Thursday, September 7, 2023

17th Annual Firefighter Challenge - Berlin at the Mercedes Benz Arena Plaza

As per usual, Mike Weikamm and company host one of the most professional of Challenge events every year. 

Moving from Potzdamer Platz, the new venue is impressive!

Here's the Traditional Group Photo at the base of the Tower

The Final Race: Relay Championship Poland versus Slovenia
Hosted by YouTube

Monday, July 31, 2023

Open Letter to Congress from over 200 Retired Flag Rank Officers

We respectfully request that Congress, pursuant to its constitutional powers "…to raise and support Armies…" and "… to provide and maintain a Navy…," take legislative action to remove all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs from the Department of Defense (DoD).

Additionally, we ask that you ensure no DEI-related policies, programs, or funding are included in the 2024 NDAA. As our Nation faces looming threats from "foreign" adversaries/enemies, our military is under assault from a culture war stemming from "domestic" ideologically inspired political policies and practices. If not stopped now, they will forever change the military's warrior ethos essential to performing its mission of deterring aggression and failing that, to fight and win our Nation's wars.

Our military must be laser-focused on one mission—readiness, undiminished by the culture war engulfing our country. For generations, our military was a meritocracy, which simply defined means selection and advancement based solely on merit and ability. Service Members (SMs) were judged not by the color of their skin but by their character, duty performance, and potential. Meritocracy, coupled with equal opportunity, created conditions for all to advance and excel, which stimulates healthy competition, thereby raising standards. Historically, our military has been one of, if not the most, diverse and inclusive institution in America.

The domestic cultural threat has an innocuous name: "diversity, equity, and inclusion" (DEI). But, in reality, DEI is dividing, not uniting, our military and society. DEI's principles derive from critical race theory, which is rooted in cultural Marxism, where people are grouped into identity classes (typically by race), labeled as "oppressed" or "oppressors," and pitted against each other. Under the guise of DEI, some people are selected for career-enhancing opportunities and advancement based on preferences given to identity groups based on race, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, etc. For example, the DoD twice admitted to using race in service academy admissions in its 2022 amicus brief in the pending Supreme Court college admissions cases.

Our military has practiced "equality" by giving equal opportunities for all to achieve. The equality approach ignores skin color, gender, or ethnicity seeing all SMs as equal, with a common set of values and mission. This does not diminish their individuality but rather celebrates their dedication to duty and a higher noble calling of selfless service to our Nation.

DEI's "Equity" sounds benign, but in practice, it lowers standards. While equality provides equal opportunities, equity's goal is equal outcomes. To achieve equal outcomes using identity group characteristics, standards must be lowered to accommodate the desired equity outcomes. Lower standards reduce performance where even slight differences in capability impact readiness and can determine war-fighting mission success or failure.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) practices use identity-based preferences in selections for career schools and promotions. As with equity, D&I lowers standards by not always selecting the best qualified to become pilots, academy cadets, leaders at all ranks, etc. Identity-based preferences create friction and distrust in the ranks, damaging unit cohesion, teamwork and unity of effort, further degrading readiness.

The "One Team, One Fight" battle motto describes a meritocracy-based military characterized by: • a common mission and purpose; • unqualified loyalty to the team and not to an individual's identity group; • total trust and confidence in each other for their very lives from the foxhole to the highest level; • teamwork/camaraderie resulting in the unit cohesion essential for warfighting readiness.

Meritocracy is essential for winning. In professional sports - where the mission is to win games - the best players are fielded to win, no matter their skin color. If meritocracy is used in sports where the consequence of losing a game is minor, why is it not essential in the military where the worst-case consequences of losing a major war are unimaginable losses of life, destruction, and perhaps our Nation? To win, the best-qualified SMs must be selected to lead America's sons and daughters into life-and-death situations. Meritocracy wins games and it wins wars!

We have fought for our Nation and are sounding the alarm that DEI poses a grave danger to our military warfighting ethos and is degrading warfighting readiness. Social engineering, commonly called "wokeism," has no place in our military. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are not distracted by DEI programs; no doubt they are watching us. Equal opportunity and merit-based performance has been battle tested for generations and proven essential for success. DEI policies and practices must be eliminated from the DoD to protect our critical warfighting readiness.

Respectfully submitted,

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

These 8 habits could add up to 24 years to your life, study finds

July 24, 2023 / 10:45 AM

Want to add years to your life? Following a few healthy habits could do just that, according to a new study.

The observational study presented Monday at the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting in Boston examined data on more than 700,000 U.S. veterans and how their life expectancy shifted based on the number of healthy habits followed.

The findings? Adopting eight healthy lifestyle habits by middle age can result in a substantially longer life than those with few or none of the habits. Those habits include: Being physically active
• Being free from opioid addiction
• Not smoking
• Managing stress
• Having a good diet
• Not regularly binge drinking
• Having good sleep hygiene
• Having positive social relationships

While the habits aren't groundbreaking — you've likely heard health experts advise similar wellness practices — the amount of lifespan expected to be gained from them is impressive.

According to the results, men with all eight habits at age 40 are expected to live 24 years longer on average compared with those with none. Women with all eight habits are predicted to live an 21 additional years.

"We were really surprised by just how much could be gained with the adoption of one, two, three, or all eight lifestyle factors," Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, health science specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs and rising fourth-year medical student at Carle Illinois College of Medicine, said in a news release. "Our research findings suggest that adopting a healthy lifestyle is important for both public health and personal wellness."

Low physical activity, opioid use and smoking had the biggest impact on lifespan, according to the release, with a 30-45% higher risk of death during the study period.

"Stress, binge drinking, poor diet, and poor sleep hygiene were each associated with around a 20% increase in the risk of death, and a lack of positive social relationships was associated with a 5% increased risk of death," the release added.

In terms of when to take action, "the earlier the better," Nguyen noted, "but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still is beneficial."

That's because adopting healthier habits at an older age can still help you live longer, researchers found, even if the life expectancy gain grew slightly smaller with age.

"It is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle," Nguyen said.

This study has not yet been published by a peer-reviewed publication but was evaluated and selected by a committee of experts to be presented at the meeting.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

It's (mostly) about the Nozzle

The Five Essential Funtions™that comprise the "engine" of the Firefighter Challenge have their origin in the original JTA (job task analysis) that I conducted as a part of our FEMA-funded research while a faculty member of the University of Maryland. 

The criteria for inclusion were: 1. Frequently Performed Tasks; 2. Arduous, and 3. Critical. Anything to do with hydraulics was axiomatically inclusive as an "Essential Function" of fire suppression. I knew from experience that with water weighing 8.3 pounds per gallon, moving supply or attack lines was hard work. 

