To Defend Religious Liberty Today


shutterstock_159174965Thomas Jefferson was brilliant and essential, but he has never been my hero among the Founding Fathers. As such, it caught me off guard when I found myself deeply moved at the memorial that honors him in our capital. Even crowded by tourists, it feels a little set apart, a peaceful spot from which one can look out across the Tidal Basin and reflect on this city and nation of ours and on Jefferson’s words on freedom cut into the surrounding walls. Words that were true when first written, though not fully realized in law. Words that are true now, even if the laws should abandon them utterly.

Almighty God hath created the mind free.

Inscribed under the dome is Jefferson’s vow of “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” He wrote this to Benjamin Rush in 1800, nearly a decade after the ratification of the 1st Amendment designed to protect against such tyranny. Even this master of words knew that — in the end — words on paper could not alone secure liberty. Such is human nature, and such is the power of ideas gone wrong.

Something Comes Back Up the Memory Hole


shutterstock_191505491During a week of depressing news, undoubtedly the most absurd was the decision by Apple, Amazon, and other online retailers to pull games and merchandise that feature the Confederate Battle Flag. If ever there was a moment that appeared to herald the ascendency of the Social Justice Warriors, that appeared to be it.

As it so happens, the fait was not quite accompli. As Reason reports, many of the games and apps are back — unblemished — likely due to outrage from fans and the sheer madness of the decision.

As of this writing, however, Amazon isn’t selling — or allowing the resale of — actual Confederate Battle flags, though you can find other flags that incorporate the design. There are plenty of books available that feature the flag on their covers, for what (very little) that’s worth. And yes, you still have your choice of Che Guevara flags.

America’s First Millennial President


shutterstock_228458590Reading a piece by Bill Kristol over at The Weekly Standard about the Iranian deal — or lack thereof — got me to thinking that President Obama and his administration could be considered the first Millennial Presidency. While it is true that millennial enthusiasm for Obama has waned since 2008, if you look at how Obama has governed — particularly in terms of foreign policy — Obama is acting exactly how Millennials would want elected officials to act. If you haven’t, read this paper published by the Cato Institute by A. Trevor Thrall.  I listened to his presentation of the paper today while doing my yard work and it was rather eye opening.

For starters, Thrall informs us that Millennials are less likely to view the use of the military as a good thing and that they would much rather see the US act within the framework of cooperation with other states. Obama has that box checked, despite launching two air campaigns during his presidency, one in Libya and the other against ISIL. They are also less likely, by large margins, to say that the US is the greatest country in the world. This could indicate, on some level, a sentiment that the US is not worth defending against certain threats.

That leads us to the second important trait of this generation as explained by Thrall. Millennials do not view the threats the US faces the same way as previous generations, mainly the Baby Boomers and Generation X. On all but one strategic threat listed in a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, Millennials lag behind when weighing the seriousness of these threats. The one threat listed where Millennials are in the lead? Global warming. They do not see international terrorism, a nuclear Iran, the rise of China, or Russian territorial gains as big a threat as global warming. Which brings me back to Obama.

End the Inaugural Inanity


1200px-Obamas_dance_at_Neighborhood_Ball_1-20-09_090120-F-9629D-686Ideas need time to gather momentum, and no idea —  no matter how good — works if introduced at the last minute. So if we start talking about this now, it will seem natural in January of 2017. So listen up candidates! I mean, “Mr. President.”

Don’t throw an inaugural ball. Just don’t. Don’t invite musicians to play and jam with on stage. Don’t ask poets to exhort you, or the public to line up and greet you with a parade. Don’t give the press an opportunity to speculate about who will wear which gown or what singer will belt out the national anthem. Take the oath, give your speech, and get to work.

Oh, the howls of cynicism and sneers of “optics”! The gnashing of teeth of the political class! But there are huge payoffs to this approach.

Whitewashing the Democratic Party’s History


FulbrightHere’s what the former president of the United States had to say when he eulogized his mentor, an Arkansas senator:

We come to celebrate and give thanks for the remarkable life of J. William Fulbright, a life that changed our country and our world forever and for the better . . . In the work he did, the words he spoke and the life he lived, Bill Fulbright stood against the 20th century’s most destructive forces and fought to advance its brightest hopes.

So spoke President William J. Clinton in 1995 of a man who was among the 99 Democrats in Congress to sign the “Southern Manifesto” in 1956. (Two Republicans also signed it.) The Southern Manifesto declared the signatories’ opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education  and commitment to segregation forever. Fulbright was also among those who filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That filibuster continued for 83 days.

