Flop Sweat in Texas

Coaches, CEOs and campaign managers often tell their charges, “never let them see you sweat.” Cool confidence rattles your opponents, making them second-guess their game plan or poll numbers.

The opposite of this air of inevitability is the flop sweater. A rookie stand-up who realizes the audience isn’t getting his jokes. The boxer begging his trainer to call the fight. Or, Wendy Davis.

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Report on the Pumpkin Riots in Keene, NH

Keene is a small city in a quiet corner of New Hampshire. It is quintessential New England: traditional architecture, small-town feel, beautiful foliage, and civic pride. Bordering Vermont and Massachusetts, it has a touch of the gray-haired Yankee hippy with localvore, local-this and local-that, mixing commerce and idealism. A college town — Keene State College abuts the downtown area — it has plenty of Volvos and Subarus.

For more than 20 years, Keene has hosted its annual Pumpkin Festival, a combination Halloween and Harvest Festival that regularly is the largest congregation of carved pumpkins in the world, briefly turning this quiet, bucolic town into a tourist destination for thousands of visitors. Lately, HGTV has gotten in on the act with reality shows from the event. Every state-wide and regional politician — both incumbents and challengers — was there, pressing the flesh. Scott Brown, in particular, was a huge hit this year.

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How Republicans Are Peeling Women Away from Democrats

Headlines this week warn that Democrats might not have a stronghold on the “women’s” vote this November.

This is good news for a lot of reasons, but it suggests that there has been a real effort by women’s groups like the Independent Women’s Forum – and others like the Susan B. Anthony List – to take charges of sexism and a “War on Women” head on.

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For Republicans: Michigan Senate Blues

Two story lines emerging from the Wolverine State this fall:

1) What happened to the University of Michigan’s storied football program (the 3-4 Wolverines face the unpleasant task of visiting #8 Michigan State next weekend)?

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Mr. Putin Is Wrong: $80 Oil Is a Boon to the World Economy

shutterstock_181590752Vladimir Putin protests that $80 barrels of oil will sink the world economy. It appears the Russian president does not understand elementary economics. Every Economics 101 textbook teaches that falling energy prices reduce the costs of output and raise employment. Did he not notice the world recessions associated with the energy crises of the 1970s and early 1980?

Of course, oil producers like Russia are not happy as their export earnings fall and their government revenues shrink, but the world economy as a whole is a major beneficiary. We do not yet know how much of the U.S recovery is due to falling oil and natural gas prices — but it certainly aids rather than encumbers economic growth. A drop in oil prices may spell trouble for Putin’s dictatorship, but that’s just one more reason for the West to rejoice.

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Why the Days of Superfast Chinese Economic Growth May Be Over

Back in 2010, there was an issue ad showing a “Chinese professor” in the year 2030 lecturing his students about America’s collapse. “Why do great nations fail?” he asked. “The ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the United States of America — they all make the same mistakes, turning their back on the principles that made them great.”

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Ricochet Forum: Submit Your Questions for Allen West

WestIn the next iteration of our ongoing Ricochet Forum series, we invite you to submit your questions for Allen West — former Representative of Florida’s 22nd congressional district, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, and one of the leading lights of the Tea Party movement. Whether you want to ask about American politics, national security, or those persistent presidential campaign rumors, the floor is yours.

Simply ask your questions in the comments section of this post. Next week, former Congressman West will stop by Ricochet with his answers to the best inquiries. And remember — you must be a Ricochet member to participate. We’ll see you in the comments.

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Based on the way the Danes are behaving, maybe we shouldn’t be calling it “Stockholm Syndrome” anymore. From a report by Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet in the Washington Post:

In other countries, Talha — one of hundreds of young jihadists from the West who has fought in Syria and Iraq — might be barred from return or thrown in jail. But in Denmark, a country that has spawned more foreign fighters per capita than almost anywhere else, the port city of Aarhus is taking a novel approach by rolling out a welcome mat.

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The Death of the Space Opera?

640px-USS_Enterprise_(NCC-1701),_ENTHas anyone else out there noticed that one of the staples of science fiction in the serial visual entertainment medium until recently known as television and the dying form of the motion picture, the Space Opera, is — how to put this delicately — older than grandpa’s snuff? To be less delicate, if the Scripted Visual Media Space Opera were a humanoid (let’s not be speciesist), it would be looking for its second duranium hip replacement and popping kidney regeneration pills like they were candy. Bendii syndrome could not more than 20 years off, at the outside.

