9/11/1981

By Christopher Harper

My 9/11 story started 20 years before the attack on the World Trade Center.

On Sept. 11, 1981, President Anwar Sadat expelled me from Egypt because I reported about his troubles with Islamic fundamentalists.

After he signed a peace treaty with Israel, Sadat faced various threats from his fellow Arabs, but the most serious one came from the mosques in Egypt.

Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, better known as the “blind sheik,” issued a fatwa against Sadat, who imprisoned about 1,500 of the sheik’s followers from a group known as Al-Jama’s al-Islamiyya, or “The Islamic Group.”

As a reporter for ABC News in Cairo, I interviewed some of Abdel-Rahman’s followers, who began widespread demonstrations after the arrests in September 1981. At a news conference shortly after that, Sadat told me, “If this were not a democracy, I would have you shot!”

The next day, I was ushered to the airport, where I boarded an Egyptian Air flight to Rome. I was the only passenger.

Less than a month later, Sadat died in an assassination carried out by Islamic fundamentalists.

The Egyptians arrested a lot of bad guys but eventually left them go free. Among the Islamists jailed after the Sadat assassination was Ayman al-Zawahiri, a confidante and colleague of the blind sheik. Together, he and Abdel-Rahman, who spent three years in Egyptian jails, spread the beliefs to the prisoners of what would become al-Qaeda.

Although many of al-Qaeda’s followers came from the war with the Soviets in Afghanistan, many more came from the prisoners held for the assassination plot against Sadat.

Al-Zawahiri received a three-year sentence for dealing in weapons and left prison in 1984. As a top leader in a key Islamist terrorist organization in Egypt, al-Zawahiri eventually joined forces with bin Laden and served as the second-in-command of al-Qaeda. He rose to head the organization when bin Laden was killed in 2011.

After Abdel-Rahman was found not guilty in the trials that accompanied the investigations into the attack on Sadat, the sheik made his way to Afghanistan, where he became a spiritual adviser to Osama bin Laden. In 1990, Abdel-Rahman set up shop at a mosque in New Jersey. There, he helped plan the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center for which he was convicted and spent the rest of his life in a U.S. prison.

I saw the 1993 attack as a significant escalation of radical Islam, and I tried to convince my bosses at ABC News to create an investigative team to look at the bombing. “Only four people died,” the executive producer of 20/20 told me. That disconnect between my analysis and that of ABC started me thinking that it was time to leave journalism, which I did a few months later.

As it turned out, the organizer of the 1993 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, was so frustrated by the mission’s failure that he became obsessed with trying again. That’s one of the reasons he chose the World Trade Center on 9/11.

I often wondered if it would have done any good if ABC had backed my desire to investigate the 1993 bombing.

So, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.” At least my little piece of the story.  

The military personnel crisis in 2023

If you thought Afghanistan was bad, wait for the military personnel cliff in 2023.

Since Afghanistan fell, there have been plenty of discussions in the military ranks of “How did we get here?” Many military members are unhappy with how the withdraw was conducted. While there are only a few that make this public, there are many more that are quietly questioning the decision making that went into this disaster.

Afghanistan though is masking a much bigger, looming threat. I’ll go out on a limb and predict it now: the military is going to face a manpower crisis in 2023 when an “unexpected” number of people leave the service.

Don’t believe me? I’ve got three darn-good reasons its going to happen.

First, it’ll be the first year that members under the blended retirement system are up for re-enlistment. If you’re not familiar with it, the old military retirement system required 20 years of service before you could draw a pension. The pension was pretty good, equal to 50% of your base pay, and it followed you for life. Yes, if you were cagey on playing the stock market or invented the next best widget to sell on Amazon, you could do better, but if that was true, you probably weren’t in the military in the first place.

That system was replaced with the “Blended Retirement System,” which sounds like a drink you order at Tropical Smoothie, except this one blended cash and your tears into a lower grade slushy that was tough to swallow. BRS, as it is called, was a 401K program that the military would provide matching contributions. This sounds awesome, except:

  • The military only had a certain number of funds you could invest in
  • The military doesn’t start matching until 5 years
  • Most military members make well below average salary in their first five years

BRS was a way to save money. It was sold to the military as “more fair,” but it was all about saving money. More importantly, the military lost a big incentive for young service members to make the military a career. Most members sign on for an initial 5 year commitment. During this time, they receive a lot of initial training and typically deploy somewhere. For enlisted personnel walking in with only a high school degree, at five years they have schooling, the equivalent of an associates degree, and work experience. It’s enough to entice many to leave for greener pastures, and many do just that.

