Ayatollah Air Power


If push comes to shove, could American air power lay waste to the Iranian regime in a cake walk, a turkey shoot? Consider what we know, publicly, of Iranian military capabilities in the air. They have aircraft from the pre-stealth era, drones, and extensive surface-to-air missile defenses. Perhaps, however, their best “air” assets are computer coding and diplomatic shuttle flights.

Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews

It was not big news when fairly rag-tag forces shot down a low and slow flying armed MQ-9 Reaper drone. After all, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has a wing dedicated to advising foreign forces, including the Yemeni forces fighting other Yemeni forces backed by Saudi Arabia. This is not secret, so the U.S. Central Command was willing to claim Iranian participation in the June 2019 shoot-down:


AOC accuses Pelosi of racial discrimination


This is really getting interesting. The Democrat party, known for both its odd amalgam of special interest groups and its remarkable ability to coordinate these different groups into lockstep support of ever-increasing leftism, seems to be coming apart. I’m sure Donald Trump and some others would like to take credit for this, but it appears to be more of an attempted suicide than an attempted murder. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

The accusation of racism is pretty much the most vicious attack one can wage against someone in modern America, and for one leftist to attack another leftist in that way really is ruthless. And extremely unusual. I doubt that AOC understands the irony of her accusation, considering the racist background of the Democrat party in the not-too-distant past, but Pelosi probably does. I’m trying to feel sorry for Pelosi, or at least avert my eyes from this humiliating spectacle, but I just can’t. A few years ago, I thought Bernie Sanders was an entertaining old crackpot. But look what he hath wrought! What do you think? Can Pelosi hang on? Or is the Democrat party about to be officially renamed the American Socialist Party?


Shakespeare’s Ethic


Too much attention is paid to Shakespeare’s talent and too little to his outstanding work ethic.

It is not the number of works which testifies most strongly to his careful determination; it is his originality. His innovations are too regular to be accidental. When I Googled “words and phrases coined by”, Shakespeare’s name was, of course, suggested first by the search algorithm. The breadth of his legacy in this regard is widely known, though most of us are content with snippets.


Silver Screen? Or Distant Mirror?


Half a century ago, as the final year of the Sixties unfolded, Hollywood studios looked at the youthful trends of the previous year and loaded themselves up with inexpensive campus political dramas, left-wing fare that would be ready for release in the spring and summer of 1970. “The Strawberry Statement”, “The Revolutionary”, “Revolutions Per Minute” and “Zabriskie Point” were one-sided bets on what audiences at the dawn of the Seventies would be eager to pay for—sympathetic, appealing violent dramas and coarse comedies about campus rioters who sleep around and curse a lot. To the chagrin of Hollywood planners, who were usually stuck with two-year lead times on feature film projects, they bet wrong. There will always be an audience for violent drama and coarse comedy; it was the “rioters” aspect, the anti-police violence as entertainment that proved to be an astoundingly tin-eared wrong step on Hollywood’s part. It would cause an enduring, decades-long counter-reaction that at the time was dismissed as a transient “backlash”.

The Vietnam War was still near its height as springtime ’70 brought on the protesting season, as it’s been in much of western Europe since the 1830s or thereabout. The first Earth Day was planned for April 22, and would be the most peaceful of the year’s mass demonstrations. The campuses were already primed to explode. Mine literally did in March, when a homemade bomb killed its radical builder and leveled a Greenwich Village townhouse. When President Nixon announced an incursion into Cambodia—okay, raids, an invasion, let’s not be too fussy—the semester was nearly over anyway and many campuses, although non-violent, were also non-functional. When four students were killed at Kent State University on May 4th, school ground to a halt all over the country.


Icon, Part 11a: The Theotokos


During this long break of the Paschal season, which ends with the Ascension, I thought I would turn to another iconographic theme post, similar to my essay on why we have icons in the first place, and specifically of Christ, and discuss what may be the most popular icon type (in terms of numbers of icons): The Theotokos, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Next to Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, no other person is so highly venerated within Orthodox or Catholic churches. Due to the length of this subject, this essay will be in two parts. In the first part, I discuss why she is so highly esteemed, from both historical / traditional reasons, and from experiential reasons. In the second part I will present a sampling of the major forms her icons take, and by what names they are called.

At the outset it bears noting that, outside of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Mary is rather a controversial figure. Within the Protestant churches, aside from the more liturgical Lutherans and Anglican / Episcopalians, Mary is rarely mentioned aside from Christmas, and traditional understandings of Mary (that she had herself no further children, that she was far younger than Joseph, and that she was taken up bodily like Enoch) are disputed. This is somewhat surprising as both Martin Luther and John Calvin esteemed her greatly, and for all else over which they broke with Rome, on these they remained in agreement. For inquirers into either Orthodoxy or Catholicism, the veneration of Mary remains stumbling block – not just for the imagery all over the churches, but for the liturgical prayers and entire feast days dedicated to Mary. For anyone coming from a church where In Christ Alone is a popular praise song, encountering Mary face to face is jarring, and may feel heretical or bordering on pagan. This need not be the case.


The Line From Slick Willie to The Donald


This is an expansion of a comment made in another post.

