Book Review: “Superman: Red Son”

“Superman: Red Son” by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Kilian PlunkettOn June 30th, 1908, a small asteroid or comet struck the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded above the Tunguska river in Siberia. It is the largest impact event in recorded history, estimated to have released energy equivalent to 10 to 15 megatons of TNT. Had the impactor been so aligned as to hit the Earth three hours later, it would have exploded above the city of Saint Petersburg, completely destroying it.

In a fictional universe, an alien spaceship crashes in rural Kansas in the United States, carrying an orphan from the stars who — as he matures — discovers he has powers beyond those of inhabitants of Earth, and vows to use these gifts to promote and defend truth, justice, and the American way. Now, like Tunguska, imagine the spaceship arrived just a few hours earlier. Then, the baby Kal-El would have landed in Stalin’s Soviet Union and — presumably — imbibed its values and culture just as Superman did America’s in the standard canon. That is the premise of this delightful alternative universe take on the Superman legend, produced by DC Comics and written and illustrated up the standards one expects from the publisher. The Soviet Superman becomes an extraterrestrial embodiment of the Stakhanovite ideal, and it is only natural that when the beloved Stalin dies, he is succeeded by another Man of Steel.

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2016: An Art Scholar’s Take

CamillePagliaCamille Paglia is much more than a famous art historian. She’s a celebrated educator, author, and social critic; a liberal Democrat often more scornful of those who vote as she does then those who don’t; and an always astute commentator astride the nexus of politics, sexuality, media, and gender.

In the final installment of her three part Salon.com interview, Professor Paglia digs in to 2016. Her observations are, as always, surprising and refreshing.

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The Ricochet Podcast Ep. 269: What Is This Thing?

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It’s #Throwback Thursday here on the Ricochet Podcast as we go old skool with just Peter Robinson and Rob Long hosting and we’re joined by long standing podcast guest Mickey Kaus, who returns to discuss his thought provoking essay Coulter’s Challenge on –what else– immigration. Then, Angelo Codevilla, he of the now famous column Does Trump Trump? He also proposes a shall we say, interesting theory on same sex marriage. You’ll want to hear it, trust us on this one.

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Need to Know with Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger Ep. 127: Allies and Enemies

ntk-logoThe multi-faceted Michael Oren (member of the Knesset) joins Need to Know this week to discuss the Iran deal. Oren has written two great histories, and now a memoir of his time as Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ally. Mona and Jay are fans – with one caveat – that Jay raises. Still, an important man on a deadly serious subject.

Jay and Mona then welcome another historian, Ron Radosh, of PJ Media, who provides a teeth-grinding account of PBS’s decision to air an approving documentary about the Black Panthers. What can be done? Is there, perhaps, a Republican congress that can hold hearings or bring pressure to bear on taxpayer-funded PBS? Not saying they should pull the documentary – but there are other options. Do join us.

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On Hunting and Ethical Choices

shutterstock_114662551Everyone has to deal with their own morality. The problem exists when humans, most of whom have a generally good opinion of themselves, rationalize behavior they know is wrong. This sets you up to continually lower your beliefs about right and wrong until you find yourself in the place you said you’d never be. I’m no stranger to this folly, but I remain vigilant about it and ask the Spirit to guide me when I’m not being an impulsive fool.

I wrote once about a bird I injured when I was a kid. I must have been about seven — and I was lethal with that Daisy BB gun on starlings and the other trash birds I was allowed to shoot. Then there was the jay up in some tree. I felt some need to prove something. Busted wing. The darn thing was everywhere outside my house that summer, it’s broken wing reminding me of how bad a person I was when I shot it. That blue jay served a purpose though: it was a fitting allegory for my shame. The story would have been easier to tell if I’d taken my finger off the trigger.

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Will Jewish Democrats Sink the Iran Deal?

shutterstock_197638877“Seven Jewish Lawmakers Could Tilt the Scales on Iran Deal,” headlines The Times of Israel. The members — Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Steven Israel, Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Nita Lowey, Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Ted Deutch – are all Democrats. They must choose between loyalty to their party’s president, and concern about what the deal portends for Israeli and American security.

