Who Is Worse?


I was in college when Carter was elected President.   I voted for Ford, but he lost. I joined the Navy even though Carter was President. At the time, I thought he was the worst President we have ever had.  When Obama was elected, he took the mantle of worst.

Now, I can’t decide.  Who is worse: Obama or Biden?  Or even Carter?

It’s the Turnout, Stupid


My brother used to practice law in New Orleans.  He took his first job out of law school with a firm whose senior partner was very politically connected.  On election day, there were numerous stacks of cash on the large conference table in the partner’s spacious office with no effort to conceal it from associates or staff—it was considered normal. Very well-dressed young black men would arrive with bags, carefully count out some preset amount, and then depart.  Their mission was to distribute the expected cash incentives to voters to turn out and vote.

There was also an odd young man of his acquaintance who was civic-minded enough to drive a vanful of selected voters to the precinct and then give them a ride to another precinct and…another.

Hunter Biden gets convicted on three felonies – is it justice or just a distraction from the bigger picture?

Then we talk to NewsMax CEO Chris Ruddy about politics, the state of cable TV news and the future of his company, plus a candid discussion of the legal problems surrounding coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

J. Miles Coleman, Associate Editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, returns to peer into the contested primaries in Virginia’s 5th, 7th and 10th congressional districts. These deep dives into the respectively red, purple and blue territories, Coleman and Henry survey this microcosm of the national stage.

Plus, Henry unpacks Emmanuel Macron’s snap election gamble to head off his populist archfoe Marine Le Pen; and he looks at two finely crafted ads for Democrat Mary Peltola’s tough reelection bid in Alaska.

Physician Heal Thyself


I think Jesus is said to have said that. There is a contradicting truth, that every medical student learns the hard way: that the physician who treats himself has a fool for a doctor. As a retired physician, I spend a lot of time each week helping friends deal with complex medical issues. Two of my friends have developed increasing shortness of breath while playing pickleball and I have helped them by insisting that they get either a nuclear stress test or a stress echocardiogram. There are advantages of one compared to the other but I told them to insist that their doctor order one or the other. That has helped to diagnose significant coronary artery disease in both friends which is still being addressed.

As this was going on, I began to get very lightheaded playing pickleball and other activities and thought maybe I needed a stress test. I have been taking two medications for mild hypertension for over 15 years without problems. I thought that my basic aerobic conditioning might have slipped so I began to stress myself on an exercise bike that measured my heart rate. Although my aerobic capacity had dropped somewhat that didn’t seem to be correlated with the lightheadedness. I considered that maybe I was metabolizing the blood pressure meds differently due to my age and maybe I should increase the hours between taking my once-a-day meds. That is when I noticed that my last prescription for Diltiazem 24HR 120mg had been inadvertently changed to Diltiazem 12Hr 120mg which means I was getting twice the dose over half the time. No wonder my blood pressure was dropping to 90/50 a few hours after each dose.

My Name is Earl, Caitlin Clark, and Dad Envy


In the third season of the crude but rather heartwarming comedy My Name is Earl, there was an episode that helps to explain the hatred directed at Caitlin Clark. In the show there are two half-sisters, one is lily white and named Joy, the other looks like a light-skinned African-American lady named Liberty.

Joy’s father had an affair with a black woman and made Liberty. Liberty resented Joy for having a dad and they soon became vicious enemies in a way that only girls can be vicious enemies.

This week on The Learning Curve co-hosts U-Arkansas Prof. Albert Cheng and DFER’s Alisha Searcy interview Henry James biographer Sheldon Novick. Mr. Novick discusses the complexities of Henry James’ life and writing career, highlighting his significant literary contributions, the influence of his family’s intellectual legacy, and the realistic portrayal of social tensions in his works. Novick explores Henry James’ life experiences that shaped his novels like The Portrait of a Lady and The Golden Bowl. He shared more on James’ important friendships, particularly with the novelist Edith Wharton, emphasizing James’ enduring influence on modern fiction. In closing, Novick reads a passage from his biography Henry James.

Let’s Negotiate with Terrorists


Biden has offered his latest harebrained idea regarding the Gaza War:

Biden administration officials have discussed potentially negotiating a unilateral deal with Hamas to secure the release of five Americans being held hostage in Gaza if current cease-fire talks involving Israel fail, according to two current senior U.S. officials and two former senior U.S. officials.