It’s been an interesting ride. The line from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump is drawn with anything but a straight line.


Remembering the Ross Perot Moment


Establishment politicians and those invested in business as usual use “Ross Perot” as a bogeyman, a warning not to stray from whatever candidate they shovel up and tell us we must give money, time, and our vote. Except that it was Perot who was the most electable candidate until the skulduggery or head fake or whatever rattled him around his daughter’s personal life. He had taken the lead in the polls but never recovered after showing weakness or indecision for that week or so.

He was a successful entrepreneur who criticized the self-licking ice cream cone of American CEOs, who (with their think tank and pundit platoons) insisted that American workers absorb the hit of global wage and employment competition while not subjecting their own gilded packages to critical comparison with the then ascendant Japanese executives. “If you want to make a million dollars, become a rock (music) star!” Ross Perot was not engaging in class warfare. Rather, he was using the contradictory narratives of wage competition and executive compensation to point to larger misaligned priorities in U.S. corporate policy, underwritten by U.S. government policy and muscle. Hence his early criticism of NAFTA as it was being negotiated.


Does America Mean Freedom to be a Jerk?  Yes!


I thought it was a mistake to react to Colin Kaepernick’s antics. He is a moron but is treated as a serious person by many due in part to his critics’ over-reaction. similarly, I am largely indifferent to the ever-so-five-minutes-ago angry-lesbian-progressive shtick of Megan Rapinoe that has upset so many.

The fact is, unless and until you infringe on somebody else’s rights, you can be an ignorant moron in America. Unlike sex, race or IQ, acting like a buffoon is a choice and the Bill of Rights is all about those kinds of choices.


Icon, Part 11b: Icon Types of the Theotokos

Hodegetria icon on the iconostasis of my own church

In Part A I gave an overview of just why Mary is so highly venerated in the Orthodox Church. In this second part I will show some of the major examples of her icon types, and what they each represent. This will not be exhaustive, of course, for styles and types have changed over the centuries, and some nations and regions have seen the emergence of different themes that have not gained as much traction in the wider Orthodox world. Each major type has a different message to convey about both the Theotokos and Christ (for her importance is a reflection of Christ), and so each will be found in a different context within either church or home.

There are certain common elements to how the Theotokos is depicted in all of her different icons. The first thing any viewer should note is that Mary always has three stars (or star-like flowers) on her cloak: one on her forehead, and one on each shoulder. The origin of this theme is so old that it is unclear, being even seen in early Christian frescos in catacombs. On these early pre-iconographic depictions a great amount of what is shown is symbolic in ways that later icons would not do – this was done at a time when Christianity was still persecuted, and was moreover spreading through people whose only prior religious knowledge was of the Roman pantheon. Keeping the artwork symbolic and somewhat abstracted both aided in its teaching, and in evading scrutiny when caught. In these early works, for instance, one will often see Christ depicted as “the Good Shepherd”, a beardless young man tending or carrying sheep. The three stars on Mary are likely a holdover from that time. These stars represent her past, present, and ever-virginity.


Human Misery and the American Model


The nature of our national founding has been under constant attack for what now has become more than a century. We are now closer than we have ever been to losing that struggle and becoming something entirely foreign to the basic concepts which have been the pillars supporting the single most successful and beneficial secular endeavor mankind has yet launched.


Hand Grenade with a Bad Haircut: Ross Perot Dead at 89


H. Ross Perot, the man who could have been America’s first Independent President, died today at age 89. When he ran in 1992 against the incumbent George H.W. Bush and the Democratic Party nominee Bill Clinton he received 19% of the popular vote, the highest since Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose bid in 1912.

An Annapolis graduate, he was a pioneer in computer data systems, twice building companies and twice selling them to make his fortune. And he was generous with his money while being appalled at the government’s generosity with the money of taxpayers. A special cause of his was the medical care of veterans. He personally funded the research of Dr. Robert Haley at UT Southwestern that showed that many vets of the first Gulf War did, indeed, suffer from a chemical-induced toxin syndrome.


Quote of the Day: Abraham Lincoln and his Religiosity


Lincoln grew into an intensely religious man, although we rarely hear him described in those terms nowadays. His religious faith became fundamental to his thinking and decision-making during the Civil War; we rarely hear that either. When he assumed the enormous burden of the presidency with war approaching, his faith grew deeper. When his beloved young son Willie died in early 1862, it deepened again—and seemed to continue growing deeper until his death. In the end Lincoln should almost certainly be remembered as the most important religious figure America has ever produced. I don’t mean he was a theologian. But Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah weren’t theologians either.

– David Gelernter, The Fourth Great Western Religion


How “Woke” is the Boston Pops?


I grew up near Boston, saw the Boston Pops a number of times as a kid (I especially remember thrilling to their live performance of the fabulous Theme from Mr Lucky).

Boston had a remarkable role in our revolutionary times, home to Samuel and John Adams, the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s ride, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and other amazing histories. For years it has been an Independence Day tradition for the Boston Pops to perform a long outdoor concert from the Esplanade on the Charles River, ahead of the spectacular fireworks, and when they start, to provide incredible music to accompany the show above.


