We need you to join Ricochet.
Help us meet our goal of 1,500 new members!
747 new members 753 to go!

This Post Is… uh, Disqualified.


killstabeliminateEvery year about this time folks in both the press and academia like to publish a list of words and phrases they want to see retired in the New Year. It’s usually a meaningless exercise since these sort of things tend to have a natural life cycle of their own anyway.

My parents were firmly of the WWII generation and yet I never heard them refer to anyone as “Gate” or being “a real hepcat.” In my own time I remember when things were “far out” and/or “groovy” and can recall asking the musical question, “Sock it to me?” The language breathes and words and phrases ebb and flow.


Saturday Night Science: Paper


“Paper” by Mark KurlanskyOne of the things that makes us human is our use of extrasomatic memory: we invent ways to store and retrieve things outside our own brains. It’s as if when the evolutionary drive which caused the brains of our ancestors to grow over time reached its limit, due to the physical constraints of the birth canal, we applied the cleverness of our bulging brains to figure out not only how to record things for ourselves, but to pass them on to other individuals and transmit them through time to our successors.

This urge to leave a mark on our surroundings is deeply-seated and as old as our species. Paintings at the El Castillo site in Spain have been dated to at least 40,800 years before the present. Complex paintings of animals and humans in the Lascaux Caves in France, dated around 17,300 years ago, seem strikingly modern to observers today. As anybody who has observed young children knows, humans do not need to be taught to draw: the challenge is teaching them to draw only where appropriate.


SCOTUS Asks: What Due Process Is Required in Immigration Hearings?


Jennings v RodriguezThis past week in Jennings v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court of the United States waded into an immigration thicket from which there is no easy escape. It is commonplace that many aliens in the United States are subject to deportation for a variety of reasons. Some of these aliens must be detained in the US because they are stateless or because the US does not have a repatriation treaty with their home country. Other persons are detained because they are subject to a criminal record.

In many cases the detentions are extended as aliens play for time in order to obtain evidence to bolster their case for remaining in the US. In a large percentage of cases, the detentions can easily be justified on the grounds that the aliens in question are a flight risk or pose a risk for public safety. In individual cases, it is often hard to know which individuals fall into which categories, so that it is sometimes incumbent to hold individuals in custody for long periods of time until the needed factual records can be assembled.


The General Speaks


In this episode of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson from March of 2015, retired four-star General and soon to be President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense James Mattis discusses the role of the military, the role of the men who serve in the military, the role of military commanders, and the role of domestic leadership in the United States with regard to protecting its national interests. Mattis describes the reality of the continuing fight in Afghanistan.

General Mattis retired from the Marine Corps as a full general in 2013, where he served as the eleventh commander of the United States Central Command. He also served as the commander for NATO supreme allied transformation, and as commander of the United States Joint Forces Command. Mattis is now an Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow fellow at the Hoover Institution.


Citizen Mattis: The Importance of Civilian Control of the Military


One of the most difficult problems of any society is to establish a proper relationship between civilian authority and military power. Even before the Constitutional Convention, Americans were familiar with the problems of armies, and many delegates were fearful that a standing army would be a vehicle for despotism. Many of their concerns were highlighted in The Declaration of Independence as they noted several grievances of the violation of their liberties directly attributed to a standing army (Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures, the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power, quartering large bodies of armed troops, protecting [the British military] by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.)

The Constitution in 1787 made of point of having a check on the military’s power by civilian authorities. Congress was given the sole power to declare war, to lay and collect taxes for the common defense, and they were responsible for raising and supporting armies. The President was made Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, and of the militia. This arrangement strengthened the civilian control of the military, and provided protection from having the sword and purse in a single hand. Jim Mattis’s nomination as the incoming Secretary of Defense doesn’t violate any constitutional principles, but does raise come concerns over the relationship between civilian leaders and their military counterparts.


Uncommon Knowledge: KellyAnne Conway


Kellyanne Conway discusses her life working on a New Jersey blueberry farm as an adolescent in the summers and being brought up by her mother, grandmother, and two unmarried aunts. She reflects on how she became conservative through the values her family placed in her and the inspiring reelection campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1984. Brought in by Donald Trump in August, Conway talks about how she told Trump that he was losing but there was a pathway to victory, which she helped the campaign realize and bring about Donald Trump’s victory. Finally, Conway discusses how she is able to balance being a wife and mother with running a presidential campaign and what the future holds for her.


Can Modern Healthcare Ever Be “Affordable?”


shutterstock_424979290So Obamacare was expensive and will be dismantled. But it’s a good bet that healthcare costs will continue to rise. Have we ever seen them fall? No, we’ve only seen increases slow down temporarily. What’s going on?

Back in the day doctors were just one of a number of tradesmen that hawked their wares like haberdashers, plumbers, dentists, barbers, lawyers, palm readers, etc. They all got paid in a fee-for-service fashion. The haberdasher sold you a shirt, the plumber cleaned out a clog, the dentist yanked a molar, the barber gave you a cut and a shave, the lawyer filed a deed, the palm reader said you were a loser, and the doctor stitched up your head after you stumbled out of a bar on a festive Saturday night.


