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Lies, Damn Lies, and Hillary Clinton


After the triumphant torching of the American compound and the dragging through the streets for photo ops of the dead body of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed the attack on a mean video produced in the United States. She and various officers of the government laid the blame on this video, and had the video maker, an Egyptian-born Copt, arrested and jailed, ostensibly for probation offenses and using a false name in trying to distribute his film. (He is said to be living in a homeless shelter and has a $100,000 bounty on his head offered by a Pakistani railways minister.)

These days, of course, Hillary Clinton outright denies that she ever said that an internet video was to blame. 

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Trump 2016: Less of a Jerk in Person than you Would Think


So I had a little chat with Donald last night. In front of a few thousand people I asked him a question.

I was sitting about 25 feet from him so I got to study him for 20 minutes of talking and 10 minutes of questions. He came for the fund raiser which did not benefit his finances but rather Nevada republicans. He is a dynamic public speaker and is very much a politician. He spoke with a small cheat sheet but he is far faster on his feet mentally than I expected. The arrogance and bluster were apparent but also what was apparent to me is that he’s less of a narcissist than I thought. He took the time to thank a lot of different groups and also praised Reince Preibus at one point which was interesting.


Hey Dude, Do You Collectively Effervesce?


09-coachella-primal-party.nocrop.w710.h2147483647.2xOne Saturday morning, long ago, I was walking the dog down a Venice Beach street and an old battered car pulled up next to me. In the driver’s seat, a tattooed guy with a burning cigarette between his fingers. In the passenger’s seat, a down-and-out looking woman who rolled down the window and asked, “Hey, do you party?”

As I said, it was about 10AM on a Saturday, and I was walking the dog and carrying a just-filled plastic bag — if you get my drift — so it was pretty clear I wasn’t in their target demo, for whatever it was they were targeting. But now, according to NYMagazine, we know that the urge to party is bedrock human behavior:

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Share Your Expertise: Vintage Perfume and Biochemistry


One of the ironies of fragrance is that organic compounds used by plants as natural pesticides and toxins (to repel predatory insects and herbivores) are some of the key ingredients in perfumes … which are used by human beings to attract, not repel, other human beings (in theory, anyway). 1

These organic compounds (known as secondary metabolites) are present in many of the essential oils used in perfumes, but their key components weren’t manufactured synthetically until the late 19th century. Along with synthetic molecules created in the lab, advances in chemistry at this time meant that traditional extraction processes could be standardized and mass-produced, resulting in a high quality (and quantity) of essential oils and natural isolates. Oils extracted by traditional small-scale methods varied greatly in quality, and could be sludgy and burnt-smelling due to high contaminant levels.


A Glimmer of Hope for Academia


Thirty years ago, an obscure University of Chicago philologist predicted the closing of the American mind. Looking around today, Allan Bloom’s prediction has come true in spades: the country seems to be slipping into the abyss of a new dark age. The leading edge of this slippage is the college campus.

Here on Ricochet we hear a lot about Hillsdale College and tend to write off the big mainstream research universities — which are completely dependent on federal grants—as hopeless Petri dishes of ignorance, unreason, intolerance, intellectual cowardice, and rage.


Big Swings Do Too Happen


On the latest GLoP podcast, @johnpodhoretz noted that polls show Trump down by some eight points, then said that a Trump victory would require a swing “of a kind that is unprecedented in recent history.” (I’m quoting John from memory. I may have a word or two wrong, but you get the idea.) With respect to John — and I do have the greatest respect for my old friend — that isn’t quite correct.

Consider 1980: One week before the election, as the chart below makes clear, Ronald Reagan could claim the support of only 39 percent of likely voters. On Election Day, he won with 51 percent of the vote — a swing of 12 points.


“Pay To Play” Is Too Innocuous


The great unwashed — the low information voter, the people inhabiting the left side of the bell curve, and (more to the point) Clinton supporters — don’t get it. One could easily think “pay to play” means going bowling or the admission to an amusement park. Of course, we here at Ricochet know what Hillary Clinton has done and would continue to do as president, but we’re among the one percent of informed voters.

