The Bookmonger with John J. Miller
Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles

The bicentennial of one of the greatest battles in history is almost upon us — and Bernard Cornwell provides a new account of it in Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles.Bookmonger Waterloo Ricochet

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Cornwell describes what was at stake on June 18, 1815, whether Napoleon or Wellington was the better general, and what it was like to be an ordinary soldier on the battlefield (short answer: awful). He also discusses why he paused his novel writing for this book, his first — an apparently last — work of nonfiction.

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Where the Road Bends

shutterstock_57389068On a recent thread here, I mentioned my belief that it’s generally a mistake when young, ambitious people try to plan their lives out with too much precision. I get the psychological impulse behind it — the illusion of mastery is no less comforting for the fact that it’s an illusion. But the reality is that most lives are defined more by unexpected twists and turns than by regimented adherence to a to-do list. That’s why I was delighted to read (God help me for saying this) Frank Bruni’s weekend column in the New York Times, entitled “From Hamlet to Hillary,” charting the career of Joel Benenson — now one of Hillary Clinton’s top strategists, but previously everything from an actor to the co-owner of a beer distributorship to a journalist. Strip out the Democratic politics and the rest is worth a read. This is the passage that jumped out at me:

Benenson shared his story and thoughts in part because he’s concerned, as I am, that too many anxious parents and their addled children believe in, and insist on, an exacting, unforgiving script for success and (supposedly) happiness. Go to this venerable college. Pursue that sensible course of study. Tailor your exertions to the looming job market. They put too much faith in plotting, too little in serendipity. And it can leach joy and imagination from their pursuits.

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Why Those ‘Reagan Recovery’ vs. ‘Obama Recovery’ Comparisons Don’t Tell Us Much


The Drudge Report recently linked (“OBAMA VS. REAGAN ON GROWTH — NOT EVEN CLOSE”) to a Gateway Pundit blog post featuring the above jobs chart, which was first posted at IJ Review. Now, it is hardly the only or first chart to highlight that the economic recovery after the 1981-82 recession was stronger than the recovery we’ve seen after the 2007-2009 recession. I’ve done a few of them myself. I mean, it’s not a difficult point to argue when economic growth was so much faster in the 1980s. In the 23 quarters since the end of the Great Recession, real GDP is up 14% vs 30% after Really Bad Recession. Or to put it another way, the “Reagan Recovery” was twice as strong as the “Obama Recovery.” The Four Percent Recovery vs. the Two Percent Recovery.

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The Nature of Our Nature

In recent threads, there’s been some back and forth regarding Mankind’s nature and some… speculation as to how attitudes about it correlate with political ideology. I’ve my own theories on the matter, but I think more might be gained at this point from asking than guessing (differences tend to get exagerated in debates, so it’s sometimes best to take a step back and explore each other’s first principles). So, Ricochetti, here’s this morning’s assignment:

  1. Do you believe Mankind to be inherently good, wicked, or neither? Explain briefly.
  2. Which philosophers and/or theologians do you identify with on this subject (bonus points for providing a representative quote).
  3. How do your answers above inform your political philosophy?
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Three More Presidential Candidates — Plus Another 300 or so

MSNBCIt’ll be a busy week in presidential politics, what with three Republican hopefuls making their candidacies official in the next few days. That would include:

1) Dr. Ben Carson. After traveling the nation the past six months, looking to all the world like a presidential candidate, the retired neurosurgeon made his announcement today at the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts (now it’s off to Iowa). Why Detroit? It’s Carson’s boyhood home and plays a big part in his story of personal growth (poor inner-city child becomes world-class neurosurgeon). As he recently told Detroit News interviewer: “My mother was so disappointed that I was a poor student, that she didn’t know what to do. She prayed to God for wisdom. And he gave it to her: to turn off the TV and make us read books.” Of note: as the only African-American in the GOP field and at a time when the Republicans are in dire need of expanding their base, can a black icon like Carson develop a multiracial political following?

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Why Are You Voting Against Your Own Interests?

shutterstock_99826235A major pet peeve of mine in the world of politics is the phrase “voting against their own interests.” It’s usually used to indicate a sense of exasperation and disbelief on the part of the speaker that a certain group of voters is favoring a candidate or political party whom the speaker believes does not represent their best interests (see here, here, and here, for examples).

More specifically, it’s often used by Progressives to bemoan the tendency of some female voters and some of lower socioeconomic status to vote for Republicans. The insinuation is that Republicans are the “party of the rich” and they support policies that might jeopardize “women’s health” (i.e., abortion), therefore they should be universally rejected by certain classes of voters. The writers of these pieces struggle to explain this behavior and they usually settle for some combination of religious belief, small-mindedness, fear, and stupidity.

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More on Iran’s Illegal Seizure of the Maersk Tigris

Maersk-TigrisLast week, Claire posted about Iran’s seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship, MV Maersk Tigris. To recap, the Iranians decided to demonstrate, yet again, that the U.S. is a worthless ally by seizing a cargo ship flagged by a country that we pledged to defend. It appears that the seizure is based on an Iranian court judgement against Maersk, which chartered the vessel.

Eugene Kontorovich, on the excellent Volokh Conspiracy blog, analyzes Iran’s legal claims for seizing the Maersk Tigris and concludes that the country doesn’t have a leg to stand on:

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Veteran Suicide Remains a Problem

shutterstock_181602527According to a 2013 Veterans Affairs study, approximately 22 veterans take their own lives every day. That is a staggering 8,030 soldiers a year. In a recent article, former Army Ranger and author Sean Parnell points out that the cause of these disturbing numbers remains unknown. He suggests that it may have to do with the Veterans Administration’s process for identifying and treating soldiers with suicidal ideation:

Given the well-documented challenges in getting access to VA services, there’s little reason to believe a gigantic dysfunctional bureaucracy can respond with the appropriate speed and sensitivity needed for a veteran struggling with thoughts of suicide.

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The Bookmonger with John J. Miller
Finding Peter: A True Story of the Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life after Death

Do you believe in life after death? William Peter Blatty does. He’s the author of The Exorcist – a terrifying novel that became a scary movie — and he says he has the proof in his new memoir, Finding Peter: A True Story of the Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life after Death.Unknown

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Blatty describes what he has witnessed since his son’s death, why he interprets these incidents as messages from beyond the grave, and how one of the world’s most acclaimed authors of horror could write such a life-affirming book.

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When Were The Good Old Days?

886492_leave_it_to_beaverThe following conversation took place on Ricochet yesterday:

A: If you really want to live in a land with harsh laws against homosexuality, pornography (or even immodesty), and drugs (or even alcohol), where divorce is rare and challenges to the cultural and religious orthodoxy are not tolerated, then there are any number of Ayatollahs around the world who would be more than happy to accommodate you. B: No, that used to be called 1950s America. Look it up.

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Sunday Morning Disaster Preparation

21_3-cbI’ve refrained from writing about the earthquake in Nepal because I have nothing to add, beyond what I’ve already written about earthquakes. But that is, in fact, a lot. Istanbul is at severe risk of a catastrophic quake and terrifyingly unprepared for it. When I lived there, I started a volunteer grassroots network to improve the city’s seismic preparation. So this is a subject very close to my heart. Whenever earthquakes happen with large loss of life, I know entirely too well how much of the death and destruction was entirely preventable. “Spin the wheel,” as I wrote for City Journal in 20i1,

Bogotá, Cairo, Caracas, Dhaka, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jakarta, Karachi, Katmandu, Lima, Manila, Mexico City, New Delhi, Quito, Tehran. It will be one of them. It isn’t too late to save them. But we need to say the truth about why they’re at risk in the first place. …

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The Ricochet Podcast
2015 National Review Ideas Summit: Conversation with Gov. Bobby Jindal and Heather Higgins, Independent Women’s Voice

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 5.05.06 PMIn this conversation with Gov. Bobby Jindal and Heather Higgins, Independent Women’s Voice. Governor Jindal hammered President Obama today over his threats to veto legislation demanding transparency and the inclusion of anti-terror pledges in the Iranian nuclear deal, saying he “wish[es] Obama would negotiate with Iran as hard as he’s negotiating with the U.S. Senate.”


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French Literary Snobbery to the Rescue

cavannablog27The choice here is to go berserk with fury or laugh, and fortunately, France–vive la France!–has made it possible for me to do the latter. You may have heard that 145 members of our Anglophone literary establishment covered themselves in glory by signing a letter in protest of PEN’s award to Charlie Hebdo. Peter Carey criticised “PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.” If you haven’t heard, and if you’re otherwise having an acceptable day, don’t click on that link–I can’t understate the degree to which it will ruin it.

Beyond demonstrating an absolutely awesome and preternatural cravenness, the authors displayed what you’d think would be an even more deadly crime in fashionable literary circles: an inability to read what’s fashionable in fashionable literary circles. (They also demonstrated an inability to write–the letter is almost incomprehensible–but I suppose that’s not generally considered an impediment to success in fashionable literary circles.)

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Alan Dershowitz Reacts To Marilyn Mosby’s Charges

Did Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby overreach in quickly charging of the police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray? Will a judge remove her from prosecuting the officers based on her additional politically-tinged activist comments at the end of her news conference?

Personally, I think Dershowitz will be proven right and the officers’ charges may be substantially diminished or they may even go free.

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The Fed’s Failed — And That’s a Good Thing

shutterstock_236267482Don’t expect any miracles from the economy. But don’t expect a collapse either.

In political terms, it’s kind of a Mexican standoff. Team Obama says they saved us from another Great Depression. And they point out that 3.1 million jobs have been created in the last 12 months. Republicans counter that this is the slowest post-WWII recovery on record and that real GDP is roughly $2 trillion below potential. They add that the labor-force participation rate is 62.7 percent, a 39-year low, and that there are at least 15 million people who work but can’t get jobs.

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Who Have You Got in the Kentucky Derby?

 AP Photo/Garry JonesThe first Saturday in May is upon us: Derby Day! I’ve become a fan ever since getting an HDTV. It’s so beautiful, and I’ve been known to well up during “My Old Kentucky Home”It’s about memories – not of Kentucky bluegrass, but of Carry Back and Secretariat.

Care to pick a winner? I’m sure you can beat my method, the tried-and-failed “great name” strategy.

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Finding the ‘Fun’ in Funeral

Hello, Ricochet! It’s been a while, but I have a good excuse. A year ago this month, my oldest brother, Dave, took his life after decades struggling with alcohol abuse. We always knew this was a possibility, but we never really believed it would happen.

Dave kept his thoughts of suicide well hidden. He never showed the classic signs of someone who was going to kill himself. I still hurt to this day over his death. It’s a wound that will heal, but will always leave a scar. That’s not where the story ends , however, because in the midst of all the pain, and there was a lot, something hilarious happened: the Patterson family got to plan a funeral.

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