We measured the physical requirements of moving an attack line to full extension (say 150 feet) in a drag would require an ability to pull ≈240 pounds (as measured by a dynamometer). But, you wanted to have some defining activity to validate that you were "there." Ergo: opening the bale and squirting some water defined the task. 

Nominally, for a straight bore nozzle, with 125psi, you get some kickback, so again, there's a built-in physical demand that requires a combination of dynamic and static strength. Getting up a good head of steam before the looped sections are pulled into the equation was an excellent way to keep up the momentum. 

Initially, we didn't have a target; that will come later. But, what to do with the nozzle once the task was accomplished? Squirt water. That's what. 

With the first Challenge event held at the University of Maryland's Fire Rescue Institute, we used appliances and hose provided by MFRI. The following year we began to assemble our own assets. At FDIC held in Cincinnatti, the representative of Akron demonstrated the ruggedness of their straight bore nozzle by spiking it on the concrete floor. He said, "you can do that all day long." I was impressed. 

In our first formative years, Task Force Tips (TFT) approached us and offered to become the "Official Nozzle" of the Challenge. Doug McMillian, brother of Stewart, had a pair of targets designed for our application. It had a strobe on top and a horn powered by a Scott air bottle that would sound when the guillotine fell. This ingenious design, weighing about 300 pounds, would have to be reduced in weight and complexity when used on tour. 

Doug wanted us to use their Automatic Nozzle; I suggested that this was the bridge too far in that I had been taught in basic school that you treated these appliances with care; not dropping them on the ground or using them for forcible entry. Our trademark, the "Hose Dragging Man," was a posterized image created by George Eade, our commercial artist, who designed the stylized and trademarked "Firefighter Challenge" with the Fruiter font. 

Not unexpectantly, the nozzles began to break. Doug asked that I explain to the Competitors that they had to gently place the nozzles on the ground before advancing. I said, "I'll be glad to explain that the TFT nozzles required special handling." He got it immediately and said, "We'll make them tougher." And he did. 

Shortly after this solution, Doug and Stewart had a falling out, and the sponsorship was collateral damage. 

Enter Elkhart Brass. Danny Brogden, who I had known prior to his becoming the marketing guy for Elkart. He proffered that their fog nozzle would be up to the Challenge. As you know, you can dial in a number of patterns, but he locked in the straight stream function. The nozzle came with a chrome bale. I said, "I think that's going to be a problem." He differed and as it turned out, was correct. 

Then came POK, a French manufacturer of a whole line of firefighting appliances. Jean-Marc Tassé was the North American marketing manager and wanted to make a statement about their presence in the business. So, POK paid for the 700-pound scoreboard and provided the smoothbore, straight stream nozzle that went into use for the next 20 years. 

The scoreboard, made by Colorado Timing, turned out to be an albatross. The display was better suited for indoor applications and was a constant headache requiring maintenance and power supply replacements. Jay Staeden, our then-Operations Manager, could be seen hanging from a rope with a broomstick in his hand, banging the back of the panels to get bulky displays to light up. Colorado Timing never completed the specifications and kept screaming to get paid. 

We ended up dumping off the whole pile of junk in their parking lot. But, true to his word, Jean-Marc continued to work on improving the nozzles. By rev 4.0, he had it mil-spec'd and nuclear-hardened. Until: 

When Jean-marc disappeared to Costa Rica, leaving the entire Maryland Warehouse on Maryland's Eastern Shore abandoned, we thought we might return to the original Akron Brass product. We purchased (against our religion) two of their straight bore nozzles and were sorely disappointed that they failed almost immediately. So, scratch that idea. 

Since we conducted a couple of events in Elkhart, IN, and they provided us with nozzles for that event, we thought exploring a partnership was worth pursuing. For WCXXX two beautiful nozzles were produced and put into service. Regrettably, they did not survive. 

We have made entreaties to POK through three emails, alerting them that the decision to go to a metal bale was a mistake. Of course, for the preponderance of fire fighting organizations, they never approach their end of life since no one abuses equipment like we do. In fact, we lay claim to being the "Aberdeen Proving Ground" of the fire service. If you want to have your stuff tested, we run "Four Alarm Fires" every weekend. 

The clear value to any company that wishes to associate their equipment with the very rugged nature of the Challenge is an imprimatur. 

While in Fort Pierce, Captain-Paramedic John Tillett (ret) pointed out to me the major differences between the POK product and what Elkhart had produced. The POK nozzle is machined from a solid block of a metal composite. The handle is a brass frame, covered by a rubberized material and secured with taps, drilled into the body. 

One note: way back, Clint Lamb and I got the idea of inserting a quarter-inch washer into the smooth bore of the nozzle. This reduced the flow, since we have a finite amount of water (250gal) onboard our Semi trailer. 

The really fast guys can knock down the target with as little as a liter of water. 

So, what's next? 

If we can't find a suitable replacement to the handle issues on the POK nozzle, we may be forced to add a requirement that after knocking the target down, the nozzle has to be hung on a hook. I know that there will be push-back since this added step will take additional time. But, we simply can't be at the mercy of equipment that is no longer up to the Challenge. 

Parenthetically, I must mention that while in Paris, a few years back, POK funded my trip to their factory at Nogent-sur-Seine. I was very impressed with their operations and their CEO Dr. Alexandra Grandpierre. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Weighting game

Weighting game

While there’s nothing particularly new about people trying to manage and keep their weight down, the number of people who may be tempted to experiment with medical remedies like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro is higher than ever as obesity rates have risen in the US.

The CDC has been taking periodic surveys of the nation’s health since 1960, when the overall share of obese US adults (those whose Body Mass Index exceeded 30) was just 13%. That figure, as well as the number of Americans who are severely obese (BMI at or over 40), has soared in the years since, hitting 43%, according to the latest survey in 2018. The rises have affected men and women similarly, too, with male obesity rising ~4x from 1962-2018 and the share of severely obese women in the US soaring more than 10x across the same period.

Some experts suggest the late 1970s and early 1980s as points at which the obesity epidemic picked up in the US, with many nodding to increasing levels of dietary fat, sugar, and ultra-processed foods as possible causes. However, even with that backdrop, the acceleration in obesity rates in recent years has been stark — and the full effects are being felt today. Indeed, obesity in America costs an estimated $260 billion each year in inpatient and outpatient care and causes thousands of preventable illnesses and deaths annually, according to the National Institute of Health. Given the scale of the issue, many have been waiting for a “magic solution” for years.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Woke U.S. Military Crisis: What’s Behind the Recruiting Declines?