Admit it: Trump’s Victory Is a Win for Conservatives

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

Conservatives should be the first to recognize that Donald Trump’s victory was a win for them. Indeed, many forward-looking former NeverTrumpers have welcomed the electoral outcome. And yet, a few of the usual suspects still seem fixated on the fact that Trump is not one of us; and they are only tentatively accepting the proposition that Trump’s victory is preferable to that other of the two possible outcomes.

I sense that some of our colleagues are carefully positioning themselves and patiently biding their time in preparation to pounce. For the new President will certainly violate some conservative principle at some point, and those violations will certainly deserve clusters of posts asserting his assault on conservatism. We’ll be treated to dissertations on the damage that the Orange Populist has wrought on the “conservative brand.”


Mike Pence: “Free Market Has Been Sorting It Out, and America’s Been Losing.” Really?


Mike Pence CarrierDonald Trump yesterday warned that companies like Carrier “are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. Not going to happen. It’s not going to happen, I’ll tell you right now.”

When I heard the President-elect make that threat, I responded thusly on CNBC, calling the comments “chilling.” Money manager Doug Kass was even stronger: “I believe that speech was one of the most dangerous and reckless speeches I have ever heard from a President or President-elect.”


Two Sides Fighting Terror


praying-mosqueFor years many of us have been saying that the Muslim leaders in the US must actively speak out against terrorism. We have also heard of Muslim leaders who profess to oppose terrorism and insist that they do not harbor recruits or recruiters of terrorism.

Imagine my disappointment as I learn that mosques may not be screening for jihadis. According to Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch, who has been tracking mosques who report to the authorities, “…mosques are not putting jihadis out, or making it clear that they are unwelcome, or, for the most part, reporting them to authorities when they learn of what they’re doing.”


Trump’s Carrier Move Is Disquieting


Lots of people are cheering for Trump because he saved the jobs of 1,000 workers in Indiana. On the surface, that sounds like a great thing. I have to wonder, though, just what did Trump do to convince Carrier to change their plans? What really happened in the smoke-filled room between these high level executives that caused this change of heart? Doesn’t it frighten people that a President or even a President-elect can exert this type of influence over private enterprise? What sort of leverage will he use to coerce your business? Disquieting is how I describe my reaction.

I’ve worked in lots of large companies and large organizations. I watched Dell build a factory for $10M based on intentionally misleading statistics put out by the engineers, it never reached its original production goals in several years despite many very expensive upgrades. I watched as another new factory was shut down a day before opening because a brave administrative clerk emailed Michael Dell directly with data to show that the factory was going to lose money on every laptop made. I’ve no delusions that large organizations are immune from error in their planning. Perhaps this is what Donald Trump did. Perhaps he just pointed out how the decision was a mistake. And I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale too.


Vetting Judges


In Washington the other evening, I asked an old friend, a lawyer who has been involved in a number of confirmation hearings, how well we can vet Supreme Court nominations these days. “Could we prevent another David Souter?” I asked. “Or another Anthony Kennedy? Can we vet the records of prospective justices carefully enough to feel certain that nominees who look like originalists would remain originalists?”

After our exchange, he sent me an email.

Ricochet Member FeedUpvoted by R> Members

Want to Tell Hollywood “You’re Fired!”? Here’s How


When I was growing up there was a fairly new phenomenon called “underground movies”. Though it sometimes had the unspoken shady undertone of nudity and/or sex, all the term really meant was an amateur movie made with ambition, usually experimental. Some of those underground filmmakers got their informal training on the go, got their names in print, and ended up as successful career filmmakers. They often worked in 16mm film, which started in the 1920s as home movie film and was upgraded to semi-professional by the armed forces in World War II, since they needed entertainment that was small and light to ship.

After the war, home movies drifted over to 8mm, which was one fourth the cost. 16mm became the mainstay of documentaries, TV news, industrial and classroom use, and underground filmmaking. On a small screen it could look nearly as good as a 35mm movie you’d see in a theater, and it was far cheaper. Most filmmakers who came up in the ranks from roughly 1950 through 2000 learned their craft with 16mm.

Ricochet Member FeedUpvoted by R> Members

A Potential Moment To Remember


I was working and Sean Hannity came on the radio. Now Sean is a pure cheerleader, not your deepest thinker but holds an audience by being earnest and hard working. Normally I turn him off since he repeats his talking points so much I just want to scream and rewrite the damn things.

However, today he ran the Trump speech at Carrier so I let it play. I keep getting the feeling I am seeing new things happening that will be ‘the moment that’ in retrospect.


Which Beliefs about Global Warming Are Legal?


It seems to me that there are about eight questions that you’d need to ask to learn someone’s full opinion about global warming:

  1. Is the planet currently warming?
  2. To what extent is anthropogenic carbon dioxide responsible for global warming?
  3. How bad will global warming get?
  4. How much time do we have to respond?
  5. When will our understanding of global warming be sufficient to allow us to deal with it effectively?
  6. When will technology be advanced enough to deal with global warming?
  7. How do we handle the economics of dealing with global warming?
  8. How do we handle the politics of dealing with global warming?

I made a list of what I thought were possible, reasonable answers to each of these questions, and came up with two answers for the first, four for the second, five for the third, and so on. Multiplying the number of possible answers for each question I got: