A Glorious Anniversary: 20 Happy Years of Freedom on the Roads

On November 29, 1995, President Clinton grudgingly signed a highway bill repealing the much-hated National Maximum Speed Limit. In 1973, President Nixon signed the NMSL into law in an effort to force people to save gas. This law allowed the federal government to withhold federal highway money from states that didn’t drop their speed limit to 55 mph. Real-world fuel savings were negligible. Safety activists proclaimed that it saved a lot of lives, and would bring out charts showing that the highway fatality rate had dropped since the law was enacted. The starting point for said charts was when the law was enacted, and sure enough, the fatality rate decreased in the years after. Had they shown a chart going back decades, you would have seen that the fatality rate had been declining since the late 1940s.

There was a lot of opposition to the law’s repeal. Auto insurance companies certainly had an interest in seeing as many speeding tickets issued as possible. To listen to professional headache Ralph Nader, one would think the ditches would be running red with blood if the daredevils who populate the various state legislatures were allowed to set the speed limits for their own states’ roads. Since 1995, a whole lot of states have enacted highway speed limits as high as 75 and 80 mph. God Bless Texas, they have a toll road that’s 85 mph. What about those highway fatality rates? Still dropping. As a matter of fact, when states first started raising their speed limits, the highway fatality rates dropped in virtually all states; the states that raised their speed limits saw the HFR drop more quickly than the states that didn’t.

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Daesh Is Contained

That’s what President Barack Obama said the morning of the Daesh’s afternoon and evening terrorist assault on Paris. Obama’s Deputy Fantasist National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes then explained that Obama’s claim had been taken out of context by those … Republicans:

The president was responding very specifically to the geographic expansion of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. A year ago, we saw them on the march in Iraq and Syria, taking more and more population centers. The fact is that we have been able to stop that geographic advance and take back significant amounts of territory in both northern Iraq and northern Syria.

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NPR Station’s “Investigation” Goes Where Their Narrative Led Them

shutterstock_56280433In recent weeks, Southern California National Public Radio affiliate KPCC produced web and broadcast “analysis” of Officer-Involved Shootings (OIS) in Los Angeles County over the last five years. Their quest, per the website, was to establish “how often” law enforcement shoots suspects in LA County. They did anything but.

The project was built on examinations of the LA County District Attorney’s reports on OIS incidents and coroners’ reports for fatal shootings, and included an extensive database and website, from which were generated radio reports focusing on certain discrete aspects of the data. Having covered use-of-force issues for 20 years, I found the reports were predictably biased with selective, cherry-picked data framed to generate innuendo and misconceptions.

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Stalin, Heart Surgeons, and Ben Carson

DSC05950So as you can imagine, my family has been having a lot of conversations lately about cardiology and cardiac surgery. My father was already quite well-informed about the subject, because his own father suffered from cardiac disease (confirming the well-established wisdom that such things run in the family, and making me think it might be wise one of these days to have my own ticker checked out: What keeps me from doing it is not wanting to know, which I know isn’t the most courageous way to approach these matters. I’ll get around to it. I think I’m okay for now.)

Anyway, we’ve been talking about the personalities of people who go into cardiac surgery as a speciality. There are lots of stereotypes, of course: I liked this blog, written by a woman who in no way would I consult for any medical problem, given that she’s “a physician who is intuitive and a Reiki Master/Teacher discusses healing from ‘the front lines’ of the mind-body connection in the hospital setting.” But her description of the temperaments of cardiovascular surgeons seemed interesting to me:

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Arizona Governor’s End Run Around Education Unions

1409113012000-Doug-DuceyArizona Governor Doug Ducey is not your typical politician. He rose to prominence as the CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, turning a sleepy local chain with a handful of stores into an international brand with nearly 1,500 locations in 31 countries. Having mastered business, he entered state politics, spending four years as Arizona’s treasurer until his landslide election as governor one year ago.

Since his inauguration, Ducey has already fulfilled several of his campaign promises, but his trickiest pledge remained: How could he give more money to classrooms without raising taxes? For decades Arizona has led the nation in school-choice initiatives, but a years-long court case mandated more money for the K-12 education. This summer, a judge ordered that an additional $336 million be spent at once and perhaps as much as $1.3 billion in back payments in the near future. As I note in my article for The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Gov. Ducey knows how to wheel and deal while keeping his promises to the taxpayers:

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Is There a Recovery Group for Ricochet?

