Chanukah and Jack the Baker


During Jewish experiences I often wonder about the most parallel experiences for other people.

Chanukah makes me think of Jack Phillips, the Christian commanded to just bake the cake.

Kubrick’s Grandest Gamble


That’s what the headline read on the cover of Time Magazine, and they were right. It was December 1975. The nation was ready and waiting to celebrate the Bicentennial. As usual with one of his films, there wasn’t much advance information about Barry Lyndon. All we knew was, it was about a gambler; it was set in the late 1700s. In time, it would be regarded as an elegant, one-of-a-kind glimpse into a distant era that gave birth to the modern world.

The Christmastime weather was especially beautiful that year. I was 23, a movie fan and a fan of Stanley Kubrick in particular. I climbed aboard my motorcycle and headed for the Ziegfeld Theater. The movie got good reviews, some very positive, and it made money for its studio, Warner Bros. But not a whole lot compared to his previous two, 2001 and A Clockwork Orange, and there hangs a tale.  It acquired the not-entirely-deserved reputation of being “Stanley’s flop” and that’s what people remember, if they’ve heard of it at all.

Happy “Responsible” Christmas: Bah, Humbug!


I’ve made no secret, over the years, of my love for Quality Street chocolates.  The ultimate Christmas sweet.  Reasonably decent candies, in spectacularly lovely foil-and-cellophane wrappings.  The ultimately beautiful bucket of decadence, beloved by generations of Brits.  You only have to look at the small image at the top of this post to understand how heartwarming and shiny they are amidst the drear of a typical British winter, made even more calamitous this year, as last, by rolling strikes among the doctors, the train drivers, and the bus drivers each timed and placed to cause as much disruption as possible to the long-suffering public.

Last December’s work stoppages also included the teachers, the ambulance drivers, the royal mail, the highway workers, the driving examiners, and the border force.  That last one, was quite embarrassing.  The border force are the folks who work airport security coming and going.  The army moved in to take over when they went on strike, and the movement and flow of passengers through the airports improved markedly.

This was 2022’s helpful BBC chart, provided to help the public keep track of when they were allowed to travel, when they could expect their mail to be delivered, when their children’s schools would be somewhat functional, and when to schedule their healthcare emergencies so as to have even the faintest hope of being transported to a facility (if the roads were open), or of finding a doctor or a nurse on duty when they got there. (Click to embiggen):

As promised, Beyond the Polls is back after just one week away! Henry sits down with RCP’s Senior Elections Analyst Sean Trende to discuss the scenarios in the Iowa Caucus that could leave a path for Donald Trump’s many Republican challengers. Then he and AEI’s Senior Fellow Emerita Karlyn Bowman consider whether and how an extremely unpopular Joe Biden can overcome his grim numbers and win in November.

And since it’s the season for gifts, Henry has a rant and an ad of the week for you! Get his take on last week’s much touted Red State Blue State Debate, along with a review of a puzzling and highly risky ad from the Trump campaign.

Something is missing. Something big.


Judaism and Christianity teach that life is difficult, and that there are reasons more important than ourselves to endure the suffering that we are sure to encounter during our lives.  It’s not surprising that as we move further from religion, abortion and euthanasia become more accepted.  Baby has Downs?  That will be difficult.  Death would better.  Old person with cancer?  That will be difficult.  Death would be better.  Without religion, why should we suffer?

Without religion, why are we living?  Simply to amuse ourselves.  So what happens when life is no longer amusing?  We try to dull the pain with drugs.  We try to escape reality with Netflix and video games.  We try to replace love with porn.  All of them help.  Somewhat.  Temporarily.  Sort of.  But we can’t escape that nagging feeling that something is missing.  Something big.

Nietzsche was an atheist, but he predicted that as we moved away from God, we would destroy ourselves.  Thomas Hobbes said much the same thing.  And as they predicted, Western Civilization is self-destructing.  Because it’s missing something.  Something big.  Things are getting difficult, and Rousseau’s romantic visions of simpler times start to sound tempting.  Is modern society really so great?  No, of course not.  It might be easier to embrace cultural euthanasia than to embrace the something big that we’ve ignored.

