With all the COVID hype, you probably missed…

…the vote to kill the Hyde Amendment.

Yup, I almost missed it too.

From https://www.chausa.org/about/about/facts-statistics

Since 1973, every funding bill has contained the Hyde Amendment, which banned the use of taxpayer funding for abortions, except in a few key areas. Like most things on social media, most people haven’t actually read the amendment, so I’ve copied it here:

Sec. 506. (a) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for any abortion.

(b) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.

(c) The term “health benefits coverage” means the package of services covered by a managed care provider or organization pursuant to a contract or other arrangement.

Hyde Amendment

Sec. 507. (a) The limitations established in the preceding section shall not apply to an abortion—

(1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or


(2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.

(b) Nothing in the preceding section shall be construed as prohibiting the expenditure by a State, locality, entity, or private person of State, local, or private funds (other than a State’s or locality’s contribution of Medicaid matching funds).

(c) Nothing in the preceding section shall be construed as restricting the ability of any managed care provider from offering abortion coverage or the ability of a State or locality to contract separately with such a provider for such coverage with State funds (other than a State’s or locality’s contribution of Medicaid matching funds).

(d) (1) None of the funds made available in this Act may be made available to a Federal agency or program, or to a State or local government, if such agency, program, or government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

(2) In this subsection, the term “health care entity” includes an individual physician or other health care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.

Hyde Amendment

The Hyde Amendment is estimated to have stopped approximately 300,000 abortions a year. Given that abortion in the U.S. is likely responsible for a 10% decrease in population (calculated by comparing states that have and have not legalized abortion), repealing the Hyde Amendment will likely increase this to 12-13%. Sadly, black Americans are the hardest hit by abortions. Estimates vary, but somewhere around 40% of black pregnancies are terminated through abortion. That’s a staggering number when you think that every year, around half a million black babies are simply executed.

To put that in perspective, in 2016 there were approximately 17,000 murders in the entire U.S. Even with the jump in 2020, these numbers still don’t compare to abortion losses for just black Americans. When you lump in everyone else, we’re close to 1 million.

The good news is that abortion has been on the decline. After hitting a high in 1990, its been falling ever since, although its hard to tell because some states, including California, don’t report numbers to the CDC. This fall is attributed to everything from better education to better access to birth control. So if its declining, why expand funding? Why bother doing this when anyone that wants an abortion can easily get one?

Since its politics, I’m going to answer: money and power. Funding abortion through tax dollars gives places like Planned Parenthood a cash cow to milk. Just like transgender therapy, when the government pays for it, even if they don’t pay very well, you’re guaranteed a pay check. On the power side, given that there are over 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S., repealing the Hyde Amendment forces them to either dump Medicare or go out of business. Given that these hospitals need Medicare to care for some of the poorest Americans, its a nasty way to pin these hospitals against the wall.

Should the Hyde Amendment go away, the first thing that will happen is a surge in lawsuits on any hospital that previously did not provide abortion service. After that, you’ll continue to see most abortions still performed at places like Planned Parenthood. Just like the bakery lawsuits, none of this will result in better service or better health, because its just a power and money grab, plain and simple.

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.

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.

The Latin Mass gets trashed

Latin Mass, from American Magazine

Just in time for the weekend, the Pope banned the Latin Mass.

Wait, he did what?

The headlines in quite a few places, including Yahoo News and many Italian sources, say the Pope Francis “banned the Latin Mass.” But other sources say he “reimposed previous limits on the Mass.” So which is it? After a bit of digging, I found the actual Vatican source, an Apostolic Letter issued “motu propio” (meaning “on his own accord”) by Pope Francis called TRADITIONIS CUSTODES. So, let’s have a read!

The letter starts with the subject “On the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970.” Well, its certainly not hiding what its about. After a bit of babbling about the importance of the Bishops, the letter says that they wanted to “assess the application of the Motu Propio Summorum Pontificum three years after its publication…” The Summorum Pontificum was issued in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI and allowed and encouraged use of either the 1962 Missal or the 1970 Missal, while proclaiming that “they are two usages of the one Roman rite.” Essentially, this decree opened the door to the Latin Mass and made it more difficult for the Bishops to deny its use. So, we’re revisiting this decree.

Right after this intro we get into the meat of the letter.

Art. 1. The liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.

Traditionis Custodes

Ok, nothing much here…except there is. See, the Latin Mass normally uses the liturgical book from John Paul XXIII. While there was a debate as to whether the Latin Mass (typically called “the extraordinary form”) or the Mass said in the vernacular (also called the Norvus Ordo, or “ordinary form”) was better or the “true form,” Pope Benedict XVI essentially said that they were all equal. Not so now. The Norvus Ordo is the true form of the Roman Rite. That’s a pretty big shot across the bow, and we’re only on Article 1!