Want More Expensive Meat? Check Your Privilege


I’m not sure how I got to be on the mailing list for Change.org, but the lefty petition site sometimes sends me petitions they’ve decided to highlight on their site. This afternoon, I received an email with the subject line “Aldi.” As a loyal Aldi shopper, I clicked, wondering why the site had decided to aim its firepower at the low-cost grocery store.


Fans of the Politics of Women’s Sports (but Not Women’s Sports Fans)


In the last few weeks I have seen a number of articles and statements about pay disparity between men and women soccer players. (Useful numbers here.) It seems rather obvious from the noise that a number of those women who are happy to recycle cherry-picked numbers about salaries could not name four starters on the US Team, have never bought a ticket to a soccer game and never watched a game on TV until very recently, if at all. The financial truth is that women do not support women’s sports nor do they make much of an effort persuade men to become interested.

Among other sports, I do watch soccer. I watch the Premier League broadcasts on weekends. I follow DC United in the MLS and I actually buy tickets to games. And I follow the US national teams. ( I have always been concerned about our women’s team being too confident of their athleticism so that they can often be vulnerable to counterattack by patient, savvy European teams; and I am appalled at the state of the US men’s team). I noticed that even in the elimination rounds of the Women’s World Cup there were many empty seats in the stands.


Ross Perot, Billionaire & Presidential Candidate, Dead at 89


From the Associated Press:

Ross Perot, the billionaire businessman who twice ran for president in the 1990s, has died at the age of 89. The Dallas Morning News reports Perot died following a five-month battle with leukemia. Born in Texas, Perot made his fortune by founding and running two technology companies, Electronic Data Systems and Perot Systems. He ran as an independent presidential candidate in the 1992 election and as a third-party candidate in the 1996 election. Perot’s wealth, fame and confident prescription for the nation’s economic ills propelled his 1992 campaign against President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. Some Republicans blamed him for Bush’s loss to Clinton as Perot garnered the largest percentage of votes for a third-party candidate since former President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 bid.


Driveway Vinaigrette


Drove my mother up to her summer house last week. The landscaper she hired to do a spring cleanup never showed and now come summer the yard was a mess. The one really ugly part was that the gravel driveway looked fuzzy with all of the weeds coming through.

The thought of trimming bushes and raking didn’t bother me, but that weedy driveway did. The house is over 100 feet from the road so that is too much bending over to pull all the weeds. It would have to be weedkiller. Roundup costs over $15 a gallon and there are lawsuits claiming it can cause cancer. I needed an effective but environmentally sound solution. My mother came through with a recipe she found on the internet (I still think she must have asked the grandkids for help working that “google-thing.”)


One Cool Four-Star General!


U.S. Air Force Four-Star General George Babbitt played with The Ventures when they first began! It’s fun to hear “Walk, Don’t Run” and watch him as he revels in the opportunity to play with them 38 years later.


Food for Thought, Towards 2020


Green shoots or suckers? Time will tell, but consider a few recent stories from diverse sources. Will this collection of dots end up forming a map to President Trump’s reelection in 2020? Perhaps.

We are told that the left has a lock on the minds of the youngest eligible voting cohorts, “Millennials or Generation Y” and “Generation Z.” Gen Y, the generation born near the turn of the millenium, is now 25-42. Gen Z, little talked of, like Gen X, is now 7-24. So, they are experiencing the craziness of the left’s cultural crusade first hand. Consider three articles on this latest voting-age generation.


Uncommon Knowledge: The Deniable Darwin


Is Charles Darwin’s theory fundamentally deficient? David Berlinski makes his case, noting that most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged. Where there should be evolution, there is stasis. So, was Darwin wrong?


My Brief, Inglorious Career as a Cool Jazz DJ


After I had officially retired from my professorship in Kentucky, I stayed on to teach half time. With time on my hands, I applied for a part-time job as a bouncer in a large dive bar just across the state line in Tennessee. (Kentucky was dry.) I tried to look tough during the interview, but after thirty years of teaching, I probably looked as if I would try to scold a troublemaker into submission instead of tossing him out on his ear. The bar owner said I didn’t look intimidating enough for the job.

But then a position as a jazz DJ opened up at the local NPR radio station. Happily, the manager of the station had been a student of mine in a graduate seminar some years back, so after a perfunctory tryout and a brief interview, she hired me.


Ed Henry & Janice Dean Using Their Platforms for Good


Those in the mainstream media are obsessed with Fox News and its anchors and contributors. The obsession is at least in part purely jealousy; Fox dominates ratings consistently and were it not for airports, gyms, and bars, one has to wonder what ratings at CNN would actually look like. There is, certainly, plenty about the network (indeed, at every network) worthy of criticism, but this same Fox Derangement Syndrome makes it impossible to praise when praise is due. The last few weeks, two Fox personalities have used their platforms for good; highlighting two medical conditions impacting their families. If we lived in a sane and calmer political climate, their actions would be news across the networks, not just on Fox’s airwaves.

Over the weekend, Ed Henry appeared on Fox & Friends and told the emotional story of his decision to donate part of his liver to his sister, suffering from a liver disease: