A Tale of Two Conferences

This weekend, I attended a Defending the American Dream Summit in Dallas. An annual conference organized by Americans for Prosperity, the event brought together politicians, policy wonks and grassroots activists for two days of training, presentations and socializing (sans socialism).

Speakers included a lot of possible presidential candidates such as Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Mike Pence and Dr. Ben Carson. The power of free markets was extolled by Carly Fiorina, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Bill Whittle, and AEI’s Arthur Brooks (Dr. Brooks told me he’s a Ricochet fan, by the way).

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A Trip Home (Part I)

Royal Street

I had promised myself that I would make another trip to New Orleans, and I had promised my fiancé, the wonderful and winsome Shelley, that I would take her with me. Then, several months ago, we had an idea: Shelley’s mother, Ruth, has always wanted to take in a professional football game, and her 83rd birthday was fast approaching. What if we pooled our wits and our resources and surprised her with a trip to New Orleans for her birthday? Well, for starters, she would enjoy the surprise and — given Ruth’s lively humor, engaging spirit, and easy-going manner — the trip would be a guaranteed success.

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Let’s Welcome Robots into the Classroom

An exclusive school in Abu Dhabi is hiring a new kind of teacher this school year:

Merryland International School in Mussafah has launched what it claims is the first robotic lab in a UAE school, with more than 30 cutting edge robots including humanoids with built-in intelligence.

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Saturday Night Science: James Clerk Maxwell — The Man Who Changed Everything

In the 19th century, science in general — and physics in particular — grew up, assuming its modern form which is still recognisable today. At the start of the century, the word “scientist” was not yet in use, and the natural philosophers of the time were often amateurs. University research in the sciences, particularly in Britain, was rare. Those working in the sciences were often occupied by cataloguing natural phenomena, and apart from Newton’s monumental achievements, few people focussed on discovering mathematical laws to explain the new physical phenomena which were being discovered such as electricity and magnetism.

One person, James Clerk Maxwell, was largely responsible for creating the way modern science is done.  He can also claim credit for the way we think about theories of physics, restoring Britain’s standing in physics compared to work on the Continent, and creating an institution that continues to do important work into the present day. While every physicist and electrical engineer knows of Maxwell and his work, he is largely unknown to the general public, and even those who are aware of his seminal work in electromagnetism may be unaware of the extent his footprints are found all over the edifice of 19th century physics.

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Weekend Contest: The Best of Times

I’m not persuaded that but for social media, we wouldn’t notice that the world’s a bit of a mess. But for a change, let’s leave Obama out of this.


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Need To Know with Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger
Episode 87: The British Are Superior (Mostly)

NTK FeatureIt’s British week on Need to Know – not by design, but Jay and Mona found themselves commenting on the cousins. Some news from the mother country is profoundly disturbing – like the story of Rotherham, where a ring of Pakistani Muslim men raped and abused young girls while authorities turned a blind eye so as not to offend multicultural sensitivities. And there’s the Sainsbury store that emptied its shelves of kosher products in response to mob threats. 

On the other hand, Jay and Mona recall fondly the BBC shows they loved – “My Word” and “My Music,” and Mona gushes a bit about old recordings of “Desert Island Discs” which she’s recently discovered are available on iTunes. 

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What Is the Conservative Response to Racism?

Usually when I hear liberals talk about racism it’s in terms of institutions and communities. American “institutions” are structured with a racist bias, the white “community” is prejudiced against the black “community” — sweeping statements like that. Like most conservatives, I’m skeptical of that model. I’ve never seen evidence that any American institution has an inherently pro-white bias, nor that whites in America have a unified negative opinion of minorities.

Rather, whenever I see a list of complaints about white privilege, about the prejudices minorities face and whites don’t, the convincing examples focus on individual encounters. A particular hotel clerk who made a disparaging remark, a particular cop who pulled you over for no reason. Those examples don’t prove that all hotel clerks and cops are part of an anti-black or anti-Latino complex; they aren’t struggles against a nameless, faceless “institution.” They’re encounters with specific people who hold racist attitudes. So sure, racism exists in America. It just seems to be on an individual level.

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The Rich Have School Choice, Why Shouldn’t Everyone?

It’s back-to-school week in California, but one celebrity’s kids are heading to a new school this fall.

Cindy Crawford pulled her two children out of their high school ahead of the back-to-school sweep, citing concerns over their health and safety at the Malibu, Calif., institution.

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What I Really Think about Libertarianism

My libertarian friends may be surprised to hear this, but my respect for libertarianism has grown quite a lot since my introduction to Ricochet two years ago. Admittedly, my estimation at the time was pretty low. I had lots of libertarian undergraduates, and I also encountered a handful of professors and grad students with broadly libertarian views, so I was well familiar with that “I’m-conservative-but-not-a-moral-nag” snobbery. That bothered me only a little bit. My real reasons for dismissing libertarians were twofold.

First, libertarianism struck me as reactionary in broad sense. It presents itself as a universally applicable theory about the relationship between the individual to the state, but on that score, I found Ayn Rand far less insightful than Thomas Aquinas, Plato or Aristotle. Her influence, I saw, related to more idiosyncratic conditions of her time: the rise of the administrative state. That was, I supposed, a real problem in our time, but in historical terms it was still contingent; not every society has these same problems. As a political theory, then, it seemed to me that libertarianism drew unjustifiably broad principles on the basis of historically distinctive challenges.

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We’ll Deserve Their Judgment

I’m working out of a coffee shop today — something I absolutely hate for all the reasons Rob cites here. Unfortunately, my recent change of scenery — a move from the Los Angeles exurbs to the wooded outskirts of Nashville —carries with it certain liabilities, among which is the tendency of all my household technology — internet, phones, television, cell service — to go down simultaneously. Also, hand-to-hand combat with bears … but that’s a different post.

Having no connection to the outside world — something I’d consider a luxury on a non-working day — I had to make the pilgrimage to Starbucks, the venue of choice for writers who want to be seen publicly straining to the point of herniation. Did I find motivation? Well, after a fashion. This is what was printed on the sleeve around my coffee cup:

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The Milt Rosenberg Show
How the Cold War Began to End

According to Margaret Thatcher, talking on our radio program some years ago, the crucial occasion was the meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan in the mid 1980s in a haunted house in Iceland. The meeting seemed to be a failure (floundering over the issue of the “Star Wars” program)  but it led to a halving of the nuclear arsenals of both nations within a year. A fly on the wall at the original meeting was Ken Adelman, then the Director of the Office of Arms Control and Disarmament. Here is our recent discussion with him as based upon his new book in which he reveals the almost surreal story of that weekend  in Reykjavik.

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On Uzis and Accidents — Lessons in Responsibility and Stupidity

The private ownership of guns — and the attendant culture of gun owners — is virulently opposed by a significant portion of the country. Such anti-gunners are disproportionately represented in journalism and entertainment, fields populated by people skilled at speaking, acting, and writing; people, moreover, who have all the resources necessary to make their voices widely heard.  

I’ve said it here before and it bears repeating: Gun owners must be tougher on themselves than their opponents are. Every mistake we make; every arrogant boast; every garbled, ineloquent defense we attempt; every misplaced criticism of our culture will be parsed, dissected, analyzed, and stored for future use.  

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Free Advice To College Freshmen

It’s Labor Day weekend, which means that professors are brushing off their dress robes, administrators are running around campus like mad men, parents are dealing with a simultaneous rush of emotions and emptying of wallets, and college freshmen are being herded from one orientation event to another while desperately trying to figure out more important things — like where their classes will be, what time the dining hall closes, and how a laundry machine works.

Those vital matters aside — what, you think I’m kidding? — college presents a number of challenges to young people for which they’re often unprepared. Many of us have been there — some recently, some a long time ago — and all of us wish we’d heard more and listened with greater attention. So, in 200 words or less, what should a frosh know and remember over the next four years?

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Why Don’t We Curse Like Sailors?

It is a commonplace observation that the left is far more comfortable than the right when it comes to painting pictures in the vivid purple of obscenity or the lurid pink of sexual lewdness. Whether it’s the Daily Kos (every day, comments section or articles, take your pick), or The View’s (former) member Joy Behar’s frequent F-bombs, or B-list comedienne Janeane Garofalo’s rants about “tea-bagging rednecks,” or charming discussions of hate-sex with Michele Bachmann on Bill Maher’s show or — well, there are a hundred examples here – it seems that the left doesn’t simply describe things in obscene terms; they think of things that way. Vulgarity is, to borrow from Christmas Story’s Ralphy, their natural medium.

My question is: what are we missing out on? And why?

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Two More Questions on Ukraine

In my post yesterday, I posed a question about the situation in Ukraine: who is the government in Kiev supposed to negotiate with when Moscow won’t admit involvement and the puppet officials on the ground have no real power? Today, I present two more questions about potential peace negotiations for your consideration:

Question: Who is to enforce and guarantee the peace?

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Vox-Spinning the News

Each week, I hope for a brief reprieve from my position as Vox’s ombudsman. Each week I am sorely disappointed. Like Sisyphus, I am doomed to repeatedly deal with the same boulder and hill. Only in my case, I watch the wonks at Vox tirelessly roll the immense boulder uphill towards me, only to gently poke it back down, spoiling their efforts.

Following President Obama’s admission that his administration has no strategy for dealing with ISIS, Zack Beauchamp (he of Gaza bridge fame) published a defense of our rudderless Commander in Chief. It’s vapidity is matched only by the rapidity with which he contrived it.

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What Should Happen To Surplus Military Equipment?

If local police forces should not receive surplus military equipment, what should happen to it instead?

Should the military sell it all for scrap, even when it’s relatively new and perfectly usable?

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Do Not Seek The Treasure

shutterstock_156669578Today, in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more Obama fecklessness and dithering on the continued threat of ISIS, and the usual late-summer distractions, there is rising chatter (inspired by the White House and its allies) that we’re rushing headlong into another Shutdown Spasm.

I’ve warned you about this before; just don’t do it. I don’t care what the pretense is; don’t do it.

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That Awkward Moment When Your Father Costs You the Presidency

shutterstock_79457221Ever since the idea of Rand Paul as a serious presidential candidate has emerged, I’ve thought the trajectory of the project inevitable: things start falling apart when the candidate’s father comes in for close scrutiny.

Now, maybe this isn’t fair. If kooky relatives are disqualifying for the presidency, after all, we might as well abolish the office tomorrow. When your dad has held federal office and created a distinct ideological brand of which you’re the direct inheritor, however, you’re going to be perpetually yoked to one another whether you like it or not. My guess is that this moment falls into the “or not” category. From the Washington Free Beacon:

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See Jon Stewart DESTROY Strawman!

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen the teasers:

Daily Show’s Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage

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Goodbye, Kitty

The interwebs are all abuzz today with the news that Hello Kitty is not, in fact, feline. As Alexandra Petri writes,

Sanrio, Kitty’s manufacturer, corrected the curator of an LA exhibit on this ubiquitous icon when she tried to label Hello Kitty a cat, according to the LA Times. Curator and Hello Kitty expert Christine Yano said the company informed her that “Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”

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In Ukraine, Theater of the Absurd

Diplomats, pundits, and journalists do not know what to call what is going on in the east of Ukraine. Is it a civil war, a Russian incursion, a pro-separatist rebellion sponsored by Russia, or a Russian invasion? The correct term is increasingly clear. It is Russia’s War Against East Ukraine. It began in May 2014. There are no prospects in sight for it to end.

The War of East Ukraine is pure theater of the absurd. The attacking country claims it has no involvement in the war, while sending in its tanks, APCs, missile launchers, mercenaries, and now regular troops that have chosen to “spend their vacations” being killed on the Ukrainian field of battle. Ukraine’s Western allies — if we can use that term — know these facts, but pretend that they are not certain, thus absolving themselves of the responsibility to do something.

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The Ricochet Podcast
Episode 228: Reclining Standards

Recline-SeatThis week on the podcast, a look back at the tumultuous summer in the Middle East. First up, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein checks in from Sweden to discuss the growing anti-semitism in Europe. Then, Hoover fellow Peter Berkowitz on how Israel should respond to Hamas and what part the U.S. ought to play. Also, the role of social media in bringing change to authoritarian states. And, could Mitt be the man again? Finally, the official Ricochet Podcast position on seat reclining. 

We’re off next week. See you in September. 

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What Do SoCons Want?

There’s all this conflict between SoCons and libertarians on Ricochet, but, as far as I can tell, the arguments are usually around SSM and drug legalization. Ok, but traditional marriage and keeping drugs illegal are known quantities and not terribly controversial positions. So what else do SoCons want? I assume more restrictions on abortion, which the way things are going, would also not be very controversial.

Anything else? What do you want the government to do to protect the culture, and especially children? What is the government’s role? There must be concrete issues besides those that I mentioned. I think it’s the unarticulated “other” that libertarians are most concerned about.

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