One of the big incentives to stay was the promise of a good career with a good retirement. So imagine a service member checking their BRS balance, and seeing a pretty paltry number because they didn’t make much money to contribute. Combined with new skills and a half-way decent job market, why would they stay?

BRS went into effect in 2018. Add five years, you get 2023.

Now, not everyone is in it for the money. Plenty of people join just to leave their crappy circumstances. I remember one of my Sailors telling me he could pick between working at a gas station his whole life or joining the Navy. In terms of non-financial reasons, this ranks as a high second reason. But that reason won’t stop the 2023 dropoff, and its pretty obvious why: once you have some mobility because you have skills, money and experience, you don’t have to return to where you came. Military members that left their small town, ghetto or whatever bad place they lived in previously have choices after 5 years of service, and they’re likely going to choose to live in a better place with more job prospects.

But wait! Don’t people serve out of a sense of honor and duty? They do, my dear reader, and that brings me to my third point. The military has been sold as an honorable profession, a meritocracy where one can serve their country. That image is being shattered. We just had a disastrous loss in Afghanistan and a significant refocus on “domestic extremism” (which was questioned by many service members). We keep repeating that the military is rife with sexual assault, despite the punishment rates being better than the civilian sector (due to non-judicial punishment and lower standards of proof than regular courts). When you keep hearing and seeing these messages, you have to ask, why bother? Why join, or if you are in, why stay?

It’s disheartening to say this, but the military is on track for a sharp decline in people willing to serve in 2023. I’m sure they’ll spin it in some positive way, but for all the reasons above, its going to happen. The members that signed up in 2018 will have less reasons to stay, and when you already have attrition rates near 30% in the first 3 years for some services, you need every reason possible to keep people around. Short of a significant correction in terms of pay, benefits, career satisfaction or popularity of mission, it’s going to be an ugly 2023.

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.

Speaking of the authors views, you should buy his book “To Build A House: My Epic Saga in Custom Home Building,” available here on Amazon.

The coming extremist tsunami in the Navy

While everyone was focused on the dumpster fire that is Afghanistan, an innocuous NAVADMIN (a Naval message that relates to administrative issues) came out on the 23rd of August, subject line OPNAVINST 3100.6K. NAVADMINs are normally pretty boring. They cover policy like how you can use your GI Bill, when people get promoted, or various annual awards.

OPNAVINST 3100.6 is the instruction that covers situation reports (SITREPs). SITREPs are required reports that Navy units send when bad things happen. For example, if a Sailor is arrested for drunk driving, a unit would notify their immediate superior in command (the “ISIC”) by using a formatted message called a Navy Unit Sitrep. OPNAVINST 3100.6 gives you the exact format to send this message, which are also called OPREP-3 messages (short for Operational Report). The instruction covers more serious messages too. In those cases, units might send an OPREP-3 Navy Blue message. This message goes to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) office, as well as the ISIC and others. Incidents that require a Navy Blue are more serious or carry negative media attention, hence the need to notify the CNO lest he be surprised. A good example was when COVID-19 was first discovered, any Navy person that contracted it required an OPREP-3 Navy Blue message.

The most recent change to OPNAVINST 3100.6 is now version K and added this section:

4. MAJOR PERSONNEL INCIDENT CHANGES INCLUDE: [SRB, EXTREMIST BEHAVIORS,
BULLYING, ETC.]
4.A. ADDED PERSONNEL INCIDENT REPORTING FOR SUPREMACIST OR EXTREMIST
BEHAVIORS.

Bullying? Supremacist Activity? Extremist Activity? Yup, these all require varying forms of Navy Sitrep messages. We don’t know what level (that’s not released), so we have to guess what becomes a Unit Sitrep and what becomes a Navy Blue. At a minimum, every time we have something resembling bullying, supremacist or extremist activity, a message must be sent out.

This becomes a tsunami of messages when we define extremist groups as:

– an organization that espouses supremacist causes;
– attempts to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex (including gender identity), sexual orientation or religion;
– advocates using force or violence;
– or otherwise engages in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.

Navy Discussion Guide on Extremism

So, if a Navy member participates in an Antifa protest, do we label him as an extremist? They certainly “advocate for the use of violence.”

What about Black Panthers?

