Q & A, hosted by Jay NordlingerEp. 57: Omar Sharif Jr.

Q & A, hosted by Jay Nordlinger Omar Sharif Jr.

2D7A29137-D28A-C9EA-582D565F14B0865C.jpg.pagespeed.ce_.1fRZy2rq4uJay’s guest is the grandson of the late Omar Sharif. Like his grandfather, this Omar Sharif – Omar Sharif Jr. – is an actor. And an Egyptian. He is also a model and a gay-rights activist. He is a speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum, in Norway. That’s where Jay caught up with him, for a most interesting conversation: about Omar Sharif, about coming out gay, about coming out half-Jewish at the same time, about the aftermath of these revelations, about Arab societies at large, etc.

Coming out gay and half-Jewish would not provoke even a yawn in many places. In Egypt? Put it this way: Omar Sharif Jr. did a very gutty thing.

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What Hillary Really Did

Funny thing: if you hold Donald Trump up next to principled conservatives, he looks like a monster; hold him up next to the news media, he looks like a god. The people who “report” the “news,” are at this point so base, so low, so dishonest, so openly sinister that all Trump has to do is stand next to them and his image improves a hundredfold. So as the media rush to defend Hillary Clinton against Trump’s latest attacks, here’s a point-by-point explanation of why Trump is right about her: she stinks.

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The Perils of Executive Power

obama-signs-orderOne of the most disturbing trends in the United States is the relentless concentration of power in the federal government. Ever since the New Deal, the classical liberal vision of limited government and strong property rights has taken a back seat to a progressive vision of a robust administrative state, dominated by supposed experts, whose powers are largely unimpeded by legal constraints. Wholly apart from Congress, the new administrative state has adopted and enforced its own laws and regulations, and is defined by unilateral actions by the President and other members of the executive branch, all of which threaten the system of checks and balances built into the original constitutional design.

By way of example, President Obama has issued a number of executive orders and initiatives, such as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans plan, which constitutes an abuse of executive action, an issue now before the Supreme Court in United States v. Texas. But abuses of executive power are not confined to the President. Recently, in House of Representatives v. Burwell, Congress challenged the decision of Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to reimburse insurance companies any losses that they sustained under Section 1402 of the Affordable Care Act after they waived deductibles and co-pays, as well as provided other benefits to individuals as an inducement to get them to enroll in health care plans covered by the ACA. The ACA scheme gave general authorization to create this subsidy program, but subsequent to the passage of the ACA, Congress had not authorized the particular payments under this program.

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Three Martini LunchThree Martini Lunch 5/24/16

Three Martini Lunch Three Martini Lunch 5/24/16

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review feel like they’re back in the ’90’s as Terry McAuliffe is being investigated over questionable Chinese campaign donations and it’s linked to the Clintons. They also sigh as even Lindsey Graham reluctantly gets on board with Trump. And they slam VA Sec. Bob McDonald both for comparing veteran wait times with lines at Disneyland but for doing a terrible job of fixing the VA.

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Economic Puritanism

The PuritanIt’s likely — okay, certain — that the punditocracy writes too much about Uber and Lyft. It’s just that they’re so damn illustrative: their businesses are easily understood, innocuous, cartel-busting, accessible, and at-will almost to a fault. They have very little coercive power over their contractors, who work when they want, directly serve clients, and are compensated more when their services are most in demand. They’re fantastic introductions to microeconomics, just with smart phones and getting home from the airport thrown into the mix.

As such, it should come as little surprise that a socialist like Bernie Sanders hates these platforms, sufficiently enough to feature an anti-Uber piece on his website (though, interesting, insufficiently enough to not use it). Hillary Clinton has, equally unsurprisingly, made similar noises, with a little more prevarication, or — given who we’re talking about — lies. The common thread is that it’s just not right for people to work for the wages and under the conditions Uber offers, even if such people clearly disagree every time they vacuum their car, grab their keys, and launch the service’s partner app.

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Two Parties Are Better Than Three (or More)


In a previous post, I mentioned, in passing, that the American, two-party political system has significant advantages over other democratic models and promised to expand on the matter another time. To that end, this post will discuss why there are two major political parties in the United States, how we arrived at this arrangement, and why that’s generally a good thing. This topic is especially germane given our current predicament, where both parties’ prospective nominees are phenomenally unpopular, and persons such as myself find themselves tugged between principles that seem irreconcilable.

As some people have recently discovered, the two major American political parties are private organizations that work in concert with state and local governments to set the timing and rules under which elections occur. Why do the states cooperate so completely with these ostensibly private organizations, even going so far as to foot the bill for the parties to hold private elections where they decide who their nominees and officials will be? Why doesn’t a third — let alone a fourth or a fifth — major party receive this sort of deference? The answer to that question rests primarily in the fact that our government is structured to have winner-take-all (“first past the post“) elections rather than the system of proportional representation found in parliamentary governments. In the language of game theory, American electoral politics is zero-sum and second place in an election is merely the first loser.