The hate for Caitlin Clark isn’t just about race, it’s geography


The argument has become far too simplistic because we have become the same. It’s all black and white, and that is so boring. Not that it isn’t true.

So many wretched individuals, men and women both, hate that Caitlin is the star of the WNBA… a league that struggled and lost millions from the outset. She filled the stands, brought ratings, and she gets record shoe deals. You’d think the eventual trickle-down effect would make the women thankful.

Big Numbers


Mrs. Pessimist’s 75th birthday was a few days ago. Our 55th wedding anniversary was five days before that. We made no special celebratory plans. Our 50th anniversary seemed special and we hosted a large home Catholic mass for that occasion. This year Mrs. Pessimist and I found time to reflect on the blessings we have shared over the past 55 years but we don’t really need to talk much about the passage of time. We just count our blessings and move on.

When we look back at how young, naive and optimistic we were then it doesn’t seem strange because somehow, despite my pseudonym, we still feel young and optimistic about our future. We spent our honeymoon in a 10-dollar-a-night motel in St. Augustine, FL, but had to cut it short because I had a major allergic reaction to shrimp and had to have IV steroids for anaphylaxis. Maybe that should have been a warning but it was just the start of a great life together.

Crimes of the Fifties


Many years ago, I talked with a friend in Eastern Europe about their endless sprawl of tall, identical brick apartment buildings, stretching for mile after depressing mile. “Ah, yes,” she said. “We have an expression: We call them ‘the crimes of the Fifties.’” In their part of the world, Trushchoby is Russian for “slums.” After the war, vast ugly housing projects taking the place of war-ravaged rubble sprang up. Cynical Muscovites mockingly dubbed them khrushchoby—the “Khrushchev slums.”

Filmmakers with dystopian futuristic stories often don’t build outdoor sets; they just use existing modern architecture. James Lileks knew why: it’s because the buildings had brutalism and conformity woven into their design DNA, right from the beginning.

Life beyond politics


I have been laid up for the last several days due to back problems (note to reincarnated self: don’t break any bones as a kid)  Because of that, I mostly listened to the local talk radio which was pretty depressing.

Anyway, I missed one of the high points of late Spring — the first cutting of the hay.  Our house is bordered on one side by hayfields.  The sad news is that a small fawn was killed by the mower.  This has happened before and I suspect that Mom’s rule to freeze and blend in needs some tweaking for the modern “predators”.

Replacing Plastic


Disposable plastic food containers and wraps are probably the second greatest invention in the history of health and wellness. (The first being the flush toilet — that’s indisputable.) The amount of food contamination and spoilage that has been prevented, and the illness that springs from that, has been revolutionary. It’s a revolution we’ve taken for granted.

I want the plastic straws back. The paper ones are pretty terrible — little carcinogenic stir sticks that dissolve into your drink.

Justices under fire for not bowing to political demands


When the Supreme Court was debating the landmark Dobbs abortion case, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer shouted threats (“You will reap the whirlwind…”) at them from the courthouse steps. Thus the last doubt was obliterated that the unquestioned authority of the court was under serious attack.

An independent judiciary is the key to maintaining our constitutional republic. It is the reckoning mechanism that keeps us on track, muting the potential excesses of popular democracy. Americans once understood this and valued our judiciary, even when it sometimes worked against their individual interests.

Joe Selvaggi talks with international tax and trade expert Clark Packard about the tension between the economic and political calculus behind the Biden administration’s recently announced tariffs on Chinese products, including EVs, batteries, and steel.

Progressive Confusion about Human Welfare


The deep political polarization in the United States has spilled over to the academic realm. Today’s progressive thinkers are determined to undermine the influence of the great conservative and libertarian thinkers—most notably John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman. One prominent entry into the genre comes from Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, in his recent polemic The Road to Freedom: Economics and the Good Society. Stiglitz’s title plays off the title of Hayek’s far greater 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom. Stiglitz writes as a man possessed of strong opinions but incapable of sustained discourse. He flits from topic to topic in disorganized fashion, making it virtually impossible to extract from his multiple musings a clear account of either his rhetorical targets or his view of the “good society.” Stiglitz the economist is plainly out of depth in writing about political philosophy or law.