Art. 2. It belongs to the diocesan bishop, as moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the particular Church entrusted to him, [5] to regulate the liturgical celebrations of his diocese. [6] Therefore, it is his exclusive competence to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See.

Traditionis Custodes

Yup, that’s a reversal. In Summorum Pontificum, it said “In parishes where a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition stably exists, the parish priest should willingly accede to their requests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the rite of the 1962 Roman Missal.” Which pretty much said if people want the Latin Mass, they get to have it. Now the Bishop gets veto power.

Art. 3. The bishop of the diocese in which until now there exist one or more groups that celebrate according to the Missal antecedent to the reform of 1970:
§ 1. is to determine that these groups do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs;

Traditionis Custodes

So, first, now we’re simply calling the Latin Mass “antecedent to the reform of 1970.” Wow, it’s kind of harsh not even giving it a name.

At first I didn’t care too much about this section. While my family attends the Latin Mass at our local FSSP parish, I do a lot of things that draw nasty comments from traditional parishioners, such as sending my kids to public schools, allowing my girls to wear pants, and not thinking that Vatican II was horrible. I agree that the IMPLEMENTATION of Vatican II went astray in many places, but there is a huge difference between plan and execution. So, if this was used to get people to tell people to shut up and color on Vatican II, well, I’m OK with that.

But then I got to thinking, what could this be used for? And my first thought was forcing people to sign some sort of loyalty oath to the Church. The same Church that bowed to the authority of the Chinese Communist Party and allowed them to pick Bishops for China. Yeah, that Church. And that made me think, WTF? How can the same Church that kissed up to Xi Jinping turn around and beat down on good Catholics? For all their flaws, the folks attending a Latin Mass are likely trying to do the right thing. Why on Earth would we not want to encourage this? And why would anyone take steps to ostracize them?

§ 2. is to designate one or more locations where the faithful adherents of these groups may gather for the eucharistic celebration (not however in the parochial churches and without the erection of new personal parishes);

Traditionis Custodes

Read my lips, no new Churches. I mean, we lost 1,000 parishes since 1970 just in America alone, so that shouldn’t be an issue, right? We should have lots of extra real estate anyway.

§ 3. to establish at the designated locations the days on which eucharistic celebrations are permitted using the Roman Missal promulgated by Saint John XXIII in 1962. [7] In these celebrations the readings are proclaimed in the vernacular language, using translations of the Sacred Scripture approved for liturgical use by the respective Episcopal Conferences;
§ 4. to appoint a priest who, as delegate of the bishop, is entrusted with these celebrations and with the pastoral care of these groups of the faithful. This priest should be suited for this responsibility, skilled in the use of the Missale Romanum antecedent to the reform of 1970, possess a knowledge of the Latin language sufficient for a thorough comprehension of the rubrics and liturgical texts, and be animated by a lively pastoral charity and by a sense of ecclesial communion. This priest should have at heart not only the correct celebration of the liturgy, but also the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful;

Traditionis Custodes

I got no issues here. FSSP parishes already do this.

§ 5. to proceed suitably to verify that the parishes canonically erected for the benefit of these faithful are effective for their spiritual growth, and to determine whether or not to retain them;
§ 6. to take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups.

Traditionis Custodes

Ouch. So now Bishops can now say “We decide to not retain you.” That’s bureaucratic speak for “You’re fired.”

Worse still, not authorizing new groups is a great way to kill something off. There are a bunch of Latin Mass die-hards, and while they aren’t insignificant (estimates around 100,000 US people attend a Latin Mass), they aren’t huge. They are growing, or rather, were growing until this came out. Not being able to start new groups, and being able to kick out ones you don’t like, make future growth a challenge.

Art. 4. Priests ordained after the publication of the present Motu Proprio, who wish to celebrate using the Missale Romanum of 1962, should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization.

Traditionis Custodes

So now the Pope himself must approve new priests celebrating the Latin Mass? Hmmm….want to bet how many requests get denied? Maybe all of them?

Art. 5. Priests who already celebrate according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 should request from the diocesan Bishop the authorization to continue to enjoy this faculty.

Traditionis Custodes

Hmmm…want to bet there are strings attached with approval?

Art. 6. Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life, erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, fall under the competence of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies for Apostolic Life.

Art. 7. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for matters of their particular competence, exercise the authority of the Holy See with respect to the observance of these provisions.