A Black Panther Party member brings a shotgun into the state Capitol, May 2, 1967. He was one of two dozen armed Panthers who entered the building. (Photo: Walt Zeboski/Associated Press)

What if someone accuses Republicans of “depriving them of civil rights” (like we’re seeing with the voter registration issues)?

Vox headline

Is being a Catholic extremist because they won’t give Communion to someone that is openly living a homosexual lifestyle?

The problem with this broad definition is that it is broad and goal posts move all the time. People used to argue that homosexual unions would never impact Christians, until Christian bakers were sued for not making wedding cakes. Or the goal post moves the other way, and protests that burned down homes and businesses become “mostly peaceful,” and obviously didn’t incite any violence whatsoever. BTW, it’s been illegal to be in extremist groups since 1990, and people do get kicked out for racism (watch episode four of the PBS series Carrier for an example).

Besides, didn’t we make service members sit through training for this that covered:

Speech that incites violence or criminal activity that threatens to undermine our government and Constitution is not protected by the First Amendment.

and Vandalizing government property and storming a police barrier is not an exercise of First Amendment
rights.

Extremists don’t have a place in our Navy, but when we make the definition really broad, soon we’re all going to get painted as extremists. When that happens (and its a when now, not an if), why would you want to join the Navy? Remember that the Navy is constantly bringing in new people, to the tune of around 40,000 every year. People sign up for a variety of reasons, but one big assumption is the fairness and meritocratic environment that the Navy claims to have. When you remove that, or even appear to do so, it removes a large incentive to join. It’s already hard enough to get people to join, especially if you want people with high technical skills. I fear that this change is going to drive people to leave after a first enlistment and not bother staying around, if for no other reason then the worry they’ll be labeled as a bully or extremist.

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.

Unfiltered Afghan Trips, Moderates vs Progressives, Masks in MA, Goose and Ganders at SCOTUS & Harris shows the side she’s on Under the Fedora

Rep Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Rep Peter Meijer (R-MI) took a secret trip to Afghanistan to see for themselves the situation on the ground. This has gotten the Army, the Administration and the State Department’s knickers in an uproar. I can see why. Given the degree of the failure of the Biden Administration the last thing they want is for congress to have a clear idea of what is going out unfiltered by the administration.


There is a lot of talk about the clash between “moderates’ and “progressives” in the House over the hold up on the infrastructure and budget bills that the Biden Administration has been desperate to get passed.

The clash is not so much between “moderates” and progressives as it is between Democrats who don’t have to worry about being re-elected and Democrats who do and with the Biden Administration debacle in Afghanistan it’s going to be a lot harder to press those Democrats who aren’t anxious to be identified with the administration.


Charlie Baker through his education commissioner has reinstated a Mask mandate for schools at least until October. Charlie has made a few wrong turns on this but has generally been sane, but with an election coming up next year in a state that’s as blue as it comes I guess he’s not willing to make any fights that he doesn’t have to.

It was be nice if we had a Redder and more Trump like governor, but until we focus on educating the public in this state Mr. Baker is likely the best we can do.


The Supreme Court rejected the Biden Administration attempt to block a lower court can not block a lower court ruling re-instating the Trump “Return to Mexico” policy.

This is ironically the same method that was used to force the DACA policy on the Trump administration.

I think that the former ruling was a bad precedent as it makes laws without lawmaking however that’s not going to change until the left starts getting burned by it.


Finally Kamala Harris in Vietnam on the anniversary of John McCain’s death put down a wreath at a war memorial celebrating the shooting down of his airplane.

Reportedly she was warned that this was not a Memorial TO McCain but celebrating him being shot down but she reportedly overruled her advisers who warned her thus. Apparently she wanted to photo op.

I’d object but as she’s owned by people who are America’s enemies and is in fact on their side I’d just as soon she not pretend otherwise.

What does the White House staff and the media know about Biden’s cognitive decline?

Connie Mack in 1938. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

By John Ruberry

The United States’ worst week in my lifetime was the prior one. 9/11 was a horrific tragedy but after that attack Americans were united in a way, albeit briefly, that it probably hasn’t been since World War II and sadly, we probably won’t see such unity again.

While our leaving South Vietnam in 1975 after years of fighting there was a major blow to our psyche–the South Vietnamese military still hung on for over two years after America’s combat role ended. 

Afghanistan fell to our enemy, the Taliban, last week, nearly a month before President Joe Biden’s withdrawal date, September 11–which was later changed to August 31. Americans, friendly Afghans, and our allies who want to leave Afghanistan are unable get to the Kabul Airport. And people at the airport are being killed by the Taliban.

