The Dream

Shortly after I graduated in May of 2010, I had the time to start watching television again. It may not be in quite the same volume as the days of my adolescence, but it was quite a bit more than when I was but a tired, bitter, over-worked engineering student at Ye Olde Military Institute of Virginia. My viewing habits trend towards cop shows, medical dramas, spy dramas, and just about anything on the History, Military, or Discovery channels. That said, I had been watching the mini-series America: The Story of Us on the History Channel. I’m also became a huge fan of the show When We Left Earth on Discovery. Both of these shows are illustrative of the American Dream. The dream that no matter your creed or color, you could achieve anything you wanted in America as long as you had the drive, the dedication, and the heart to accomplish it.

America’s history overflows with examples of men and women who have left their mark on history based upon sheer determination alone. Men like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller built empires from dust while presidents like Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy bridged oceans and landed men upon the moon. Even men born into slavery achieved lives of success winning freedom for all men and women.

This is what has always set the United States apart from any other country on earth; the fact that what unites us is not some shared ethnicity or allegiance to some common monarch, but one mutual idea that all men are imbued by God with an equal opportunity to turn their dreams into reality.

I fear that we’ve lost that. Not only that, but that we’ve lost the capacity for it. That somehow all of the doom and gloom and “Me First!” consumerism has killed our ability to dream of new tomorrows and soar upwards to a brighter future. With the talk of fiscal cliff this and debt ceiling that, we’ve lost our footing and forgotten who we are as Americans.

We’re dreamers, workers, fighters. We take the bull by the horns and work diligently until even the wildest vestiges of our imaginations are turned into reality. We did it in 1776 by taking on the world’s preeminent super power and birthing a new nation based upon the ideals of equality for all men before the law and liberty. We did it again in 1865 when we emerged from our bloodiest war united after struggling for the soul of our Nation. We did it again in 1914 when we bridged the world’s largest oceans in Panama. We did it once more in 1945 when we rescued the world from fascism and pure evil. And our crowning achievement was when we turned lunatic science fiction into concrete scientific history in 1969 when we landed men on the moon.

We can do it again, but we the people MUST gather together and make it happen. We cannot continue down this road of selfishness and animosity.

The New Grand Old Party

We Republicans stand at a cross roads: We can choose to change and each faction of the party can compromise some of their views and we can unite or we can go the same way as the Whig Party did before. There’s just no other way to go. The Democrats have moved ahead of us in diversifying their base and grabbing a larger chunk of the American populace as their loyal voters; namely the black, Latino, and women’s rights votes. By many, Republicans are seen as old, decrepit, backers of big business and out of touch with the needs and struggles of the majority of average America.

But it wasn’t always like this. The Republican Party used to be the party of intelligent progressivism. We used to be the party that moved America forward. My personal hero, Theodore Roosevelt, was a staunch Republican who battled for such things as anti-trust legislation, equal rights for all Americans, and liberty. Many other prominent Republicans supported similar legislation and policies such as Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Our party is built upon the ideals of personal responsibility balanced by a government which keeps its nose out of the personal affairs of the people.

Meghan McCain recently published an opinion piece along these same lines. In it she says the same things I’ve been thinking for years chief amongst which is that we’ve decided to follow the Religious Right and Social Conservatives so far down the rabbit hole that we’ve delude ourselves into thinking we can legislate people’s morality. It’s hurt us, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections. We focus on issues like abortion and gay marriage when we should really be fighting the increasing burden of debt that represents a serious national security threat to this nation. We must hone our message around the base of a sane fiscal policy, a strong national defense, and a dedication to the idea that every American should have an equal opportunity for success and should be left to do as they please so long as they don’t violate the rights of other Americans. These are the principles that made America and the GOP strong. They will again in the future only if we speak out in favor of them.

We need a return to the traditional role of the Republican Party as the party that moves America forward and not the party calling for a return to the Dark Ages.

The Navy and Bio-Fuel

For the last few years, the Navy has been pouring a lot of valuable money into bio-fuel research. The way that the project has been sold has been as a way to make the fleet more environmentally friendly, reducing emissions and the like. Now anyone who knows much about the engineering of ships knows that for the majority of our fleet, we use gas turbines in our main propulsion plants, and gas turbines burn through an exorbitant amount of gas in under the most “economical” of conditions. Because of this, the bio-fuel campaign has come under great scrutiny as a waste of money, including just recently from the Honorable Randy Forbes (R-VA).