Scott Walker’s Fight Against Tenure


shutterstock_280248305Just in case you were wondering if he was running for president:

Walker introduced the tenure issue in a budget proposal that included $300 million in cuts over two years and significant restructuring… A GOP-led legislative committee approved the tenure change. It also approved a measure that would modify state law to specify that Regents can terminate faculty when it’s deemed necessary because a program has been discontinued or changed in other ways, not just when a financial emergency exists — the way it’s spelled out under state law. It didn’t give Walker all he wanted, and it reduced the cuts from $300 million to $250 million.

Wisconsin is unusual in that protections for tenured faculty are enshrined in state law. In most jurisdictions, it’s individual universities that make the call on who qualifies for tenure and on what grounds it can be terminated. In simple terms, Walker is just bringing Wisconsin into line with the rest of the country.

Who Are Your 10?


PodiumsAs the rules currently stand, roughly 1/3 of the Republican presidential field is not going to make it onstage for the August primary debate hosted by Fox News in Ohio or the September forum run by CNN in California. Both events will limit participation to the top 10 candidates in the polls, leaving the (likely five or six) other candidates to square off in a separate debate.

I’m not a big fan of this decision. We’ve seen too many candidates rise from obscurity to contention in recent contests — think Howard Dean, Mike Huckabee, or Rick Santorum — to start culling the field this early. There may be someone in that bottom third who could catch fire with primary voters if only he or she was given the chance to shine on a national stage (Carly Fiorina, for instance, would be right on the line if the debates were being held today).

I understand that the field is too large to accommodate everyone at once, but, if we’re going to split them into two debates anyway, I’d rather have candidates randomly assigned to one forum or the other regardless of polling, which would allow the superstars and some of the more unknown candidates to share a stage (obviously you’d have to reshuffle the deck every time in order to make sure that all the candidates eventually get face time with each other).

Are We Rethinking Our Civil War Reconciliation?


RTX1HF3B-1024x734My family was in Iowa at the outbreak of the Civil War and I have one ancestor that fought for the Union. I grew up in the South but I was always grateful that the North won the Civil War. Slavery was noxious and a great evil in the American experiment. We could have had a peaceful resolution to slavery but the South broke the rules of the game and as they started to lose politically they tried their very, very best to destroy the United States. It was a very good thing that the Confederacy lost the Civil War — and in the long term — it was very good for all the states in the Confederacy that they lost the Civil War.

Having said that, I have always thought that America’s reconciliation after the Civil War is an under-appreciated miracle. The speed at which the country could unite against a common foe during the Spanish-American War — when many Civil War veterans were still alive — is remarkable. Not only that, but the career of Varina Howell Davis is equally amazing, going from being the First Lady of the Confederacy to becoming a celebrated writer in New York City.

Many have talked about the courage of Lee in making sure the Confederate Army did not break up and start guerrilla war against the Union, and rightly so. But equally important was the fact the the South could have just sat out of the American life as well. That would have been disastrous.

The President and the Podcast


MaronObamaI’m a podcast guy. I listen to them; I like them. While my interests mostly run to news and politics, I’m pretty adventurous. With three hours of train commuting time to kill every day, I can’t afford to be too discriminating. If it entertains me, I’ll listen. My iPod contains podcasts ranging from New York archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s Sunday homilies to NPR’s Fresh Air to Austrian School economist Russ Roberts’ Econtalk.

It goes without saying that the Ricochet podcasts, in all their delicious variety, are close to my freedom-loving heart.

On the comedy side, I’m equally happy to spend an hour-plus with the somewhat right-wing Adam Carolla as I am with the absolutely left-wing Marc Maron. A former Air America host, Maron is painfully liberal in all the obvious ways, but I find his particular brand of neurosis amusing.

Hamilton Was Asking For It


shutterstock_252138229I understand Mona Charen’s outrage at the Treasury Department’s announcement that it will eventually replace — or at least demote — Alexander Hamilton as the face of the ten dollar bill.

The Treasury move certainly fits right into the Obama Administration’s craven “identity politics” strategy, presumably intended to shore up Democratic support among key constituencies. As if the switcheroo wasn’t sufficiently poll-driven to begin with, the clincher of course is that Hamilton will be replaced by a woman to be selected… by popular demand.