The Soviet puppet state in Afghanistan managed to maintain power for three years after the USSR returned home.

The situation in Afghanistan is so awful that the mainstream media, CNN and the New York Times for instance, have slowly turned again Biden. They’re not as hostile as they were with Donald J. Trump. but it’s a start. I suspect they are holding Biden accountable only to protect what remaining credibility they have with the ten-percent of Americans who whole-heartedly believe their spin and lies.  

When Biden began his third presidential run two years ago something was very evident. Let’s just say the spin was off of his fastball, that it appeared that “Good ole Joe” wasn’t “all there” anymore, even as he squinted at his teleprompter reading remarks written by someone else. 

I’ll be returning to baseball a bit later.

Last week Biden, or more likely the president’s protectors among his family and this staff, chose the most sympathetic interviewer they know, former Bill Clinton senior staffer–and donor to the tainted Clinton Foundation–ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, to give the president the opportunity to explain why the Afghanistan defeat is not a debacle.

Notice that I didn’t call Stephanopoulos a journalist.

Even Biden’s dwindling number of apologists admit the ABC interview went poorly for him..

But the worst part of the ABC interview ended up on the cutting room floor, as Tucker Carlson pointed out on his show. When Stephanopolous questioned the chaotic nature of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden replied.

Look, that’s like askin’ my deceased son Beau, who spent six months in Kosovo and a year in Iraq as a Navy captain and then major– I mean, as an Army major. And, you know, I’m sure h– he had regrets comin’ out of Afganista– I mean, out of Iraq.

Amazing. Biden can’t immediately keep straight where his son served and with which branch. Beau Biden never served in Kosovo or Afghanistan. And Beau was in the Army. Not the Navy. Had Trump expressed such confusion some Democratic blowhard, probably Sen. Chuck Schumer, would be calling for the president to take a mental acuity test and suggest enacting the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. 

What else is on the cutting room floor of other Biden interviews, both as a candidate running from inside his “basement bunker” or as president? As a resident of the White House there isn’t much Biden material to work with. Since being sworn in as president Biden conducted only nine sit-down interviews. At the same point in their presidencies Barack Obama had done 113 and Trump 50. Someone is afraid of the media, a media that until this month was quite friendly to Biden.

In the sad later years of Connie Mack’s unprecedented 50-year tenure as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, he often couldn’t remember the names of his current players but he’d call for substitutions with players who hadn’t played for the A’s in decades. Imagine Chicago White Sox manager Tony LaRussa, who used to manage the Athletics, calling for pinch hitting Jose Abreu with Mark McGwire.

Are there moments like that with Biden? Does the media know? Do they have videotape of it? Stephanopolous of course has the recording of Biden confusing his son’s miltary service. What about prior Stephanopolous interviews of Biden? Those should be made public in their entirety immediately by ABC News.

Mack owned the Athletics so firing him was problematic–but he was eventually forced out by his sons in 1950 when he was 87.

If we have not just a confused but also a senile man as president then removing him from office is the duty of Congress. And the rest of media, if they have evidence of Biden’s cognitive decline, then they need to cough it up now.

And that goes for Biden’s staff as well. When Mack made his non-sensical calls as manager of the Athletics, his coaches would calmly overrule “the Grand Old Man of Baseball.” Is Biden’s staff stepping in and overruling their old man?

Who is in charge? Or as Chris Wallace this morning asked of Biden’s secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, “Does the president not know what’s going on?” Note how Blinken doesn’t answer Wallace’s question in this clip.

Mack ran the Athletics into the ground after many great years at the helm, leading his team to nine American League pennants. Biden never had any great years. Mack’s A’s were just a baseball team. America of course is so much more–not just here at home but to the rest of the world.

Afghanistan is not the only failure of the Biden presidency. There is the border crisis and his inconsistent policy on COVID-19. Are these flops the work of a man who is mentally adrift?

And has Biden’s open borders policy with Mexico made the COVID resurgence worse? Failure seems to be piling upon failure–and we are just seven months into Biden’s term.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Give all of our allies the bomb

The explosion from Operation Canopus, France’s first hydrogen bomb

There are only a handful of nations that possess the ability to manufacture and deliver a nuclear weapon. The US, Russia, China, UK and France are all members of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which is designed to stop countries from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for using nuclear technology for peaceful ends. That hasn’t stopped countries like India, Pakistan and North Korea from developing their own weapons, and given this, its probably time to reconsider the NPT, because it might not be in the United States’ best interest to stay in this club.

The first obvious consideration is that no country that is pursuing nuclear weapons is friendly to the US. Iran continues to pursue nuclear technology despite having signed the NPT. Iran is probably receiving assistance from Russia and/or China, mainly as a way to undermine the U.S. in the Middle East. North Korea certainly hasn’t followed through on any nuclear promises. None of these are friendly to the US.

There are a number of countries that could develop nuclear as a real deterrent to real threats. Japan and Taiwan continue to be threatened by China. Both of these countries possess the people and resources to build nuclear weapons. What about South Korea? Rather than continuing to negotiate with North Korea, South Korea could easily build more nuclear weapons than North Korea ever could.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait could simply buy nuclear weapons as a defensive measure against Iran. Even better, the U.S. could develop a leasing option for weapons. Those countries could pay money for the U.S. to maintain weapons in a secure facility in the region for defensive purposes. The lease keeps the technology out of their hands while maintaining a legitimate threat of nuclear response.

Now, one might argue that this scenario is exactly what the NPT was trying to prevent. We don’t want to lower the threshold for nuclear weapon use to the point they become commonplace. But will this actually happen? India and Pakistan have still not yet exchanged nuclear weapons despite their hatred and both not having signed the NPT. I also find it hard to argue that countries like Japan and South Korea wouldn’t develop nuclear policy consistent with current U.S. policy.

The NPT worked when the countries of the world chose to follow it. Much like the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, when Russia and China continue to find ways to undermine the treaty, it doesn’t make continued sense to stay in, especially when it places our allies at risk of invasion. Dropping out of the NPT and arming our allies might be the simplest way to bring countries like Iran and North Korea to the negotiating table.

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. You can purchase my new book, To Build a House, through this link at Amazon.

-30-

By Christopher Harper

When I joined the Associated Press in Chicago, “-30-“ signaled the end of a story. Depending on the source, the designation apparently began in the Civil War as a typesetter’s code. In recent years, it has been the name of a movie starring Jack Webb and even the title of the final episode of The Wire.

After 50 years as a reporter and a journalism educator, I have decided to place a -30- on my career and hang up my green eyeshade, pica pole, and glue pot. I’ll retire on July 1, 2022.

I joined the academy after more than years in journalism at the AP; Newsweek in Chicago, Washington, and Beirut; and ABC News in Cairo, Rome, and New York.

A couple of years after I started in journalism at the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Watergate was reaching its crescendo, and I had an opportunity to do some reporting on the events that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. After that, I covered the deaths at Jonestown, Guyana, the Iran hostage crisis, three wars, numerous terrorist attacks, and several investigations into major corporations, such as Federal Express.

When I started in the academy in 1994 at New York University, the internet played virtually no role in journalism. The internet had virtually no penetration until AOL marketed its service. People reached the internet via what was called a “handshake,” a ka-chunk-chunk sound that screeched through telephone lines.

A few years later, I wrote a book that looked at the future of online journalism. Few journalism educators and working editors paid much attention to the implications of the internet, although I was able to teach some of the first classes in multimedia design and journalism at New York University, Ithaca College, and Temple University. At the latter, I helped start a journalism website in 2007, www.philadelphianeighborhoods.com, which reported on low-income and minority locales that got little positive attention in the mainstream media.

Today, however, the state of journalism and journalism education are far less rosy than in my days as a reporter and my days as a teacher.

First, most people don’t trust journalists anymore. Reporters have always been nosy sorts and not well-loved. But many people saw a role for journalists to keep tabs on government actions.

The reappearance of the partisan press, particularly during the Trump years, has left many with a negative view of what the media do.

I don’t see much journalism can do about the lack of trust. I think the only possibility is to emphasize accuracy above all else—as well as to incorporate as many voices as possible into the debate about the country’s future. Even so, the media are so badly broken that I’m not sure that any new bridges can be built between journalism and its public.

Second, the media failed to respond to the massive intrusion of the tech companies—Google, Facebook, and others—into the news business. Again, it may be too late to force these companies to pay for the news and information that should be a violation of copyright. But the media companies have failed to press their case in the courts.

Third, although some of my students have gone on to excellent careers in places like ESPN, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and various local news organizations, the number of people interested in journalism has plummeted.

When I started at Temple in 2005, more than 800 students majored in journalism. Today, that number is roughly half. I can’t say I blame students who face limited job prospects and mediocre salaries. But no one ever went into journalism to become wealthy.

Moreover, the number of educators who practiced journalism for more than a few years has been declining dramatically over the past decade or so. As a result, students learn more about social issues than storytelling.

I’m thankful of all the opportunities I’ve had to travel the world on the bank accounts of news organizations and universities and the ability to witness important events throughout the world. But as I mosey off into the sunset, I wish I could be more optimistic about the craft I plied for more than 50 years. Alas, I cannot.

We call them standards for a reason

Metal staples and indoor-grade wire. What more could you ask for?

When I first began working as an Ethernet cabling installer, I often worried that my skills weren’t “commercial grade.” It would take me a long time to snake cables through walls, install professional looking Ethernet ports, and properly hang, install, and setup a network box. I often thought to myself “I bet the professionals at Cox and Verizon do a way better job than I do.” That desire to be considered a “professional” drove me to keep improving my craft and learning something new every day.

Recently, I went to a potential clients house for a survey, and I opened up his fiber box to inspect the cabling. The Ethernet wire coming from the fiber box was haphazardly wired, and the installer stapled a non-outdoor rated cable to the bottom of the vinyl siding. Worse still, he simply drilled a hole straight through the outside wall to reach the clients living room, instead of running the wire in the crawlspace or in conduit. Sloppy work, from someone who probably considers himself a professional, and certainly from a company that should have higher standards.

Sadly, this poor installation is just a sample of low standards in industry. Journalism has suffered greatly too. My wife informed me of an article from The Catholic Virginian that talked about the recent changes to the Latin Mass. I’ve already written about these changes, and in general, I’m not a fan of what the Pope did. I also don’t read the Catholic Virginian, mainly because I find most Bishops incredibly dull and boring. Sorry for saying that out loud, but lets be really frank here: how often has your Bishop ever visited your church? I typically see his likeness once a year, during the Bishop’s Request for Funding…I mean, Annual Appeal.

Anyway, at my wife’s behest, I dug up the July 22nd article by Cindy Wooden. Now, I’m used to reading poorly written articles, but only because the Babylon Bee is making fun of them in some way. But Cindy? Her article is particularly lame. It might as well have been written by CNN. Let’s dive into this, section by section, because you probably need a good laugh for a Saturday afternoon.

Cindy starts off by quoting Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, who for the sake of fun we’re going to call “Archbishop Montoya” because it rhymes and allows me to make Princess Bride jokes. Cindy quotes Montoya, who says the Latin Mass ban “fearlessly hits the nail on the head: the TLM (Traditional Latin Mass) movement has hijacked the initiatives of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI to its own end.” Now, that quote begs some questions. What is this TLM movement? Who runs it? And what exactly has it hijacked? Well, Cindy hints at this two paragraphs later, where she writes “When St. John Paul and Pope Benedict expanded the possibility of using the pre-Vatican II Mass, they were hoping to promote unity in the Church and to counter abuses that were widespread in the celebration of the post-Vatican II Mass…”

Now, an intelligent reader would then expect to hear a discussion about why the Latin Mass somehow didn’t promote unity AND didn’t address widespread abuses in the post-Vatican II Mass. Don’t worry about that second part…we’ll never get to it, since that might unwind some of Cindy’s arguments. In the next paragraph, we get the first point: that the Latin Mass allowance was made to try and bring in the currently outcast group of former Catholics called SSPX, or Society of Saint Pius X. The article continues to quote Montoya and suggests that the Latin Mass was allowed specifically to placate members of SSPX.

But is that true? Does Archbishop Montoya keep using words that he doesn’t know the meaning of? Apparently. It’s not hard to find that Marcel Lefebvre (the founder of the SSPX movement) objected to a lot of things about the post-Vatican II church. He even said so in his “Open Letter to Confused Catholics.” This isn’t hard to find. Lefebvre was mad that there was a joint Catholic-Lutheran Commission. He was mad that kids in Catholic schools barely knew their prayers or said grace before meals. He was mad that people didn’t pray in public. And on and on.

In short, Lefebvre had a fever, and the only cure was a lot more cowbell in the form of prayer, fasting, and a return to a lot of things done in the past. I don’t particularly like the guy, but after reading what he wrote, I can at least understand his viewpoint. He makes many valid points while going a bit overboard on others. More importantly, only one of his points was the Latin Mass. So it’s really disingenuous to say that was the whole reason for having the Latin Mass around. Don’t worry though, Cindy demonstrates true journalistic integrity when she lays out the next section, titled “Betrayal of two popes’ intentions.”

