.

Free speech would be a thing of the past.  Political correctness would become a universal standard  of  speech.  Opposing idea would be labeled hate speech and those daring to offend would be punished. If you think this is an overstatement just look at liberal controlled college campuses and countries like Great Britain.

There would only be one religion allowed in the United States and that would be the religion of Progressivism.  That would be done in the name of enforcing the mythical wall of separation between church and state.  Beto O’Rourke has openly called for punishing churches who dare oppose the Progressive orthodoxy.  Other Democrats would do the same if given power. 

Medicare for all would become the law of the land.  The entire US healthcare system would be transformed into the British National Health Service or the VA.  American medical innovation would grind to a halt and wait times would explode.  Health care rationing would soon follow.  Socialized medicine has always resulted in tremendous suffering.

Crime would explode everywhere in the United States like it has wherever Democrats have gained control.  This is a direct result of the policies Democrats impose.

Our economy would collapse because the Democrats would impose the Green New Deal,  all in the name of combating the mythological beast known as climate change. 

There would be so many other horrific consequences of the Democrats gaining control but I think this article would become so scary it would cause nightmares if I continued to list them.  I think I’ve listed enough for now.  Happy Halloween.

Report from Louisiana: Reading

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The Louisiana Book Festival is coming up Saturday, November 2, and I’m kind of sad not to be going this year. Last year, my book had just come out and I was one of the invited speakers. It was a great experience!  This year, I’ll once again be speaking about Cammie Henry on that date, but this time in Natchitoches at an event on Creole Architecture at various locations in Natchitoches parish.

This year there are at least two Louisiana authors on the list of finalists for the National Book Award, Sarah M. Broom and Albert Woodfox, and actually both sound like books I would like to read:

Broom’s The Yellow House is a memoir named for the New Orleans East house in which she grew up. The house was destroyed after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, which is when Broom moved back to New Orleans. In the book, she discusses the impact Katrina had on her family….Woodfox’s book, Solitary, discusses his time in Angola Prison, where he joined the Black Panther Party. Woodfox and other members of the Panthers were accused of killing a white guard in 1972.

He would spend more than 40 years in solitary confinement before his eventual release in February 2016, and the book details the harrowing conditions he experienced.

Non-fiction is usually by go-to when I’m looking for something to read, but honestly, I go in spurts. I’m reading The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town, now, and I also have a fiction stack.  I’m reading my way through Tana French’s oeuvre; I read The Witch Elm earlier in the year, loved it, and have now backtracked to read everything else she’s done. I love a good mystery and she always keeps me guessing.

My stack of books to-be-read is ridiculous.  It reminds me of this article I read in The New Yorker this week about online shopping v. brick-and-mortar shopping; the author was debating the idea of bookstores charging an entrance fee (absurd!), but in discussing his own reading habits, he said,

When I’m out in the world, having a stroll in a city or town, it’s difficult for me to pass a bookstore without at least having a browse. Never mind that I probably own more unread books than I could ever possibly read in a lifetime. Somehow, deep down, I think I believe that I will live long enough to read them and everything else, eventually. Books make me feel immortal, and I want more of them, always.

I can totally relate to this sentiment.

I am nearing retirement in a couple of years and everyone says, “Oh, but what will you DO!?”

I will read, of course, and I will write more books.  What else?!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and Her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

This Likely Means Nothing for Election 2020

But my wife and I met another couple for an early dinner at Grandfanally’s Pizza in Salem NH.

Both of us came from Massachusetts from very different routes and noticed something.

Even though there are 13 democrats still running for president the only signs they saw in their drive were for were for Tulsi Gabbard.

I passed through Nashua on the way to the place and saw five signs, four were for Gabbard and one was for Bill Weld.

Make of that what you will.

Breaking the SCIF phones

What all phones should look like after a SCIF visit.

If you’ve never heard of a SCIF before this past week, you probably don’t work in government. SCIFs are Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities. If you want to read or work on a document that is classified Top Secret, you work in a SCIF. As you can see from a released set of specifications, SCIFs are fairly intensively constructed. Floors and ceilings are solid, wires are in buried conduits checked by the NSA’s TEMPEST program, and access is tightly controlled.

It’s not surprising that when Republican lawmakers go into the SCIF with cell phones, it causes alarm. And it should. Photography equipment isn’t allowed, nor is anything that can conduct two-way communication. Already you have people calling for removal of clearances. But is that appropriate?