The Presidents of Penn, Harvard and MIT gave a cringe-worthy performance on the Hill this week and the drip, drip, drip of Biden corruption evidence continues to pile up.

And one month out of the Iowa Caucuses we’re joined by GOP campaign consultant Luke Ball to talk the state of the race and the state of the slim majority in the House of Representatives. (Note: The Trump 2024 campaign is a client of Ball’s company, Masonboro Strategies.)

The U.S Keeps Demanding and Israel Keeps Fighting


The United States has been relentless in its demands on the Israeli government about how Israel should be conducting its war. Expectations for the supply of humanitarian aid, criteria for the release of hostages, avoiding the killing of civilians, the evacuation of civilians from the north to the south—there seems to be no end to the Biden Administration’s advice to the Israelis on how they should fight this war. Whether the demands are practical to the war effort seems to be irrelevant. The U.S. knows that the rest of the world is watching the discussions with Israel with a guarded eye, since Israel has been under international scrutiny since its inception.

Initially, Israel listened to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, since the U.S. has provided armaments which Israel requires. When the U.S. demanded a pause in the fighting to negotiate the release of hostages, Israel was skeptical about whether those plans would be successful; it also knew that a pause would give Hamas the chance to re-arm and re-supply itself. But the families of the hostages were determined to have their family members released, and Netanyahu relented. At the start, hostages were released; in spite of Israel’s agreeing to an extension of the pause, Hamas stopped cooperating. It refused to provide a list of hostages to be released on the first extension day, December 1, and said that they were not holding anymore women or children. At that point, only 110 of the approximately 240 hostages had been released. Reports say that at least 18 of the remaining hostages are dead, although there is no way to be certain.

Weasel of the Year


Harvard President Gay is Weasel of the Year and the competition has never been steeper.  She edged out past winners FBI Director Wray and USAG Garland at the last minute with a truly appalling performance before Congress.  When asked to comment when contacted this afternoon in his retirement home in the UAE Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf (AKA “Baghdad Bob”) simply replied “LOL. Amazing!”

FIRE ranks Harvard as the university most openly hostile to free speech.  In response, its President explained that “free speech” is about learning to be sensitive to what listeners have been trained to accept and expect.  The “tools” to be mastered on one’s “Harvard journey” are actually honing the skill to use only the language of the mandatory ideological framework and then calling that “free speech.”  Indoctrination is called “exploration.”  There is no persecution or cancellation at Harvard, merely natural outcomes of a community expectation of “sensitivity.”  It does not matter if Jewish students are afraid to leave their dorm rooms because Harvard continues to strive to create a welcoming campus.  Just look at the brochure.

What Has Triggered an Increase in Anti-Semitism in the US?


In a recent Federalist article written by Samuel Mangold-Lenett, I was intrigued by his premise that although Republicans are addressing anti-Semitism in Congress, they won’t be successful without fighting anti-White racism. Although on first reading, that seemed to make sense. But it won’t work.

We can look at this argument first by addressing the anti-racism agenda over the last few years. Most of the time, its advocates are unclear, redundant, misinformed about history, and have no basis for their argument. For them to suggest that anti-racism can be eliminated by anyone is unrealistic. The fact is, this country has made great progress in the area of racism, and more can be done, but the idealistic demands of the anti-racist cadre simply cannot be achieved. In fact, they make it clear that anti-racism cannot be overcome, because it is inherent in our DNA. We can fight the ridiculous arguments they make (which are usually racist), but I see no strategic way to stop the anti-racist agenda.

This week Ann talks to actor amd podcaster Clifton Duncan.

“There are remarkable performances along the way, especially from Clifton Duncan singing the rangy arias of “Greenwillow” and Bebe Neuwirth snarling Elaine Stritch’s songs from “Sail Away.”

The Cross at Christmas


The city of Corinth, like all ancient Roman cities, focused attention on the importance of power. Military power, the strength of armies. Political power, the supremacy of influence. Financial power, the potency of money. Social power, the command of public opinion. Corinthian values were predicated upon domination. In the middle of a city, in a culture built upon the idea of making others submit to the will of the powerful, the apostle Paul utters these words in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the proclamation of the cross is, for their part, folly to those who are on their way to ruin, but, for our part, the power of God to us who are on the way to salvation.”