Traditionis Custodes

This is bureaucratic shuffling that puts a thumb on, and limits the influence of, Latin Mass groups like FSSP.

Art. 8. Previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present Motu Proprio are abrogated.

Traditionis Custodes

Seems harsh. Again, its giving Bishops a big stick, a bazooka and other high end weapons against the Latin Mass.

So, the big takeaways are:

  1. The Latin Mass isn’t banned outright.
  2. The Latin Mass is pretty heavily restricted now.
  3. Every possible step was taken to prevent any spread.
  4. This seems to be motivated by a hatred of the traditional-type Catholic that questioned Vatican II.

I would compare this to being an AR-15 in President Biden’s America, where your existing presence is tolerated but every attempt is made to make it more difficult to acquire, manufacture, use and sell AR-15s in the future. Worse, some Biden crony will come to your door and ask you to sign a form saying you’re not violating the law. I’m sure that won’t come back to haunt you.

I would also like to again point out that Pope Francis is now treating Latin Mass attendees more harshly than he treated the People’s Republic of China wrecking his Church in mainland China.

Not a good move. I’d expect to see an awful lot of uproar over this. We’re already seeing places, like Arkansas, publish statements to quickly conform with Pope Francis. While the Latin Mass has increased over time, its hardly the norm in America or elsewhere, and a systematic effort to stop its spread could be effective. However, it might actually spread more because of the sudden focus on the Mass. As more people emerge out of COVID-19 isolation and (hopefully) attend Mass regularly in-person, it’ll be interesting to see what parishes they choose to seek out.

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.

Make Woke Toyota, Broke Toyota

So today’s headline: Toyota suspends donations to Republicans that questioned election results.

My response:

This will not end well.

Now, I already own two Toyota vehicles, and I like them because they drive well and just…work. I’m not boycotting Toyota anytime soon. But, I know what I am doing:

  1. I’m writing a letter to Toyota to point out their hypocrisy over this.
  2. I’m writing to my Representative (a Republican) to express my dismay.

Boycotting big corporations isn’t going to work long term, because at some point we will run out of places to do business. Instead, conservatives need to become increasingly vocal in these companies and remind them that nobody likes it when they pick sides arbitrarily. Toyota seems to think that going woke will appease the crowd.

Nope.

Going woke means going broke. If you’re a Toyota vehicle owner, you need to be really loud in your disapproval of their position. Let them know that you have choices for future vehicle purchases, and if they continue down this path, you’ll buy a Tesla instead. Plus, you can shift your car maintenance to another facility, which will deprive them of revenue in the long term. Remind them of that fact.

If you’re a stock owner, let them know your vote is now a solid ‘NO’ for anyone on the board. In fact, write a letter to each and every board member, reminding them that your vote matters. Most shareholders don’t show up for shareholder meetings, so even a tiny number of shareholders can have a decent influence on a company. Tell them that instead of selling stock, you’re going to hang onto your stock and vote them out of their office. If you’re feeling really saucy, remind them of the fact you follow voter ID laws to cast your shareholder votes, unlike some other people…

Congressmen and women need to remind large businesses that their employees are in many cases Republicans that questioned the stolen election. Looking at the Toyota USA plants, many are located in regions where Republicans win majorities. Hmmm, wouldn’t it be bad if Toyota employees and their representatives suddenly had “issues” at a plant? Maybe lots of employees should just not show up to work one day? Maybe all the kindness showed to big business when it comes to tax cuts and audits magically vaporizes?

Yes, these tactics sound scummy. I’d prefer to just leave businesses alone. But we are running out of options quickly. If conservatives don’t stand up and remind business that they have a voice too, then business will continue to toe whatever dumb line liberals draw on the ground. Boycotting is ceding ground. Do we want to be backed into a corner where we can’t use any business because we boycott everyone? That’s a loser strategy. We should instead stand our ground and remind Toyota that conservatives drive cars too.

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.

Why I hate Christian movie reviews

I love movie critics. My YouTube subscriptions include a host of movie critics like Filmento and The Critical Drinker (the last of which is not appropriate for younger viewers), and its enjoyable to watch them expertly diagnose where a movie goes right and where it flops. Their reviews and criticism help me understand the different elements of a movie, what a character arc is and really unveil the “why” behind a movie just feeling right. It’s this learning that I’m using as I write my book (more on that later), and it helps me appreciate good camera work and music while I’m watching a movie.

Movie critics are a dime a dozen, and with the expansion of “wokeness” in the movie world, it is hard to get honest assessments on movies. Plus, everyone and their brother’s soy latte barista friend is trying to sneak in elements that advance the LGBTQ+, BLM and other causes, even when it doesn’t align with the movie. Nothing says “I hate you” to your movie watchers like subverting their franchises to preach about some woke nonsense.