If we just look at the some of the genre’s best-known representatives for a minute, we find that there are at present, a “new” iteration of the Star Wars (date of birth, 1976) films and a “new” Star Trek (date of birth, 1964/66, depending on when you start counting) film in the works.  The franchises are, in movie/TV terms, antiquated, and both of these original franchises are themselves derivative from even earlier models of visual-medium SF, the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials of the 1940′s.

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The Well-Run Machine

How often do you really think about how your car works? I’m guessing not that often. 

Perhaps you have a dim recollection of 4-stroke engine operation from a high school textbook. At any rate, you know that gasoline goes in, the car goes forward, and you are a wretched sinner for polluting the atmosphere in the process. You will also be late for work if it should fail to operate properly, or if that jerk in the left lane doing 50 in a 65 zone doesn’t get the heck over! If you think about it more you should remember that the combustion of the gasoline happens with pistons. But do you think about the details beyond that? Again, I would guess the odds are against it, unless you’ve had recent compelling need to do so, or are a gearhead.

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Senate Republican Candidates Badly Underperforming in Midterm Elections So Far

shutterstock_180961367Writing in the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone has a sunny take on the upcoming midterms, predicting big trouble for the Senate Democrats. The essence of the argument comes from an excellent analytical article by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. Cillizza compared the public approval of Democrat Senate candidates with President Obama’s approval in their state. In every case but one (South Dakota), the Democrat Senate candidates are outperforming the president, sometimes by a wide margin. For instance, the Democrat running for the Senate in Alaska and Arkansas is 14% more popular than Obama is in that state. And these candidates are running behind their Republican adversary. In West Virginia and Kentucky, Democratic senate candidates outperform Obama by 12%. Barone (and Cillizza) use these numbers to show how much of a gale-force headwind Democrats face in the upcoming mid-terms. In other words, 2014 is a Republican year.

While it is undoubtedly true that the GOP has been enjoying exceptionally favourable circumstances, I have a more pessimistic take: look at how poorly the Republican candidates themselves are doing. A perfect illustration is Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell. He was first elected in the Reagan wave of 1984. He is currently the Senate minority leader, the most powerful Republican in the Senate, and has held this post since 2007. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state of Kentucky with 61% of the popular vote. Obama only got 38%. No Obama sweep there. In the two years since then, Obama’s popularity in Kentucky has plunged to 30%.

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Hold the Eggs

The news that Apple and Facebook will contribute towards the cost to their female employees of freezing their eggs has not been generally well-received.

The response of Melanie Mcdonagh, writing in The Spectator was not atypical:

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Caveat Lector: The News from Kobani

Ricochet members are fairly sophisticated consumers of the mainstream media, so perhaps what I’m about to say is already obvious to you. I bring it up because I was speaking yesterday to someone of whom I’d say, usually, “He’s a careful reader.” I was surprised because he remarked, casually–he threw this in, we were talking about something else–that he was delighted to read that the airstrikes were working near Kobani.

“They are?” I said. “What makes you say that?”

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Saturday Night Science: The Great Influenza

The Great Influenza by John M. BarryIn the year 1800, the practice of medicine had changed little from that in antiquity. The rapid progress in other sciences in the 18th century had had little impact on medicine, which one historian called “the withered arm of science.”

This began to change as the 19th century progressed. Researchers — mostly in Europe and especially in Germany — began to lay the foundations for a scientific approach to medicine and public health, understanding the causes of disease and searching for means of prevention and cure. The invention of new instruments for medical examination, anesthesia, and antiseptic procedures began to transform the practice of medicine and surgery.

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Conservative Turns Tables, Wins Lefty Video Contest to Oppose ‘Big Money in Our Politics’

Tom Steyer Ad 2014A funny thing happened to a video contest put on by lefties to highlight the scourge of big money in politics. A conservative video won!

The video with the most votes — by a factor of 20 — highlighted the influence of the biggest individual spender in American politics today: Billionaire left-wing activist Tom Steyer. But we should expect that victory by popular acclaim to be erased from memory by the leftists, Soviet-style. Let me explain.

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Parents’ Weekend at Hillsdale

In the morning — yes, Saturday morning — I will get up at the crack of dawn and make my way to the Dow Center at Hillsdale College to meet with the parents of my students and chat with them about the course and how their children are doing. For reasons explained in some detail in a piece I posted five years ago on Powerline, Hillsdale is one of the few places in the country where this is possible. Schools that take federal money do in this matter and in a great many others precisely as they are told, and the gentleman responsible for attaching this particular string to the federal grants to higher education was none other than James Buckley.

If you want to read a proper appreciation of what I and my colleagues will be doing tomorrow morning, you should pick up a copy of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal and read John Miller’s fine article in the Opinion section. Alternatively, you can tap on this link right now and read it online.

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Need To Know with Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger
The Curling of Hair (and Smoke)

N2K_001bMona and Jay have a guest this week, Greg Lukianoff, who discusses free speech on campus—more like the suppression of.  Examples will curl your hair, if your hair is still curlable, after all these years of free-speech erosion.

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Lukianoff

Then the hosts range widely, as is their wont, discussing issues both political and cultural. Political issues include Ebola, or the politicization of (and racialization of). Cultural issues include this curious question: Shouldn’t it be possible to buy a pair of sneakers or a shirt without attending what amounts to a rock concert? (Jay fears he is turning into Andy Rooney, the paradigmatic curmudgeon.)

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Female-only School Accused of Sexism against Women Who Think They’re Men

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“That’s a man, baby!”

Famously liberal Wellesley College has a serious problem on its hands. The female-only alma mater of Hillary Clinton has long been on the bleeding edge of feminist theory, but recent developments in the gender wars threaten their PC cred.

Recently, a matriculating young woman decided to define herself as a man. Technically “Timothy Boatwright” calls herself a “masculine-of-center genderqueer” (whatever that means) but insists that everyone on campus treat her like a dude. Wellesley’s staff and student body sheepishly complied as they have with other similarly confused undergrads.

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Foreign Affairs
Kissinger’s World Order, Rewriting History, and The War of the Week

A Block: Doomed To Repeat The Rewritten Past?Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 2.18.23 PM

The New York Times told readers that Henry Kissenger’s World Order is “a book that every member of Congress should be locked in a room with — and forced to read before taking the oath of office.” But is our 56th Secretary of State trying to rewrite history?

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The Peregrine Podcast: Immigration Reform and the Central American Surge

In a new installment of the Hoover Institution’s immigration podcast series, Peregrine, I spoke with Madeline Zavodny, professor of economics at Agnes Scott College, about this summer’s deluge of child immigrants from Central America and what it tells us about the state of the nation’s immigration policy. Herein, she details what led to the influx, how it affected the immigration debate, what should be done with the children, and how it’s likely to impact the future of immigration reform efforts. Listen in:

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Bill Gates Has a Big Idea for Tax Reform — And It’s Excellent

On his gatesnotes blogBill-Gates-e1394819477646, Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Bill Gates offers his thoughts about inequality, particularly concerning economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Among his insights: (a) extreme inequality is a societal problem, and government has a ameliorative role, (b) Piketty underplays how much of American superwealth comes from entrepreneurs rather than passive rentiers, (c) inequality analysis need to look at consumption data, not just wealth and income, (d) Piketty understates the many forces that decay wealth. Gates:

Take a look at the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. About half the people on the list are entrepreneurs whose companies did very well (thanks to hard work as well as a lot of luck). Contrary to Piketty’s rentier hypothesis, I don’t see anyone on the list whose ancestors bought a great parcel of land in 1780 and have been accumulating family wealth by collecting rents ever since. In America, that old money is long gone—through instability, inflation, taxes, philanthropy, and spending.

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Chris Christie: Too Hot for TV?

Feel free to curse me privately for that headline.

Chris Christie has yet another viral video making the rounds, this one featuring a dustup he had with a radio show caller criticizing his handling of public pension and health benefits. Because the media has such a short attention span — and because the novelty of Christie’s pugilistic style has worn off — many viewers may have forgotten just how nimble the big man can be in a fight. Here’s the clip:

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Damage Control: Obama Appoints an Ebola Czar

Things are becoming dire . . . not necessarily for those of us who fear that Ebola may spread to the US, but for Barack Obama and the Democrats. If things were not becoming really, really dire, the President would not have done what he just did — which is to appoint — drum roll, please — an “Ebola czar.”

That this is a-made-for television drama is clear from the most impressive fact about Ron Klain, the new Ebola czar. He knows nothing about medicine or epidemiology — nothing more, that is, than you or I know.

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And That’s Where It All Went Wrong

World History has plenty of moments where a single decision — or a seemingly insignificant act — brought about enduring disaster that appears, in retrospect, to have been be tragically avoidable. The events of late summer of 1914 come to mind.

More obscurely, Winston Churchill famously regretted the monkey who bit King Alexander of Greece on the leg, which caused a fatal infection and set off a succession crisis  in during the Greco-Turkish War, arguably leading to the deaths of a quarter million people.

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