Are We Really a Throwaway Culture?

yardI hear often that ours is a throwaway culture. If we’re done with an item, we toss it in the garbage. Although our household produces several full garbage bags each week for the dump, I can think of a number of ways our communities ”re-use, re-purpose, and re-cycle” useful items that pre-date that popular phrase by decades.

  1. Garage Sales — Get rid of old stuff by selling it on your driveway. People will flock to your house and haul it off happy, and you’ll end up with some extra cash. Win-win.

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To Whom It May Concern

[Editor's Note: This post is a follow-up to the author's earlier account of having her luggage -- which had an Israeli flag on it -- vandalized while traveling from her home in Stockholm to Amsterdam on the first leg of a trip to Israel.  She has subsequently decided to emigrate from Sweden].

“Let me be very clear: This is not 1939. We will not see death camps in Sweden in five years. Is the situation dire? Yes, absolutely, but we must remember that this is not 1939.”

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Franco is still dead; Pardo now immortal

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 9.46.40 PMI don’t know if we were supposed to appreciate Don Pardo’s announcing on SNL for itself, or some ironic take on the cliches of network programming. Ever since Firesign Theater had repositioned the cheery voice of the game-show announcer as just another bright and hollow example of American commercial falsehoods, the professional announcer was regarded as suspect among the Boomers; the polished delivery, the perfect tones, the assumption of authority – these were the tools of the Man, man. It was all phony. Tell him what he’s won, Don! He’s won a momentary sense of importance that blinds him to the system that keeps us all down, Art.

Connecting that tradition with Saturday Night Live was a way of poking a finger in the eye of prime-time, and winking at the audience: you think he’s in on the joke? The fact that the audience probably grew up hearing Don Pardo use the same cadences and on-cue enthusiasm for board-game versions and luggage only added to the fun. Typical Boomers: handed the keys to a magnificent car, they snickered that the radio was probably tuned to Lawrence Welk.

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The Hinderaker-Ward Experience
Episode 74: Tuesday’s Gone With the Wind

HWXIt’s a special Tuesday night broadcast of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience, with John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvening to discuss the critical issues of our time. 

Topics include:

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Ferguson in Perspective: Jason Riley Tells Hard Truths

I am not in a position to judge whether Darren Wilson handled himself properly in his confrontation with Michael Brown. It is clear enough that Brown was a punk — the sort of dope-head thug who would forcibly rob a convenience store. And the story told by Wilson is plausible enough: that Brown was walking in the middle of the street and interfering with traffic; that, when told to move to the sidewalk, he balked; that, when Wilson began to get out of his car, Brown shoved the door back against the policeman, grappled for his gun, and ran; and that he later turned around and charged Wilson. But, of course, this story may not be entirely true, and Wilson may have overreacted.

But even if Wilson is at fault — and I am well aware that policemen can be trigger-happy and that, in a crunch, they can easily get rattled, misjudge, and overreact — what happened in Ferguson that night (as opposed to succeeding nights) was, from a political perspective, inconsequential. As Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal courageously points out in the video posted below, African-Americans make up 13% of the American population and 50% of the homicide victims, but very, very few of the African-Americans who are killed in this country die at the hands of white policemen. In fact, 90% of the African-Americans who are murdered in the United States are murdered by their fellow African-Americans. What happened in Ferguson was a relatively rare event that may or may not tell us something about Darren Wilson and the police force of St. Louis County. But it tells us nothing about white racism in the nation as a whole and next to nothing about discrimination against American blacks.

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Rick Perry Seizes the Moment

Late Friday, a Travis County grand jury voted to indict Gov. Rick Perry in perhaps the most obvious political prosecution yet waged by progressives. But as a handful of party flacks applauded the nakedly partisan move, several others denounced it, including the Washington Post, David Axelrod and even the New York Times.

Gov. Perry responded to the out-of-control district attorney’s office with a confident, defiant press conference. Perhaps more surprisingly, this afternoon he turned himself into authorities for fingerprints and a mug shot. No presidential aspirant would willingly hand his opponents that kind of ammo without a plan. And if anyone has turned an indictment into a political positive, Rick Perry has.

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ISIS Beheads American Journalist, Threatens Another

1408481985485.cachedBreaking news out of the Middle East:

In a video posted online Tuesday, ISIS beheads James Wright Foley, an American freelance journalist who was captured in Syria in 2012. The video says the killing is a warning to the U.S. to end its intervention in Iraq. The video also shows Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist working for Time, and threatens that he will be next. Sotloff’s kidnapping seems to have been kept secret until now. Foley was working as a photographer in Syria for AFP when he was taken. The year prior he had been kidnapped in Libya.