God flips the script on a human view of power. Overwhelming political, military, social, and financial power is itself overwhelmed by folly. Paul uses the word “folly” from which we get our word ineffective, meaning empty or fruitless. God turns the tables on a human view of power. Instead of domination, God’s power is humiliation, the humiliation of crucifixion, the proclamation of The Cross. Crucifixion, the most brutal, most disgusting form of punishment to Roman thinking, is God’s way of salvation. The Romans thought of crucifixion on a cross as a scandal, the Greek word Paul later uses to describe death on a cross. You see, crucifixion was punishment reserved for the worst criminals, the most hated terrorists. God says, the way to salvation, true power, is through Jesus’ humiliation at the cross.

It might seem strange during the Christmas season, to reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus. But stop and consider: the greatest power, the only effective means of human salvation from sin, begins with the birth of a baby, God in flesh, our only hope for peace on earth. For Truth in Two, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, president of the Comenius Institute, personally seeking truth through the power of Jesus’ work on the cross. [First published at]

The Contested Status of Puerto Rico


The Treaty of Paris, signed in December 1898, brought a quick end to the Spanish-American War after six months of hostilities. The treaty turned over Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to American control. Its terms sparked serious opposition in the United States Senate on the ground that the treaty just substituted American imperialism for Spanish imperialism, but it was eventually ratified by a 57-27 vote, just more than the two-thirds majority needed. In 1900, Congress passed the Foraker Act, which established a civilian government in Puerto Rico, under which the president appointed a governor and executive council that was paired with an elected House of Representatives with 35 members, and a nonvoting representative to Congress. The federal laws of the United States were extended to the island.

The “Insular Cases” that arose from these conquests were needed to define the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. These cases have spurred constant criticism in recent years for being “racist” in their content, which in turn has spurred renewed calls to reconsider these decisions. I will turn to the charge of racism later on, but first it is important to understand the issues involved—one on tariffs and trade and another on procedural due process in criminal cases.

The Most Ridiculous Man in the World?


King Charles, whose personal carbon footprint is likely magnitudes greater than the sum of the carbon emissions of everyone who has ever posted on kicked off the Irony Festival in Dubai (COP28) by declaring the “earth does not belong to us.” That is rather hypocritical considering how massive are King Chuck Windsor’s family land holdings. A big chunk of the earth actually is his. For a delightful take on this, see Brendan O’Neill’s  Revenge of the Feudalists

Imagine the brass neck it takes to pontificate to the plebs about their non-ownership of the Earth while you and your family sit atop vast tracts of land worth £1 billion. What the king should have said is: ‘The Earth does not belong to you.’

Masochism ≠ Virtue


In her 1979 book, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick advised us that, “Liberal idealism need not be identical with masochism, and need not be incompatible with the defense of freedom and the national interest.”  

Yes, but that was another time, a time when (as Bill Buckley would say) the blood of our father’s ran strong and a freshly inaugurated president, just minutes after taking the oath of office, would thus put the world on notice:

The Most Dangerous Moment: A Debate on America’s Role in the Pacific


Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute. During the administration of President George W. Bush, he served in the Department of Defense. Blumenthal’s most recent book is The China Nightmare: The Grand Ambitions of a Decaying State. Elbridge Colby is a founder of the new think tank the Marathon Initiative. During the administration of President Donald Trump, he served in the Department of Defense. Colby’s most recent publication is The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict. In this wide-ranging conversation, Colby and Blumenthal discuss what the United States and its allies can do practically to deter China’s expansion in the South China Sea and its aggression toward Taiwan.

A Few Graves in a Harsh Land


I hope that my intellectual betters will either indulge or ignore a few thoughts from an unlettered gentile which have been feeding on themselves for several days now. I would not claim them to be either original or especially deep. Those of us with simple minds have to stay within the mental boundaries nature has given us and dwell on what should be patently obvious to even the dullest among us.

