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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Voluntourism

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

frazier-ali

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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FIRE’s Worst for Free Speech Spotlight: Brandeis University

And now for the final installment of my Ricochet-exclusive spotlight on FIRE’s “worst” list for campus free speech in 2014. For my third and final spotlight, I want to introduce readers to the single college that has made the worst list more than any other college (finally edging out Syracuse University, which is a two-time recipient of this dubious honor). Here’s the entry for Brandeis:

Brandeis University

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The Greatest Presidential Speech Ever Delivered

abraham-lincoln-secondinauguration3Presidential speechwriters are a competitive bunch. I don’t know how many of us there have been since Warring Harding hired Judson Welliver as a “literary clerk” in the early ’20s, but I do know that the majority of those who’ve labored over a draft in the EEOB — or, if they were truly lucky, the West Wing — have a little bit of an inferiority complex.

Why? Because the first question you get when your vocation is mentioned to a stranger is “Did you write anything I know?” Put aside the banality of the question for a minute — how the hell am I supposed to have a vise-like grip on what you know? — and think about how this actually plays out. For the vast majority of us, the answer is ‘no.’ Most presidential speeches — especially in an age when they’ve become ubiquitous — are unremarkable affairs. No one reads your Rose Garden remarks congratulating science fair winners from around the country (yes, I actually got that assignment once. John Negroponte said he loved the speech. I’m still convinced he was mocking me). As a result, your average White House scribe lives in perpetual envy of Raymond Moley, who penned the 1933 FDR inaugural address that included “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (though Moley doesn’t seem to have been responsible for that line); of Ted Sorensen for working on JFK’s 1961 inaugural; and, yes, of Peter Robinson for writing Ronald Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech and etching the phrase “tear down this wall” into history. Only the lucky few get a signature song.

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Kudlow and Pawlenty's Money and Politics Podcast
Email-Gate

kudlow-pawlenty 1400Will Hillary Clinton’s private email address be her undoing? That’s topic number one for this week’s show. Also, Larry and Tim discuss the fallout from the Netanyahu speech, funding DHS and what should GOP do next as the defunding tactic always a loser. Also, Obama is “very interested” in raising taxes through executive action. What can be done to make his interest wane? And, is Iran taking over Iraq while fighting ISIS? Larry and Tim break it down for you. 

Thank you for asking: Money and Politics with Kudlow & Pawlenty is now available on iTunes here and on Stitcher here. Get it!

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In Defense of Discipline

shutterstock_172852367If you’re fortunate, at some point in your life, you’ve played a sport on a championship-level team. Luckily, I have. However, if you’ve played a lot of team sports, you’ve also played on mediocre or bad teams. Unluckily, I have.

You can tell the difference.

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On Jeb Bush and Tax Pledges and Fiscal Reality

shutterstock_240547366From Reuters:

Jeb Bush will not sign any “no new taxes” pledges or any other pledges if he decides to seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, a spokeswoman said on Saturday. The statement from Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell was in response to an appeal from anti-tax champion Grover Norquist for Bush to sign his Taxpayers Protection Pledge, in which candidates agree to oppose tax increases.

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The Libertarian Podcast: Obamacare at the Supreme Court

Well, today’s the day. The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments this morning in King v. Burwell, the case that could upend Obamacare by finding that the text of the law doesn’t provide for subsidies on exchanges run by the federal government. This week on The Libertarian podcast, we provide you all the pre-game coverage you need, as Professor Epstein considers the contending legal arguments, looks at how the fallout from a ruling against the Obama Administration could affect Republicans, and handicaps the prospects of getting Justice Kennedy or Chief Justice Roberts to rule against the White House. Listen in below or subscribe to The Libertarian via iTunes or your favorite podcast app.

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