Uncommon Knowledge: James Mattis on the Virtues of ROTC

In the most recent episode of Uncommon Knowledge, I had the pleasure of sitting down with James Mattis — retired U.S. Marine Corps General, former Commander of U.S. Central Command, and now Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution — for a wide-ranging conversation about the military and national security. In this first clip from that conversation, I ask him how one makes the case for ROTC to young people today. His answer below:

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Crimes Against the Passive Voice

“From NPR News in Washington, I’m Korva Coleman.”

My Harry’s razorblade glided across my face Thursday morning as the reader sauntered through the news roundup. I finished, closed the cabinet, and turned to leave the room. Ms. Coleman solemnly reported Governor Scott Walker’s intention to sign a Right to Work bill due on his desk soon. I paused to hear the rest of the story.

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The Libertarian Podcast: Oral Arguments in the Obamacare Case

Earlier this week, Professor Epstein and I taped an episode of The Libertarian podcast anticipating the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the case regarding Obamacare subsidies. Now that the advocates and the Justices have had their say, we’re returning to examine what happened on Wednesday in Washington. Earlier this week, Richard predicted a 5-4 ruling against the Obama Administration. He’s a little less confident after the arguments. Listen in below (or subscribe to The Libertarian via iTunes or your favorite podcast app) to find out why:

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Further Thoughts on the Lee-Rubio Tax Plan

I say some good things about the Mike Lee-Marco Rubio tax plan in my The Week piece, “Marco Rubio and Mike Lee have cooked up the first great tax cut plan of the 21st century.” Yes, an (overly) effusive headline. As I write:

So Lee and Rubio seem to be following the same general Reagan formula, just updated for modern realities. They would immediately attack income stagnation for the middle-class. And they would transform the income tax code into a consumption tax code, which economists tend to agree would promote more investment and long-run economic growth.

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Clinton and Private Emails at State

AP120312029982-638x430I retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2011. From my experience with State Department IT, I would like to raise the following points:

(1). Yes, State Department workers are allowed to use their private emails on Department/Embassy computers. That was a gift from Colin Powell, who recognized that our long days gave us little time at home to communicate with the nonofficial parts of our lives. However, we were always told, when logging in, that we had “no expectation of privacy.” I.e., all our private account emails would be read and saved. It seems, therefore, that somebody was actively shielding Hillary Clinton’s private server system from leaving any traces in Department of State IT. (I assume that that is something that can be done.)

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Democrats Drink Their Own Bathwater

I believe it was Robert Heinlein who said that the greatest mistake any political organization can make is to be taken in by its own propaganda. (I am paraphrasing from memory). As such, Heinlein would surely have been amused to read the report, recently released by Democrat National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, that concludes that the Party’s dismal failure in the 2014 midterm elections (in the words of Russell Berman, writing in The Atlantic) was a “problem [of] packaging, not what’s inside the box.” The report evokes the same feeling that you get watching cute little puppies chasing their own tails. Aren’t they just adorable?

The report does not hide the cognitive dissonance that underlies the contradiction (from the DNC/liberal viewpoint) between liberal message and voting reality – in fact, it practically revels in it!

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The Incentive to Steal: Asset Forfeiture and Police Abuse

Recently, R. Seth Williams, District Attorney of Philadelphia, wrote in praise of asset forfeiture laws, undoubtedly in response to the ongoing suit challenging the city’s forfeiture program. Mr. Williams defends asset forfeiture as necessary to root out the drug trade. He asks us to

Think about the kid who can’t play outside anymore because he might get caught in the cross fire; the grandmother who’s threatened by dealers when she just wants to sit on her porch; the homeowner … who has to watch [his house] value plummet when his block becomes an open-air drug market.

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The Ricochet Difference

I was on Fox News’ late-night roundtable show Red Eye this week. On the show, we talked a bit about the Netanyahu speech to Congress.

What I said on the show was that I think it was a risky move. (We talk a bit about this on this week’s podcast, too.) I think it was a high-wire act to appear before congress the way Netanyahu did — not because I disagree with him, but because you never know which way these things are going to cut. You never know if the American people — and the important 100 senators — are going to resent being lobbied so blatantly. And no one knows when, exactly, this deal is going to be announced, so the timing of the speech may be all wrong. I mean, if the deal points are announced in 8 weeks, when the glow of the speech has faded, Netanyahu can’t come back and speak to Congress again. He’ll have already played his best card.

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A Study In Contrasts: The Leader of the Free World Visits Washington

In a gesture of class and magnanimity, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu included in his remarks to the American people the following:

We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel. … Some of that is widely known, like strengthening security cooperation and intelligence sharing, opposing anti-Israel resolutions in the U.N. … Some of what the President has done for Israel is less well-known. … And some of what the president has done for Israel might never be known, because it touches on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister. But I know it, and I will always be grateful to President Obama for that support.

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The Bookmonger with John J. Miller
Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing.

It sounds like the premise of the next “National Treasure” movie: UnknownFor centuries, philosophers such as Plato, Machiavelli, and Rousseau have hidden their true teachings by engaging in “esoteric writing,” which challenges readers not merely to grasp the plain meaning of their works but to unlock their secrets through careful interpretation.

That’s the central claim of Arthur M. Melzer in his new book, Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing.

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U.S. Millennials Fall Far Behind Educational Average

America’s educational system is failing millennials. Badly.

Granted, this age group is likely to be the most educated generation in American history, but according to a study by the Educational Testing Service, they rank among the bottom in the world for literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments (PS-TRE).

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Need To Know with Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger
Now or Never

NTK FeatureMona and Jay begin their latest episode with Netanyahu’s speech and the fate of the earth. Then they get down to less apocalyptic subjects: such as the Clintons’ ongoing venality. If America keeps rewarding this couple, what can you do?

The Oscars presented several political moments. One of them was the claim that American women lack equal pay and equal rights. Mona swats this one, for the thousandth time. Also, Harry Belafonte was hailed at the Oscars as a humanitarian. Cuba’s political prisoners would beg to differ.

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During a discussion the other day about what states and countries folks on Ricochet have visited, I mentioned that one of the few foreign countries I’ve been to was Uganda. Rico member The Reticulator said that there was probably an interesting story in that. I responded with a link to an article that I ran across recently about “Voluntourism,” and he suggested it could make for an interesting post, so here goes.

I joined a group of high school kids from our church (including my daughter) in 2009 on a short term (one month) mission trip to Uganda. I’ve been a Christian for about 32 years (making that decision at age 23), and for whatever reason, I had always viewed these types of mission trips dubiously. My wife had been on one to Honduras when she was in high school and it had a lifelong impact on her, but I always thought that there were plenty of opportunities to help people here at home. Being a protective dad, however, when my teenage daughter felt the call to join this trip, I certainly wasn’t going to let her go without me!

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Why the Export-Import Bank Was My Deal-Breaker

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 2.54.09 PMOur last poll here at Ricochet asked our members what policy position would be most likely to be a deal-breaker for them if held by a Republican presidential candidate. Despite the fact that there were 10 options, supporting citizenship for illegal aliens nearly commanded a majority (49 percent), with a pro-choice stance on abortion coming in a distant second (24 percent). All of the other options were in the single digits, with support for NSA surveillance or raising the federal minimum wage tied for third at 6 percent.

I’m apparently way outside of the Ricochet mainstream on this one, as my choice — supporting the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank — garnered only one percent of the vote, tying with marijuana legalization and sending U.S. troops to fight ISIS for dead last. Now, I can anticipate the response that some of you will have, because I heard it in a few private conversations about this survey: how on earth could you prioritize Ex-Im over the life of the unborn or combatting terrorism? Well, I don’t. But let me offer you a theory: which issue is most important to you shouldn’t necessarily be the same as which one is most disqualifying.

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Welcome, New Members!

We’ve been lucky over the past few weeks — we’ve got a lot of new members here at Ricochet. And when I say we’ve been lucky, I mean all of us. The biggest and best features of Ricochet are the depth and wit and experience of our members.

So, if you’re a new member — say you’ve joined in the past few weeks — say hi. Add a comment below to introduce yourself, however briefly, to your fellow members. I know a lot of people join Ricochet with absolutely no intention to comment, post, or speak up in any way, but just this once, say hi. Let us know who you are, where you’re from, and how you feel about James Lilek’s segues.

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Iraq: What Might Have Been

290165818_4058f117ce_bIn a previous thread, Ricochet member Majestyk expressed a major complaint that he has about libertarians, liberals and even conservatives who gripe about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: What is your alternate scenario?

If we could unwind the clock of history and place you inside George W. Bush’s head (a la Being John Malkovich) what is your preferred policy prescription for U.S. foreign policy in the days following 9/11?

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The Sweet Science


Ali-Frazier I

What if ,after winning the NFC championship, the then-reigning world champion Seattle Seahawks decided, “You know, that Tom Brady guy is pretty good, so instead of playing the Patriots we are going to play against the New York Jets in the Super Bowl.” The fans wouldn’t like it and the league wouldn’t allow it. That, however, is exactly how the sport of boxing works.

When I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, boxing was my favorite sport. Fights were on TV all the time and the heavyweight division was packed with talent. The first Rocky movie came out when I was 11 and after that my friends and I started putting on the gloves and pounding on each other in my basement. Fearing a lawsuit, my father told me I would have to go to a real gym if I wanted to box.

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Confessions of a Foreign Policy Expert

I’m a highly credentialed foreign policy expert. Amazing, but true. It would be very easy for me to point to many things I got right and lots of things I know. I’d love to exchange what I know for money or power–or even just to give it away, or frantically push it on people.

But it’s more important for me to focus on what I didn’t see coming and ask myself “Why.” I won’t feel secure in my judgement until I have a better sense of why I missed things. Have I been using the right set of tools to look at things? What kinds of cognitive biases have been at work? Are they, still? Can I correct for them?

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Limits to Curmudgeonhood?

In a conversation last month, the subject of curmudgeonhood came up. There were some advocates of a minimum age restriction that would start somewhere around fifty. In short, their view was that curmudgeonhood was earned through experience.

My dictionary’s* definition of curmudgeon is: “A surly, ill-mannered, bad-tempered person; cantankerous fellow.”

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The Milt Rosenberg Show
The Real “Realism” of Daniel Pipes

Here is a conversation recorded about ten days ago with Daniel Pipes, to our mind the best expert, by far, on the seething and long-running anti-western turmoil in the Arab middle-east. But first some words of background.

Many American foreign affairs scholars classify themselves as of the school of “realism.” That supposedly means that they take inter-nation competition and distrust as always operative, potentially or actually. A further premise is that struggles of that sort will persist until “victory” or exhaustion are reached. Nowhere is this overview of “international relations” more regnant than in the clusters of “middle eastern scholarship” found at many American universities.

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