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So You’ve Decided Not to Own a Gun…

shutterstock_406864429Author’s Note: One of the nice things about being a member of Ricochet is participating in the robust discussions in the Member Feed and joining in on the activities there, such as topic-specific group writing projects. This month, the topic is guns, and this is my contribution. If you like this sort of thing and want to add something the conversation, please consider joining Ricochet.com.

I recently attended the 2016 NRA Annual Meeting, and given the title of this post and the NRA’s reputation, I’ll bet you’re expecting me to write a long missive about why gun ownership is for everyone and you’re crazy if you don’t want to own a gun.

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The Tyranny of the Immediate

Ajax taking Cassandra, c. 440-430 BC.

Perhaps one of my best and (by me) most underappreciated teachers in high school was my sophomore English teacher. Mr. Hill offered methods of studying English and other things in ways that I was too cocky and short-sighted to appreciate. I suspect if I adopted at least half of his studying and thinking methods then, I would have done much better in college.

One of the earliest lessons I do remember from him was the concept of consequences over time. For that he had a scale. It more or less broke down like this:

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Should Never Trump People Get Over It?

Washington State’s Republican Party just defied the stampede toward “unity.” Meeting over the weekend, they awarded 40 of the state’s 41 delegates to Ted Cruz. Washington’s Republicans have refused to be sheep.

The past few days have featured hectoring demands of Never Trump people to “get over it.” These have come not just from the more bullying precincts of Trump fandom, as in “Get on the Trump train or get run over,” but also from party regulars and office holders suggesting that failure to endorse Trump now is a kind of stubborn self-indulgence. “While you sit out, Hillary gets elected” huffed one of my critics, for example.

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The Bookmonger with John J. MillerEp. 81: The Fractured Republic

The Bookmonger with John J. Miller The Fractured Republic

Is “e pluribus unum” a thing of the past? It doesn’t have to be, says Yuval Levin in The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Yuval Levin talks about how to revive federalism in the 21st century, why conservatives and liberals both must avoid a politics of nostalgia, and what he hopes to accomplish at his day job, which is editing the distinguished quarterly, National Affairs.

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From Startups to Jobs, America’s Lopsided Economic Recovery

twenty20_0c8ba4f6-db4c-4006-b0f8-ec1a4aa7dc73_startups_office_work-e1464018155556A new report from the Economic Innovation Group, “The New Map of Economic Growth and Recovery,” examines America’s startup scarcity in the 2010s. As the report explains, “New businesses play a disproportionate role in commercializing innovations, stoking competition, and driving productivity growth. They also create the bulk of the nation’s net new jobs and provide the extra demand that is critical to achieving wage-boosting full employment.”

And the numbers are distressing. Looking at other recent recoveries, the EIG report notes the 1990s saw a net increase of nearly 421,000 business establishments, and 405,000 in the 2000s. By contrast, over the first five years of the 2010s recovery, the number of business establishments increased by only 166,500.

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Q & A, hosted by Jay NordlingerEp. 56: Like Father, Like Daughter

Q & A, hosted by Jay Nordlinger Like Father, Like Daughter

Oswaldo Payá was a great Cuban democracy leader. He was killed by the regime in 2012. His daughter, at some risk, is carrying on his work. Jay talked with Rosa María Payá at the Oslo Freedom Forum, the annual human-rights conference in the Norwegian capital. They talked about her dad, of course. And her upbringing, and the murder, and President Obama, and many other things.

Incidentally, Ted Cruz has proposed renaming the street outside the new Cuban embassy in Washington after Oswaldo Payá. It is an inspired idea.

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Political Economy Podcast with Jim PethokoukisEp. 47: The Political Philosophy of Silicon Valley

Political Economy Podcast with Jim Pethokoukis The Political Philosophy of Silicon Valley

Recently quite a lot has been made of the tech world’s involvement in politics — from accusations that social media sites such asFacebook are politically biased, to questions over certain Silicon Valley leaders’ endorsements, to wondering whether VP picks could sway 1099a59these very influential donors and public figures to one candidate or another. Some figures on the right bemoan that Silicon Valley tends to go blue. However, Silicon Valley boasts a unique culture that emerges from an environment of competition, innovation, and collaboration. As my guest Greg Ferenstein has written, these “hippies who dig capitalism and science” – many of them millennials – are hard to label as Democrat or Republican. They go with the public policies that make their ventures possible.