The Navy used 20,000 gallons of algae-derived fuel for a November test in San Diego. Here, Lt. Cmdr. Frank Kim compares sample bottles of traditional diesel fuel and the alternative blend. Photo Courtesy of Dept of the Navy.

But the idea of “greening” the fleet isn’t all bad, it’s just being sold the wrong way. Having the ability to power our ships using bio-fuel as well as regular marine diesel provides us flexibility in the event that standard oil supplies are cut-off. Flexibility is crucial in warfare, as our adeptness at being able to roll with the punches can mean the difference between being victorious or having our rear-ends handed to us. And that being the case, we need to sell to Congress that we need to pursue bio-fuel alternatives in order to maintain superiority on the sea.

The only caveat is that bio-fuel isn’t the most economical way of providing independence from the vagaries of the oil market. The best way to do this is to convert as much of the fleet as possible to nuclear power. The joy about nuclear plants is that they don’t produce carbon emissions, they don’t need to be fueled up for decades, and they can run nearly indefinitely, meaning that a ship’s range is only limited by the amount of food and fresh water it can carry.

The only downside to a nuclear fleet is the amount of money required on the front end to install the reactor and propulsion plant. In the end, both initiatives are necessary, as well as increasing our domestic oil production as much as possible.

Counter Piracy Done Right

This video was making the rounds on the internets over the weekend. It depicts a skirmish between private security contractors aboard a merchant vessel and would-be pirates attacking said vessel. The contractors repel the pirates with force, saving the merchant vessel, its crew, and the contents of its hold from ransom.

This is the only way to deal with pirates. The mercurial political situation and rampant poverty affecting most countries that sponsor or are home to pirates are complicated issues that leave the citizens of said countries with few other options than to engage in illegal trafficking or piracy. Also, many of the governments of those countries realize that they can make tremendous profits by charging said pirates and smugglers for safe harbor.

In short, the only real true way to easily ensure the safe passage of a ship bearing the flag of the United States is to show the pirates that to trifle with a US flagged ship is lunacy and will end with their sure demise. And the only way to do that is have American warships sailing with consistent presence in said pirate-infested waters, providing forward presence and deterrence.

It worked for Stephen Decatur, it’ll work now.

Burdening My Generation

A Message for America’s Young‬‏ – YouTube.


Amidst the talk of all of the budget and national debt controversies currently saddling our national discourse during the last few months, it seems that the larger picture has been lost amongst the various political factions. With the Democratic Party trying their best to preserve unsustainable public welfare programs and the Republican Party doing what they can to keep tax rates unreasonably low, the fact that the mistakes of today won’t be paid by the politicians and current majority of the populace has been buried. It will not be my parents’ generation who will be paying off our current debt, numbered north of fourteen trillion dollars.

It’s this debt which will cripple my children and my children’s children. It’s this debt that will force my generation to enact draconian austerity measures that would make the current crop of Leftist politicians and mouthpieces blanche. And let us not even speak of the horrors a double-dip recession and/or depression would bring.

But with the majority of those in power seemingly all too happy to kick the proverbial can, it will fall upon those of my generation who are just now beginning to venture out into the world. It will be us who will have to make the hard decisions about our sovereign debt and whether or not we can afford to continue providing hand-outs to our parents’ generation during the sunset of their lives. It will be us who will have to deal with conflicts from the global economic collapse.

But all is not darkness. I have met and had the honor to work with many exceptional individuals amongst my peers and I am confident that we will be able to surmount the hurdles that will be thrown at us. Americans have faced hardship before and prospered, and I have no reason to believe that we won’t be able to do so again.

We’re Losing The Space Race Again


via xkcd: 65 Years.

The alternate text for the image:

The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space–each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.

As I’ve said before, we must continue our exploration of space. All of our accomplishments here on earth come to naught if we don’t reach out and expand the grasp of the human race. One day, a few billion years hence, our sun will engulf our terrestrial orb and life will cease. When that day comes, we cannot allow Homo sapiens sapiens to go quietly into that dark night, we must have solidified a beachhead on multiple other worlds. But sadly, it seems we’re stuck in our short-sighted, “rational,” political game. If only we could achieve world peace and learn to work together.

Also, for those with technical inclinations in need of a good chuckle, XKCD always delivers.