Cindy provides us a link to latinmassdir.org, which, like The Catholic Virginian, was something I didn’t know existed. Thankfully for me, I followed Cindy’s link and realized my church’s information was woefully out of date! I quickly created an account and updated it, including the links to the streaming Masses, since I was the guy that set those up in the first place. Certainly can’t have false information floating around on websites, otherwise we’d wind up like some flawed CNN-like publication….anyhow, back to the article.

Cindy quotes Montoya again, stating “…the intentions of the two pontiffs who permitted the celebration of the 1962 Missal to draw traditionalists back into the unity of the Church. What the Holy Father is saying is that the TLM movement is working for objectives that are precisely contrary to what St. John Paul and Benedict XVI hoped for.” Again, this implies the “TLM movement” (whatever that is) is outside the church. So this is talking about SSPX? But by SSPX’s own words, they had a whole list of gripes. Did we solve those? Did we fix Catholic education, or the whole list of other things Lefebvre had a fever over?

Not really. So are we surprised that it didn’t work?

The article ends with this quote from Montoya: “Pope Francis is right to see in the repristination of the pre-conciliar liturgy at best a form of nostalgic dalliance with the old liturgy and at worst a perverse resistance to the renewal inspired by the Holy Spirit and solemnly confirmed in the teaching of an ecumenical council.”

Ouch. I had to lookup “dalliance” because I don’t know what Montoya meant. Dalliance means “a casual or brief romantic or sexual relationship.” Man, good thing I don’t have to explain that word to my kids!

Let me just say it: this article is trash. It’s poorly resourced and poorly written, and I say that because:

  1. It has one source (Archbishop Montoya).
  2. That source, like pretty much all sources, has a bias.
  3. It makes no attempt to bring in any counter arguments to balance the source bias.
  4. It lumps a lot of people into the same group (we have words for that behavior that end in -ist).
  5. It ignores other, similar things the Church allows.

Points 1 through 3 are pretty obvious. A good article challenges our thinking. It brings in contrary facts and demands that we sort these out in our head. I recently read an article about a man who used a sophisticated AI chatbot to “bring alive” his dead girlfriend. The article bounced between the obvious trauma someone feels when losing their loved one to the technical challenges of simulating humans to the ethical questions about whether it was right or not. In the end, the article made me cry a little and think a lot about the ethics and humanity behind it all. It brought in opposing viewpoints. It was smartly written. I’ll bet it’ll sit with me for a while.

Cindy’s article contains none of this. It’s obviously biased. It misses opportunities to ask other people for their thoughts. It certainly doesn’t challenge us to use our brains. And thus, like most of the other publications coming from the Diocese, it’ll be forgotten.

I addressed point 4 in my previous article about the Latin Mass changes. Yes, there are SSPX people out there that aren’t in Communion with the Catholic Church. And there are people in more traditional non-SSPX parishes that think Vatican II was the worst thing ever, and kids in public school have lice, and girls with skirts above their ankles are border-line prostitutes. Yup, those people exist. But there are a large number of people that just don’t want guitars and joking at Mass. They flock to the Latin Mass because its a bit more serious. More focused. More…religious? Many of these people send their kids to public school, and they don’t believe that the Illuminati took over the Vatican in the form of Pope Francis.

Lumping these people in with SSPX, which is exactly what Cindy Wooden does, is unfair, biased, and just poor journalism. It’s the racist equivalent of lumping black Africans in with black Haitians, or Japanese and Chinese people into one group and assuming they have similar backgrounds. It demonstrates low reporting standards. It’s the equivalent of a poor Cox or Verizon installation, and the editor should be ashamed for allowing it in the first place.

On point 5, the article ignores a pretty key point. The Catholic Church is mainly composed of the Latin Rite, but it has many others. There are plenty of approved deviations, including the Armenian Rite, Melkite Greek Catholic Church and others. We let these churches celebrate the same Sacraments slightly differently. Is it that hard to allow some parishes to celebrate in Latin? Wait, doesn’t the Pope celebrate Mass in Latin? Isn’t that, like, the official language of the Vatican?

I’ll end with a comparison. Marcel Lefebvre attempted to ordain priests and eventually a bishop without approval from the Pope. For these actions, on July 2nd 1988, Pope John Paul II excommunicated him, and rightly so. Ever since then, SSPX and the Catholic Church have been working to find a way to reunite. In 2019, Pope Francis reached a deal with the Chinese Communist Party to attempt to protect Catholics in China. In 2021, the CCP blocked the Pope from essentially having any say over the appointment of Catholic Bishops in China.

I ask the reader: what standards were applied?

“…hoping to promote unity in the Church…”

– Archbishop Noia

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

– Inigo Montoya

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.

Olympic overload

By Christopher Harper

For years, like many other Americans, I enjoyed the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at the Olympics.

This year, like many other Americans, I have made it a point NOT to watch any of the Olympics.

Although politics has played a role in many Olympics, particularly the Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, the antics of this year’s athletes have been over the top.

At its opening match with Sweden, the U.S. women’s soccer team knelt in protest. Not only was I happy the team lost to Sweden but ultimately got knocked off its perch by losing to Canada. I hope Subway passes on Megan Rapinoe in its next round of commercials.

American shot-putter Raven Saunders stepped off the podium during the medal ceremony, lifted her arms above her head, and formed an “X’ with her wrists.

“It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet,” she said when asked what her protest meant. It’s a rather mediocre protest when you have to explain the meaning!

Moments after Saunders’s protest, American fencer Race Imboden had a circled “X” written on his hand as he went to the podium at a different venue after the U.S. men’s foil team earned a bronze medal. That protest came after his teammates wore pink masks to embarrass a colleague accused of sexual harassment. The teammate hasn’t been formally charged and was cleared by authorities to compete in the Olympics.

I guess the notion of innocent until proven guilty doesn’t have any meaning when you’re planning protests!

I marvel at the abilities of athletes and how they do something few can. I couldn’t care less about what they think about the state of the world unless they have some overarching knowledge of international and national events.

These political statements turn me off, and it’s readily apparent that others think the same as I do. People aren’t tuning out because of time differences and multiple delivery platforms. People are turning out because Olympians should be proud to represent the United States—not preach to others about political matters they know little about.

I hope that Olympic ruling body stands by its intention to punish those who protest. But that’s likely to generate yet another protest. It’s best to convince NBC, which is likely to lose a lot of money from the poor viewership, that few people really care about the Olympics, particularly because of the growing number of protests.

For the love of all that is good, get off the cloud!!

What could possibly go wrong? From Dilbert.

For the love of everything holy, please, please, please, get your data out of the cloud.

For years now we have been sold on “cloud” technology. Everything will be in the “cloud.” We just move things to the “cloud” and it’ll be great! Cloud computing is the bestest thing ever!!!

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And in the age of advanced censorship from large media companies, really, really wrong.

The “cloud” is not a hard concept. Put data on a remote computer with a fast connection, so that as long as you have an internet connection you can access the data. On the surface, that seems like a good thing. It’s not, and especially isn’t for anyone that has even a remotely conservative opinion. Why are there problems?

  1. You don’t own your data. Cloud services can use your data for whatever they want. Simply scroll through the terms of service to prove my point.
  2. Cloud services can cancel you at any time. You lose access to your data instantly. You can’t even find the address for the place your data is being stored at, so how do you think you’ll get it back?
  3. You upload more than data. Your data, your location when you upload, the IP address you upload from, all of that goes to the cloud too.

Large media companies continue to prove they have an agenda and are 100% willing to push it. What hurt Parler the most was losing access on Amazon Web Services. AWS is huge, and a large chunk of the internet revolves around using it as a host. Having AWS simply drop a client as big as Parler was unheard of before, but its going to become the norm.

What’s the alternative? Build your own cloud.

QNAP TS-451, from QNAP

Having a network attached storage, or NAS, used to be a thing only geeky kids setup to host their Minecraft server. It used to be fairly complicated to build and maintain. Not anymore. Companies like QNAP and Synology makes NAS devices that are easy to setup, easy to use, and easy to maintain privacy. You can store your pictures, videos, e-mail and everything else without worrying what Facebook thinks of it. These devices even let you safely access them remotely. And with basic models costing as little as 139 dollars, its even a more long-term economical option.

Just like dumping social media, dumping cloud services is going to happen at some point. One must ask, do you think so-called woke companies are going to be happy just censoring social media? Can one imagine a world where problematic pictures, letters, and other electronic media stored in the cloud simply vanish one day, or the files become “corrupted” for unknown reasons? That day is coming. It’s coming soon. Anyone conservative that is foolishly leaving private data in a cloud by choice is going to feel that wrath in less than five years.

There is no good reason to store your private data on a cloud. Unless you have to use one for work, buy a NAS and move off cloud services.

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.