I’m serious. I’ve never been active on a blog before, and I think I’m in deep trouble. Some people seem to spend all their waking hours here. Some people are so bright that their wisdom and intelligence are overwhelming. Me, I just say what I think, trying to balance head and heart. But I think I’m spending too much time here. Yet there are so many important topics and intelligent (although sometimes somewhat snarky) comments, that I don’t want to miss what is clearly valuable information.

I’m trying to set up rules for myself (limiting myself to certain people, topics, reviewing a limited number of comments. limiting my own comments). And then of course I make my own posts — how foolish is that?! Maybe I need a super speed reading and super speed writing workshop. Maybe Ricochettis should offer one? Is there a cure? Should there be a cure? Is it possible to have a life outside of Ricochet?

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New Information on the Paris Attacks

In trying to learn more about the Paris attacks, I haven’t come across much that I feel confident commenting on, but I’ve learned a great deal that sheds light on the matter. I’ve organized much of it here, along with links to references, many of which are repeated.

What follows should be taken with the normal stipulation that information is likely to change and that there’s likely a great deal that’s known by authorities but hasn’t been released.

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What Good Are the Humanities?

Marco Rubio insulted me; see the video here. He said I was useless, and called me a fool for practicing my useless profession. It was the final proof that Republicans are anti-intellectual. Or so the stories say. Actually, I don’t believe a word of it. All I can say for sure is that he said that we shouldn’t denigrate vocational training, and that having more welders and fewer folks like me is a good way of increasing overall wages. And that was only after he went over a pretty solid laundry list of economic policies supporting freer markets and fiscal sanity.

While I could dwell happily enough in a world in which I’m proven wrong about this, I can still vote for a man who insults my profession, provided he’s the best man for the job. (Never mind that the best woman for the job also happens to be the only presidential candidate who studied philosophy . . . and has also made more money than most welders . . . and is a Republican.) Anyway, though it now seems like last year’s news, it’s still a good excuse to hear from the Ricocheti on the following question: What good are the humanities?

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Thanksgiving, 1789

If you want a clear example of how the authors of the US Constitution understood our government’s relationship to religion, look no further than the proclamation of a day of thanksgiving to God in 1789 by President George Washington. Here is his speech inaugurating this holiday (and yes, “holiday” is a derivation of “holy day”).

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

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As I was sorting through some old things, I ran across a little thanksgiving prayer I had written the first year my husband and I were married. We had a quiet Thanksgiving that year, just the two of us and a duck. We’re off to a much larger (and doubtless noisier) Thanksgiving dinner with extended family soon. Enjoy giving thanks, all, and God bless!

Harvest Thanksgiving

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Choose Gratitude

shutterstock_291383003My job requires me to follow all the awful things happening in the world; after all, that’s what makes up the news cycle. War and death and poverty and injustice (okay, and a few cat videos) fill my computer screen from the moment I wake until I go to bed. By the fourth day of the work week, it’s easy to cycle between outrage and despair.

Many on all sides succumb to this emotional low road, which is why there’s so much anger about failed politicians, terrible policies, and broken promises. Our grandparents would yell at the newspaper, our parents at the TV, and now we vent on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, amplifying the misery. In the past few years, we’ve seen mobs shutting down freeways and burning down neighborhoods while students at even the most exclusive universities screech about the raw deal they got in life.

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This is an open post to discuss all the things for which we’re thankful, big and small.

MediaItem_234I may have more reason to be thankful today than most: First, I’m thankful to an anonymous pig who (reluctantly, I imagine) donated its aortic valve to my father, replacing his dangerously calcified human one. (Thank you, gentle pig! We hope you liked your experience of xenoplantation, and welcome you to your new human lifestyle! You’ll love settling in to watch The Simpsons with my dad: We absolutely loved that when we were growing up.)

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The FDA’s Looming Regulatory Onslaught Threatens the Freedom to Vape

shutterstock_299809835Americans who are trying to kick their nasty smoking habit have found healthier alternatives in e-cigarettes and vapor products that could, quite literally, save their lives. But the bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration are trying to put this $3.5 billion industry out of business.

Small mom-and-pop shops have sprung up across the country to meet the growing demand for vapor products, which allow users to refill their vaporizers with their favorite e-juices. Separately, big tobacco companies have invested in non-refillable e-cigarettes.