Man’s Next Small Step

With NASA’s space shuttle program drawing to a close and the planned moon missions cancelled, the future of manned space flight is unclear. The space program has long been one of America’s most cherished projects; but we’ve long lacked the will to use the program properly. Which is quite ironic, given the fact that our country was founded by explorers and radical thinkers.

Over forty years ago, a humble man from Ohio set his boot onto the moon. It was a culmination of a decade of hard work that had been fraught with danger and had used every resource our country could provide. In the process some of the most brilliant minds in the world used all of the technology available to them — more often than not, inventing what they needed as they went — to accomplish the goals that had been laid out by a young, visionary president, who embodied all of the hope of a generation. Those goals were to go where no man had gone before, and then to return safely to tell the tale. So, after a decade of design errors, exploding rockets, near-catastrophic disasters, and the loss of three astronauts, two men from the United States became the first humans to tread upon extraterrestrial soil.

But almost as soon as the celebrations had ended, the American public lost interest. Their focus turned to a conflict in Southeast Asia that had taken a turn for the worst, spilling much American blood with little to show for it. Their concerns about economic uncertainty due to stagnation and recession. When tragedy struck in April of 1970, the public’s eyes were again focused on the space program, but this time they were more concerned for the fate of their heroes risking all in the heavens above. It was Apollo 13, and later the Challenger and Columbia disasters, which would bring home the dangers inherent in exploring uncharted territory. And these would prove trying to America at large. When the only time they were reminded of the existence of the space program was when lives were lost or costly mistakes were made, the general public began to question just how practical the expenditure of money was on spaceflight. And so NASA’s budget was slowly eroded, and it’s future plans cancelled one by one.

So now we’re left with the prospect of once again being trapped earthbound, with the only countries capable of sending a man into space being Russia or China. But how do we get ourselves out of this mess? At risk of over-simplifying the issue, the best way to return to space is to commercialize low-earth orbit and then letting NASA reclaim it’s rightful position as the organization dedicated to the exploration of outer space, instead of letting it languish in its current state. By providing incentives, the government can help the private sector find an inexpensive, reliable, and hassle-free route into space. And let us not kid ourselves, private industry is the only group capable of reaching that particular end state, as their necessity to turn a profit requires that that they keep costs low and not kill customers. Also, with NASA freed to pour all of it’s resources into exploration and not commercial interests (i.e. putting communications satellites into orbit), it can once again focus on flying to the moon and then onto mars.

That exploration won’t be easy, though. There will be risks, and lives will be lost, but that is just the nature of the beast. It will also require visionaries and brilliant minds to sort out the problems inherent in space travel. But most of all, it will require the political will and determination of the American people to accept the loss of life and expense of capital in order to venture into the far depths of space. The only way to do that is to inspire them to turn their gaze skyward and to dream like their forefathers did.

Starship Troopers

I’m rereading Starship Troopers for my Naval Science course, and I’m slowly remembering just how much I liked reading it the first time back in high school. This time, though, I’m picking up on far more of the subtleties Heinlein wrote into the story, especially all of the commentary on politics and society. If you like treatises on civic duty, justification of war, and battlefield leadership, then I highly recommend this book.

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Making History

Yesterday, we saw the 44th peaceful regime change in our young nation’s history. While I did not vote for President Obama, it is high time that we check our politics at the door and try to fix the ills as a single nation instead of a plethora of divided factions. I wish him Godspeed as he begins his term in office.

Yesterday also marked another seminal event: the thirteenth appearance of the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets in a presidential inaugural parade. It was a long, cold day, that totaled out to about 20 hours of traveling, security checks, waiting around for orders, forming up, waiting around, and actually marching in the parade. But all of the time was well spent for the five minutes that we passed in review for the President, and for the nation. It was truly an honor to be a part of history.

Rah Virginia Mil!

Sick Blogging

Well, I was hoping to be writing this from Norfolk, Virginia, this being FTX Weekend and the Navy having planned visit Norfolk Naval Base and stay aboard the USS Iwo Jima. Unfortunately fate conspired against me and I am stuck here in Lex Vegas with an infected right foot. Fortunately, it hasn’t been so bad. I was volunteered to help the individuals in charge of the Corps FTX with making sure we have proper accountability of everyone. Besides the bleary-eyed staring at my computer screen, the infuriating complexity of Excel, and the want to strangleeducate those people who put the various rosters together and do not understand the importance of alphabetization, it really hasn’t been all that bad. I’m looking forward to being healthy again, though, I absolutely HATE being sick, but I think that just comes with the territory.