So what is the “political philosophy” of Silicon Valley? And what do these tech leaders want from public policy? Here to discuss is Greg Ferenstein, a California based writer, editor of the Ferenstein Wire, and author of The Age Of Optimists, a free book on Silicon Valley’s political endgame, available on Medium.

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Putting the “Social” Back in Social Media

shutterstock_326771273I’ll admit it: I love social media. It’s opened worlds we never thought possible, much like the internet itself. Connecting friends and family while providing an endless supply of baby, kid, puppy, and prom pictures (whether you want to see them or not). It also provides first-hand accounts of live breaking situations and news, faster than we’ve ever had access to before.

What I’ve come to realize over the last several years is that not only do people use social media differently, some have no interest in the social aspect whatsoever. While we read posts all day long complaining about how social media stinks, that is a reflection on those users themselves. Ouch. Was that too real? Let me slow it down.

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Three Martini LunchThree Martini Lunch 5/23/16

Three Martini Lunch Three Martini Lunch 5/23/16

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review react to 90 percent of American Indians not finding the name “Redskins” disrespectful. They also shake their heads at Donald Trump’s speech to the National Rifle Association. And they bang their heads against the table as one the people #NeverTrump tried to run against Trump and Clinton says he would consider being a running mate with either Trump or Clinton.

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Where Do You Stand on Trump Now?

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 16.15.29Back in late March — by which point the Republican Primaries had narrowed to Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, and Governor John Kasich — we had a poll asking members where they stood on the candidates and whether they could support the then-frontrunner. The results: at that point, Ted Cruz was the preferred candidate of 91 percent of members who took the poll, and 59 percent of members said they could not vote for Trump if he were the nominee.

Given how circumstances have changed, we thought it was time for a follow-up poll that gauged members’ support for the presumptive nominee, and asked those on both sides of the matter — as well as those who are leaning one way or the other — to better describe their reasoning. As before, this poll makes no pretense of scientific accuracy, but is intended to shed some light on where members of The Smartest Conversation on the Right™ find themselves.

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What The Reactionary Anti-Semitism Gets Right

flag-408317_1920Growing up, my South African father used to remind us American kids that “There are only two types of people in the world: Jews and anti-semites.” This used to upset us terribly. It’s patently false, we would think. Our experience shows our society to be tolerant and kind. Where in the United States is friendlier and more welcoming than suburban Atlanta? Of course, the specter of Leo Frank’s lynching always hung like a shadow in the backs of our minds. But that was a long time ago. Surely, that old hatred is dead.

But it’s starting to look like dad was right after all. From Islamists, to progressive Europe, to the dregs of the Alt-Right on Twitter, we Jews are surrounded by a resurgent tide of anti-Semitism.Which leads to the question my progressive neighbor likes to constantly ask: “Why do they hate us?”

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Gary Johnson Defends Wedding Cake Fascism?

Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

In a Facebook post, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson appears to explain why the State should be allowed to force bakers and florists to participate in gay weddings even if such participation goes against their religious beliefs:

[A]nti-discrimination laws do not, and cannot, abridge fundamental First Amendment rights. I know of no one who reasonably disagrees. In the highly unlikely event that a Nazi would demand that a Jewish baker decorate a cake with a Nazi symbol, the courts, common sense, and common decency — not to mention the First Amendment — all combine to protect that baker from having to do so. It’s not an issue, except when distorted for purposes of gotcha politics.

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A Day of Geekery

Well, it’s Planet Comicon time again, Kansas City’s largest entertainment convention. Long time Ricochetti may remember my adventure as a Villain of Cosplay back in 2013; luckily, this one was far more fun and less fraught with reality TV crews.

The headliners were George Takei and Stan Lee, and at $60 and $120 a pop for an autograph, I decided I could live without meeting them. I did run into George on the con floor, when I realized that I couldn’t cross the aisle because I was about to run into a small Japanese man being interviewed about transgender bathrooms. As for Stan, well, there’s a group known as the Iron Brothers of Topeka (IBOT) who have the most scarily realistic Stan Lee cosplayer ever. The universe should have exploded at this moment:

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If You Must Vote Trump, Please Hold Your Nose

Peter has made his decision, as announced on the recent podcast. In his view, a national election is indeed an A-B test, and he’s choosing, well, T. He’s with James Taranto and not Kevin Williamson. He’s not going to slink around apologizing for it anymore.

This isn’t surprising (he’s been reasonably clear about his views for awhile) and it’s not my place to scold him. I do think a respectable case can be made for voting for Trump. But I can’t resist the urge to point out that the way Peter has come out for Trump, to me, confirms exactly my reasons for not supporting Trump, and not believing that this can be as straightforward as the A-B test.

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