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Paul Krugman, Clueless About Libertarianism

Anyone familiar with Paul Krugman’s work in the New York Times will be unsurprised to learn that one of his latest efforts — an attempt to delegitimize libertarianism — lands with an utter thud thanks to his total lack of any real grasp on the topic. 

In total, Krugman’s indicment rests on only three specific charges: (1) that libertarians are indifferent to pollution (using the example of phosphorous); (2) that libertarians would do away with vital regulatory agencies like the FDA; and (3) that libertarians castigate institutions like the DMV.

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Dear RNC: Here’s How It’s Done

From our governor here in the Lone Star State: 

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Republicans Should Talk About the Thing They Are Afraid to Talk About

Although only a fifth of 2012 battleground voters said the most important factor in choosing a president was “cares about people,” Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by a whopping 69 percentage points among that group. Now, maybe Republicans don’t really care that voters think they don’t care. The GOP is supposedly the Daddy Party, after all — the party that tells Americans hard truths about debt, wasteful spending, welfare dependency, and global threats. The GOP is the party of “you built that,” entrepreneurs and self-reliance. Romney, by the way, easily won voters who said “vision,” “shares my values,” and “strong leader” were their most important criteria. Maybe Republicans should just try to do even better in those three categories.

In a New York Times commentary, however, AEI President Arthur Brooks outlines a different path forward:

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What Are Your “Little Platoons” Up To?

volunteersExploring the differences between the various factions on the Right is one of our favorite pastimes on Ricochet.  Libertarians vs. SoCons.  Establishment vs. Tea Partiers.  Everyone vs. Mike Murphy!

But deep as these divisions go, all conservatives agree that society best organizes itself from the bottom-up and that the most interesting and important stuff happens at the bottom.  Individuals, families, churches, and organizations aren’t just part of society, they’re what society is about and what it’s for.  They don’t need to be coordinated or corralled toward some singular purpose defined by the government, nor do they exist at its pleasure.  Rightly understood, government’s purpose is to provide the basic infrastructure and rules necessary to allow its citizens to live, work, trade, and self-organize and then to get out of the way so they can get about life’s real business.

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The Strategika Podcast: Angelo Codevilla on Building a Military That Can Win

In this episode of the Strategika podcast, I talk with the great Angelo Codevilla about how to think about America’s cuts to military spending in historical terms. The resulting message: size doesn’t matter — at least not any more than a wide variety of other factors. Angelo’s argument, which starts in ancient Greece and ends in the present day: to know what kind of fighting force you need, you must first decide on what you’re asking it to do. Interviews with Professor Codevilla are always worth a listen, and this one is no exception — the joke he uses to answer my final question is, in and of itself, probably worth the price of admission. Take a listen.

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Dead on Payday

I have no idea why this captivates me, but apparently it’s true. People die on payday. A lot. From the Marginal Revolution blog, which posted the summary of a study that can be found here:

In this paper, we study the short-run effect of salary receipt on mortality among Swedish public sector employees…We find a dramatic increase in mortality on the day salaries arrive. The increase is especially pronounced for younger workers and for deaths due to activity-related causes such as heart conditions and strokes. Additionally, the effect is entirely driven by an increase in mortality among low income individuals, who are more likely to experience liquidity constraints. All things considered, our results suggest that an increase in general economic activity upon salary receipt is an important cause of the excess mortality. 

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Notes on Riot Control

Like many people, I’ve kept my mouth shut on the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, on the grounds that I don’t want to form a judgment before knowing the real facts.  I do, however, know a little about about how police control riots, and sharing that knowledge may help others evaluate the police’s behavior in restoring order. 

While I was getting my masters degree, I did a practical class (i.e., an internship, but one that was also a job) in a city of about 30,000.  While I was there, I rotated into the police department for a week to learn how cops work and train, and part of that included a day at a riot control training sponsored by the Kentucky State Police.  I was the best dressed rioter of the day, suit and tie and all.

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California Solar Plant Kills 30 Birds an Hour

The workers call them “streamers.” Hapless birds that fly over a massive California solar array, only to be immolated in midair, leaving a brief plume of smoke and a medium-well carcass.

BrightSource Energy’s state-of-the-art plant in the Mojave Desert is the largest solar thermal power plant on earth — and the deadliest.

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Ferguson and the Overfederalization of Crime

As the federal investigation into Michael Brown deepens – FBI agents going door-to-door and now, a new federal autopsy on the victim (because two isn’t enough), our own Troy Senik raises an important point in his post below: What justification is there for the feds to be running a process parallel to state and local officials?