I’ve also been rather busy as of late, what with the joys of being a Mechanical Engineer (i.e. late nights, early mornings, little sleep, and mind-boggling amounts of caffeine). But I do enjoy what I do. We also had a funky schedule this week. Between preparations for FTX and a visit from former Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She was presented the Byrd Award for public service, which she rightfully deserves, but I can’t help but see the irony in the fact that we awarded a one of the members of the Supreme Court who struck down VMI’s single-sex education policy, much to the chagrin of many VMI alumni. That single ruling did more to forever alter the culture here at the “Mother I” than any other event in our history. From my experience though, many of the women who have lived within the walls of Barracks have done well and are welcome members of the VMI community.

Whether or not Justice O’Connor deserved the award or not, many of us Cadets felt that her remarks were entirely inappropriate. I will leave alone her rambling oratory and the many segues and tangents she flew off on and how much it was without direction, I’ll leave that to the reader to decide.

She felt it necessary to address the admission of women to VMI, and I agree whole-heartedly that she needed to as it was looming over the entire event. She could have easily done this by simply stating that women have lived up to all of the hype and have done everything the men have done and that progress has been made. I don’t believe many would have objected to that as it is the truth. Instead she chose to state that women were doing well, potentially better than the boys, and that they should all be recognized as pioneers. I’ll concede that it isn’t so bad, but when she continued on and offered up the opinion that not enough had been done and the Institute should be more like the rest of the world and the federal service academies. You could almost hear the jaws drop to the floor. It was not here place, certainly not after receiving an award, to tell us what she thought about the traditions and stances of our beloved Institute. I can fully appreciate where she is coming from, a self-made woman who had to fight against the “good old boys’ club” in order to find a job in law, but society and the country as a whole have made monstrous strides towards equality since she graduated with her juris doctorate, and for her to even suggest that VMI change is dumbfounding. Women are equal here, I can argue no other fact. They are treated just the same as any male cadet aside from anatomical differences. We have a saying here “One Corps, One Standard,” and it is about as equal as anything can get. Women strain just like the men. Justice O’Connor can, quite frankly, keep her opinions to herself concerning matters that she has little understanding of.

Also, the very thing that makes VMI what it is is it’s resistance to outside change. It is a citadel above the rest of society where such integral ideals as honor, courage, duty, and sacrifice are not taken lightly. If it had changed with the rest of society, like the federal service academies, those ideals would have been tossed out of the window. If we had changed with the rest of society, the Honor Code would be a joke. The appeal of the Institute is that it has kept up the Spartan tradition, and breeds fighters. The boys and girls who walk into Jackson Arch are just like the rest of society, those that walk out are vastly different. If we change like the service academies, and we let in the political correctness, the “self-esteem is more important than reality”- crowd, the moral relativists, and the diversity police, we will suffer the same fate as the academies: scandal after scandal, terrible publicity, and those that graduate will not be citizen-soldiers molded in the likeness of Cincinatus, but rather politically-correct sheep in a world full of rabid wolves.

I believe her speech illustrated a major problem in gender and race relations, though. The country is vastly different than it used to be. The “good old boys’ club” is all but dismantled and there are no more Jim Crow laws, and yet we still have inequality. The problem that as long as we make race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious conviction an issue, it will be. The programs that we have in place to prevent this inequality (affirmative action, Title IX, etc.) do nothing more than replace one form of discrimination with another. The best policy is to abolish all of these. If you treat everyone with the same standard, and establish a merit system, race, religion, sex, and every other petty difference will cease to be a problem. Everyone is different, it’s time to accept that fact and move on.

As for the rest of Justice O’Connors speech: she rambled on for a good thirty minutes, admonishing us not to become war criminals, and sharing anecdotes about the Supreme Court that had no relation to what she was talking about at the time. She barely even said thank you.

Presidential Challenge

So, apparently OP-FOR has issued a challenge of sorts for President’s Day. Seeing as how I have free time(I know, I couldn’t believe it either), I thought I would do my best to offer forth my own two cents. The rules for the game are as such: Choose two American presidents, one from the 19th Century and one from the 20th Century. Explain why they are the greatest presidents in United States history. And you mustn’t choose George Washington; the father of our nation being in a class all his own.
My first choice is from the 20th Century. Theodore Roosevelt is by far the best president in the brief history of our nation. Besides old G.W. himself, Teddy was one of the most visionary presidents. He was full of vigor and had style and substance, something lacking in politicians today. He was a driving force behind the building of the Panama Canal; he created the multitude of national parks we all enjoy; he fought corruption tooth and nail; and he believed whole-heartedly in the greatness of the United States and made sure the rest of the world understood the same. Also, few other presidents have the resume of Roosevelt. Having served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, New York Police Commissioner, Colonel of the U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, and a deputy sheriff in North Dakota. Theodore Roosevelt was larger than life and is in a league all his own. On occasion I’ve been known to lament the fact that the individuals running for president nowadays are nothing like Theodore Roosevelt, and that we should have another charismatic president in office.
My choice for the best president from the 19th Century is a bit harder to make. As of now, I am leaning towards James Madison. A framer of the Constitution and the Father of the Bill of Rights. He believed in small government and the rights of the people. He also held the nation together during the War of 1812, the first major test of America’s authority on the world stage. He was the Secretary of State under Jefferson and supervised Louisiana Purchase. His record speaks for him, much like Roosevelt.
And for some humor: The 5 Most Bad-Ass Presidents of All Time. If you do not care for rough language, I would not recommend reading said article. Have a pleasant Presidents Day Weekend.


Ding dong, Zarqawi’s dead. And apparently, he was betrayed by his own men. Good riddance to bad garbage. Here’s Blackfive’s take on all of this. And he is even kind enough to provide us with the strike video. And here’s what LTCDR SMASH has to say. Oh, and Mudville sould be included, too. But it appears that the Loony Left is at it again. And there is more over at Soldier’s Perspective.

Well, that’s it from people more eloquent and knowledgeable about these things. I just want to extend my thanks and congratulations to the men and women responsible for pulling off such a successful mission. You all did America proud! And on a sidenote, it appears that I need to make some changes and updates to my blogroll.

The Space Program

You know, I’ve been thinking, why the hell are we wasting our money on NASA when it’s not accomplishing anything? It seems we’ve lost interest, as a nation, in the vast unexplored territories of space. The very thing that made America what it is, our wanderlust, has been lost in the space program. It’s become more about low orbit, scientific missions. The astronauts aboard the space shuttle have become mere high tech babysitters. We have seen it fit to cut the NASA budget so much, that, were we to want to go to the moon tommorrow, we would be unable. Well, how do we as a nation, set about to pull the space program out of the rut it is in?

Well, first off, spend more money. The budget needs to be expanded if any gains are to be made. The money just simply isn’t there to improve the situation, whether it is due to political infighting or just apathy. Before any other changes can be made, the neccessary funds must be provided. This is the biggest test of loyalty for the American people. If they are willing to put up the cash, then maybe, just maybe, there might be hope. For a couple decades now, we Americans have been trying to stay partially committed in space travel, an endeavour that requires total committment. We must decide whether we are willing to accept the risks involved, and if we are, completely commit ourselves, if not, cut ourselves loose and shut it down completely.

Second, the space shuttle has to go! It is severely outdated, and we must update and take full advantage of all the technology that has been developed from the shuttle program. It has had a successful run, and now its time has passed. There needs to be new, cheaper methods of space travel. Many projects that showed immense promise were scrapped, due to lack of money. Experimental aircraft testing needs to start back up. There are too many things that we can benefit from it. If we can develop an easy way to achieve hypersonic flight, then we can come that much closer to more practical spaceflight. Also, the private and commercial area is going to end up providing radical innovations like they always do. I think if we can have both operating easily, it would be beneficial to everybody. The private arena can revolutionize low orbit stuff, and astro-tourism, while NASA can focus on the scientific end of the spectrum.

And finally, whatever happened to the badass astronauts and balls-to-the-wall flying? Honestly, space flight has become boring. I no longer care when the shuttle launches and when it lands and what it does in between. I was more excited to learn about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs in school than I was to learn about spiders in zero-g. We need someone like JFK to set lofty goals in a set deadline, as that is the only way things will get done. We need something that will force us to move forward, and break us free of this post Space Race malaise. As much as I hate to sound cliche, we need to go to Mars and we need to return to the moon. The benefits far exceed the risks. I’ll leave you with the words of the man who got us into the whole space exploration business in the first place.

No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only 5 years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than 2 years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than 2 months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.

Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward-and so will space.

William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it – we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.
. . . . . . . . .
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

— John Fitzgerald Kennedy