Well, when you get preachy with LGBTQ stuff, guess what happens? Image from rottentomatoes.com

Knowing that, you would think I would welcome the reviews of Christian and Family based movie critics. These people would warn me to the dangers of watching a movie with my kids, so that I, as a parent, wouldn’t have to explain human sexuality the poor choices people make in life to my children at an early age. Well, you would think that, and you’d be wrong. To illustrate this point, I’m going to pick two movies, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and compare their reception.

To set my credentials, I’ve watched both of these movies. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and a decent Lord of the Rings fan. And, much to everyone’s shock, I’ve let my kids, including my two year old, watch both movies. But let’s imagine I’m none of these things, and I want to get an honest review that tells me not just whether the movie is good, but if its Christian or Family Friendly enough for my kids to watch.

Let’s start with Dove.org. Dove is a label I first saw on a DVD cover for Studio Ghibli. It approved of My Neighbor Totoro, but didn’t have a rating for one of the other Ghibli Studio works. My brother-in-law made the comment “Well, maybe we shouldn’t watch it,” to which I quickly scoffed and said “When did this Dove icon become the mark of the devil.” To give Dove its due, they’ve been around a while and have done some awesome work, like bringing a family friendly movie channel to the Ronald McDonald Houses. So, let’s see what they think of my two movies

What?

What is going on here? How does a movie based on a novel written by a devout Catholic not get the “coveted” Dove rating, yet a poorly written work with plenty of woke-ism to go around gets the nod? Let’s break it down.

Rise of Skywalker (RoS) has a long integrity bar, which when I highlight it says “due to fantasy violence.” OK, there is LOTS of fantasy violence in RoS, with plenty of blaster and lightsaber deaths. But why is that not in the violence section? Oh wait, it is, but it gets downgraded to a 2 instead of a 4. The Two Towers (TTT) has violence too, with plenty of orcs and men meeting their doom at the hands of the Nazgul, random swords or even flying rocks. Yet it gets a 4. Given that swarms of people are killed in each film, this seems a bit unfair.

Dove also seems to have a huge distaste for magic. If you’re a wizard casting spells, Dove.org will give you significant thumbs down. But “the force” is totally ok, because its not wizardry in the magical world that Dove.org raters work in. Also, the lesbian kiss in RoS…totally fine, called a “girl/girl” kiss to downplay it, despite the fact that Singapore, Dubai and others are requiring deletion before the movie shows in their countries.

It’s not just Dove with which I have a bone to pick. Looking at pluggedin.com, the TTT review says “But the often dreary onslaught here may be more than some families want to endure (this is not a film for children).,” yet the RoS review states “The violence, while largely bloodless, can feel more visceral and even grisly than it did in some earlier segments (though, admittedly, even the earliest allowed our heroes to spill the ropelike guts of a tauntaun in The Empire Strikes Back).” It seems like if you choose to show blood, like TTT does, then its over, but if you hack people up with a lightsaber, that’s totally OK.

After delving into these and other websites for too long now, I think I’ve come to three main conclusions. First, you should never trust composite ratings. Dove’s blanket “seal of approval” doesn’t mean anything. Some types of violence are OK, some are not. Remember that 2 vs 4 rating? A 4 rating on anything means you don’t get a Dove seal. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Dove rater for RoS was a Star Wars fan, and wanted people to be able to take part in the movie, hence the weird classification.

Second, I’m really tired of this focus on magic. Every rating site I went to had this odd hangup on magic. If any character used magic, it was an automatic down vote. Take the Harry Potter series, which are well made movies set in a world where magic exists. Dove does NOT approve of these, and their hangup is all about magic. This point makes me wonder why. I simply explain to my kids that magic is fun in movies, but its not real. Is that really so hard to do? I can’t be the only father to do this. Sure, some kids grow up believing in stupid things like Slenderman and even acting on them. But these cases are rare. Most kids understand the difference between magic in the movies and the real world.

Which brings me to my third, and most important point. These ratings dumb us down and don’t challenge us to think. The Lord of the Rings movies are excellent movies that stay true to the book and challenge us to think about deep topics. Tolkien’s Catholic influence is very much alive in the work, but its not so over-the-top that you can’t apply it to a variety of world situations. The characters are real, have real struggles, and don’t always make the right decisions…kind of like real life. When these characters are challenged, they often have to dig deep within themselves to find the strength to fight great evil…kind of like real life. The last few Star Wars movies far pale in comparison, giving us Mary Sue characters that don’t have to struggle physically, mentally or morally, which makes them completely unrelatable to any real person.