The federal involvement is doubly wrong because (1) federal jurisdiction over Michael Brown’s death is questionable; and (2) even if such jurisdiction exists, it is redundant (as Troy notes) of state and local efforts.

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Cops on Film

cop-camera3As America is yet again riveted on a controversial police shooting, one thing that keeps coming up in the discussion is the subject of police cameras.  Ricochet’s Own Troy Senik mentioned it in his thoughtful post on the tragedy of Ferguson, and it seems to be an article of faith, in particular among more libertarian-leaning precincts of the Right: “You want to solve this?  Body cameras for cops.  Done.”

I have seen this point bandied about a lot in the past week.  And while I agree with the overall point, I feel I must offer a word of caution: people see these cameras as argument-ending panaceas, and they are not.

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How Broke Are We?

There are signs, some say, that an economic recovery is here. No one is really enthusiastic about it — except, predictably, some people in the Obama administration — but it’s hard to argue that there are small signs that the economy is picking up.

On the other hand, Americans are broke. And they know it. From USA Today:

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Coming Out

It’s still summer, but autumn felt close this past weekend. Daughter #2 has returned from camp. We were hosting a family barbecue as a sendoff for daughter #1, who will be spending the year in Israel before entering college. The crispness of fall has yet to set in, but the heat and humidity of summer were gone.

At the barbecue, we talked about my daughter’s classmates, and their plans. About half are going to Israel next year, the rest straight to college. What happened to the boy who applied to West Point? He discovered he had a disqualifying health problem. My parents expressed relief. Ilana, their friends’ daughter, was injured in Iraq, and years later she is still fighting to get proper care from the VA.

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Facts and Narratives in Ferguson

Probably the most underrated aspect of knowledge is how the order in which you learn the facts shapes your understanding of them. Much as nature abhors a vacuum, the human mind rushes to categorize facts, make judgments, and spin a narrative.

The last of these is extraordinarily difficult to change: bad as it feels to be caught with the wrong facts, it’s infinitely worse to discover that you got their meaning wrong. And rather than use our rationality to reevaluate the importance and credence we gave the initial facts, we’re far more likely to put reason to work in service of our emotions by inventing rationalizations and justifications for our initial position. “That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it,” is more often an expression of pigheadedness than of integrity.

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Ferguson’s Tragedy of Errors

FergusonI’ve not yet written anything about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri for the simple reason that I haven’t had to. On stories like this, that’s the singular luxury of not having to fill column inches or airtime — you simply don’t have to speak up until you have something to say. I’ve often thought that’s the poverty of 24-hour cable news — when the red lights comes on, you start talking, whether or not you have anything intelligent to say and whether or not you have a clue in hell as to the facts of the story you’re supposed to be covering (I’ve just described CNN’s business model).

As the situation presently stands, we still seem to have remarkably little information about the shooting of Michael Brown. It’s plausible that information yet to come out may either vindicate the outrage over the incident or demonstrate at least some measure of culpability on Brown’s behalf. Those who are leaning strongly towards one side or the other are probably telling us more about their ideological priors than about the case itself. Still, a few words deserve to be said about some of the events that have followed in the wake of the shooting.

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Earplugs, Rubber Bullets

Yes, everyone, you’re making too big a deal out of it.


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First World Problems

Recently, we adopted a pair of kittens.  They’re cute, cuddly, feisty; all of the things you’d expect from a pair of kittens, all of which our eleven-year-old cat holds in disdain.  Whenever the kittens are near, he hisses and occasionally takes a swipe at them.  It’s a problem, but not a true problem.  It’s probably the biggest problem we’ve got at present, and it humbles me.

We also have a half-dozen kids, two with special needs.  This presents a number of problems on a daily basis but –having been in this parent-gig for thirteen years — those daily challenges act more as speed bumps: they slow down the pace of the day, but aren’t really barriers.

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How Partisanship is Ruining the NLRB

4282658992_3e72772b5d_zThere has been so much bad news in the world of late that it is hard to find time to comment on the July 29 decision by National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Richard Griffin, Jr. to treat McDonald’s as a “joint employer” with its franchisees for the purposes of labor statutes.  That decision, if upheld, would subject McDonald’s to liability for all the actions that its franchisees take with respect to their employees.

In the particular cases before Griffin, the potential finding of liability is said to be for “activities surrounding employee protests.”  But everyone knows that these actions are just the tip of the enforcement iceberg.  Griffin’s real target is to allow individual workers, backed by union dollars, to bring actions for minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to make McDonald’s — and, by implication, all other franchisees — fair game for union organizers and reverse the major decline in union membership.

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