Donate One Wreath at Arlington

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN) -- Christmas wreaths adorn head stones at Arlington National Cemetery. The 14th annual wreath laying event is the result of Worcester Wreath Company's owner Morrill Worcester's, childhood dream of doing something to honor those laid to rest in the national cemetery. More than 5,000 donated wreaths were placed by volunteers this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Wreaths Across America is short its goal for Arlington wreaths this year. A single wreath costs $15 — that’s three months’ worth of basic-level membership here at Ricochet, or about two meals at McDonalds, or three terrible premium coffees at that place with red cups.

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Three Martini LunchThree Martini Lunch 12/1/15

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review cheer Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Everett Piper for telling students to grow up and quit complaining every time they get their feelings hurt. They also groan as Russia and Turkey crank up the tensions instead of focusing on the actual enemy. And they point out the hypocrisy of world leaders dining at a posh French restaurant after telling the world we need to share the sacrifice in fighting climate change.

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Electoral Reform?

The American Interest has an article out on “depolarizing” America through electoral reform:

There is a simple and feasible electoral reform that stands a good chance of emboldening moderates and facilitating their electoral success: Ranked Choice Voting (otherwise known as the Instant Run-off or the Alternative Vote). Under Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), voters rank all the candidates, or some number of them, in order of preference. If no candidate obtains a majority of first-place votes, the candidate with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated, and his or her second-place votes are redistributed to the other candidates. The process of elimination and redistribution of lower-preference votes then continues until a candidate gains a majority or wins a final two-candidate face-off.

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The Two-Minute-and-Fifteen-Second Hate

Hollywood has a lousy record of late on live-action blockbusters purportedly based on ancient myth. I still have a bad taste in my mouth whenever I think of Troy (no, not that one; the Wolfgang Petersen trainwreck). And the last Hercules movie was apparently so dishonest that it undid the fantastic choice of putting Dwayne Johnson in a lion-skin cowl.

Gods of Egypt, however, looks so unabashedly silly, unserious, and inauthentic to its source material — if such a thing exists in this context — that taking it seriously at all seems like a guaranteed way to waste your time and ruin some mindless fun.

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Dinner With Charles Murray

img-murray-charles-hr_101703740559My husband and I were seated next to Charles Murray at dinner recently and had an interesting conversation. I first asked him if his Madison Fund has gotten off the ground. It hasn’t, because Murray is a public intellectual, not an organizer of funds, but investors have expressed interest, and I think it looks like an opportunity for a business-savvy Ricochet member!

For those of you who haven’t read his latest book, By the People, the Madison Fund is intended to fight the crippling the excesses of the administrative state. The idea is that the fund will act like insurance against regulatory overreach, and that Madison Fund lawyers will take on cases that fight silly — as opposed to reasonable — regulation in order to make it unenforceable.

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Mike Murphy Doesn’t Know Why People Vote the Way They Do. And Neither Do You. Nor I.

murphy-mccainBecause nobody knows why people vote the way they do. At least, not in any useful sense. The four main theories of voter behavior — micro-sociological, macro-sociological, socio-psychological, and economically-rational — are as narratively compelling as sociology, psychology, and economics at explaining why something happened, but (like those disciplines) are basically useless as prediction tools.

You can read some of this between the lines of a revealing, month-old, twopart interview with Mike Murphy on his plan to cinch the nomination for Jeb Bush through the mega-bucks of the Right to Rise SuperPAC. Amongst the various details that may or may not be misdirection — that the 45 days leading up to March 15 are key; that targeting the southern states for 10 days coming out of New Hampshire could cost $35 million in media buys; that Right to Rise’s war chest is funded by a few thousand donors; how they’re looking to link your mobile phone location data to your voting history; etc. — Murphy refers to his “theories about the Iowa caucus electorate, the New Hampshire electorate, and the South Carolina electorate.”

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SSI and Medicare: The Truth Stinks

When the subject of debt and deficits comes up in polite conversation — with its progenitor, entitlements — and I respond, I often feel like the dog who passed gas under the Thanksgiving dinner table. Sometimes, weakness shows and the “we all paid in” defense is presented with resounding harrumphs exchanged in agreement. If it gets this far, there is the assurance that the trust fund, while depleted, remains to cover our obligations. When I proceed to point out that this piggybank is filled with IOUs, not cash (and even if it were filled with appreciating assets, it contains far less than what will be needed to cover the actuarial obligation) I am summarily labeled as an un-American, naysaying, and unbelieving apostate. Who am I to denigrate the “full faith and promise of the USA?” To preserve the peace, I relent and agree to be muzzled.

The underlying and accepted conceit here is quite simple: wealth must find its origin in the bowels of Washington, DC. The corollary conceit is that the free marketplace perverts wealth and provides the means for its corruption. Thus, Washington not only creates wealth out of sheer political will, but it must counter the corrupting influence of the free market.

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Traditions of French Terrorism

jules-bonnotThis piece is in French, but reasonably comprehensible through Google Translate. I’m happy to fill in any gaps that don’t make sense, just ask. It’s an interview with the sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar, a very competent scholar of jihadism in Europe. The headline reads, “The less they know Islam, the more they are drawn to jihad.” His argument, essentially, is that French jihadis are better described as Islamized radicals than as radicalized Islamists:

Interviewer: You wrote in, Understanding Jihadism, so better to combat it, that what attracts young jihadists in Europe is less Islam as a religion than what it symbolizes. Does this mean that these young people know little about this religion?

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The Bookmonger with John J. MillerEp. 56: Death on Hold

History professor Burt Folsom became friends with Mitch Rutledge, a convicted murderer on death row in Alabama — and he tells about it in a book he has co-authored with his wife Anita, Death on Hold: A Prisoner’s Desperate Prayer and the Unlikely Family who Became God’s Answer.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Folsom describes what compelled him to get in touch with Rutledge, why prison rehabilitation is so hard, and why a guy who has written best-selling books on FDR and the New Deal would take up this subject.

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Diversion of the Day: The Ted Pirate Roberts

Apparently Sen. Ted Cruz is a fan of The Princess Bride. A really, really big fan. While speaking at a Des Moines church Sunday, the presidential candidate reenacted a scene involving many of the film’s most loved characters:

Pretty good impression, if you’re into that kind of thing. I would have preferred a long riff from the vastly superior Rob Reiner film, This is Spinal Tap. Maybe the Artie Fufkin scene in the record store or a five-minute-long video of Cruz stumbling around backstage, shouting “rock ‘n’ roll!” (It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.)

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Brothers of Israel, Part 1

2015-11-19 06.07.092015-11-19 06.01.22As we pulled within inches of the side of the Land Rover, we heckled the other team as we brazenly passed them by negotiating the steep embankment of the Judean Desert trail, which, depending on your tolerance level for danger, was a fun adrenaline rush or a foolish near-rollover.

After some exciting 4×4’ing we all got out, explored some caves, and stood at the location where Patriot Missiles were used to shoot down incoming Iraqi scuds during Desert Storm. As we looked into the valley below we saw the city of Jericho and we were reminded that we were in the heart of the West Bank. However, not to worry; the only folks out this way were Bedouins who were not a threat, unless you were scared of some friendly goats and donkeys.2015-11-19 06.15.23

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Stop Blaming the Boomers

shutterstock_220913251Blaming the Baby Boomers is a popular pastime among Millennials nowadays. Apparently, the problems of our present day are mostly their fault. They allowed government to grow and metastasize, and saddled us with loads of debt. They bought into crazy-lazy theories about overpopulation, and didn’t have enough children. They soaked up all the perks of the Reagan years and left their kids jobless with expensive, worthless degrees.

Now they’re planning to collect billions in pensions and Social Security and Medicare, and younger generations will work themselves to the bone to pay for it, while their retired parents (along with non-parent peers who spent all their own earnings on themselves, and are now helping themselves to ours) enjoy shuffleboard and vacations to the South of France. And then we’ll probably just lie down and die of treatable diseases in our broken-down, two-bit apartments. By that time, you see, the coffers will be emptier than empty, and death will be the only thing we can still afford. Dang Boomers.

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Too Much Makeup on Fox News

Women wear too much makeup on Fox News, and it’s a sign of only one thing: sexism. So says a contributor to Broadly, the female-aimed webzine sister to Vice:

That the women who appear on Fox News are very young, very beautiful, and very heavily made up is news to no one. And despite the often combative nature of the on-air segments, the backstage experience seems to be much more relaxing. “Honestly,” says Basse, “99.9 percent of guests are jazzed about being there because it’s almost like a mini-spa. They do full hair and makeup [at the Fox News studio], and the people there are nice. They’re just nice.” But, she continues, not everyone who sits in her chair wants to have their makeup done. “Sometimes a guest is more low-key and low-maintenance, and they’re really nervous, and all I’ve ever said is, ‘Makeup is meant to make you look your best,'” she says. “I let them think I’m giving them exactly what they want, but in the end, I always get exactly what I want. Because I know what the producer’s looking for. If for some reason I get someone who’s really pushing back, I’ll tell them a little bit more about what’s going on instead of just slapping something on their face.”

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Does Woodrow Wilson Belong at Princeton?

Olga Popova /

Back in 2008, the Princeton Alumni Weekly published the results of a panel deliberation ranking the university’s most influential alumni. At the top of the list was James Madison (class of 1771) and close behind him, in third place, was Woodrow Wilson (class of 1879), who was Princeton’s president from 1902 to 1910. He left the university to enter politics first as governor of New Jersey between 1911 and 1913 and then as President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. By all accounts, his presidency at Princeton transformed the school from a college for playboys into the serious academic institution that it has become today. He openly urged African Americans to apply and also hired the first Jewish and Roman Catholic faculty members.

It is a sign of the times that there is an active movement at Princeton, led by the students of the Black Justice League, to remove his name from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and from the Wilson House at Princeton. The main charge against Wilson was that he was a racist for overseeing, as President of the United States, the systematic removal of black employees from the federal civil service long after it had been desegregated. He was also a sympathizer of the Klu Klux Klan. His resegregation policy provoked a huge backlash from the NAACP, which had previously endorsed his 1912 presidential campaign given his promises to be “President of the whole nation” and to supply black citizens an “absolute fair dealing.”

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Paris Surreal

As you’ve probably read, here in Paris we’ve got a few terrorists on the loose and some 195 heads of states from around the world in town to begin 12 days of negotiations to try to reach an agreement on restricting greenhouse gas emissions. I just walked with my brother up to Montparnasse. Everything looked normal enough. We walked back; I dropped him off at my father’s apartment, and I walked back to mine. Now, my brother isn’t going to believe me, because the part of the city we walked through looked normal, if maybe a bit subdued. It was the stretch back over the Seine and to my apartment that was surreal.

For obvious reasons, I’m not going to say exactly where I live, but it’s a neighborhood that usually has a fair share of winos, a few louches hanging out on the corners, maybe a few local petty drug dealers. In the past few years, since what the French call la crise began, it’s also been home to a growing number of homeless people and panhandlers. They’re harmless. I share what I can with them — when I buy bread, I try to remember to buy an extra loaf, and if I forget to do that, I just give them mine. And I must say, French winos are the best in the world: I’m on friendly terms with all the winos in my neighborhood; we make small talk; and sometimes they want to read to me from some lousy volume of French wino poetry, and sometimes, if I’m feeling indulgent, I’ll have a long, serious talk with them about their wino poetry and what it means to them.

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Abortion and Good Faith

shutterstock_133423673-e1444998785546As previously discussed at Ricochet, there have been several recent federal court decisions regarding the constitutionality of new laws that require abortionists to gain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. One of these cases is wending its way to the Supreme Court and we’re likely to see a decision on it next year.

I’ve generally been skeptical of this legislation, as the genuine health and safety concerns seemed to take a back seat to finding new means of restricting abortion. Now, I want abortion to be more restricted than it is because I think abortion-on-demand-for-any-reason-at-any-time is monstrous, but I also have a gut feeling that these laws were masking that (legitimate) motivation behind a screen of health concerns. On the other hand, I would never have imagined that it was possible for something like Kermit Gosnell’s clinic to exist, and I also assume that any stance taken by Planned Parenthood is mendacious and wicked until proven otherwise, so there was that to account for.

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Three Martini LunchThree Martini Lunch 11/30/15

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review are glad to see some coverage returning to the issue of Hillary Clinton making decisions at the State Department that regularly favored huge donors to the Clinton Foundation. They also shake their heads at Pres. Obama after he suggests holding a summit on climate change is the best possible rebuke towards ISIS. And Jim unloads on liberal double standards over when political speech supposedly contributes to the motives of shooters and he also rails against the notion that we have to tone down the rhetoric in the hopes that crazy people might stop wanting to kill others.

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Nuclear Energy Is Obama’s Nixon-to-China Opportunity

shutterstock_320521304President Obama and other world leaders are in Paris for talks to limit climate-altering emissions. Now the problem here is that a) the world needs to get richer, b) that requires more energy, and c) more energy has meant rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.

So we have to get better, a lot better, at de-carbonizing our energy. As the Ecomodernist Manifesto correctly notes, ” … rising energy consumption is tightly correlated with rising incomes and improving living standards. … For that reason, any conflict between climate mitigation and the continuing development process through which billions of people around the world are achieving modern living standards will continue to be resolved resoundingly in favor of the latter.”

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Cruz Will Lose

Andrew Cline /

I am just stating it now, for the record. Mind you, this is not a reflection on the character of the man, on his abilities, or on how great a president he would be if he would win the White House. No, I’m simply stating that he will not win the White House in the first place.

But first let me begin with some observations, caveats, and warnings. Back in the waning days of 2011 — and in the early days of 2012 — I expressed similar doubts about Romney. I (and others here) said that he would not be able to beat Obama in the general election, only to met with a variety of statements* that assumed we had it out for Romney. Recent tentative remarks by me about Cruz have been met with similar counter-arguments, generally to the effect of swapping out “Mormons” for “Texans.” So, to get this out of the way I will state that: This isn’t about Texas or Texans; This is not about faith; If Cruz gets the nomination, I will certainly vote for him; I neither like nor dislike him.

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The Left’s Proxy War with Islam

shutterstock_313426106The Left’s most recent bout with insanity is, at least in part, due to increasing turmoil and carnage in the Islamic world. Progressives oppose most of the Islamist agenda — the subjugation of women, execution of gays, slaughter of innocents — but their belief that Western Culture, Western Imperialism, and (worst of all!) Western Cultural Imperialism are responsible for all of the world’s ills make it impossible for them to speak out against any culture but their own. Instead, they attack such proxies as they can find in the West with an intensity that is all out of proportion to the offences they claim to perceive.

Any resistance to allowing men dressed as women to use women’s restrooms is denounced with a fervor that would be far more appropriate were it reserved for the routine execution of homosexuals in some Muslim countries. Micro-aggressions against women perceptible only to themselves are the focus of a rage that would be understandable were it directed against the execution of Muslim women for the “crime” of being raped. Their conflation of distasteful speech on college campuses with violence and rape lies in sharp contrast with their disregard for ISIS’s violent rape of thousands. Their promiscuous use of the word “genocide” in connection with cultural evolution would make sense were it in response to the wholesale slaughters of Christians, Jews, and Yazidis in the name of Allah.

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The Pope in the Central African Republic

I wasn’t sure I was qualified to write about this, seeing as I’m neither a Catholic nor do I know much about the Central African Republic, but I found myself so moved by the story that I thought I’d share it anyway.

In March 2013, President François Bozizé was ousted in a coup in March 2013 by a group of mostly Muslim rebels from the north, the Seleka. They targeted churches and Christian communities.

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Cyber Monday Advice: Don’t Buy the Extended Warranty

For a change in pace from all the politics, I thought I’d offer a little consumer advice as we head into the Christmas shopping season. To wit, buying an extended warranty is almost always a bad idea.

To explain why, let me show you a graph of the typical life-cycle of a manufactured product. In engineering we call this a ‘bathtub curve’ because of its resemblance to the shape of a bathtub:Bathtub Curve

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