There are long and short answers to the question: “Why are Jews liberal?” The long answer traces back to the Enlightenment in Europe when parties of the right were monarchist and anti-Semitic, while parties of the left favored pluralism and religious freedom. I don’t buy the long argument. Tsar Alexander III, who instigated pogroms against the Jews, is long dead. So is Napoleon, who liberated them. In the meantime, Jews have suffered under communists, who proved just as cruel as the monarchists.

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Of All the Rhetorical Questions You Could’ve Asked…

CecileRichardsCecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, writing in The Washington Post today:

While our opponents have been working to create scandal and panic where none exists, doctors and nurses at Planned Parenthood health centers have continued to provide care to thousands of women, men and young people every day — contraception, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and safe and legal abortion. Whose efforts are doing more to help families and make our country healthier?

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Kudlow and Pawlenty's Money and Politics Podcast Ep. 26: Too Big To Fail

MPwKP_1400x1400This week, a boots on the ground report from the Rick Perry speech in NYC yesterday, Should Boehner go? Cong. Mark Meadows wants a vote. Also, Hillary wants to double capital gains tax, and the troubling relationship between Hillary and Bill Clinton and UBS.

Buy low, sell high: Money and Politics with Kudlow & Pawlenty is now available on iTunes here and on Stitcher here. Get it!

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This is Perhaps the Best Part of the White House Report on Job Licenses

072917white-hoouse1A welcome summer surprise from Team Obama (via the FT):

From auctioneers and barbers to scrap metal recyclers and travel guides, the number of jobs requiring a licence has been expanding rapidly across US states. Now the White House is warning that the occupational licensing requirements imposed by individual states are getting so burdensome that they are holding back the overall US economy, by lifting costs to consumers and erecting barriers to workforce mobility. In a report, the administration called on states to scrap unnecessary regulatory requirements and to harmonise more requirements across state lines, as it rolled out suggestions for better practice in the area. The White House Council of Economic Advisers, Treasury and Department of Labor report cited estimates suggesting licensing restrictions cost millions of jobs nationwide and have boosted consumer costs by more than $100bn. America’s obsession with occupational licences sits awkwardly with the country’s reputation for free market capitalism, but a quarter of US workers require a licence to do their jobs.

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Three Martini Lunch Three Martini Lunch 7/30/15

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review shake their heads as America flips out over the death of a lion but yawns at the butchery of Planned Parenthood. They also discuss former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore becoming the 17th Republican presidential hopeful. And they slam Hillary Clinton for saying she won’t take a position on the Keystone pipeline until she gets in the White House.

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Rules for Conservative Radicals

imageSome members of Congress say that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen should resign or be impeached. Under the gentlemanly standards of Marquess of Queensbury rules, a case can be made for that.

But what about Saul Alinsky rules? Why don’t we let him stay in office and make him the face of the Democratic Party? We can even tie him to Hillary: “Clinton’s capital gains tax will make John Koskinen very happy!” To top it off, he’s a middle-aged, white male. And, while we’re at it, why don’t we do something similar with Planned Parenthood?

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On Magic and Markets

Image.ashxMagic: the Gathering is a collectible card game created by Wizards of the Coast some 22 years ago. The nature of the game involves two or more players engaging in a battle of wits and strategy: picture chess but with players choosing from hundreds of different chessmen, each with different abilities. It involves aspects of resource management, strategy, bluffing, and cunning. The game is “collectible” in nature, in that the cards come in booster packs with varying rarities, with the more powerful cards tend to be rarer and thus more expensive.

MtG’s real-world economy resembles that every other commodity market. Supply and demand meet at the market-clearing price, and scarce commodities that are in demand tend to cost more. Sometimes, a great deal more. The people who run the company have done a good job of managing the supply side, keeping prices reasonable — i.e., within the reach of players of average means — even in the face of exploding demand. They carefully track the amount of product being sold, and release about four expansion sets (typically containing more than 150 new cards) each year, in multiple languages, worldwide.