But I cannot feel too sorry for Hamilton. The Department of the Treasury is, after all, the House that Hamilton built. No individual is so responsible for consolidating national power over economic affairs as Hamilton. He managed to have the central government assume the states’ debts and then establish a Bank of the United States, despite the utter lack of any constitutional authorization for the federal government to get into the banking business (as James Madison and many others pointed out at the time). He did not manage to wipe out state currency in his lifetime, but his political heirs — the Republicans and erstwhile Whigs who emerged victorious from the Civil War — did so with national currency legislation that taxed state legal tender out of existence. This aspect of Hamilton’s legacy is well documented in Thomas DiLorenzo’s book: Hamilton’s Curse.

Should Jindal Be Kicking Himself Over 2012?


Gov._Bobby_Jindal_in_Oklahoma_2015Those who follow my posting obsessively (i.e., weirdos) know that Gov. Bobby Jindal has been my favorite presidential hopeful since 2009. Sadly, my ardor is waning. The complete lack of people who agree with me makes inclined to give up and move on.

That’s too bad. Bobby Jindal has a great story to tell and is a strong conservative with wide experience. His problem is timing: in 2016 he’s running against the strongest GOP field ever. What if he had pulled an Obama and run in 2012 when he was “too young”? Would it have worked?

I suspect he would have won the nomination. Remember how desperate we were to find an alternative to Romney? I voted for Santorum in the Michigan primary — a man I didn’t particularly like —  just to protest the Romney juggernaut. The polls gave each challenger a bump in turn; heck, we even gave Herman Cain a look. Herman Cain! Bobby Jindal would have swept those jokers aside, swept up the anti-Romney vote, and brought in extra voters on his own. It would have been a cakewalk.

Poor Little Rich FLOTUS


Michelle-ObamaOver the past few months, First Lady Michelle Obama has criss-crossed America to toast artists, congratulate students, and complain about her terrible, terrible life. Even though she resides in the top .001% of wealth, power, and celebrity, Mrs. Obama will never let us forget the pain of growing up in a middle-class, two-parent household and receiving one of the finest educations the world can offer.

Having thoroughly depressed the U.S. with her tales of personal woe, FLOTUS took her act abroad, getting feted by the rich and powerful in London. While touring Old Blighty, she visited the Mulberry School for Girls, which is located in a low-income, primarily Muslim neighborhood called Tower Hamlets. She inspired the student body the only way she knew how — grievance:

Now, I imagine that some of you might be wondering, well, why would the First Lady of the United States come here to Tower Hamlets? Why would she choose this community and this school when she could be anywhere in this city or in this entire country? And the answer is simple: I’m here because of you. I’m here because girls like you inspire me and impress me every single day…

“I’ll Vote For the First Woman Who Wins Her Party’s Nomination, No Matter Which Party or Who She Is”


shutterstock_155865434The quote in the title is what my brother — who is conservative on most issues — said a few months ago about Hillary Clinton. I hear the the same type of eagerness for her at work. Of course, as a loyal Ricochetti, I don’t agree with them. Hillary would be a continuation of this divisive America-last mentality we see in our current leader.

When I hear the candidacy of Hillary Clinton critiqued on Ricochet, she is treated like any other candidate, compared to a variety of potential Republican men on the merits. But she is is the first viable female candidate for the presidency. I’m scared to death of her winning because I think there are a lot of people out there like my brother who want to see a woman take the office regardless of who she is. How do we fight that kind of support from people who would have gladly voted for the likes of Marco Rubio against another man?

It seems to me we need to have a female candidate. Now Carly Fiorina sounds great and I really really like her style, values, and record, but I don’t think she can stand up to the other side’s vision of Hillary Clinton because she has never held office. Or can she? Why aren’t we putting her out in front instead of Jeb Bush?

Sovereignty, Technical and Actual


cropped-iStock_000017452286XSmallIn this interview (hat tip to Melissa P), Senator Ted Cruz explains why he believes Senator Jeff Sessions is mistaken in the claim that the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal would undermine America’s sovereignty.

Cruz points out that the international body a trade agreement like this sets up is merely advisory. In a trade dispute, the court would mediate between the two nations to judge whether or not the original agreement has been honored. But it would not be able to enforce its judgement. That lack of force is the difference between a government and … well, that other thing.

It’s not clear why a standing court, theoretically neutral, is superior to mediating disputes more directly or by more spontaneous mediation. I welcome arguments for why an international body might be merited.

