Today’s blacklisted American: Princeton considering blacklisting John Witherspoon, Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence

John Witherspoon: Target for cancellation
John Witherspoon: a target for cancellation

The modern dark age: Princeton University is now considering removing from its campus a statue of John Witherspoon, Founding Father, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the college’s sixth president, because some students have whined about the fact that in his life he also at one time owned two slaves.

A petition, started by three graduate students in the Philosophy Department, states that the “prominent place on campus of the John Witherspoon statue is inappropriate” and calls on the university to “remove it from its pedestal in Firestone Plaza.”

The petition asks that officials replace the statue with an informational plaque that reflects both the “positive and negative aspects of Witherspoon’s legacy.”

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The Battle of Samar

An evening pause: For Veterans Day, a story about the men who in World War II risked their lives and died to make it possible for freedom to reign for the next three-quarters of a century.

Hat tip Mike Nelson. For a much longer and more detailed documentary describing this battle, go here.

American freedom sets a new yearly record for rocketry

Liberty enlightens the world
Liberty has now also enlightened the exploration of space

Capitalism in space: In 1966, more than a half century ago, the United States government was in a desperate space race to catch up with the communist Soviet Union, which for the previous decade had been first in almost every major achievement in space, from launching the first orbital satellite, the first manned mission, the first two- and three- manned missions, and the first spacewalk.

In 1966, the NASA and the U.S. military successfully launched 70 times in their effort to catch up, a number that has remained the record for more that five decades as the most American launches in a single year.

All but one of those seventy launches were either for NASA or the military, paid for and built not for profit but for achieving the political ends of the federal government. Many of those seventy launches were also short duration technology test satellites, whose purpose once achieved ended those programs.

By the end of the 1960s, this aggressive effort had paid off, with the U.S. being the first to land humans on the Moon while matching or exceeding the Soviets in almost every major technical space challenge. The need for such an aggressive government launch program vanished.

Thus, for the next half century, the United States rarely exceeded thirty launches in a single year. This low number was further reduced by the decision in the 1970s by the federal government to shut down the entire private launch industry and require all American manned and satellite payloads to be launched on NASA’s space shuttle.

Come 2011 and the retirement of the space shuttle, all this finally changed. The federal government began a slow and painful transition in the next decade from building and launching its own rockets to buying that service from the private sector. It took awhile, but that transition finally allowed the rebirth of a new American private launch industry, led by SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket.

Tonight, that SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket completed the 71st launch in 2022, breaking that 1966 record by placing in orbit a commercial communications satellite. And it did it with almost two months left in the year, guaranteeing that the record has not only be broken, it will be shattered.
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The first Greek star catalog discovered hidden in medieval parchment

Scientists have discovered part of the first Greek star catalog created by Hipparchus — thought by many to have invented the modern field of astronomy — hidden in a medieval parchment that had been reused for other puposes.

Scholars have been searching for Hipparchus’s catalogue for centuries. James Evans, a historian of astronomy at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, describes the find as “rare” and “remarkable”. The extract is published online this week in the Journal for the History of Astronomy. Evans says it proves that Hipparchus, often considered the greatest astronomer of ancient Greece, really did map the heavens centuries before other known attempts. It also illuminates a crucial moment in the birth of science, when astronomers shifted from simply describing the patterns they saw in the sky to measuring and predicting them.

The manuscript came from the Greek Orthodox St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, but most of its 146 leaves, or folios, are now owned by the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC. The pages contain the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a collection of Syriac texts written in the tenth or eleventh centuries. But the codex is a palimpsest: parchment that was scraped clean of older text by the scribe so that it could be reused.

Using modern multi-spectral imaging, the researchers were able to decipher the older text, and determined it was almost certainly written by Hipparchus and included his star measurements.

Read the whole article at the link. It is a fascinating detective story describing the origins of modern astronomy in western civilization.

