Sunday Morning Debate: What’s the Best Lego Video Ever?

I give up, Ricochet. I understand that many of you are parents. Many of you are parents not only to one, but to several, or even many children. Some of you run businesses while home-schooling six kids. I get that you all manage, nonetheless, to pay enough attention to the adult world to sound as if you have a clue what’s happening in it.

I can’t do it. I don’t know how any of you do it. I know there are important things happening beyond the confines of this apartment. I know some of them are happening very close to me, and that I feel very strongly about them. But I couldn’t write a coherent paragraph for adults right now if my life depended on it. How does anyone? You’d have to be pretty cold to tune out an excited five-year-old for the amount of time it would take to write something cordial and intelligible about current events.

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Janet Yellen’s Back-to-the-’50s Interest Rates

Janet Yellen told us last week that the fed funds target rate will be raised slightly later this year. But after that, future rate hikes will be small and gradual over the next several years. In fact, we may never have true normalization (4 percent). In my view, Yellen is offering a back-to-the-’50s approach to interest rates. And she’s right, though for many wrong reasons.

For average folks, what might this policy mean? I’ll take a guess: No boom and no bust. No inflation and no recession. All the post-war recessions were preceded by an inverted Treasury yield curve, where short rates are higher than long rates. That won’t happen for many years. Plus, upward oil-price spikes lead recessions, but we’re now in a downward energy-price cycle.

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Episode 117: Suing Harvard

ntk-logo2013-0104-EPPC-Portraits-Ed-Whelan-0131-300x300-150x150Ed Whelan, sage of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and creator of Bench Memos, joins us to talk gay marriage, Justice Ginsburg’s ethics, and constitutional interpretation.

Jay and Mona then chew over the whole “if you knew then what we know now” way of evaluating public policy. They go on to consider the question of racial and ethnic quotas in university admissions. A consortium of Asian American groups is suing Harvard and other schools for discrimination. Also, are kids from Harvard et al really noticeably smarter?

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Ask Amelia: Hang the Warhol

AskAmelia3It’s Friday, which means it’s time for Amelia Hamilton to answer all your questions about horoscopes, hard sells and Hollywood!

Dear Amelia, What is this Mercury in retrograde thing all about? Am I about to be turned into a newt by newly-empowered witches? — @Jimmiebjr

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The Vice Spiral

shutterstock_139513784The beauty of Ricochet is how one thought spawns another, a true ricochet of thoughts bouncing from one member to the next. David Sussman‘s post on Las Vegas got me thinking about the spiraling effects of lawmakers preying on their constituents’ weaknesses in order to wring every last available dollar out of them for, you know, the children.

Nevada has always been the industry leader. When divorce was a complicated procedure in America, Nevada filled the gap. In 1931, the state simplified its divorce laws and reduced its residency requirement to six weeks. They essentially created divorce tourism. By 1940, almost 5% of the total number of divorces filed in the US were in Nevada.

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Slipping the Surly Bonds

shutterstock_251316592In my lifetime, I believe that the greatest symbol of American exceptionalism has been NASA, the United States space program, and the American flag that waves (in a manner of speaking) over the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon. In an age when anti-American, anti-imperialist sentiment was building steam, America may not have been universally loved, but it was universally respected. In a rickety vessel that now seems more primitive than the boats in which Columbus sailed the Atlantic, three Americans blasted off, crossed an empty void, landed on a new world and, just to show off, televised the whole thing. And the reaction of the whole world to this incredible spectacle was: “well, of course it is the Americans.”

You had to think twice before you’d mess with someone who could do that.

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Another Win for the Second Amendment

shutterstock_166788203Future historians will undoubtedly note two great ironies of the leftmost administration since Lyndon Johnson: that President Obama’s tenure coincided with (1) massive increases in domestic fossil fuel production and (2) historic expansions of the Second Amendment.

The latest incident happened on Monday, when U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. issued a preliminary injunction against Washington DC’s may-issue rules for concealed carry permits. Under the rules formerly in place, residents had to show not only that they had generally good reasons to wish to protect themselves, but positive proof that they had been specifically threatened:

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Vegas 2015: The Death of Cool


Just got back from a four-day convention in Las Vegas. It was a microcosm of what Vegas has become. Like Las Vegas Boulevard, one block to the West, the entire LV Convention Center was filled with suits and multimillion-dollar booths blasting how great they were, numbing your senses.

