Girls of Russia and the Iron Curtain: Playboy, Communism, and a Mystery


A young friend here from the martial arts community asked me not long ago about communism. Most young people here have no idea what the term means: truly no idea. I was searching for a way to explain the horror of it to him, something he could really understand, and I finally hit upon the example of Slavic women. I explained to him that believe it or not, it used to be a known joke that Russian women were abject crocodillo moosepigs. Yes, I explained to him as he stared at me in astonishment, communism turned the women every young Turkish man knows to be the most babelicious in the world into the women of the famous Wendy’s commercial. I’m not sure he believed me, but it did impress him. (The Wendy’s commercial reference was lost on him, though.)

I do think that what woke a lot of ordinary people up to just how awful communism was was seeing this–first, they actually saw a lot of Russian women (few people in the West had met more than one or two in the flesh before the Wall came down, since they weren’t allowed out); but also, incredibly, the world’s most laughably dumpy and sexless women, the butt of all these cruel jokes, almost overnight became seriously-threatening, drop-dead gorgeous, scantily-dressed stone foxes. If communism could do that to young women, people thought–and the free market could do that–communism must be pretty wicked indeed, as indeed it was.

Where to Stand to Survive a Suicide Bombing


Here’s a field of research one wishes ardently were as absurd as it sounds. You should avoid crowding in zig-zag formations, apparently, and opt instead for standing in rows.

In a typical suicide blast in Pakistan, we have at least four times more punctured wounds, two times more injuries on the lower limbs, and five times more injuries on the human torso, compared to a non suicidal blast,” says Usmani.

Advice for Harry, Class of ’14


My young, smart, conservative friend Harry graduated from high school in June, and is heading off to college.

As it happens, he’s going off to my old college, and sent me an email over the weekend asking for advice:

Earth to E.J….


Any regular reader of op-ed pages has learned to expect a healthy dose of nonsense from E. J. Dionne, but this morning’s Washington Post piece (“Time to Stand Up to the Right Wing“) is just, as P.G. Wodehouse would say, pure drivel from the padded cell. The money quote:

The mainstream media and the Obama administration alike must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its own propaganda to be accepted as news….

Weimar Istanbul


When I was working on that piece about banning the burqa, I found it extremely helpful to put the question to Ricochet’s members. It very much helped my to clarify my own thoughts. (That piece will be out next week in National Review, by the way. You’ll see that I came down on the side of banning it–and quite strongly. I thought the arguments in favor of the ban won the day.)

I’m working now on another piece, for City Journal, and again trying to get my own thoughts organized. The story is about what I’d call “Weimar Istanbul,” by which I mean the spookiness of living in a city that’s at the epicenter of an impending political catastrophe, the mood of dread but also of astonishing vitality — creative, artistic, economic — that makes it hard to believe things are as serious as my sense of logic tells me they are.

The Core Curriculum


Rob’s post about his friend Harry got me thinking about the core curriculum. It seems to me you should not be able to graduate from a four-year college without fulfilling the following distribution requirements. They’re the bare minimum required to participate fully and usefully in American democracy, understand our culture, understand other cultures, and view the world from the perspective of an educated person. Anyone disagree?

Ancient, medieval and modern history: One term each. (When once I proposed to my father at the age of 16 that I wished to drop out of school and follow the Grateful Dead on tour, he stopped me cold with the question: “Who came first, Thomas Aquinas or Thomas Becket?” I couldn’t answer. Actually, I tried to bluff, but I guessed wrong. No one should graduate without a sufficiently deep understanding of the history of the West to be able to take a reasonable guess.)

Israeli Air Force Hardware: A Brief Historical Tour


Last Friday morning we packed the kids into the car and took a ride down to Beersheva, where we spent a very interesting few hours at the Israeli Air Force Museum. I took a zillion photos with the intention of providing Ricochet’s gentle readers with a comprehensive illustrated history of the Air Force, but that turned out to be way too big a project for this format. So here are a few highlights.

One of the first things I saw was a little surreal: a haredi (i.e., ultraorthodox) family standing in front of a Kfir C-7 attack fighter. This was a startling image because the haredim do not, for the most part, serve in the armed forces (they’re granted an exemption during their yeshiva studies and almost invariably get a consecutive series of further exemptions until they’re declared permanently off the hook). As you can imagine, this is a touchy business here — the ultra-religious community is extremely vocal about Israeli policy, yet most of them expect the rest of us to send our kids out to defend the country while their boys stay safe in the yeshiva. It was thus extremely interesting to see a haredi family that had enough interest in the IAF Museum to visit it. When I passed them, I heard that they were speaking Hebrew, not Yiddish, so they weren’t off-the-charts ultraorthodox. Here they are:

Why I like Hamilton


Posters have demanded that now that I have revealed myself as anti-Jeffersonian, I have to explain the case for Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton may have been the most important American in our history who never became President. Here are some reasons why I like him:

1. In contrast to Jefferson, he was not born to wealth or land, but was an original Horatio Alger story. He was an illegitimate child born in the Caribbean island of Nevis (for this, John Adams would call him the “bastard son of a Scotch pedlar”). His talents brought him to the attention of local merchants, who essentially gave him a scholarship to study in America.

Scare Mongering About SCOTUS


The Sunday NYT had a front page — front page, mind you — story concluding that the Roberts Court is “the most conservative in decades,” complete with a creepy pencil drawing of Roberts.

Once you get six paragraphs in, you discover that, in fact, “the recent shift to the right is modest,” and that the Roberts court has not struck down laws nor overturned precedent more than earlier courts did. But the author (Adam Liptak) uses “widely accepted political science data” to conclude that the Court has lurched to the right. Briefly stated — and the article itself is a typical bit of NYT windbaggery — there are Poli Sci types who “rate” judicial decisions along an ideological spectrum, so that, for instance, decisions favoring criminal defendants are deemed “liberal.”

Empire of Silence


Here’s me in City Journal on Breitbart and Journolist – an article that was sparked by a comment I made here on Ricochet but which puts that comment in context. When these media stories broke, I had just gotten word that my French publisher was canceling publication of my novel Empire of Lies for “political and religious” reasons:

The book’s French cancellation is, I realize, a rather small cultural event. Yet it gives specific color to the recent revelations on the Daily Caller website that left-wing journalists conspired to suppress scandals that might harm Barack Obama and to the brouhaha over Breitbart’s online release of a video that resulted in a government worker’s momentarily losing her job. In both stories, one thing leaps out at me: everywhere, the Left favors fewer voices and less information, and conservatives favor more. Everywhere, the Left seeks to disappear its opposition, whereas the Right is willing to meet them head-on.

Vapid Transit


This week, Los Angeles is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Metro Rail system. The whole thing cost $8 billion. Miles and miles of tunnels were dug. Gleaming new stations were built, complete with correct art — lots of smiling “indigenous” people, lots of murals, you get the picture — and the whole system is the kind of big-project, big-money undertaking city governments love: you get some money from the Feds, you get some money from the taxpayers, you build a monument to yourselves.

And nobody, really, is riding the damn thing. From the LA Times:

For We Mere Mortals, Another Year of Mad Men


TV’s best show is back, tonight, in just over a half an hour. (I write from the West Coast.) Why do we watch, again? And again? A lot of ink has been spilled about Mad Men — and, yes, as you spill some more below, you should consider this the most exacting test of Ricochet’s reputation for grown-up behavior yet: no spoilers. So I’m going to try for a different angle on why we tune in.

We watch because we’re mortal and we know it.

You Gotta Be Kidding Me


I’ve been traveling a lot so if someone already posted this and I missed it, forgive me. Director Oliver Stone is making a documentary for Showtime called “The Secret History of America,” in which he seeks to put Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin “in context.” He told the London Times:

“Hitler was a Frankenstein but there was also a Dr Frankenstein. German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.

Member Post


You’re probably familiar with the story of Bell, Callifornia. That’s the poor Los Angeles County town that was paying some of the highest salaries in the nation, including nearly $800,000 a year for its city manager. This leader of the community recently blew .28 after crashing into a neighbor’s mailbox. He’s resigned but in just […]

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Give Her Credit (Seriously) for Consistency


You may recall that Naomi Wolf–of Beauty Myth fame, former masculinity advisor to Al Gore–wrote a book during the Bush years warning that America was on the Fourth Reich expressway.

Whatever the latest outrageous Obama caper, someone on the Right can always be counted on to say–usually correctly–“If Bush had done that, the Left would have gone nuts!”

Thatcher on Iran: Wobbly as Hell


It gives me no joy to report this, but documents recently released by the Carter Library, as well as from Thatcher’s personal files, suggest that compared to Thatcher, Carter was a veritable rock of fortitude and resolution during the 1979 hostage crisis. This doesn’t really come as a surprise to me; I’d known this from other sources, but it’s interesting to see it spelled out.

In this letter to Carter, dated November 21, 1979–this was when it seemed the hostages would face show trials for espionage–Thatcher admires Carter’s “restraint,” and “measured response.” She then dismisses his request that Britain make even the most minimal show of displeasure:

Manmade Global Warming: The Solution


Manmade global warming, like so many other social and economic issues, has become hopelessly politicized. Each side has dug in its heels and has accused the other of acting irresponsibly and dishonestly. For the believers, the other side has become the equivalent of Holocaust deniers; and for the doubters, the other side has become a cult intent on manipulating mankind to remake the world in some sort of natural Utopian image.

The divide has become so great, it seems virtually impossible to bridge the gap. However, I’m not writing for Ricochet merely to outline problems; I’m here to offer real solutions. And I’m not just blowing carbon dioxide.

The Media War on Arizona


The LA Times reports that hispanic families are “fleeing Phoenix out of fear of immigration law.” Obviously the reporter had solid facts to back up this serious charge, right? Actually, the entire article is based on interviews with 4 merchants, all of whom work an hispanic neighborhood that is suffering from economic hardship. But wait — after once we get seven paragraphs into the story, the reporter reveals:

it’s hard to determine how much of the neighborhood’s woes stem from Arizona’s immigration laws and how much from the state’s economy, battered by a once red-hot housing marked that cooled.