Gemini/Apollo astronaut Jim McDivitt passes away at 93

R.I.P. Jim McDivitt, who was the commander of both the Gemini 4 and Apollo 9 missions in the 1960s, passed away on October 13, 2022 at the age of 93.

He first flew in space as commander of the Gemini IV mission in June 1965. McDivitt was joined by fellow Air Force pilot Ed White on the program’s most ambitious flight to date. During Gemini IV, White would become the first American to venture outside his spacecraft for what officially is known as an extravehicular activity (EVA) or as the world has come to know it, a spacewalk. … The mission’s four-day duration nearly doubled NASA astronauts’ previous time in space to that point, with the longest American spaceflight previously being Gordon Cooper’s 34-hour Mercury 9 mission.

McDivitt’s second spaceflight as the commander of Apollo 9 played a critical role in landing the first humans on the Moon. This was the first flight of the complete set of Apollo hardware and was the first flight of the Lunar Module. The mission launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on March 3, 1969, with Commander James McDivitt, Command Module Pilot David Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot Russell Schweickart. After launch, Apollo 9 entered Earth orbit and the crew performed an engineering test of the first crewed lunar module, nicknamed “Spider,” from beginning to end. They simulated the maneuvers that would be performed during actual lunar missions. During the mission, the astronauts performed a series of flight tasks with the command and service module and the lunar module. The top priority was rendezvous and docking of the lunar module with the command and service module. The crew also configured the lunar module to support a spacewalk by McDivitt and Schweickart. On Flight Day 10, March 13, 1969, the Apollo 9 capsule re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, within three miles and in full view of the recovery ship, the USS Guadalcanal, about 341 miles north of Puerto Rico.

To me, McDivitt’s most important discovery occurred early in his Gemini mission. After launch he was tasked with an attempt to approach and rendezvous with the upper stage, shortly after deployment. He was surprised to find that his intuition about doing so was utterly wrong. Whenever he tried to close the distance by applying thrust in the direction implied by his earthbound instincts, the distance actually increased.

McDivitt’s experience showed that rendezvous and docking in orbit was not going to be simple. In fact, it took almost the entire Gemini program in 1965 and 1966 to figure it out.

McDivitt never went to the Moon, but he was like all the first generation of American astronauts, professional, careful, dedicated, and remarkably good at what he did. May he rest in peace.

Pushback: Cornell’s library lifts its blackballing of Abraham Lincoln

Banned by Cornell

Our modern dark age: Faced with a storm of criticism from donors, alumni, and the public, the removal of a bust of Abraham Lincoln from the library at Cornell University, has been cancelled, and Lincoln will once again be given an honored place at the university.

The bust’s removal, along with a plaque celebrating Lincoln’s Gettysburg address (to the right), were removed in 2021 because some unnamed individual had filed a complaint. As I noted in June:
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Valeri Polykov, holder of the record’s longest stay in space, passes away

Valeri Polykov
Valeri Polykov

Russian astronaut Valeri Polykov, who holds the record for the longest spaceflight yet of any human in history, has passed away at the age of 80.

In 1994 and 1995 Polykov spent 437 days on Russia’s space station Mir, the equivalent of fourteen months and two weeks. His thoughts at launch, as he told me personally when I interviewed him while writing Leaving Earth, were not so confident:

“What if something goes wrong?” [he explained]. “I had sacrificed so much time. The government has spent so much, more than they can afford. And I’ve learned so much for them myself, for them.

“Better I die if something went wrong,” he thought. “Better if I had a gun to shoot myself.”

Nothing went wrong however. Polykov, a doctor, had pushed for this long mission to find out if it would be possible for a person to function after a year-plus of weightlessness upon arrival on Mars. Originally planned to last 18 months, circumstances eventually shortened it to 14 months-plus. When Polykov came home in March 1995, he managed to walk a few steps on his own, shortly after being removed from the capsule. To his mind, he had proved that a person could function on their own on Mars after such a long flight.

Others disagreed. As I wrote in Leaving Earth, though he was almost normal within a week of landing,

Polykov had come back to Earth very weak. For at least those first few hours, he needed help from those around him. Any spacefarer arriving on Mars after a year in space must be prepared to face that same challenge.

Regardless, Polykov, like Brian Binnie, was one of the early giants in space exploration. His contribution must not be forgotten.

SpaceShipOne pilot Brian Binnie passes away

R.I.P. Brian Binnie, who piloted SpaceShipOne on its second flight that won the Ansari X-Prize back in 2004, passed away on September 15, 2022 at the age of 69.

Brian’s record flight was the second of two SpaceShipOne flights needed to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize. The prize was given for the first privately-built crewed vehicle to make a flight above 100 km (62.1 miles) twice within two weeks. Mike Melvill made the first flight for the Ansari X Prize competition five days earlier.

The success of this private spaceship proved that private enterprise could do better than government, if given the chance. It laid the groundwork for the renaissance in American rocketry we are seeing today.

His part in this history must not be forgotten.

Lawrence of Arabia

An evening pause: I have posted scenes from this film twice (both sadly gone now from youtube), but I think the trailer sells it well. This movie remains one of the greatest made in the history of film. If you haven’t seen it, you must. Though its facts are of course not entirely accurate, its sense of the history, culture, time, and the political machinations going on in Arabia during World War I are spot on. The visuals, acting, and script (by Robert Bolt) are also magnificent.

It also speaks to the Middle East we see today, and helps explain why the Arabs have so far not really done well with the advantages of western technology.

Hat tip Tom Wilson, who says he makes it a point to watch this epic at least once a year.

Chuck Yeager – Breaking the Sound Barrier

An evening pause: From a 1950s Air Force documentary, describing Yeager’s flight on October 14, 1947. The 75th anniversary of this achievement is thus only two months away. From the YouTube webpage:

Two nights before the scheduled date for the flight, Yeager broke two ribs when he fell from a horse. He was worried that the injury would remove him from the mission and reported that he went to a civilian doctor in nearby Rosamond, who taped his ribs. Yeager told only his wife, as well as friend and fellow project pilot Jack Ridley, about the accident. On the day of the flight, Yeager was in such pain that he could not seal the X-1’s hatch by himself. Ridley rigged up a device, using the end of a broom handle as an extra lever, to allow Yeager to seal the hatch.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.

Van Johnson – Flim Flam Floo

An evening pause: This song comes from the first full television movie, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, first aired on NBC in 1957, and then subsequently re-aired almost yearly for the next decade. If you want to watch it, it is available on the internet archive here.

I post it today because it is a perfect expression of the hopeful culture of the 1960s that made possible the Apollo 11 lunar landing that occurred fifty-three years ago today. As the song says, “The world is filled with wonderment and magic,” and then insists “You can find the beauty in all you perceive/Just believe that it’s there in view.”

I recently rediscovered this movie of my childhood, and was astonished to discover that though I hadn’t heard this song in more than fifty years, I remembered its message as if I had only watched it yesterday. Its message was what my parent’s generation believed, and tried with all their might to pass on to their children. Their belief made the Apollo 11 landing possible. Sadly, most of my baby boomer generation decided to reject this hopeful vision, thus producing the increasingly gloomy society we have today.

Let us work to recapture that wonder and hope. Only then can our children breathe free to achieve some true wonders of their own.

Thanks to Wayne Devette for clipping this song from the full movie for me.

Today’s blacklisted American: Thomas Jefferson and other important American historical figures banned by Cleveland school authorities

Thomas Jefferson banned in Cleveland
Thomas Jefferson, banned by Cleveland school officials

The modern dark age: Officials of Cleveland Metropolitan Schools have decided that its schools cannot be named after Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry because these great Americans — who trail-blazed the fight for individual freedom — had also owned slaves.

Guidelines implemented by the district last year with the urging of the Cleveland City Council require that schools not be named after people who have a documented history of enslaving other humans.

The district also prohibits naming schools for those who have actively participated in the institution of slavery, systemic racism, the oppression of people of color, women, or other minority groups, or who have been a member of a supremacist organization.

The two schools are now named after a black Democratic Party politician and a former school official. In our new dark age, these relatively minor individuals are now considered more important than two giants who made it possible to found the first country on Earth dedicated to freedom and individual liberty where the people were sovereign and the government was only their servant.
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Victory Boyd – The Star Spangled Banner

An evening pause: Victory Boyd was supposed to perform the national anthem at the opening game of the NFL’s 2021 season. They canceled her because she has refused to get vaccinated for religious reasons. She responded with this performance made available to all. The NFL should burn in hell.

Her passion in singing the last two lines of the anthem are important. The words, “The land of the free, the home of the brave,” are meant to remind us that you can’t have the former without the latter. Right now, every time I see someone mindlessly wearing a mask I wonder if the latter still exists.

Sing it! Believe it! Make ’22 the year that freedom and courage return to America.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.

Why we really celebrate the Fourth of July

The Declaration of Independence

If you really want to know why the Fourth of July has been the quintessential American holiday since the founding our this country, you need only return to the words of the document that became public to the world on that day.

Below the fold is the full text of the Declaration. Read it. It isn’t hard to understand, even if the style comes from the late 1700s. Its point however is clear. Governments that abuse the rights of the citizenry don’t deserve to be in power. The most important quote of course is right near the beginning:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed — that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. [emphasis mine]

What a radical concept — a nation founded on the principle of allowing its citizens to pursue happiness.

Right now, however, we have a federal government in America that more fits the description of King George III’s Great Britain in 1776 in the Declaration. The corrupt elitist uni-Party of federal elected officials and the federal bureaucracy in Washington has for too long run roughshod over the general population. If you take the time to read the full text of the Declaration, you will be astonished at the remarkable conceptual similarity between the abuses that Jefferson describes coming from Great Britain and the many abuses of power that are now legion and common by the uni-Party in Washington.

When November comes the American public will likely have its last chance to overthrow the political wing of the uni-Party, led by the Democratic Party. The Republicans are no saints, but at least that party contains within it many decent politicians who honor the Constitution, the rule of law, and the Bill of Rights. Many are right now campaigning on those ideals. Based on the past six years, we now know that no one in the Democratic Party honors those values. What they honor is blacklisting, racism, segregation, anti-American hate, and above all power. If they are not removed from office, they will ramp up that power, in league with quislings like Romney and Cornyn in the Republican Party, to further corrupt our Constitutional government.

These people do not like losing power. The longer they hold it, the more they will work to undermine the election system to make sure they do not lose. The corruption and election fraud in 2020 election was merely a dress rehearsal of what these goons will do if they have the chance next year.

In fact, November 2022 might very well be the last election that has any chance of producing legitimate results. Americans had better not waste this last chance.
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Today’s blacklisted American: Lincoln bust and Gettysburg Address plaque removed from Cornell library because “someone complained”

Banned by Cornell

Our modern dark age: Apparently because some unidentified individual “complained” about the presence of a bust of Abraham Lincoln and a bronzed plaque of his Gettysburg address, officials running the library at Cornell University immediately removed both.

“Someone complained, and it was gone,” Cornell professor Randy Wayne told the College Fix, referring to a Gettysburg Address plaque and Lincoln bust that had been on display in the Ivy League university’s Kroch Library since 2013. The professor said that he had noticed that the items were gone after stopping by the library several weeks ago, adding that when he asked the librarians about it, they were unable to give any details, other than saying it was removed as a result of some type of complaint.

The plaque and bust have been replaced with, “Well, nothing,” Wayne told the College Fix.

According to professor Wayne, when he asked the librarians why the bust and plaque were gone “they had no details to provide, except to say it was removed after some sort of complaint.”
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NASA halts sale of Apollo 11 Moon dust, claiming ownership

We’re here to help you: The auction of a tiny amount of Moon dust brought back by Apollo 11 and used in a post-flight experiment using German cockroaches has been canceled because NASA claimed ownership of that dust and demanded its return.

“NASA asserts legal ownership of the materials consisting of the Apollo 11 lunar dust experiment … based upon the information and documentation provided in the description of the lot and evidence regarding NASA’s contemporaneous contracting practices,” an attorney in NASA’s Office of the General Counsel wrote RR Auction in a letter on Wednesday, a week after first reaching out to the firm. “It is clear and undeniable that the materials consisting of the experiment are owned by NASA.”

The lot under contention comprises what remains from the late Marion Brooks’ research into the physiological effects of lunar material on Blattellas germanica, or German cockroaches. The insects had been fed moon dust by NASA scientists in the immediate aftermath of the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. After no ill-effects were seen while astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were held in quarantine, the (now dead) cockroaches were handed off to Brooks, an entomologist from the University of St. Paul, for more thorough study.

Included in the auction was a small vial of moon dust that Brooks’ had carefully extracted from the cockroaches’ corpses, as well as three of the remaining (dead) cockroaches and two boxes of tissue slides for microscopic study.

It appears the dust had been in the Brooks family possession for more than forty years, then sold by them at auction in 2010 for $10,000. Under standard adverse possession law, you lose ownership if you don’t claim that right after twenty years. It would thus seem that NASA’s claim is bogus.

But then, NASA as a government agency doesn’t believe the standard laws apply to it. It continues to demand that all Apollo lunar material belongs to it and be returned, no matter what the circumstances it was originally handed out by the agency and no matter how long ago.

David Bull – David’s Choice

An evening pause: Hat tip Cotour, who admits “This is a bit different.” I agree, but it gives you a flavor from the past when a new technology first met art, to produce something beautiful but new. From the youtube webpage:

The next in our ‘David’s Choice’ series, where Tokyo-based woodblock printmaker David Bull introduces some of his favourite prints. This time, the print(s) being featured are from the old Doi Hanga Company, and are two different scenes of the Kagurazaka district of Tokyo. The designers were Tsuchiya Koitsu, and Noel Nouet, and the prints were originally published in the late 1930s.

Mister Rogers – Garden of Your Mind

An evening pause: As a kid, I could never stomach Mister Rogers. The most I could ever watch him was about ten seconds before becoming totally bored. Thus, I was initially very doubtful about scheduling this video — until I watched it. It takes the things Rogers said and did and turns it into a really good rap video!

Hat tip Tom Wilson, aka t-dub.

DNA tests of 800-year-old gravesite in Kyrgyzstan suggest that region was source of Black Death

Based on DNA tests of several 800-year-old graves in northern Kyrgyzstan near Lake Issyk Kul, it appears that the Black Death that first appeared in Europe in the 1300s and killed as much as half its population came from this region initially.

Working with Slavin and Russian collaborators including Valeri Khartanovich of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, where the Issyk Kul skulls were stored, Spyrou extracted DNA from the pulp of seven individuals’ teeth and found three were infected with Y. pestis. She was able to reconstruct a high-quality genome of the ancient strain that killed them. That strain “fell exactly on the origin point of that big bang event” in the evolution of Y. pestis, Spyrou says. “That was incredibly exciting.”

The strain was closely related to ones found in rodents near Issyk Kul today. The authors suggest it spilled over to humans, perhaps from a marmot, which are abundant in the Tian Shan mountain region of northern Kyrgyzstan, southern Kazakhstan, and northwestern China.

What is fascinating most about this discovery is that we actually have the names of some of the Black Death’s first victims, read from their tombstones: ““This is the tomb of the believer Sanmaq. [He] died of pestilence.”

Puzzling telemetry from Voyager-1 suggests problem

Engineers are puzzling over strange operational data coming from Voyager-1, launched in 1977 and now in interstellar space more than 14 billion miles away, that suggests a technical problem but also makes no sense.

The engineering team with NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is trying to solve a mystery: The interstellar explorer is operating normally, receiving and executing commands from Earth, along with gathering and returning science data. But readouts from the probe’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS) don’t reflect what’s actually happening onboard.

The AACS controls the 45-year-old spacecraft’s orientation. Among other tasks, it keeps Voyager 1’s high-gain antenna pointed precisely at Earth, enabling it to send data home. All signs suggest the AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it’s returning is invalid. For instance, the data may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the AACS could be in.

The issue hasn’t triggered any onboard fault protection systems, which are designed to put the spacecraft into “safe mode” – a state where only essential operations are carried out, giving engineers time to diagnose an issue. Voyager 1’s signal hasn’t weakened, either, which suggests the high-gain antenna remains in its prescribed orientation with Earth.

Figuring out what has happened is made more difficult by distance. It takes about 20 hours for signals to get from Voyager-1 to Earth, even at the speed of light. Thus, any attempted fix will arrive almost two days after it first occurred, at the soonest.

Both Voyager-1 and Voyager-2 are still operating, though at significantly reduced power. It is expected that sometime in the next few years their nuclear power sources will finally be unable to produce enough power to keep them functioning. If so, both spacecraft will have survived the maximum time predicted when launched.

Mahma Comparisons – Biggest volcano eruptions known

An evening pause: I run this at 2x speed, but if you aren’t impatient enjoy it as it is. The size difference between the smallest and largest is quite daunting. Note too that this video only lists the known giant eruptions, explosive events that happened suddenly. It does not include some of the Earth’s largest long term volcanic events, such as the Deccan Traps, that happened repeatedly lasting millions of years that is thought to have possibly contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Hat tip Alton Blevins.

Bobby Troup – Route 66

An evening pause: The animation created to go with Troup’s jazzy version of this song is utter fantasy, imagining America as portrayed in culture, not reality. No matter. Sometimes the myth is better.

This also makes a nice pause to usher in the weekend.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.

Apollo 16 on Moon, as visualized by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 16 mission to the Moon in April 1972, scientists using images from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have created a short digital visualization of the lunar surface where astronauts John Young and Charles Duke completed three different excursions across the lunar surface.

I have embedded that video below. The audio is the discussion between John Young and the capcom at mission control during the last excursion. The key moment is when John Young reaches the rim of North Ray crater, and realizes he cannot see its floor because the interior slopes are so steep.
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The seeds of today’s madness were planted decades ago

Political journalist Doug Ross yesterday re-posted an essay he had written a decade ago, which had successfully predicted the crime wave we are undergoing today.

In it, he outlined how the growth in 2011 in government anti-poverty and welfare programs — which acted to further tear apart families — was going to lead to what he called “a true Obama Crime Wave” sometime in the early 2020s.

  • Fact: There are a record number of Americans dependent upon government anti-poverty programs thanks to the Obama Democrats
  • Fact: Expanded access to welfare and food stamps greatly increases the number of children born to unwed mothers
  • Fact: Single-parent families correlate to higher crime rates
  • Conclusion: with the unprecedented increase in welfare, food stamps and unemployment, we will also see an unparalleled increase in violent crime within the next dozen or so years.

Obama and his Democrat sycophants in Congress will have created hundreds of thousands of single-parent families. These kids, born out-of-wedlock, will find themselves trapped in lives of criminality at far higher rates than kids from two-parent families.

Fast forward a dozen years, give or take a couple, and we will see a true Obama Crime Wave. I predict that we will see an unprecedented increase in crime. In fact, you could call it historic.

And the question is not whether it will happen. The question is just how bad it will be.

Ross’s prediction in 2011 was of course guaranteed to be right, as good social science research since the early and mid-twentieth century had shown that if you raise children in broken homes, chaos ensues when they reach adulthood.

I think however that Ross and most previous researchers have missed half the equation. Broken homes certainly produce adults who don’t know right from wrong, and thus become hardened and violent criminals.
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