In short, no. Congressional Representatives and Senators get access to classified information based on their position. While they are required to take an oath of secrecy, they don’t have to go through the SF86 process. By electing them to their office, the people of the United States (whether they realize it or not) have declared their comfort with that individual having access to classified access.

While some very sensitive information is only released to certain individuals, its pretty small. A Congressman visited a site I worked at before and had access to everything. Now, his staff members did not, and I had to keep them out of certain briefings, but the Congressman himself was good.

In short though, you can’t take away access, unless you kick them out of office.

However, there should be consequences for violating rules. All the Armed Services have harsh and effective ways of dealing with this. Cell phones brought into a SCIF are normally sent to NCIS to be scanned. With people having most of their lives on a phone, losing it for a week while NCIS painstakingly goes through every image and file tends to be good persuasion. The Marines in Iraq, in response to people plugging their personal devices into classified computers, simply confiscated the devices and nailed them to a wooden board outside the SCIF. After walking by a board with iPhones and tablets nailed and screwed to the wall, you get the message quickly.

Confiscate and scan some phones, and put a policy in place that repeat offenders lose their devices. After a few of those, you won’t have idiots bringing phones into a SCIF.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. The author kindly reminds you to keep your damn phone out of the SCIF!

Senator Warren’s Wealth Tax Plan would be hazardous to the US economy

During the last presidential debate Senator Elizabeth Warren talked about her plan to punish those who are the most success in this country.  Of course she did not use the word punish, preferring to use one of the usual progressive platitudes.  I’m sure you can guess which one in a microsecond.  Warren is not the only democratic presidential candidate pushing a wealth confiscation scheme, at least two others are.

This type of wealth confiscation has been tried in several states and a great many countries with the same disastrous results.  The Mises Institute article The Problem with Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth-Tax Plan discusses Senator Warren’s plan in great detail.   

The central argument of Warren’s the wealth-tax proposal is this: through a progressive wealth tax system — which means those with more wealth will pay higher tax rates — the wealthiest people in America will pay their “fair share” and that fair share will enable the equal redistribution of wealth.

As you can see from the first component of her proposal, this is not just a tax increases of 2 percent on income, this is a tax on assets and wealth.  Components two and three prove that this is just the beginning,

First, households would pay an annual 2 percent tax on all assets for net worth equal or less than $50 million. Individuals and families who are worth more than a $1 billion would pay a 3 percent tax . Second, the Warren forecasts a revenue of $2.75 trillion, and that would be allocated in the creation of new government programs such as universal child care for every child age zero to five; universal pre-k for every three- and four-year-old; student-loan forgiveness; free tuition and fees for all public technical schools, two-year colleges and four-year colleges. Third, the Warren proposal aims to heavily tax corporations so that they would pay their so-called “fair share.”

The proposed 2 percent tax on the wealthy will only fund a tiny fraction of those new programs and there is no mention of the flagship progressive pipe dream, Medicare for All.  A massive amount of federal bureaucracy and regulation will be needed to ensure corporations pay their fair share.  This is discussed in the next quote.

The first consequence will be the significant expansion of federal authority over the economy. Even if, in theory, the Warren wealth-tax plan targets only the super wealthy at first, this does not mean that the middle-class is exempted from a potential rise in income tax. For Elizabeth Warren to fund all the programs that she wants to implement, taxing the billionaires — even at a very high level — won’t be enough. The middle-class will eventually be forced to contribute to the funding of these programs, which means that the plan, instead of alleviating the wealth gap, will reduce the purchasing power of the middle-class. This means that ordinary citizens will have a hard time saving for their retirement or to invest in business ventures. Moreover, the plan gives the federal government more extensive power and authority over the allocation of resources and the economy as a whole.

How bad will results of the plan be?  Check out the next quote.

As a result, federal agencies will have far greater control over how resources will be allocated and invested throughout the broader economy. Yet, experience suggests government allocates resources inadequately and inefficiently, while distorting markets, and leading to bubbles and malinvestments.

The second consequence will be a great decrease in productivity for the economy overall. Indeed, those who already own large amounts of assets often own those assets because they have managed to put them to good use expanding the economy and increasing employment.  The wealth tax, meanwhile, is built on the premise that government agents can convert that wealth into cash payments, and that the government knows better how to distribute it. 

Mass exoduses of those who produce always occur when these wealth redistribution schemes are  implemented which result in a large scale decrease in wealth and standard of living.  This will happen here because:

The Warren wealth tax plan may confiscate the material wealth of wealthy persons and families. But those same people can take their know-how and move elsewhere. The impact on American productivity would not be positive.

At first the negative consequences of Senator Warren’s plan may only affect the wealthy.  This won’t last long.  Very quickly the negative effects will spread down to the middle class.  This conclusion was reached by the author of the Mises article.

Senator Warren’s wealth tax plan, despite the well-intended programs that it will generate; will end up as merely a tool to increase the power of Washington policymakers. Over time, taxes will creep down the income scale as the income tax did, eventually hiking the tax burden for the middle class, while also cutting productivity which will drive down wages and wealth for everyone.

Very rapidly the negative consequences of the Warren wealth confiscation plan will ripple through the economy, eventually turning into a tidal wave of destruction.  This has happened wherever this type of plan has been implemented.

More on the Hollowing Out of California

by baldilocks

One of my favorite writer quirks is term coinage.

Years ago. I made up the term “Coconut Treatment, ” but it never caught on; something I chalk up to my sometimes twisted way of applying metaphors to real-world things. Most of the time, I’m able to walk others along in exploration of my mental picture, but not always.

However, the term applies perfectly – at least to me – to what has been perpetrated upon California. To wit:

Take a coconut, slice it in half, scoop out the meat from both halves and toss the meat—the substance–into the garbage disposal. Then take a pile of dog manure that Fido deposited into your yard, fill both halves of the coconut shells with it and glue the halves back together. What do you have now?

A “coconut.”

Good and sweet things driven out, bad and smelly things in.

Here’s another weapon in the Coconut Treatment of California.

When I was a kid, a television show called Supermarket Sweep featured teams of middle Americans bolting through grocery store aisles and filling their carts with food, household products, and pet supplies. The show’s premise was that, for two minutes, the rule of law—in this case, the law against shoplifting—would be suspended. The team with the largest haul could take home their bounty of groceries, win prizes, and compete for the championship.

Today, in some West Coast cities, the Supermarket Sweep isn’t a game show—it’s a dark reality, fueled by addiction, crime, and bad public policy. From Seattle to Los Angeles, a “shoplifting boom” is hitting major retailers, which deal with thousands of thefts, drug overdoses, and assaults each year. Since 2010, thefts increased by 22 percent in Portland, 50 percent in San Francisco, and 61 percent in Los Angeles. In total, California, Oregon, and Washington reported 864,326 thefts to the FBI last year. The real figure is likely much higher, as many retailers have stopped reporting most shoplifting incidents to police.

Drug addiction is driving this shoplifting boom. In recent years, West Coast cities have witnessed an explosion in addiction rates for heroin, fentanyl, and meth; property crime helps feed the habit. According to federal data, adults with substance-abuse disorders make up just 2.6 percent of the total population but 72 percent of all jail inmates sentenced for property crimes. Addicts are 29 times more likely to commit property crimes than the average American. Furthermore, as the Bureau of Justice Statistics found, “[39 percent of jail inmates] held for property offenses said they committed the crime for money for drugs”—the most common single motivation for crime throughout the justice system. (…)

[T]he shoplifting boom has only accelerated because of decriminalization. California’s Proposition 47, approved by nearly 60 percent of voters statewide in 2014, reclassified many drug and property felonies as misdemeanors, effectively decriminalizing thefts of $1,000 or less.  Many criminals now believe, justifiably, that they can steal with impunity.

This is a two-pronged tactic. Remember what I said about the homeless in this state: California’s Organized Left enables their less-that-savory habits – like thievery in support of drug usage — to drive out the middle class, of which business owners are a huge subclass.

Almost every business – large and small –  in my LA neighborhood keeps personal items like deodorant, razors, soap, lotion, etc. in a locked case in order to prevent shoplifting of these items. In order to purchase an item, one must push a button to notify a clerk to come and unlock the case.

Some of these stores I don’t even bother with: not because of the case, but because I have waited up to 15 minutes for a clerk to arrive.

Who would want to own a business, especially a small one, under such conditions? Here’s what the state is shooting for: no one.

Meanwhile, I’m plotting my escape.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

Follow Juliette on FacebookTwitterMeWePatreon and Social Quodverum.

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