Brutal Honesty: Spend 25 minutes watching this video on the sorry state of our military recruiting crises 

Thursday, July 6, 2023

The 15 Principles Upon Which the Country Was Founded

1. That man is created equal under God, and, as such, human life is a sacred gift of God.

2. That the Natural rights of the individual are inalienable and superior to the will of the state.

3. That government exists to protect the Natural rights and liberties of man, not to provide man with public benefits and favors.

4. That a man is innocent until proven guilty, that he has the Natural right to a trial by jury and the right to a defense attorney.

5. That people have a Natural right to choose their own form of government.

6. That individuals have a Natural right and duty to bear arms for their own protection and the protection of their communities.

7. That the power and reach of the central government needs to be limited, being held in check by independent sovereign states, free, independent juries and state citizen militias.

8. That religious liberty is the core of America’s freedoms.

9. That the people have a Natural right and duty to alter or abolish any government that has become tyrannical.

10. That America would always be a constitutional republic.

11. That only sound money would be used as legal tender so as to keep the federal government from amassing excessive debt.

12. That America would always promote and protect a free market economy with limited governmental interference.

13. That a man’s home is his castle and his personal property can never be seized except by arduous due process.

14. That a free society depends upon the acceptance and application of God’s Natural Laws relating to the pursuit of happiness and peace, upon governmental adherence to the Law of Nations and upon the promotion of our Creator’s foundational moral code of human conduct.

15. That liberty depends upon the unfettered exercise of the Christian faith, including strong, uninhibited preaching from America’s pulpits.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Transgender Athlete Debate and the Limits of Inclusion in Sports

Should governing bodies bear the burden of proof when determining who is eligible to compete in women’s sports?
Martin Fritz Huber Jun 28, 2022

A few years ago, the journalist Michael Lewis started a podcast called “Against the Rules.” The first episode had the promising title “Ref, you suck!” and began with the simple observation that animosity towards NBA referees seemed to be at an all-time high. This, Lewis eventually argues, is consistent with a larger trend of distrust and anger towards individuals and institutions who are supposed to be the arbitrators of fairness in our society. Imagine that.

I was reminded of Lewis’s premise earlier this month after the UCI, cycling’s global governing body, announced that it would be adopting a more stringent policy for transgender participation. Beginning July 1, transgender athletes wishing to compete in the female category will need to have testosterone levels of 2.5 nmol/L or lower (down from the previous 5 nmol/L), and have undergone at least 24 months of medical transitioning (up from the previous 12 months). In response, Emily Bridges, the trans rider whose prospective participation in the British National Omnium Championships was blocked by the UCI at the last minute back in March, accused the governing body of “moving the goalposts” on trans inclusion. Meanwhile, the sports scientist Ross Tucker, who has argued that the physical advantages of going through male puberty can never be entirely erased through testosterone suppression, blasted the UCI for being too lenient and ignoring the wishes of cisgender female cyclists. The critical response from both sides of the debate recalled the old axiom that a compromise is sure to make everyone unhappy. Ref, you suck!

Of course, such an outcome might be inevitable in a matter where sports governing bodies might ultimately need to decide whether to prioritize fairness at the expense of inclusivity, or vice versa. If we accept at the outset that a perfect resolution does not exist, the best we can do is to hone in on a particular aspect of the discussion. One place to start is the issue of who should hold the burden of proof when it comes to proving an unfair advantage.

At the risk of oversimplification, the question is as follows: If sports governing bodies have a restrictive policy vis-a-vis transgender athlete participation in the female category, is it their responsibility to prove that transgender women have an unfair competitive advantage over cisgender women? Or, conversely, do transgender women who wish to compete in the female category need to prove that they do not have such an advantage?

“The Court of Arbitration for Sport has made it very clear that the burden of proof lies with sports-governing bodies that attempt to introduce rules restricting, let alone banning, women from the women’s category,” says Joanna Harper, a trans woman, master’s runner, and medical physicist who has consistently held the position that trans women should be allowed to compete in the women’s category in elite-level sports after undergoing a period of testosterone suppression. Harper was referring in part to the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s 2015 decision in favor of the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, whose natural testosterone levels were unusually high—a condition that World Athletics refers to as a “difference of sexual development,” or DSD. The court ultimately ruled to suspend the World Athletics regulations that barred women from competing if their testosterone levels were above 10 nmol/L. At the time, the CAS decision noted that WA “has not discharged its onus of establishing that the Hyperandrogenism Regulations are necessary and proportionate to pursue the legitimate objective of organizing competitive female athletics to ensure fairness in athletic competition.”

In a similar vein, last November, the International Olympic Committee issued a document asserting that it would no longer be involved in setting eligibility regulations for trans women athletes and that individual sports governing bodies needed to set their own standards. (The previous IOC policy had mandated one year of testosterone suppression and maximum T levels of 10 nmol/L across the board.) Instead, the IOC offered a framework for how governing bodies should approach the issue, which stipulates that, unless peer-reviewed evidence determines otherwise, “athletes should not be deemed to have an unfair or disproportionate competitive advantage due to their sex variations, physical appearance, and/or transgender status.”

Tucker has been one of the more outspoken critics of this approach. In a recent interview with the BBC, he argues that the IOC’s trans policy “got it backwards” by starting from a position of inclusion. When I reached out to him to elaborate, he made the point that the principle of exclusion is a prerequisite for a category to function as a category in the first place. His argument is that there is a logical fallacy in simultaneously holding that a separate women’s category is necessary and assuming that trans women have no advantage until it is proven otherwise. Or, as Tucker put it to me: “To argue that inclusion should be the default for people who wish to enter the category despite having the very attribute that the category exists to exclude, is basically to argue that the category purpose and necessity are not ‘real,’ or should be dismissed in importance.” Hence: “it should be incumbent upon those who are necessarily excluded to show why and how they don’t violate that category’s existence.”

Here, Tucker is essentially echoing the argument for “necessary discrimination” that the Court of Arbitration for Sport cited to uphold WA’s updated testosterone regulations for DSD women in 2019 when they were challenged by the South African 800-meter runner Caster Semenya. As Tucker explained it to me, the reason why WA was able to win a dispute similar to the one that they had lost several years earlier was that they had successfully (albeit controversially) reframed their case; rather than arguing that women with naturally high testosterone had an unfair advantage over other female athletes, they changed tack to argue that DSD athletes were “biologically male athletes with female gender identifies” and that, in the context of elite sport, a binary male-female divide was essential to ensure meaningful competition.