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Our Non-Ideological Brethren &
the Muddle in the Middle

independentThere is a great swath of America which has no defined ideology. Nixon spoke of the silent majority. Reagan had his Democrats. Today’s punditry speaks of the “independents,” a growing segment who cannot abide either party. Obama, too, had his non-ideological supporters: people inspired to vote who might otherwise not participate. Though not a majority in themselves, they were enough to make one when cobbled with the otherwise disparate left-wing coalition. Mitt Romney — as competent and good a man as has ever run for president — was outmatched, unable to pull enough votes from those unmotivated by ideology, and too uninspiring to capture sufficient support from the Republican base.

Conservatism, with its less-sanguine view of humanity (history is not exactly proof of mankind’s benevolent nature) can be pretty dark. We distrust others, see more adversaries than friends in world politics, and generally distrust governance. We often seem like the Debbie Downer at the 4th of July picnic. This somber tendency allows us to be caricatured as staid, pessimistic, obstinate, scolding, judgmental, stingy, and even selfish. We don’t like change. We are — at best — cautious and our attachment to the past can seem, well, backward.

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Seeking: Polish Election Expert

250px-Krakau_MarktSo, a lovely Polish guy works as a housekeeper in a building near mine. We make small talk whenever we run into each other. He’s busting his hump to support his family, enterprising, always cheerful, exactly the kind of immigrant the French fear because he’s willing to work for non-union wages. We bonded immediately over our shared views of communism and Putin. (“What is wrong with you guys? He’s KGB!”)

I ran into him today, and as usual we chatted a bit about the recent perturbation on the Métro — construction work, apparently — and his family, and about how amazing it is that everyone in France goes on vacation for the entire month of August. Then as usual we lamented the state of the world, and as usual griped about Putin. I asked him how people in Poland were feeling about things. He shook his head. There’s a problem in Poland, he said. The elections are coming up, and he doesn’t at all like the looks of the opposition party, which he suspects will win. The incumbant party isn’t perfect, he said, but at least they understand you can’t just make money out of nothing.

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Governmental Piracy in the 21st Century

?????????????????????????????????????What would you say about a lawsuit that names 64,695 pounds of shark fins as the “defendant”? Yes, the Federal government did file suit against shark fins, as well as many other inanimate objects, all for the sake of revenue.

If you haven’t heard of civil asset forfeiture as a legal tool used by prosecutors, it is high time that you did. This is a legal maneuver that traces its roots all the way back to Medieval times, when people thought weapons could kill on their own, and kings would claim them, to cover the cost of burying the dead. Perhaps that superstition could also be blamed for the left’s fascination with implying guns can kill without humans using them but, for now, we’ll stick with the legal procedure that parts people from their property without criminal charges or due process.

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The Problem In The Pronouns

self-absorption-and-bipolar-disorder-300x199As a theologically liberal clergy person, I receive a lot of drivel masked as thoughtful, contemporary writing addressing the most urgent issue of our day: How can we make life better for nice, middle-class white people? These things come with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, and are often written by black people, but they are really about white folk (and people “passing for white,” which I think includes people like Condi and Ben?)

Two big clues to who these missives are for, and what they’re really about: Pronouns. Also: verbs.

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Ricochet Podcast Homework Assignment

shutterstock_129385562Tomorrow on the Ricochet Podcast, we have two interesting guests: Angelo Codevilla, author of the much discussed essay “Does Trump trump?” And our old pal Mickey Kaus, whose immigration views are well-known, but has entered a public debate with Ann Coulter and others with a piece posted on his site last week. Your assignment: read both essays and then listen to the show tomorrow to hear what Peter Robinson and Rob Long have to say about them (James is off this week).

Also, in preparation for next week’s debate, we’re kicking the tires on a new live chat function and live podcast player exclusively for Ricochet members. Stop by here tomorrow at 12PM PT/3PM ET and listen to the podcast live (mistakes and bloopers included) and chat with your fellow members — and maybe even the podcasters themselves.