Israel Intelligence Chief Betrays Israel


After reading the accusations about IDF Intelligence Chief, Maj. General Aharon Haliva, I still can’t believe that this man has not been kicked out of the IDF, never mind not imprisoned. The level of treachery that he committed that may actually destroy the country of Israel is mind-boggling. Basically, the man discounted, with overwhelming evidence at his fingertips, that Hamas posed a threat to Israel.

How is that possible?

James Carville and Mortal Sin


Mortal sin (complete separation from God) comes with three conditions:

  1. The act must be a grave matter,
  2. The sinner must know that what he’s doing is gravely wrong,
  3. And the sinner must exercise the free choice to do it anyway (no coercion).

Many Catholics suffer from scrupulosity (raises hand), worrying that they’ve committed a mortal sin they haven’t confessed that puts them at risk of eternal damnation. I recently heard a Catholic influencer say his priest once told him, if you’re worried that your sin is mortal, it isn’t. I see the logic of that statement, and it’s been a great consolation to me.

Frederick III: a Model for What Biden Should Do


Frederick III was Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia for the very short interval of 99 days during 1888.  The son of Emperor Wilhelm I and father of Wilhelm II, his reign was cut short by throat cancer.  Prior to his accession to the throne, the then Crown Prince was disturbed by an upsurge in anti-Jewish agitation. Having fairly liberal beliefs (in the older sense of the term), Frederick made his own position clear.  Clad in the uniform of a Prussian field marshal, Frederick, together with his wife Victoria, attended a synagogue service in Berlin in 1880 to show support for tolerance.

Shortly afterward, he gave a speech denouncing the anti-Semitic movement in Germany as “a shameful blot on our time”, adding that “We are ashamed of the Judenhetze [agitation against Jews] which has broken all bounds of decency in Berlin, but which seems to flourish under the protection of the Court clerics.”  In 1881, Frederick and Victoria again attended a synagogue service, this time in Wiesbaden “to demonstrate as clearly as we can what our convictions are”and  followed this up by giving a speech in which he spoke out for “poor, ill-treated Jews” of Europe.

Getting Things Done


I am not like some Ricochet members who seem to thrive on constant productivity and accomplishment. Instead, I’ve waged a war against hints of laziness in my make-up and have spent time puzzling out the difference between idleness and honest daily rest. I believe that not only are we designed for some breaks from the weekday grind, but also that turning our attention to rejuvenating activities is a privilege we can make use of, now that we no longer live in a harsh subsistence culture. 

That said, I’ve been listening to videos with productivity tips as an enjoyable way to wind down at the end of the evening—and get inspired to better tackle more household tasks, serve the team and families at my job, and get around to what I think of as my many “clerical tasks.” I thought I’d list below my own collection of tips. These are regular habits and inclinations that have been helpful to me, and I encourage you to describe routines that have made a difference for you in your own wrestle against inertia. 

A Hunt for Interstellar Portals


Gregory Roarke and his Kadolian partner Selene are back. They are still crockets, exploring uninhabited worlds for new resources, but they are no longer freelancing.

“The Icarus Twin,” a science fiction novel by Timothy Zahn, picks up from where the previous book in the series “The Icarus Plot,” left off. They are now on salary with the Icarus Project. They are still seeking valuable undiscovered planetary resources, but that is now a cover story. Their real mission is to discover Icarus portals.

Selfies and Influencers


 I recently read  this article about fatal accidents while taking selfies.  A study documented 400 over a 13 year period, including 77 in the US.  Most involved drownings or falls from high places.  This quote from the study author stood out:  

The mean age of reported victims was 22 years old — and they were mostly female tourists. “I was surprised that when I drilled down in this way, young females were implicated the most,” Cornell noted.”

This researcher must have been the only person world wide surprised that young women were the most frequent victims.  A few were mentioned in this account from the Daily Mail, and one said that “Sofia Cheung, an Instagram star, is shown above in her last Instagram post. She died in 2021 after losing her footing and slipping at a waterfall” and went on to note that she had 35,000 followers on Instagram. The picture is an earlier selfie of Ms Cheung.