It’s worth noting here that Tucker was actually an expert witness testifying on Semenya’s team in the 2019 CAS case. Before the trial commenced, he co-authored a paper in the International Sports Law Journal which skewered a 2017 WA-funded study that purported to prove that female athletes with high testosterone levels had a significant competitive advantage. The study was so rife with errors and bogus data points that not to challenge it would have been “an abdication of knowledge,” as Tucker put it to me. But in changing their fundamental argument, WA effectively downplayed the relevance of their own crappy evidence. (Although that crappy evidence is why we currently have the absurd situation where the DSD T-regulations in women’s athletics only apply to track events from the 400-meters to the mile.) Of course, and as Harper emphasized to me, WA ultimately still bore the burden of proof in the Semenya case—but they were able to win by changing the terms of the debate. The burden of proof, in other words, can be a slippery concept.

For now, the controversy over DSD athletes, which was largely specific to the world of professional track and field, has been subsumed by the broader debate around transgender athletes. Last week, after the news broke that swimming’s global governing body FINA had unveiled a new policy that effectively banned transgender women from elite female competition, WA’s president Seb Coe praised the move as being “in the best interest of its sport.” There has since been speculation that WA could soon follow suit by scrapping its hard-won testosterone regulations in favor of a similar blanket ban. Meanwhile, Harper told me that she “assumes that there will be a CAS case involving a trans woman and a sports governing body in the near future.” I wouldn’t bet against it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Myth That May Have Doomed the Titan

June 28, 2023

OceanGate Expeditions’ Titan submersible.OceanGate Expeditions, via Associated Press

By Naomi Oreskes
Dr. Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard and the author of “Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don’t Know About the Ocean.

As details emerged about the implosion last week of the Titan submersible in its descent to the wreck of the Titanic nearly two and a half miles below the surface of the North Atlantic, there was widespread anger that its owner and pilot knowingly took civilians on an uncertified vessel to a depth of crushing pressure.

The billionaire investor Ray Dalio, who founded the ocean exploration company OceanX with his son, Mark, expressed what he described on Twitter as his “great anger.” He accused Stockton Rush, the chief executive of OceanGate, who was piloting the Titan, of “reckless disregard for tried-and-true safety protocols that have made manned submersible exploration extremely safe.” Within the oceanography community, that view was widely held.

Mr. Rush, trained as an aerospace engineer, had justified his decision not to have his vessel certified for safety by arguing that the regulatory process stifled growth and innovation.

“At some point, safety just is pure waste,” Mr. Rush said in an interview with David Pogue of CBS. He even suggested that safety was used as an excuse by “industry players who try to use a safety argument to stop innovation.” OceanGate put it this way on its website: “By definition, innovation is outside of an already accepted system.”

In Mr. Rush’s telling, innovation was the province of maverick individuals, not stodgy legacy players and certainly not cumbersome government bureaucracies. Mr. Rush was perpetuating a myth — one that is particularly popular in Silicon Valley and among technology start-ups — that governments are just an obstacle and that innovation comes from bold trailblazers moving fast and breaking things.

That story is often wrong, and it was 100 percent wrong in this case.

The first two deep-diving submersibles built in America were developed by the United States government and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to assist in salvage operations at sea and to install and monitor Cold War underwater listening systems, including the original version of the system that detected the implosion of the Titan.

In the 1930s, civilian oceanographers were studying a layer in the ocean where temperatures and pressures channeled sound in a way that enabled it to travel very far. Realizing this could be a powerful military communications tool, they worked with the U.S. Navy to develop technologies that exploited this sound channel. The most important of these technologies was SOSUS — the Sound Surveillance System — a complex network of listening devices called hydrophones on the sea floor designed to detect prowling Soviet submarines.

By the late 1950s, SOSUS encompassed more than 1,000 hydrophones and 30,000 miles of undersea cables and could detect sounds hundreds of miles away. But this network required monitoring, inspections and repairs. In the early 1960s, scientists and engineers at Woods Hole collaborated with the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships to conceptualize and commission two radically innovative vessels to do that work: Aluminaut and Alvin.

As its name suggests, Aluminaut was developed with the Reynolds Metals Company, one of the largest aluminum companies in the world. It was expensive — the original expected cost was $3 million for construction and two years of operation — but the Navy was willing to take the risk, given the potential rewards. What the Navy and Woods Hole were not willing to do, however, was to risk lives. A Woods Hole engineer, James Mavor Jr., stressed that while Aluminaut was experimental, it still needed to be designed and tested as a “future operating vehicle.” No one wanted an experiment once people were in it underwater.

Aluminaut was not a success; the parties involved in its development could not agree on terms and parted ways. But a different submersible, Alvin, did succeed. In 1962, Woods Hole put out a call for bids for a titanium-hulled submersible; the winner was the electronics division of General Mills. Mostly known as a cereal maker, General Mills was in fact a highly innovative company. Among its developments was a black box flight data recorder in partnership with the University of Minnesota.

The contract called for Alvin to be built in less than a year so that it could be used in the scheduled installation of a new underwater listening system in Bermuda, but a scientific advisory committee warned about the risks of rushing: “While the delivery date is important for the accomplishment of a particular mission, failure to meet the time requirement will not prejudice the general usefulness of the vehicle.”

The committee was right. General Mills missed the deadline for the Bermuda project, but Alvin went on to play leading roles in the agonizing effort in 1966 to recover a lost H-bomb from the Mediterranean Sea and the scientific discovery of complex biological communities at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. While Alvin has endured various accidents and incidents over its long career, no one has ever died in it.

Like the internet, submersible technology was commercialized in the private sector, but it was the government, not the private sector, that took the initial risks. The key participants were not disrupters; they were seasoned professionals working inside established institutions, including the industrial giants Reynolds Metals and General Mills, and the giant government bureaucracy that was the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships, now called the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Critics may argue that regulations have of late become more cumbersome, which may be true. But the history of submersibles proves that innovation can develop in many contexts and without putting lives at risk. And the loss of the Titan proves that even in a mature industry, you still need regulation. Regulation may slow things down, but it also saves lives. Sometimes slowing down is a good thing.

Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard and the author of numerous books, including “Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don’t Know About the Ocean” and “The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market.”She is also a visiting fellow at the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Victor Davis Hanson, Ph.D.

Part One - June 6, 2023

We can calibrate the decline in the quality of American life by comparisons to both societies of the past and contemporary civilization elsewhere. And the result is not encouraging for Americans.

I believe I may have visited 80 percent of the so-called first world countries in Europe and the Middle East, and in most of the major capitals and large cities—Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Nicosia, Paris, Prague, Rome, Warsaw, etc., as well as the first-, second-, and third-world non-European cities of Algiers, Amman, Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Kuwait City, Riyadh, Tel Aviv, and Tripoli.