Maybe that’s the real point. The raters at Dove, PluggedIn and others can best identify with Mary Sue characters like Rey and Captain Marvel, who don’t struggle or have to grow to overcome challenges. Maybe these raters have it all worked out, and its simply a matter of them telling us, poor uninformed Christians that we are, of what to watch. I could make several points here about how this talks down to people, or how similar this is to how the BLM or LGBTQ+~ people talk to normal human beings, but I won’t. I’ll leave you with some screen capture of Dove reviews and let you decide for yourself.

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.

This man left Facebook for 6 months. Here is his compelling story

How’s that lack of Facebook going?

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I dumped our Facebook accounts. We pulled off our pictures and then selected the “Delete Facebook” button, which is not conveniently located in the Settings menu. After a brief “cooling off” period, Facebook finally deleted our accounts.

So, now that its almost July, how has that worked out? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

The biggest downsides is there are many places that only communicate with their patrons over Facebook. My girls very Christian ballet studio is one of them, which is ironic because Facebook is becoming more and more anti-Christian everyday, and its likely just a matter of time before their Facebook page will get suspended due to “hate speech.” It seems that people forgot how to use a website, blog, email, or text messaging to communicate with their customers, and instead of these relatively private methods, instead picked an application that hates their beliefs and sells their private data.

The other big downside was losing Messenger Kids. No Facebook account, no Messenger Kids. My kids used the crap out of that to talk with their friends. Now we’re looking at Duo and Signal, but its hard because so many people can’t think of using anything but Messenger.

In the “plus and minus” column is the number of people my wife and I lost contact with. I still use LinkedIn, and I had a lot of people reach out to connect with me because I had dropped off Facebook. We’re now getting more friends texting and talking on the phone, but if anyone had only connected on Facebook, we don’t have much contact with them now.

The upsides are pretty huge though, and the first is time. I spent a LOT of time scrolling on Facebook, and with pretty much no positive gain. I couldn’t even say I was “reading the news,” knowing that Facebook was significantly filtering my feed. I now have a lot more time for other pursuits. I put in 1,700 square foot garden this year, hosted a few maskless parties, finished writing my book, and expanded many other pursuits. It’s hard to realize how bad of a time-suck Facebook is until you are removed from it for an extended period of time.

I also feel better. Facebook had become increasingly negative. Between “Orange Man Bad” and the preachy woke mob, it wasn’t free of politics and it wasn’t particularly friendly when you expressed anything remotely conservative. We had a close friend lose her mind when we pointed out that Trump, as un-Christian as he is in other matters, had a better record on abortion than most Presidents. There’s nothing untrue in that statement, and you don’t have to like Trump to agree with it, but she took it as a personal attack, and we haven’t talked this whole year. Honestly, I don’t miss it. I avoid personally attacking people, and I’m happy to debate a topic, but if you get so riled up thinking you’re woke position is 100% correct, well, I can’t help you.

The last big benefit is privacy. While there are still plenty of ways people will steal or sell my data, I’ve certainly turned off the biggest offender. At least now I have to exchange real functionality (like Google Maps) for private data. Facebook was just happy to hoover everything up and tell you to suck the big one if you didn’t like it.

Right now there are still many people that “can’t survive” a loss of Facebook. Six months later, I don’t understand that. Yes, you lose some functionality. Yes, there really isn’t a full-on replacement app. Parler, MeWe and Rumble all have aspects of Facebook, but aren’t the full package. But there have always been better ways to interact with people electronically. Facebook, for all its advertising about “bringing people together,” is happy to tear apart the fabric of society when it suits its liberal agenda. The benefits of not being there, whether its time or mental health, far outweigh the fake social interactions I had before.

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.

Open carry makes me feel safer

Image courtesy of Lucio Eastman, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There I was, running last minute errands like most of us do in Walmart. I had my two-year old son in a cart, and thankfully no masks to impede my breathing as I raced around grabbing last minute items for our weekend party. When I was satisfied that I had enough chips, salsa, sausages, and glow sticks for the six families visiting us that day, I dutifully lined up to have everything scanned.

That’s when I noticed the guy next to me with an open carry pistol. I couldn’t have felt safer.

I want to first note that it was a rather large pistol. My concealed carry pistol, a Kahr PM9, is small. It’s not even as big as my hand. I can put it in my pants pocket and you’d never notice it. Kahr ran with the “Slim is sexy” and “Thin is sexy” for their PM and P series pistols for a while. They are a great pistol if you need to get yourself out of a jam.