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In Praise of the Sharing, Peer-to-Peer Economy

shutterstock_278653268Zipcar founder Robin Chase has an HBR piece, “Who Benefits from the Peer-to-Peer Economy,” where she discusses how workers are faring in the collaborative/peer-to-peer/on demand/sharing/gig economy, defining it as “marked by many platforms that engage a diversity of peers to contribute excess capacity which can be harnessed for greater impact … new platforms increasingly give the small the powers of marketing and distribution that were once reserved for the very large.” Same goes for manufacturing with 3-D printing, for instance, or MOOCs. But, she adds, policymakers must engage this new aspect of the US economy:

Governments need to recognize and prepare for this new third way of working which is neither full-time nor temporary part-time, but a new way of life. The Internet exists and everything that can become a platform will. Local and federal governments need to start tying benefits to people and not jobs, ensuring that labor is protected during this disruptive and swift transition. In a world struggling to cope with incessant disruption brought on by fast-paced technical innovation, climate change, urbanization, and globalization, Peers, Inc. is the structure for our times. It enables us to experiment, iterate, adapt, and evolve at the required pace. I’m happy this flexible new tool has come to exist. But while we are reaping the economic benefits brought on by individual contributions, we need to proactively share the productivity and innovation gains with individuals, too.

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The Libertarian Podcast: “Educating Richard Epstein”

God help the poor souls, but once upon a time there were a number of individuals who had to teach Richard Epstein. In this unusually biographical episode of The Libertarian, Richard traces his intellectual formation, discussing the teachers, books, and thinkers that most shaped the classical liberal perspective for which he has become famous. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering “How did this guy get this smart?” — Well, the answers lie within.

You can listen in below (after the jump) or subscribe to The Libertarian via iTunes or your favorite podcast app.

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The “Short-termism” Myth

A number of pundits, including Ricochet’s own James Pethokoukis, have picked up Hillary Clinton’s “short-termism” meme and run with it. Clinton is claiming that U.S. CEOs are looking no further than the next quarter or two and — instead of making long-term investments in research and capital equipment — are repurchasing company shares, buying up other companies, or paying higher dividends to shareholders.

The hidden assumption is that there are lots of long-term investment opportunities out there to which the nation’s CEOs are blind. Individual companies often make mistakes, and those that make them too often usually don’t stay in business for long. If there truly are profit opportunities just waiting to be snapped up by entrepreneurs, then you’d expect lots of people to be taking advantage of them. Yet the country’s economy remains moribund. When most companies are retrenching rather than expanding, the explanation may be “animal spirits,” mass delusion, or shared stupidity as Clinton and Pethokoukis seem to be implying. However, before reaching for such vague reasons for large-scale trends, I tend to look for systemic causes — and “systemic” all too often translates into “government.”

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Hillary’s Very Brady Problem

Brady-Hillary-640x480Tom Brady just got handed a four-game suspension for his role in “Deflategate.” Poor fella. He now has to spend a month of Sundays cooped up at home with Gisele. If I were DirecTV’s braintrust, I’d try to convince Brady to do one of those Sunday package ads lickety-split. On the heels of Brady’s punishment, I posted this item at Forbes.com. My thoughts:

1) There’s an opening here for the Republican National Committee: change Reince Priebus’ job-title from chairman to commissioner. Then wait for Trump to say or do something outrageous (that won’t take long). And once he does, suspend Trump for the first four primaries and caucuses of 2016.

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Christie, Pot, and the Rule of Law

shutterstock_133014050As Ricochet member ShellGamer wrote late last year, Colorado and Washington’s (and now Alaska’s) legalization of marijuana has both created and exposed a constitutional mess. In brief, neighboring states are suing the Obama Administration for its policy of turning a blind eye to federal drug laws. Meanwhile, Congress shrugs its shoulders and acts uninterested in either forcing the president to enforce the law, or in repealing or amending it. If elected president Governor Chris Christie says he’ll have none of it:

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie, a Republican campaigning for the 2016 presidential nomination, said Tuesday during a town-hall meeting at the Salt Hill Pub in Newport, New Hampshire. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.” [...] “That’s lawlessness,” he said. “If you want to change the marijuana laws, go ahead and change the national marijuana laws.”

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