Over the last 40 years, I have had major surgeries in these cities, stayed in “bad areas,” lived for nearly three years abroad, and traveled to their hinterlands. I have been a journalist who visited Iraq twice during the surge of 2006–07, was in Israel during the worst of the suicide bombings, lived in Athens during the 1973 coup and 1974 war in Cyprus, and visited for two weeks Egypt just after the Yom Kippur War. I have seen firsthand the toxic work of dictators like Khadafi, the violence of the PLO, the changes in Erdogan’s Turkey, and the incompetence of socialists in Europe.

And yet, I never saw in the slums of old Cairo or in the worst environs of Brussels and Naples, or amid the poverty of 1970s rural Turkey anything like what I saw in San Francisco this year and last. The undressed on Market Street and near Union Square were routinely smoking dope, injecting drugs, defecating, urinating, and in various states of pre-civilized behavior. The homeless enclaves of Los Angeles are worse. Were these scenes being filmed for The Last of Us?

Beautiful office buildings were empty. Former stores were shuttered.

I don’t think in the dark days of the Iraq surge, I saw routine smash-and-grab or carjacking to the extent of what routinely goes on in our major cities. I wore body armor in Iraq each day and evening when on patrols with soldiers, and felt much safer than I would after hours on the weekends in Chicago, Baltimore, Memphis, or Detroit.

I was operated on for a ruptured appendix and peritonitis on a wooden table with only an ether fix in a Red Crescent clinic in Khadafi’s Libya, and yet I felt the third-world clinic care in terms of the clientele and fellow patients was less scary than what I have witnessed in ER rooms in the Central Valley of California or in Tucson or Washington, D.C.

I used to define America as hyper-civilized by the courtesy and professionalism of its drivers—not far behind those in Canada, the UK, and Australia—especially in comparison to the road madness in Rome or Athens, or Cairo.

But no longer. The daily fare of the Fresno Bee is a recitation of high-speed wrecks, carjackings, fatal DUIs, and hit-and-run smash-ups. When I drive rural roads in central California, I expect that one out of five cars coming in my direction will be drifting into my lane, either due to incompetence, unfamiliarity with U.S. traffic laws (27 percent of Californians were not born in the U.S.), intoxication or drug euphoria—or texting.

Walking in downtown or midtown New York, or in Washington, or Seattle stinks more than I remember of the corniche in Beirut or the harbor promenade in Alexandria. I am much more likely to be accosted by an obnoxious stranger, homeless person, or would-be criminal in downtown LA, San Francisco, or Portland than in Brussels or Naples—and that is saying something given the latter two disasters. I do not think in Paris or Amman people walk into stores, rob them, and walk out with impunity, with the knowledge that clerks will be fired for reporting their thefts.

Part Two - June 7, 2023

When I drive in rural California and see the shacks, trailers, and compounds of 30-40 persons living in ad hoc shelters with Romex wire and water hoses attached to a small farmhouse, I conclude that this poverty is much more a third-world scene than I remember of Tunisia, Algeria, or Turkey.

Or for that matter, the countryside of northern Mexico seems less impoverished than life outside Mendota, San Joaquin, Orange Cove, or Parlier, California. I would take my chances walking at night in Kuwait City over Minneapolis and would likely find a public restroom on California’s I-5 or the 99 dirtier than its counterpart in rural Greece.

Students that I have met in rural Greece were far better educated than their age counterparts in California. Spaniards in the countryside seemed to know more about America than American teens in New York or Philadelphia.

Japanese or Kuwaiti exchange students I had in college were far better educated than most of my own CSU (California State University) students. When I taught at Pepperdine, I explained to Chinese students why they rightly seemed afraid to drive alone into most areas of Los Angeles after hours.

My point? The basics of life, especially in our major cities—health care, safety, cleanliness—have reached medieval proportions.

Or to put it more accurately, there are very different Americas. A sophisticated successful suburban America maintains more or less life as unchanged from the 1970s or 1980s and remains comparable to or better than what is found in Europe.

And then there are red-state rural countryside and small towns that likewise are still civilized.

But in a third of America in parts of the suburbs surrounding the major cities and the cores of almost all our major cities, life is truly third or fourth-world. The ERs are dirty, broke, and mostly exist to attend to evening gunshot wounds and other sorts of inner-city violence.

Garbage piles up on sidewalks around stuffed cans and bins. It is hard to judge whether the smell of marijuana or feces is the stronger odor.

I lost my wallet once in Athens, and it was returned in two hours. I have lost glasses, wallet, and cell phones in my hometown of Selma and usually, they were never returned, or within hours I had thefts show up on my credit cards.

If my car broke down on the side of a freeway, I would prefer it happened in Israel, Germany, or Portugal than in California. There are more broken appliances and wet garbage tossed along the roads of Fresno County than there are in supposedly ragtag Italy.

None of this was true just 20 years ago. When I meet a teen or 20-something person today, I assume he is poorly educated and knows almost nothing about his own country, Gettysburg, World War I, or the Supreme Court. I can be assured only that he is programmed to have the correct ideas about diversity, transgenderism, or the pathologies of his country.

Ignorance and arrogance are a fatal combination, especially when combined with a therapeutic society that has abandoned meritocracy and feels social acceptance and career advantage are found in trashing one’s own culture.

What explains this decline, a decay so rapid that it seems surreal, fantasy-like? How did slow erosion accelerate to produce an unrecognizable country, in which nothing is secure, nothing reliable, nothing predictable anymore?

Part Three - June 9, 2023

Another sign of decline is the weaponization and politicization of institutions. Decadent societies indict their former leaders upon leaving offices. Those in power sic federal agencies on their opponents.

In turn, bureaucrats become agents of those in power, as if in private service—like laptop suppression, diary retrieval, performance-art raiding and arresting, or finding a presidential son’s missing gun.

The Biden family may well have pulled off the greatest pay-for-play grifting scam in presidential history, one that encompassed a decade of selling access to Vice President Biden and supposedly someday President Biden. That the entire kleptocracy will likely only be prosecuted if a Republican administration returns to power is again proof of our third-worldism.

The careers of John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Anthony Fauci, Lois Lerner, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, and Christopher Wray were weaponized. The above either lied under oath when pressed, suppressed an email trail that exposed their culpability or worked hard to discredit or destroy a political candidate they opposed, or simply stonewalled when asked under oath for accountability.

In third-world America, Matt Taibbi testifies about the abuse and politicization of federal agencies and upon return to his home finds an IRS note requesting a meeting. An Alvin Bragg finds no actionable writ of “falsifying business records” to lodge against private citizen and ex-president Trump but mysteriously does rediscover grounds for a 34-felony-count indictment on now presidential candidate Donald Trump.

When the FBI shows up at school board meeting on the prompt of the teachers’ union hierarchy, or Hillary Clinton destroys with impunity thousands of email records under court subpoena, or during the Roe versus Wade controversies, the FBI starts monitoring traditional Latin-mass Catholic services, or the U.S. military begins sponsoring drag queen shows on military bases, or the President and the Homeland Security secretary condemn as guilty border patrol agents for the fantasy crime of “whipping” illegal alien border crossings as preludes to an announced “investigation,” then we know the U.S. has gone full Brazil, Lebanon, or Congo.

There used to be far more accidents, crashes, mayhem, and chaos in the third world than in America because of an absence of meritocracy. Things break and never get repaired or were substandard to begin with.

I once took a taxi from the airport into Tripoli, Libya, one of the world’s greatest oil exporters. We hit a pothole that swallowed our small Russian car. Then matter-of-factly we both got out to lift the rear of the tiny car out. I asked the driver how such gargantuan road holes could be possible in a nation blessed with limitless oil reserves. His answer was, “We hire our first cousins.”

Translated? “We are tribal people who abhor meritocracy.” During the 1973 Greek dictatorship, my mom sent a pair of $10 Levi’s to me in Athens. They arrived at “customs” which sent me a note to pick them up. I went to the central Athens postal customs office and was told I could have them for $25!

I complained to my Greek professor at the college there. She said, “Give them $5 along with the name of our college director.” I did, and the next day the customs supervisor apologized but still asked for $10, which I happily handed over.

So too with wokeness.

The old joke that affirmative action was just desserts for the mediocre politicized English or sociology department, but would never be applied to air traffic controllers, pilots, brain surgeons, or nuclear plant operators is no longer jest.

Non-meritocratic hiring now encompasses every profession. And like the Libyan taxi, we will soon see what filters down when our elite is put in positions of enormous clout and power, largely on the basis of ideological, racial, gender, or ethnic considerations.

If you doubt, remember that a non-compos mentis Biden is one more fall away from Kamala Harris, selected entirely based on her race and sex, and who seems to have a vocabulary smaller than her menu of various chuckles.

Her presidency really would prove that anyone at all can be president.

Opportunity for ALL, but favoritism for NONE!

*** Victor Davis Hanson (born September 5, 1953) is an American classicist, military historian, and political commentator. He has been a commentator on modern and ancient warfare and contemporary politics for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Washington Times and other media outlets. He is a professor emeritus of Classics at California State University, Fresno, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in classics and military history at the Hoover Institution, and visiting professor at Hillsdale College. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush and was a presidential appointee in 2007–2008 on the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

From Seth Goden's column Jun 19, 2022

By every geologic measure, modern human life is a tiny blip, a spark of static on a very long-playing record.

For most of the time that life has existed on Earth, there were no humans. And when there were human-like creatures, they spent much of their time doing not much. Nomads eat when they need to, move around and hang out. It’s not an easy life, but there are none of the modern distractions or problems that urban culture presents.

Grain began to change things, because agriculture produces far more calories per acre, allowing populations to grow… and to store the results of our labor. Stored grain, though, is easier to steal and to tax than something that must be eaten fresh off the tree or harvested.

And so you get markets and wars and governments and the rise of a group of people wealthier than any individual farmer or nomad could be.

This is all mostly irrelevant. It’s irrelevant in the way that understanding how Edison made movies or sound recordings is irrelevant. It’s nice to know the history, but it doesn’t help you win an Oscar or a Grammy.

The two most relevant forces are in a powerful dance right now:

• The carbon-fueled growth of industry.

• The information-fueled growth of ideas and connection.

Industry changed the way the Earth looks from space, it enriched billions of people and it has driven our species to the brink of extinction due to our impact on the climate. It has often been based on caste and coercion, and created both opportunities and problems.

Connection has enabled culture to thrive, and in recent years, amplified by the noise of the internet, it’s also made many people miserable in the short run.

As we slog through another long, challenging year, one in which these two forces conflict, amplify and engage with each other, I’m remembering what Theodore Parker said more than 150 years ago:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

We really don’t have a lot of choice about yesterday. Here we are, many of us with more leverage and power than any human on Earth had just a hundred years ago.

In the last few decades, so many areas of culture have moved forward that defenders of the status quo are becoming exhausted trying to defend what was. And they sometimes express that exhaustion through anger, division and vitriol.

The good news is that we have exactly what we need to make things better. If enough of us stand up and lead and connect, we’ll continue to get closer to what’s possible.

Here’s to peace of mind and possibility. They go together.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

This article on the death penalty might change your mind; it did mine.

 Robert Bentley, a Republican, served as governor of Alabama from 2011 to 2017. Don Siegelman, a Democrat, was governor of Alabama from 1999 to 2003.

Alabama has 167 people on death row, a greater number per capita than in any other state. As far as the two of us are concerned, that is at least 146 people too many. Here’s why.

As former Alabama governors, we have come over time to see the flaws in our nation’s justice system and to view the state’s death penalty laws in particular, as legally and morally troubling. We both presided over executions while in office, but if we had known then what we know now about prosecutorial misconduct, we would have exercised our constitutional authority to commute death sentences to life.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1976, nationwide, 1 person on death row has been exonerated for every 8.3 executions. That means we have been getting it wrong about 12 percent of the time. If we apply those statistics to the 167 people on Alabama’s death row, it means that as many as 20 could have been wrongfully charged and convicted.

The center has found that wrongful convictions are “overwhelmingly the product of police or prosecutorial misconduct or the presentation of knowingly false testimony.” Judge Alex Kozinski, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, has said the withholding of exculpatory evidence by prosecutors is an “epidemic” in the United States. Shamefully, such misconduct most frequently involves Black defendants (87 percent).

Alabama has not been spared miscarriages of justice. The first known exoneration from the state’s death row was of Walter McMillian, whose case was highlighted by Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson in his book “Just Mercy.” But there are other death row convictions that should haunt Alabama’s leaders.

In 1998, a non-unanimous jury recommended death for Toforest Johnson for the killing of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy based on the testimony of someone who, unknown to the defense, was later paid a $5,000 reward. The case of Rocky Myers, convicted of murdering his neighbor, is even more disturbing. Myers was never connected to the murder scene, and even though the jury recommended life without parole, the judge overrode the recommendation and ordered his execution.

One of us, Don Siegelman, is personally haunted by the case of Freddie Wright, whose execution he could have commuted but did not in 2000. Twenty-three years later, Siegelman believes Wright was wrongfully charged, prosecuted and convicted for a murder he most likely did not commit.

Since 1976, when the Supreme Court granted prosecutors immunity from civil liability, it has been common for prosecutors to get close to 99 percent of the indictments they seek from grand juries. One reason for this is that grand juries are secret proceedings, with no lawyers present and no judge to oversee what prosecutors are doing. In this stealth setting, prosecutors have free rein to present false testimony or false evidence or to withhold exculpatory evidence to get the outcome they want.

Before 1976, the U.S. incarceration figure hovered around 200,000 people. After 1976, the number skyrocketed to more than 1.6 million. With the legal cover of the 1976 decision, President Barack Obama’s solicitor general argued to the Supreme Court in January 2010 that “U.S. citizens do not have a constitutional right not to be framed.” Ending unjust convictions will involve rethinking prosecutorial immunity.

In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that a unanimous verdict is required to convict someone of a capital crime warranting death. The court highlighted the racist underpinnings of non-unanimous verdicts as a Jim Crow practice dating from the 1870s. Alabama had been the only state to allow a person to be sentenced to death by this legal relic and has 115 people scheduled to die based on non-unanimous jury verdicts. Because the court’s ruling didn’t explicitly extend to the sentencing phase, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), using “tough on crime” rhetoric, recently signed a law that now allows a jury to recommend a death sentence on an 8-4 vote.

Alabama was also the last state to ban judicial overrides, a practice whereby judges were able to overrule jury verdicts of life without parole and order death. The Equal Justice Initiative had raised a concern about this practice, finding that “the proportion of death sentences imposed by override had often been elevated in election years.” Judicial overrides accounted for 7 percent of death sentences in a nonelection year but rose to 30 percent when Alabama judges ran for reelection.

In 2017, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed a law banning judicial overrides. But it was not applied retroactively, so 31 Alabamans, including Myers, are still scheduled to die based on this outlawed practice.

Alabama is one of 27 states that retain the death penalty. Of those, 14 have not conducted an execution in 10 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and the governors of five states (Arizona, California, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania) have said they will not oversee an execution during their terms.

As governors, we had the power to commute the sentences of all those on Alabama’s death row to life in prison. We no longer have that constitutional power, but we feel that careful consideration calls for commuting the sentences of the 146 prisoners who were sentenced by non-unanimous juries or judicial override and that an independent review unit should be established to examine all capital murder convictions.

We missed our chance to confront the death penalty and have lived to regret it, but it is not too late for today’s elected officials to do the morally right thing.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Three Tasks of Government

By Bing West      May 17, 2026

“There are three tasks,” the renowned historian Paul Johnson wrote, “which any government must perform: external security, internal order and maintenance of an honest currency.”

The United States is failing at all three tasks. Concerning security, the 2021 chaotic desertion of Afghanistan undermined America’s global credibility and military status. Leading NATO in giving arms to Ukraine brought partial redemption. However, this is eroding as the war drags on and President Biden refuses to send offensive weapons because he openly fears Putin. In the Middle East, America’s influence is crumbling. China negotiated a resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran sponsors repeated missile attacks upon U.S. ground forces and, in acts of defiant piracy, has seized three oil supertankers. The U.S. Navy did nothing except video the pirate boats. Iran gleefully showed that video on its TV stations. Led by Saudi Arabia, the Arab League readmitted the bloody Syrian regime. While China ratchets up pressure upon Taiwan, the administration’s budget for our navy and for the military, in general, does not keep pace with the inflation caused by the administration’s massive transfer payments.

Concerning internal order, social media has stunted the natural social interactions of our adolescents and spawned spiteful divisiveness among the adult population. Crime in most cities is both pervasive and brazen. More than 100,000 Americans die annually from fentanyl entering via the open southern border, along with two million illegal immigrants. The Democratic Party believes the swelling Hispanic vote will eventually ensure permanent majority rule by the Democrats. So, the human flood will continue unabated as long as President Biden is in office.

He has based his reelection upon arguing that anyone voting for Trump is an extremist. Trump responds in kind, touting “I am your retribution.” Both our leading politicians are driving Americans farther apart.

The third task of government is “maintenance of an honest currency.” No reasonable observer can repute honesty to the crass selfishness of the administration and Congress. It is impossible to sustain today’s generous social security, health benefits, multitudinous transfer payments, and the military without devaluing the dollar and insuring roughly four percent inflation for the next decade. With productivity growth of an anemic one percent versus inflation at four percent, every year the situation worsens. Our profligacy has bequeathed to our grandchildren a crushing debt burden.

The Roman Empire endured for 500 years. It disintegrated when its currency depreciation made it worthless to the legions. The soldiers walked off the job and the authority of Rome collapsed along with its borders.
To sum up: Government’s three basic tasks of external security, internal order, and maintenance of an honest currency are intertwined. Currently, America is failing at all three tasks. Facts, however, don’t change attitudes. The attitudes in our beloved country are internally poisonous. The forthcoming election is not about moving our country forward; it is about demonizing the opponent. This election is all about yelling, “The other guy is worse than I am!”

Military historian West, a former assistant secretary of defense, has written a dozen books about America’s recent wars.

Sunday, May 7, 2023


This 1967 true story is of an experience by a young 12-year-old lad in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. 

It is about the vivid memory of a privately rebuilt P-51 from WWII and its famous owner/pilot. In the morning sun, I could not believe my eyes. There, in our little airport, sat a majestic P-51. They said it had flown in during the night from some US airport on its way to an air show. The pilot had been tired, so he just happened to choose Kingston for his stopover. 

 It was to take to the air very soon. I marveled at the size of the plane, dwarfing the Pipers and Canucks tied down by her. It was much larger than in the movies. She glistened in the sun like a bulwark of security from days gone by. 

The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver, and then stepped into the pilot's lounge. He was an older man; his wavy hair was gray and tossed. It looked like it might have been combed, say, around the turn of the century. His flight jacket was checked, creased, and worn - it smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was prominently sewn to its shoulders. He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid of arrogance. 

 He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal ("Expo-67 Air Show") and then walked across the tarmac. After taking several minutes to perform his walk-around check, the tall, lanky man returned to the flight lounge to ask if anyone would be available to stand by with fire extinguishers while he "flashed the old bird up, just to be safe." 

Though only 12 at the time, I was allowed to stand by with an extinguisher after brief instruction on its use -- "If you see a fire, point, then pull this lever!" he said. (I later became a firefighter, but that's another story.)

The air around the exhaust manifolds shimmered like a mirror from fuel fumes as the huge prop started to rotate. One manifold, then another, and yet another barked -- I stepped back with the others. In moments, the Packard-built Merlin engine came to life with a thunderous roar. Blue flames knifed from her manifolds with an arrogant snarl. 

I looked at the others' faces; there was no concern. I lowered the bell of my extinguisher. One of the guys signaled to walk back to the lounge. We did. Several minutes later we could hear the pilot doing his pre-flight run-up. He'd taxied to the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went quiet for several seconds. We ran to the second-story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the P-51 as she started down the runway. We could not. There we stood; eyes fixed on a spot halfway down 19. 

Then a roar ripped across the field, much louder than before. Like a furious hell spawn set loose -- something mighty this way was coming. "Listen to that thing!" said the controller. In seconds, the Mustang burst into our line of sight. Its tail was already off the runway, and it was moving faster than anything I'd ever seen by that point on 19. 

Two-thirds the way down 19 the Mustang was airborne with her gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic. We clasped our ears as the Mustang climbed hellishly fast into the circuit to be eaten up by the dog-day haze. We stood for a few moments in stunned silence, trying to digest what we'd just seen.

The radio controller rushed by me to the radio. "Kingston tower calling Mustang?" He looked back to us as he waited for an acknowledgment. The radio crackled, "Go ahead, Kingston." "Roger, Mustang. Kingston Tower would like to advise the circuit is clear for a low-level pass." I stood in shock because the controller had just, more or less, asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air show! The controller looked at us. "Well, What?" he asked. "I can't let that guy go without asking. I couldn't forgive myself!"  

The radio crackled once again, "Kingston, do I have permission for a low-level pass, east to west, across the field?" "Roger, Mustang, the circuit is clear for an east-to-west pass." "Roger, Kingston, I'm coming out of 3,000 feet, stand by." 

We rushed back onto the second-story deck, eyes fixed toward the eastern haze. The sound was subtle at first, a high-pitched whine, a muffled screech, a distant scream. Moments later the P-51 burst through the haze. Her airframe straining against positive G's and gravity. Her wing tips spilling contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic. The burnished bird blasted across the eastern margin of the field shredding and tearing the air. At about 500 mph and 150 yards from where we stood, she passed with the old American pilot saluting. Imagine. A salute! 

I felt like laughing; I felt like crying; she glistened; she screamed; the building shook; my heart pounded. Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelible into my memory. 

I've never wanted to be an American more than on that day! It was a time when many nations in the world looked to America as their big brother. A steady and even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water with grace and style; not unlike the old American pilot who'd just flown into my memory. He was proud, not arrogant, humble, not a braggart, old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best. That America will return one day! I know it will!

Until that time, I'll just send off this story. Call it a loving reciprocal salute to a Country, and especially to that old American pilot: the late JIMMY STEWART (1908-1997), Actor, real WWII Hero (Commander of a US Army Air Force Bomber Wing stationed in England), and a USAF Reserve Brigadier General, who wove a wonderfully fantastic memory for a young Canadian boy that's lasted a lifetime. 

PLEASE GOD, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN….AS SOON AS YOU CAN! "A veteran, whether active duty, or retired, is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to, and including their life." That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand that.


Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Opening of the 2023 Season

Number 33 (Year) got started this past week at FDIC. I was honored by attendees such as Steve Schwartz, CEO and co-owner of Lion Protects, the longest sponsor of the Firefighter Challenge. He was followed by John Granby, who recently retired from Lion. Over the next couple of months, you will get the inside scoop on the origins of the Challenge. There’s some background on Wikipedia - and that post needs updating and more accuracy. I don’t know who started that thread, but it was a good start. 

 The Challenge got its start when Chief David Gratz and Dr. Leonard Marks walked into the Human Performance Lab at the Sports Medicine Center at the University of Maryland and asked, “Can you determine what it takes to climb a ladder and ventilate a roof with an axe?” The answer was “Yes.” 

 Back to Indy, 49 years later. Here are Steve Schwartz’s remarks on the Firefighter Challenge course Wednesday, April 25, 2023: 

 Steve: Lion and I have had the honor and privilege of supporting the Challenge since its inception. My uncle Richard Lapedes, Lion’s previous CEO, believed in honoring Firefighters’ toughness and bravery while encouraging them to possess athletic strength and agility. 

 At first, LION was a sponsor, but it soon became apparent that LION should step up to the plate and be more than “a sponsor” because the Challenge’s purpose was consistent with LION’s purpose to keep firefighters ready for action. In the late 90s, I became involved in the LION fire service business, and the story begins for me and my relationship with the Challenge and Paul. 

 I committed LION to transform our relationship from a sponsor to a true partner of On Target and helped to add stability to the Challenge as it grew to what it is today. The five evolutions that Paul created for the Challenge replicate the physical and mental demands of daily firefighting and, in some cases, the extreme extra efforts required to be a firefighter performing at the highest level. 

 We took the extra step to create the LION’s Den to honor the highest performers who complete the Challenge in less than 3 minutes. We are proud of our exceptional commitment to the Challenge. We are thrilled that, as we stand here today, we see a new, invigorated, and, we believe, even more exciting, competitor-friendly course set inside the LION Arena of the Brave. 

 So let me conclude my remarks by honoring Paul. I have seen Paul 2-3 times a year for the last 23 years, with some phone calls between personal visits. Since the Challenge started coming to Indy, I always saw him here. Paul’s enthusiasm for the Challenge was always so vibrant it felt like a crusade. That enthusiasm was so infectious. Paul had such a single-minded focus on the Challenge. 

 Every time we met, he shared his latest ideas on how to market it and new ways to attract more participants. He was never ready to give up or lose hope in spreading the challenging gospel. He is a man of great integrity who has faced challenges in his own life that give him the humility all great leaders possess.

 Thank you, Paul, for the Challenge, your life’s work. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far and away, the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. “Paul you have lived that life to the fullest.   

 John Granby: It was only fitting that LION became part of this incredible and grand Challenge as, at its core, LION has always believed in showcasing the physical and mental demands of the Firefighter as well as promoting the health and safety of the Firefighter. Being physically fit is one of the 16 core life initiatives of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. This event helps to highlight the need for all firefighters to be physically fit and healthy. 

 It is a way for LION to “give back” to the fire service and its 1.1 million active firefighters, to help them become even better physically and mentally and, in turn, help protect the communities they serve and promote the value of the fire service. LION has always been at the forefront of the health and safety of Firefighters. He has always tried to develop the lightest, safest, and most functional Turnout gear, station uniforms, and training equipment for the fire service. 

 Talk about stories about Paul – what Paul meant to you- As we stand here today and introduce everyone to the improved Challenge course, we are sure that a new chapter has begun. We believe that the new look of the system and the new direction that it has taken will only enhance and increase the legacy that Paul created in the 30-plus years that proceeded this new and improved course. We know that the look, energy and direction we propel this fantastic event well into the future. We hope that with all that is being done, this event will further the health and safety of all firefighters.