Can you think of a better way to describe what Clinton, the State Department, and the Clinton Crime Foundation have done that would be more easily-understood by the average voter ( remember you are not an average voter). We need a bullet point or a bumper sticker. Have any?


In Defense of Juries


shutterstock_121502677In a recent Investor’s Business Daily column, Yuri Vanitek suggests that citizen juries be replaced by a panel of professionals. He makes the argument that experts can do a better job determining guilt or innocence than regular folks, saying, “Imagine if modern hospitals relied on 12 random people, selected from a local phone book, to determine medical treatment — and refused to consider the counsel of doctors and nurses.” Considering the sometimes woeful results of jury trials, it sounds like a reasonable idea. It’s not.

As the brilliant G.K. Chesterton argued, there are some things too important to be left to experts. On professional judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and other officers of the court he said:


Can We Still Trust Our Military?


shutterstock_244390996Many of our Ricochetti are active in, or retired from, the military and I thank them with deep gratitude for their service. But this year, reports regarding our military’s abilities to manage effectively, operate efficiently, and take security seriously have shaken my faith in it. The latest report of the Department of Defense’s Inspector General included a mind-boggling finding: The US Army has so poorly managed its finances that it has had to make trillions of dollars in adjustments to “create an illusion that its books are balanced.” That’s right: trillions. From Reuters:

The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up. As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded. The “forced” adjustments rendered the statements useless because “DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.”


The Night Shift: One Reporter’s Life Covering Chicago’s Violent Crime


shutterstock_309339200I felt dirty, short of breath, and my chest was tight. I could taste the stink of cigarette and weed smoke and liquor and had the smell of blood stuck on my tongue.

In our continuing quest to find ways to Make Ricochet Great Again, I’ve brought you another long-from article that I encourage you to read in its entirety. This one, “Three Years of Nights,” is from Chicago Magazine. Its author, Peter Nickeas, spent three years working the overnight violent crime beat for the Chicago Tribune and the time obviously marked him. By the end of the article, I think a little of what he saw will mark you too.


The Tragedy of 2016


Hillary Clinton’s speech about Donald Trump and the alt-right is excoriating. She didn’t need to lie, spin, or exaggerate. All she needed to do was describe Trump and the company he keeps. She did so competently.

The odds seem to me overwhelmingly high that she’ll be elected. She may well be working with a Democratic Congress. GOP primary voters handed her the only candidate in the firmament whom she could handily trounce.


Hillary’s Felonious Friends in Virginia


Clinton McAuliffeTerry McAuliffe is a Hillary Clinton pal. He fronted $1.3 million for her house in Chappaqua. We should all have such friends. Thanks to the Republicans who shut down the government in 2013, McAuliffe is now the governor of Virginia, a swing state, and thus in a position to help Mrs. Clinton get another house – on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Any governor has political strings to pull, but Governor McAuliffe is going beyond sharing voter information, get out the vote operations, and other traditional political tools. He’s creating new voters by unilaterally restoring voting rights to 206,000 convicted felons. McAuliffe is focused on this: In 2012, Barack Obama’s margin of victory in Virginia was 3.88 percent, which represented 149,298 votes.


John Timoney, RIP


49068935It crossed my mind last week to add my humble voice to the chorus of appreciations of the life of John Timoney, the one-time first deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department and former chief of police in Miami and Philadelphia. Timoney died this month—far too young at 68—after a battle with lung cancer.

I hesitated to chime in, in part because so many worthy tributes found their way online and into print. A New York Times obituary called him “a swaggering cop, straight out of central casting, with a Bronx brogue.” What could I possibly add? I only met him once. I thought it best to keep my thoughts to myself.