On the Downside of Being an Emperor in a Democratic Republic


ObamaChinHere’s some bad news for a Friday: you’re going to spend most of the weekend hearing about Nancy Pelosi. The House Minority Leader, her body temperature slowly elevated to allow full mobility and partial sentience, took to the floor of the lower chamber earlier today to come out against trade adjustment assistance (TAA) in the run-up to the vote to give President Obama fast-track authorization to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Now, TAA, which provides government resources for workers dislocated by international trade, is normally popular with Democrats. But Pelosi didn’t take this position on the merits. Knowing that the passage of TAA would be essential for getting Democrats behind the Trans-Pacific deal, she was trying to smother the effort in the crib. As she said on the House floor,“If TAA slows down the fast-track, I’m prepared to vote against TAA.” And she got her way: it went down handily in the House, losing the vote 126-302.

There are a couple of easy journalistic frames coming here: progressives are abandoning the president in much the same way that conservatives took their leave of George W. Bush towards the end of his administration; The Obama Administration is officially sliding into lame duck territory; With Obama in the home stretch and Harry Reid preparing to retire, Pelosi is now the de facto leader of the Democratic Party. Choose your own adventure.

Barack Obama’s Career Bedeviled by Financial Struggles


Obama DancingWASHINGTON — For years, President Barack Obama struggled under the weight of national debt, unsustainable entitlements, and a trillion-dollar stimulus borrowed against the value of his country totaling hundreds of billions of dollars. But in 2012, financial salvation seemed to have arrived: A large Asian government offered him another series of loans.

In that year’s campaign speeches, Mr. Obama, a Chicago Democrat, spoke of his prudent plan for using the cash to reduce deficits, expressing relief that the nation was on a “path to recovery.”

But at the same time, he splurged on an extravagant purchase: Trillions for a “luxury” health care plan, records show. At the time, Mr. Obama confided to a friend that it was a potentially inadvisable outlay that he could not resist. The cradle-to-grave control of taxpayers, he said, fulfilled a dream.

First Best Second Choice


2015-04-22T095637Z_2_LYNXMPEB3L0E5_RTROPTP_4_USA-ELECTIONIt was hot yesterday in Palo Alto. Well, mid-to-upper 80s with little in the way of a breeze, which may sound laughable depending on where you’re reading this. But it felt downright Dante-esque here in Northern California given that most of our May seemed overcast and unseasonably cool. I won’t take the coward’s way out and blame the heat for this evergreen story — vice-presidential speculation. What got me thinking about it was this story on Jeb Bush’s presidential staffing hires — specifically, the surprise choice of Danny Diaz as campaign manager.

About Diaz: he was a senior advisor on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and, four years before, a deputy communications director on John McCain’s campaign. But here’s what got my attention: Diaz has also worked for New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (here is he tweeting about her back in 2014). And if you want to play the veepstakes guessing game, Martinez is worth a wager for at least three reasons:

1) Outreach. Jeb Bush is bilingual; he won’t back down on immigration reform. His kick-off speech next Monday will be at the Kendall campus of Miami Dade College, thus highlighting a theme of minority aspiration (last fall, 71% of credit-seeking students at Miami Dade were Hispanic and 17% were black). Should Bush receive his party’s nomination, Martinez and her compelling biography (nation’s first female Latina governor, former prosecutor, daughter of a Texas deputy sheriff) would seem a natural fit.

Rick Perry Is Not an Idiot


That’s not my headline, it’s Slate’s, above a column by the always astute Reihan Salam. As it happens, I agree with every word. An excerpt:

[W]hy isn’t [Perry]…being taken as seriously as Jeb Bush, a man who hasn’t run for office since 2002, or Scott Walker, a governor who has accomplished far less, or Marco Rubio, a first-term senator who’s never really run anything? There is a simple explanation. Basically, people think he’s not very bright. But that’s simply not true. Perry is extremely socially perceptive, a quality that has helped him connect with people from many different backgrounds. He’s demonstrated superb political judgment, and he’s proved to be a pragmatic and creative policy thinker. Though no one would mistake Perry for an intellectual, he has the kind of smarts voters should be looking for in a chief executive….

Granted, Perry has his faults. Having served as governor for an unusually long time, he made more than his fair share of enemies, which is a big part of why he is currently under indictment. Though Perry knows Texas extremely well, it remains to be seen if he has as strong a grasp of the federal issues he’ll have to wrestle with as president. But one thing is clear: Perry is at least as qualified for the presidency as Bush, Walker, and Rubio, and we’d be foolish to discount his chances.