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Sarah Palin vs. Ernie Chambers

In January 2011, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot at a “Congress on Your Corner” constituent meeting outside a Tucson Safeway supermarket. Though the gunman murdered six others, Giffords survived, but eventually had to resign her seat due to brain and bodily damage. As is usually the case, the shooting became a political debate over gun control and mental health. Many on the left blamed the shooting on the political rhetoric of the right. Many specifically blamed Sarah Palin, even though she was not in Tucson, has nothing to do with Arizona, and didn’t pull the trigger. Palin was blamed because of this map:


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Hillary: The Woman With No Hinterland

snlTheodore Dalrymple (real name: Dr. Anthony Daniels) is a retired psychiatrist, who spent a big part of his career working in third world countries like Zimbabwe and treating patients inside British prisons. These experiences have turned Dalrymple into an implacable critic of, among other things, totalitarian governments, large bureaucracies like the British NHS, the psychiatric establishment (especially its attempt to do away with things like free will and personal responsibility), and the left in general.

He is a wonderful cultural commentator and literary critic (he is Exhibit A for the proposition that the best literary critics are those who simply love good writing and who haven’t been corrupted by stylish post-modern literary theory). His writing can be found in New Criterion, City Journal, National Review, and in the on-line magazine New English Review.

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Historical Roads Not Taken

DC-1914-27-d-Sarajevo-croppedI’ve never been a big fan of the “alternative history” genre of fiction, but I do sometimes find myself fascinated by moments in history when things could very easily have gone differently. I’m not talking here about big questions like “what if the South had won the Civil War?” I’m talking about those moments when some small, even trivial, event has disproportionately enormous repercussions that no one could have predicted. Where it’s quite easy to imagine that things might have been otherwise.

Of course, such moments happen all the time; most of them we will never know about. We’ll never know about the what-ifs that didn’t happen. But there are a few cases I can think of where we can see — in retrospect — how big things can be traced back to these coin-flip moments.

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Ave Atque Vale: Summa Cum Laude

“Buckley’s old-fashioned answering service! I still answer my own phone!” The gleeful voice rang out. If I heard it once in the 24 years that Tom Buckley and I were colleagues at the University of Tulsa, I heard it a thousand times. In a variety of ways, it captured the man. It reflected his wit, his irreverence, and his sense of fun; it betrayed his lack of pretentiousness and hinted at his capacity for mischief; and it suggested that he was a bit of a ham. One could imagine him dressing up in a tuxedo, sauntering into a classroom with a bottle and glass on a tray, and interrupting a junior colleague’s lecture with the greeting: “Your ale, Madame! And I have been told to wish you a very happy birthday.” One could imagine him pausing in the midst of one of his own lectures to pull a card from his shoe and announce that he had just produced a footnote. And he was perfectly capable of responding to an invitation to the wedding of a much-married friend by sending a note of regret, saying, “I’m sorry that I cannot make it this time, but I will be sure to be there the next time that you wed.”

Thomas H. Buckley, who died on 24 February, was an old-fashioned professor. He was a scholar of ability and distinction, a teacher of genius, and he was always around—available for consultation by colleagues, friends, students, and former students (who always came to see Buckley before dropping in on anyone else). To him, they came to discuss the essays on which they were working, the “ins” and “outs” of national politics, their job prospects, their love lives or the lack thereof (a topic on which Tom was highly knowledgeable), and many another subjects.

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Climate Change and the New Iconoclasts

Clasm_ChludovThe ancient city of Constantinople was heralded as a “new Rome” and quickly replaced the old one in splendor and importance. As the western Roman Empire withered and fell, the eastern Christian empire flourished. But after a few centuries of success, their good fortune ran out.

The first recorded bubonic plague killed more than a third of Constantinople’s inhabitants. Then in a series of bloody, expensive wars with the Avars, Slavs, Bulgars and Persians, the city finally stabilized their empire only to see the majority of it swallowed by Muslim conquerors. Add in the coups, civil wars, and a spectacular volcanic eruption off the island of Santorini, and Christians wondered what they did to lose the favor of God.

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Call Takers

MISC-ParkedPoliceCars (400x300)Is Baltimore burning? Perhaps the question should be: Is Baltimore still burning?

There is a good chance that policing will change in Baltimore. Officers that were proactive will probably become call takers. The risks of proactive police work now has the potential of not just ending an officer’s career but may result in criminal charges.

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Can Republican Men Criticize Hillary?

Carly Fiorina is articulate, thoughtful, and accomplished. For those who keep track of such things, she was the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 business, and she ran a credible, if unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. senate seat from California. In the early going, she is receiving enthusiastic responses from Republican audiences. Though I’ve long been skeptical of non-politicians running for president of the United States, I’m open to the possibility that she has what it takes — but only if the premise is that she is offering something besides estrogen. This is not a slam at Fiorina but rather at the presumption out there that only Carly Fiorina can really “take it to Hillary” because she’s the only Republican candidate who needn’t fear the charge of sexism.