The authors carry pistol, from Kahr Arms
Yes, those are some beautiful guns she has there

The Walmart guys pistol was not small. It was more along the size of a 1911. He did have a nice, very sturdy holster, so it wasn’t going to fall off. The guy had a second clip on his belt as well. I was trying not to stare, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to take a picture.

What I continue to find odd is that people are frightened by this guy. I much prefer that law abiding citizens wear their pistols in the open. For starters, if you walked into Walmart thinking you’re going to shoot the place and the people full of holes, and you start seeing guys and gals walking around with guns, you might think twice about that. Even better, in the time leading up to that, you might see enough weapons every time you go out that you stop even planning such a crime. Knowing that someone could stop you right away from achieving your goals, even if you didn’t care about your own life, might be enough to make you reconsider your decisions.

But further still, if there was an actual incident, I’d rather have the open carry guy there. I don’t know how good of a shot he is with the pistol, but even if he simply shoots back at a would-be criminal, that’s enough for me. Unless you’re in the military, police or a hardened gang member, you tend to run and hide when people shoot at you. Standing up while bullets fly by you is a chilling experience that causes impulse reactions unless you have experienced it multiple times. That would easily give me enough time to leave the store with my kid.

I’m also not worried about getting accidentally shot by this guy. His holster was solid, much better than my first holster (which ironically dumped my pistol on the floor once in a Walmart checkout line…thankfully, the clerk didn’t bat an eye!). The accident rate of pistol holders seems to be dropping steadily, thanks in large part to the availability of professionally run pistol orientation classes. It was significantly harder back in the day for a new shooter to get a class on using their weapon unless they had family members already versed in shooting. Now, nearly every large gun store offers classes that teach you everything from maintenance to the laws on protecting yourself from criminals. Even young people carrying on campus have significantly lower rates of mishaps than before.

We need more open carry to make us feel, and be, safer.

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.

BrainPop is totally OK violating the law

If you’re not familiar with the education website BrainPop, then I’m guessing you don’t have any school age children. BrainPop is a website with a collection of short educational videos. It’s pretty popular in middle schools, and its had a fairly solid reputation among educators. So when my daughter said she was concerned about a BrainPop video she watched, I was a bit surprised.

So I watched the video on Jim Crow, and for the most part, it was pretty good. It discussed Plessy vs Ferguson, Truman’s desegregation of the military, the NAACP lawsuits and the events that lead up to Brown vs Board of Education. It handles the events pretty well, not sugar coating details over what is a difficult subject to discuss.

Sadly, the video fell apart for me right at the beginning and at the end. The video opens with the protagonists stuck in traffic due to a protest. But that is OK, we’re told, because the protestors are protesting for a good cause. Never mind that impeding traffic is a violation of the law, and the protestors could have easily protested without blocking traffic. But hey, its a good cause, whatever that means, and I say that because we don’t ever really know what the protestors stand for. Rather, its presented as a “protesting for more rights” sort of thing. Remember that point, its important later.

At the end of the video, we get a taste of progressive BrainPop. We’re told that all sorts of groups are protesting for their rights. What do these groups look like, you may ask?

Image capture from BrainPop Jim Crow video

My, that’s a pretty diverse set of protestors! Seems to be mostly from one side of a political aisle. But I have some questions. Why not include protestors from the pro-life movement? Why no reference to other discrimination, such as the rampant discrimination against Irish Catholics? And what exactly are immigrant rights? I thought rights belonged to citizens, or maybe I read that part of the Constitution wrong.

Apparently we forgot about this very real discrimination in American history

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. There were indications BrainPop would get a bit more, progressive, dating back to 2016. It looks like I’m not the only one to notice this either. What’s sad is that you can already see this won’t end well. Once you pick sides, or appear to do so, you immediately turn a situation into “us vs them.” When I search for LGBT on BrainPop, I get 4 results, including one for Harvey Milk, but no results for abortion, pro-life or other related terms. Is BrainPop choosing sides? It sure appears so.

I wrote the following email to my daughters teacher. My hope is that he can perhaps put some of this material into more context, and given his past record, I think there’s a chance for that. I also think many teachers aren’t aware of the creeping progressive themes in BrainPop and other educational materials that used to just focus on delivering good content instead of pushing an agenda. If your kids use BrainPop, and had to watch the Jim Crow episode, I’d encourage you to send an email like mine below.

Dear Mr. (name),
I’m a fan of open discussion about American History, both the good and the bad. My daughter Cecilia recently watched a BrainPop video on Jim Crow, and for the most part, the video was pretty accurate. I especially liked the reference to Plessy vs Ferguson, which is important to establish the proper way that the Supreme Court can correct past wrong decisions.

However, there are two disturbing points in the video I feel must be addressed. The video opens with the two protagonists stopped in traffic due to a protest. The one protagonist, a non-speaking robot, gets visibly angry at the disturbance, but the other protagonist, a young white male, tells him to calm down because the protestors have a “good reason to protest.”

This portion of the video is absurd because it overlooks key portions of the Constitution and settled law. The First Amendment of the Constitution allows the “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This right, like all rights, is subject to restrictions such as noise ordinances and safety concerns. While the Supreme Court has struck down attempts at vague restrictions, such as the attempt to shut down “annoying” protests in Coates vs City of Cincinnati, it has upheld arrests of people who engage in violent behavior and who block traffic.

To use a close to home example, there was a scheduled protest down (nearby road) in the summer of 2020. The protestors obtained a permit and had police protection during their protest. Traffic was restricted to one side of (road), which allowed for proper flow of normal and emergency vehicles during this time. This is a great example of what is supposed to happen. 

The video, however, is OK with an illegal blocking of traffic, which begs many questions. Are the protagonists OK with workers losing pay because they arrived to work late? What would they say to the loved ones of someone who died because their ambulance was stuck in unexpected traffic interruptions? What about someone who inadvertently injured a protestor because they weren’t aware of the protests because it wasn’t scheduled? These aren’t hypothetical questions, as each has happened in real life, yet the video glazes over these points like they don’t matter.

The other disturbing section was near the end, which implied that groups of different Americans needed to have “their rights” secured. It’s disturbing because it presents rights as something unequally distributed based on color, gender, sexual orientation, or a variety of other ways we can divide people into different blocks.

Rights exist for all Americans. Abolishing Jim Crow laws was done to allow black Americans to exercise their American rights. Rights aren’t given based on people’s beliefs or how active their melanocytes happen to be in their skin. Rights are given because we are people. That’s the part about “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, or in the Fourteenth Amendment, which declares “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” It’s pretty heady and exciting stuff when you think about it, and something we should be proud of, because it’s not present in many parts of the world, even today. 

When we separate rights into blocks based on arbitrary divisions of human beings, we put ourselves into an “us vs them” scenario. This implies there are winners and losers, and encourages people to fight those that don’t look like them. I can’t imagine a more cynical and cunning way you could destroy unity than this. The ending of the video encourages people to lump themselves into categories and fight for rights for “their side,” rather than fighting to ensure all Americans have the same exercise of American rights.

I apologize for the length of this email, but I think it’s important to point out where misinformation is hurting our education. We should be encouraging students to study US History, including the parts that aren’t the most flattering. But that study doesn’t mean we overlook laws, and it certainly doesn’t demand dividing us into different, competing blocks of people. We’re better than that. I hope you can provide a counter to this messaging that encourages our children to both learn from the past and create a better future for America.

From my email to our daughters teacher

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.

Russia takes Trump’s advice on the Arctic

Some major Russian features on a chart, because I didn’t know the Gulf of Ob was a thing, and you probably didn’t either

Maybe Democrats got it right. Maybe former President Trump really was a Russian puppet. If you were to compare the Arctic policy that President Trump pursued with what Russian “President-For-Life” Putin is pursuing, you would see some strong similarities.

In the Arctic regions of America, meaning Alaska, President Trump sought to overturn the former legal restrictions on utilizing resources in the region. Trump’s legal team struck down restrictions related to Pacific Walruses and began issuing drilling leases, only to have President Biden withhold those leases. Supposedly, this was done to protect the walruses, but lets be honest, its a communist plot. See, walruses were being trained by the US government to attack communists. They accidentally got released once and managed to sink a Russian vessel, which was covered up by blaming Russian vodka day drinking, something that is totally believable. When President Biden babbled on about walruses amidst his corn pop and lifeguard references, well, now you know why.

I mean, just LOOK at all the patriotism bursting from this defender of the US Constitution!! (Image from Eye on the Arctic)

On a more serious note, when we look at the Russian arctic, we see President Putin pursuing a policy that looks a lot like Trump’s policy. He’s developing Arctic infrastructure, building a huge terminal at Sever Bay. He’s dredging new or existing shipping lanes to let in larger vessels. He’s got more leases on the Yamal Peninsula then Alaska could ever dream of. All of these big projects are going to companies like Novatek and Gazprom, and if they sound familiar, its because these companies use the oil and natural gas as economic leverage in Europe.