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Pilgrims Progress

Law Talk With Epstein, Yoo & SenikEp. 79: OK Computer

The Ricochet Law School (diplomas available on Ebay) is back in session for another romp through the legal and constitutional issues of the day. This week, do governors actually have the power to turn away turn away Syrian immigrants? Then, a look at the controversy surrounding encryption and whether or not opening it up would in fact make the world safer. Finally, should computers have First Amendment rights? The Profs have an opinion. Let us know yours in the comments below.

Tell it to the judge, EJHill.

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A Culture of Good Marksmanship Makes for a Good Police Force

Theresa Scarbrough / Shutterstock.com

The news of the death of Laquan Macdonald last year is shining a spotlight on the training and ethics of the Chicago police force. This is a situation that we’ve seen far too often, but my question is, why is it that the police forces of cities like Chicago seem to have problems with basic marksmanship? Is it because there’s no history and culture of civilian marksmanship to flatten the learning curve when it comes to gun safety?

Handguns were banned in Chicago for almost an entire generation, and despite recent changes, it remains a steep uphill climb if you want to own a gun in that city. Something in Chicago and other cities such as Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles seems to have affected the quality of the police forces in those cities, and one thing they all have in common is a mistrust of common citizens owning guns. In fact, we’re seeing a trend of over-reaction and ill-advised police shootings in all manner of “gun free” locales.

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It’s Happened! Democrats Have Finally Run Out of Other People’s Money

It’s not only the GOP that’s deeply divided these days. In a new Time magazine piece, “Hillary Clinton’s Middle-Class Tax Pledge Divides Democrats,” reporter Sam Frizell highlights a major fissure within the Democratic Party (italics mine):

Among the various policy ideas and position papers put out by Hillary Clinton so far in the Democratic primary, one stands out for its bumper-sticker simplicity: If your family makes less than $250,000 a year, your taxes won’t go up. … But behind that simple promise is a roiling debate within Democratic circles about the future of the party’s domestic agenda.

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Cultural Appropriation Is Sexy

Protest_Halloween-featIt’s difficult to imagine a more loathsome fad — or better exemplar of victim culture — than the current practice of crying “cultural appropriation” whenever a person identified with one culture uses ideas from another without approval. In the Washington Post, Cathy Young has an excellent piece cataloging some recent examples ranging from the controversy over “Kimono Wednesdays” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to various artists and musicians being forced to kowtow to twitter mobs for the crime of offending the easily offended. We’ve seen the phenomenon repeated at Yale and Claremont McKenna, where students who wore Mexican-themed costumes for Halloween were criticized not so much for being lazy and crass, but for using cultural ideas that were not their own “inauthentically.”

Offensive-Costumes-620x300But besides the practice’s spoil-sporting and petty totalitarianism, it’s also fantastically stupid. As with biology and technology, culture thrives when different ideas are allowed to recombine in novel ways, and declines or stagnates when it closes itself to new ideas or new combinations of old ones. After all, the only truly “authentic” cultures are all barbarous and primitive. Indeed, Matt Ridley has made a career of pointing out that sexual-style admixture is the best model for allowing distinct things — be they biological, technical, or cultural — to combine and work collaboratively, rather than compete directly with each other:

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What Will Capitulation of the GOP Establishment Look Like?

UntitledIt looks increasingly likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for President. He has led in the polls for four months, he has more money than all the other candidates combined in spite of which he is the beneficiary of seemingly limitless free media, and his campaign rallies have the excitement of rock concerts.

As my co-host Todd Feinburg and I discuss in this week’s Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast, Trump is rolling on. And that no doubt precipitates PVCs from many of the elites on the right (not to mention utter hysteria from everyone on the left).

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Things I’m Grateful For

shutterstock_157218698“Who is happy?” asks a sage in the great Jewish wisdom compendium “Sayings of the Fathers.” Answer: “He who is contented with his lot.”

And how, with Thanksgiving Day beckoning, do you acquire contentment when you are constantly barraged with evidence that others have more beautiful possessions, are better looking, more talented, healthier, more admired, more loved, more valued? I count my blessings.

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Planned Parenthood, Be Proud of Who You Are

a katz / Shutterstock.com

I recently read an article on National Review that reflected on a recent episode of Scandal, which featured the main character aborting her baby. The description of the scene – a woman on an operating table, prepped for an abortion, while Silent Night plays in the background – was more than enough for me to read. I have not watched, nor will I watch, this or any other episode of the show.

What caught my attention was the quote from Planned Parenthood’s official statement praising the show:

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