If Republicans accept this gag rule, they are in trouble, because 18 of 19 or so possible nominees are burdened by testosterone.

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On the Continuing Political Aftermath of the Great Recession and the Financial Crisis

In my new The Week column, I write about the GOP’s problem — particularly Jeb Bush’s — with the Great Recession and Financial Crisis: Republican George W. Bush happened to be president when it happened. That is a tough-to-remove stain on the Bush brand and the GOP brand. Now as I wrote awhile back, “Obama didn’t end the Great Recession that Bush didn’t cause.” W.’s tax cuts/budget deficits/income inequality/financial deregulation aren’t the real story.

But life isn’t fair. Presidents get much of the blame or credit for what happens when happens when they’re in the Oval Office. What’s more, the economic collapse has tempered the public’s enthusiasm for pro-market policies. Now it is certainly worthwhile to try and correct the record on causality. I think the GR&FC were more or less a replay of the Great Depression, where the Fed took a modest downturn in the making and made it much, much worse. In their Financial Crisis Inquiry Report dissent, Keith Hennessey, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Bill Thomas outline a variety of domestic and international factors: credit bubble, housing bubble, nontraditional mortgages, credit ratings and securitization, financial institutions concentrated correlated risk, leverage and liquidity risk, risk of contagion, common shock, financial shock and panic. In that same report, my colleague Peter Wallison states “the  sine qua non of the financial crisis was U.S. government housing policy.”

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What Helps You Get Through a Commercial Airline Flight?

Airplane in the sky at sunsetI’m on a cross country flight. It’s tight quarters with some pretty big guys. Some are truly professional flyers. Others jump on Southwest airlines and either complain about everything or gum up the works in the Lord of the Flies self-seating challenge. All of us, 150 plus, are on a five-and-a-half hour flight to Las Vegas. And, no, I don’t like it.

I’ve taken this flight out about 25 times. Thank God, I’ve taken about 25 flights home. I’ve never liked it. That’s not to say I haven’t liked it more on some flights and less on others. It’s just that flying 500 mph inside a hollow metal tube, 35,000 feet above sea level (like it matters if it’s above the water), isn’t my preferred mode of travel. Transporter, pneumatic tube, maybe.

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Episode 260: By The People


After a brief hiatus, The Ricochet Podcast returns with nothing short of revolution on its mind. Our guest this week: the Unknowngreat Charles Murray, to discuss his latest book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, an argument for civil disobedience. Will it catch on? Also, who are the top ten GOP candidates, should our candidates appear on George Stephanopoulos’s show (h/t Ricochet member Brian Watt), and will Elian Gonzalez become a propaganda symbol if he visits the U.S. (another h/t to Ricochet member Richard Anderson). Finally, how should have Jeb Bush answered that question on the Iraq War? Our panel weighs in.

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Religious Bigotry on Parade in the Ninth Circuit

One of the worst copyright rulings in history, even by Ninth Circuit standards, has finally been reversed by an en banc decision written mercifully by Judge Margaret McKeown. This was a hot topic on my radio show when it first came down. You all know the story.

The White House’s false narrative about the cause of the Benghazi raid on the American Embassy resulting in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher J. Stevens. Sean Smith, Tyrone Snowden Woods, and Glen Anthony Doherty. Hillary Clinton and the White House of course blamed the disrespect of the prophet Muhammad in the film “Innocence of Muslims” for the action, which of course was a scandal because that was not the cause, and she and the White House knew this.

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2016: Do Looks Matter?

130916112847-29-missamerica-0916-horizontal-galleryOver the course of the next year, you’re going to hear plenty of theories as to what guarantees victory in a president election.

For example, there’s the matter of candidates’ height — the premise being that the taller contender always wins. A few years ago, researchers at Texas Tech took a look at this and decided there was something to it — something having to do with voters and their primordial instincts.

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The Libertarian Podcast: Should We Worry About Income Inequality?

This week on The Libertarian podcast, I’m leading Richard Epstein through a discussion of income inequality. Is it the disaster that liberals are making it out to be? What do progressive proposals to address the situation get wrong? What are some free market approaches that could help the poor? And are conservatives destined to lose this fight because of the Left’s appeal to emotion? All that below or on your mobile device if you subscribe to The Libertarian via iTunes or your favorite podcast service.

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