Remember when Poland signed a 5 year deal with the US to get natural gas? You don’t? Oh, that’s right, that story got totally buried in 2017, because it was good news related to the Trump administration, and “orange man bad” won the day in the media. Searching for it now, it comes up on obscure media outlets, not the CNN’s and FOX News of the world. It also comes up on a lot of Russian outlets, because it was viewed as a big deal.

Russia has made no secret of its plan to lead the world in LNG and oil. Its a bit grandiose, and might not fully come to fruition. But they saw what happened in a Trump America. They watched how American LNG and oil exports diminished the importance of Iranian oil while strengthening the will of former Eastern-block countries against Russian influence. Iran got placed in a bind: if it pumped more oil, it would bring down the price, making Russia angry, while pumping less would threaten its financial sovereignty. For an America that seems to get bogged down in the Middle East all the time, this is a perfect way to leave the region, which is exactly what Trump did. Not bad for someone who gets made out to be a bumbling fool by the media.

So Russia took that page from Trump and made it their own. They’ve been eyeing the Arctic for a while, but now is as good a time as any, and with a (hopefully temporary) reprieve from the pressures of US oil and LNG exports, Russia can bounce back from low prices and COVID-19. While the US wrings its hands over environmental issues, despite having solid rules in place, Russia knows that the Arctic is savage. It suffered an invasion of polar bears, something I once thought possible only if National Geographic started making horror films. Maybe they were radioactive bears from all the nuclear testing the Russians perform in Arctic? Maybe they will begin attacking US outposts in response to the walrus attacks?

Let’s be honest, the current policy of restricting drilling is done to punish “evil” US oil companies. Even Norway is drilling more, because their welfare state depends on it. But restricting US oil and LNG output is short sighted. It takes away an effective tool of Middle East policy, where every nation and fake nation involved wants to paint you into a corner, and the only way to cut the Gordian Knot is with economics. It cedes more ground and influence in Europe to Russia, who is all about taking more influence and ground when it can. And for a growing China, it makes it easy for Russia to keep them in check with higher prices, even if only for a little while longer. While this policy appeases a certain political class of people, history will later reflect the foolishness of this choice.

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.

Make this Memorial Day personal

Newspaper from the Battle for Crete in World War 2

History is best learned in person. While I was temporarily stationed on Crete in support of the ongoing conflict in Libya, I had a chance to visit a local museum that featured Cretan history from ancient times to the present. There was a large room devoted to the Battle of Crete, where the forces of Nazi Germany first fought a naval engagement, and then invaded Crete in one of the largest parachute drops in history. While Germany did successfully invade, it came at a great cost, and the Germans were hesitant to use parachute tactics in the future.

The newspaper above has a few interesting titles. First, its a good reminder that things weren’t all that certain in 1941 in Europe. Losing Crete, and followed by a massive German invasion of Russia soon after, left Europe’s position pretty uncertain. It’s easy to read history now and say “Well, its obvious the US would prevail,” but at the time it wasn’t so certain. I also had to smile at the “Capture of Fallujah” headline, since Fallujah continues to be as important back then as it is in modern times.

Walking in the nearby cemetery I found graves from both Allied and Axis powers. The graves are simple. I don’t recognize any of the names. I know the facts of the battles they fought in, but the actual people, outside of a few significant generals and admirals, are unknown to me.

I suspect that this is the same feeling many Americans get walking through Arlington National Cemetery. Sure, if you have a loved one buried there, its a different feeling. But most people don’t, and during Memorial Day, its hard to know what we’re supposed to feel about the graves we walk by. Sad? Respectful? Mournful?

I think the reason its difficult is because we’re taught history from an events perspective, especially for wars. These groups of people, using these weapons, fought over this place on a map, and this group won. But the truth is that each of those people that fought have a back story. A loved one at home. A family that misses them. They are fighting for many different reasons. Maybe they were drafted, or maybe they enlisted because they really believe in their country. Maybe they joined to climb further in the ranks, or maybe this is a one-and-done enlistment.

When we get the chance to hear these personal stories, they stick with us. You can’t read the book Unbroken (or watch the movie) and not be moved by it. Same goes for stories like Hacksaw Ridge or even Black Hawk Down. It’s easy to gloss over history in a cold, calculating way when its presented as figures, numbers, and geography, but its a lot harder when we hear about the individual people behind the battles. We identify with people.

So this Memorial Day, I encourage people that often struggle with “How am I supposed to react” to take the time to learn one story. Learn about the in-depth story of someone that gave their life for their country. Talk to a veteran about someone they knew that died fighting for their country. Make that individual connection. Don’t get too worried about the big picture stuff, instead, focus on one individual story. That will make it much more personal and meaningful.

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.