This harsh judgment of Stiglitz should not be misinterpreted as an uncritical celebration of the far deeper thinkers he attacks. John Stuart Mill is famous for his articulation of the harm principle in his 1859 book, On Liberty: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Unfortunately, his principle is both too broad and too narrow. Too broad, in that his thesis has no explicit libertarian base, so that Mill does not distinguish between harms caused by competition, which are generally to the good, and harms by the use of force and fraud, which are not. He makes this mistake because he wrongly isolates the particular transaction from its systematic effects on third parties, for which competition produces positive-sum gains, while force and fraud produce negative-sum games. Mill thus never mentions monopoly power, nor does he have any discussion on the optimal form of taxation: to raise taxes to supply public goods, to guard against the dissipation of common-pool assets, or to regulate the organization of network industries like railroads. Yet his conception of harm is too narrow insofar as it does not comfortably reach either antitrust or common-pool problems.

Bon Voyage, neutral observer


I dropped neutral observer off at the Columbia, SC airport this morning at 0420 (early flight out).  She hooked up with the Herrings, and off they went for their Alaska adventure.  The trip starts in Fairbanks and then hits the standard tourist places like Denali, Talkeetna, and Anchorage.  In Anchorage, they board a Holland America cruise ship for a National Review Institute cruise, which hits visits the Hubbard Glacier, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan on the way to Vancouver.

There are nine Ricochetti on the cruise, I’m told.  Expect to see some posts (If not, I’ll nag send them reminders).  Anyway, yours truly doesn’t fly, so I’ll be snuggling up in Aiken with my gaming computer and a cold beer (or two . . . or three . . . or more).

Persistent and Growing List of Lies about Israel


While Israel slowly makes its way through Rafah, trying to assuage the international community with its promises to try not to kill civilians, the list of lies promulgated by outsiders and Israel’s enemies about their efforts continues to grow. Some of the lies are outrageous; others are bewildering and conflicting. But since the public is experiencing a great deal of confusion about what is happening, I thought I’d write about the worst lies and how they are being managed (or not). It’s also worthwhile to assess whether these lies affect Israel’s running of the war.

The first lie I decided to focus on was the accusations of genocide. South Africa, as ardent supporters of Hamas, made the charge to the International Court of Justice, only recently joined by Spain, a country that has demonstrated its hatred of Israel. Spain also recently declared its support of the Palestinians to be given an independent state.

QotD for 6/10/24: Cultured


So, here’s the Quote of the Day:

A man should be just cultured enough to be able to look with suspicion upon culture at first, not second hand.” – Samuel Butler

I believe Butler is saying that in order to critically evaluate contemporary culture, one needs to have a proper understanding of culture up to this point in history. One must be a “cultured” person to express an opinion on culture. 

A Step Towards GPS was Taken 60 Years Ago Today


Sixty years ago my father explored the state of atomic clocks. He called his Navsat Timation for TIMe navigATION. It required putting synchronized clocks in satellites to provide a receiver with its position. The clocks weren’t good enough so he pushed for a 2+ order of magnitude improvement over the next decade or so. The result of this process is GPS. Today, false stories about its origin are rife and I thought people would be interested in seeing an important document on the road to modern Navsats.

Last September, two false GPS anniversaries were widely accepted on Twitter/X. The 40th anniversary of the shooting down of KAL 007 was credited with opening up the system to civilian use. It was always open to civilians. Brad Parkinson’s story that he and twelve other people created GPS over Labor Day 1973 was widely accepted (with a Federalist article supporting this). That’s also not correct. Gladys West is widely credited with inventing a system she did not work on. Now I know why historians give credence to primary source materials.

Great Trump Idea Announced in Vegas, Baby!


fizkes (Shutterstock) Photo ID: 1492617746

When I was in college, I rented a room from a family with two little girls. At the time, the mother wasn’t working but told me about an experience she had previously as a waitress. As a Christian, she believed she was obligated to report all of her tips (following Matthew 22:15 – 22). The other waitresses, who were trying to avoid paying their taxes on the tips were quite angry with her and treated her quite poorly. She was in an untenable situation, and really the Federal government should take the lion’s share of the blame.