What a Time to Be Alive. Really. Why Don’t We Believe It?


twenty20_f3243af1-5703-4d84-b4cb-16583a79e80e_tunnel_light_optimism_pessimism-e1471985273737An excellent piece in the UK Spectator by Johan Norberg tackles one of my favorite issues: Why are we so pessimistic these days? After making the case that advanced economy citizens live in a veritable “golden age,” Norberg tries to explain why so many disagree:

In almost every way human beings today lead more prosperous, safer and longer lives – and we have all the data we need to prove it. So why does everybody remain convinced that the world is going to the dogs? Because that is what we pay attention to, as the thoroughbred fretters we are. The psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have shown that people do not base their assumptions on how frequently something happens, but on how easy it is to recall examples. This ‘availability heuristic’ means that the more memorable an incident is, the more probable we think it is. And what is more memorable than horror? What do you remember best – your neighbour’s story about a decent restaurant which serves excellent lamb stew, or his warning about the place where he was poisoned and threw up all over his boss’s wife?


Trump Softens on Immigration, Coulter Follows Suit

Coulter Trump Book Sm
My slight edit of Coulter’s book cover.

Talk about bad timing. Wednesday night at the Breitbart Embassy in DC, Ann Coulter held a book signing for In God We Trus… oops, I mean In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome. Earlier that day, Donald Trump told Sean Hannity that he was “softening” his position on immigration, the main issue that made Coulter and a plurality of primary voters select him as the GOP nominee. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at that confab.

Coulter’s book makes the argument that “[T]here’s nothing Trump can do that won’t be forgiven. Except change his immigration policies.” On MSNBC’s “Hardball” she said, “This could be the shortest book tour ever if he’s really softening his position on immigration.” So there’s absolutely no way the passionately anti-immigration author could support her candidate’s flip-flop, right? Sorry, but we’ve got books to move:


Why Are We So Dumb About Healthcare?


Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.20.03 AMWhen Sarah Palin first started talking about “Death Panels,” I cringed: Not because the prospect of a government panel empowered to make medical decisions on citizens’ behalf wasn’t totally creepy (it was) but because private insurance does the same thing. Now, I’d argue that a system based on free-market, private insurance has, regardless, enormous advantages to the alternatives, but this doesn’t mean that private insurers don’t sometimes need to be cold-hearted bastards. The sad fact of life is that there’s no way to pay for top-end medical care for everyone, so some form of rationing (even the free-market kind) is inevitable.

But for some reason, nearly every society tries to pretend otherwise. Some of this can be explained away as leftism, but it always seems to hit healthcare the hardest? Consider, for example, how Senator Bernie Sanders made “Medicare for All” a major part of his platform, but not “SNAP for All.” Via Megan McArdle, part of the answer may be that human beings are hard-wired to see providing healthcare as a social good in itself, rather than treating the matter as service we trade for. From a paper by economist Robin Hanson, whom McArdle cites, this may explain many of our irrationalities regarding health care:

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Simple Life


wedding ringsI am a monogamous married man. I am not a romantic person, but I do love my wife dearly. I enjoy a simple life with her.

I do not have an ex. No ex-wife, no ex-in-laws, no alimony, no child support, no lawyer. My wife is the mother of my children, which also simplifies their lives. Our kids never had to keep a personal scheduler to know which home to go to after school. They never had to do that blended family thing.

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A turning point on “trigger warnings”?


I’ve spent a lot of time on university campuses. I arrived at my first a month shy of my 18th birthday, and though I’ve changed positions and locations since then, I have essentially never left the university environment. My father, who took a jaded view of my career path, was once asked during a prospective juror interview if he had any children. He dryly informed the judge that his elder son was “still in college”. I was, at the time, in my early 40s and an associate professor. And yet, to him, I was “still in college”.

Over my forty years “in college”, I’ve witnessed the unmistakable and enervating shift of campus discourse towards groupthink. The modern terms are “microaggressions” and “privilege”. Diversity means embracing people who look different, but only if think precisely the same way. Haters that see hate in everyone except themselves. Orwell himself would recognized what the political correctors have done to the concept of “tolerance”.