Yes, Southwest Airlines may have pursued this adventure of giving their passengers free ukuleles and the instrument covers for the publicity it would garner. Guitar Center provided the ukuleles and a free lesson, too. And yes, there were people annoyed with the disturbance of their precious time on the jet.

But in a world where people take themselves far too seriously and have lost their ability to be playful, I think it was just the right strategy.

A New Look at Colditz


Colditz was a World War II prisoner-of-war camp run by Germany. It was the place incorrigible escapers and special political prisoners were sent. It is one of the best-known German POW camps, thanks to one escapee, P. R. Reid. Postwar, he wrote a book about his exploits, giving birth to a genre of escape literature about Colditz castle.

“Prisoners of the Castle: An Epic Story of Survival and Escape from Colditz, the Nazis’ Fortress Prison,” by Ben MacIntyre is the latest edition to the canon. MacIntyre takes a fresh look at the castle adding new research to previously published sources. Can anything be added to the story? The answer is yes.

Time has distanced us from the events at Colditz during World War II. The participants are all dead. The Iron Curtain, which separated those writing about the story from where the story took place, has fallen, allowing free Western access to Colditz castle. MacIntyre takes advantage of all of this to provide an unparalleled look at what happened.

Quote of the Day: The Economy and Government Mismanagement


“The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.” – Milton Friedman

We are going to see a repeat of this over the next year or two.  We are headed for recession, and possibly depression (although no one will call it that) even if the Republicans take over control of both houses of Congress next year. Part of that is due to existing inflation. But an even larger part will be due to government mismanagement.

There’s No Going Back – Ever


We can never go back to the “good old days.” That was a thought that occurred to me today, and I realized how that fact—and I believe it is a fact—defines not only how we see the world, but how we see our political reality. It colors how we see those who agree with us, and those who vehemently disagree with us. I also realized that all the Trump/Never Trump arguments are not really about Trump at all. The people who get stuck on either side of that conflict are struggling with something else entirely. And realizing that truth, with honesty and sincerity, might actually bridge the seemingly insurmountable polarization that has plagued this country, particularly the Conservatives, for years.

Think about it. There is no denying that life today is vastly different from the life we experienced, say, 20 years ago. And many people have a predisposition to living lives that are relatively predictable, familiar, and consistent. When they have occurrences that disrupt that predictability, they can feel beleaguered—life has turned upside down and has let them down in a way, so that they become confused, stressed, and even angry at the new and unanticipated outcomes. They feel betrayed and disappointed, and once they wrestle down these reactions, they are ready to go to war. They can decide to fight for what they once anticipated for their lives, demand that life return to some kind of normalcy, and rebel against those who think they should be prepared to go in a new direction. Even if that direction has some merit, they will reject it because it is not the life that they expected or desired.

I propose to you that this mindset evolves from that sense of life’s betrayal, and Donald Trump has become the scapegoat for those who reject Trump and life’s demands.

Religious Liberty in the Dock


This past weekend, Yeshiva University took a dramatic step that many observers thought would never happen: it decided to suspend the operation of all undergraduate on-campus clubs indefinitely, rather than to accede to a June 2022 order from New York State Judge Lynn R. Kotler “to immediately grant plaintiff Pride Alliance the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges afforded to all other student groups at Yeshiva University.” Judge Kotler issued the order after determining that Yeshiva was not a religious corporation under applicable New York law, and was thus subject to New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which makes it unlawful for a business in “all places of public accommodation” to discriminate against any person because of his or her “sexual orientation.”

For its part, Yeshiva had claimed the protected status as “a religious corporation incorporated under the education law,” given that it had always organized its undergraduate institution to that end. It did so even though one of its other divisions, namely Cardozo Law School, had, as its irate faculty had noted in a recent letter to Yeshiva President Rabbi Ari Berman, long given full recognition to LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations. But for Judge Kotler the key point was not what Yeshiva does today, but what it wrote about itself in 1967 when it expanded its charter from the study of Talmud to a wide range of Jewish and secular studies. This expansion, Judge Kotler explained, qualified Yeshiva as an “educational corporation under the Education Law of the State of New York.” In effect, Yeshiva was barred by its own fifty-five-year-old declaration from claiming a protected religious status today.

But why? By any functional account, the reasons New York City (like so many other government entities) created this religious exemption was to ease the nasty conflict between forced association under antidiscrimination laws and the exercise of religious liberty, as protected by the First Amendment. That conflict remains in place no matter what the state charter says. The underlying theory is that it is appropriate to impose a nondiscrimination rule when the various suspect attributes of a given person are irrelevant to any rational decision about the performance of the protected parties under statutes like NYCHRL, but that this logic does not cover activities that fall outside the public realm—such as the practice of religious education. That theory was given voice by Justice William Brennan in Roberts v. United States Jaycees (1984), when he ordered the Jaycees, a large men’s civic organization with many branches, to admit women. But, at the same time, Justice Brennan noted that the antidiscrimination laws were displaced by the principle of free association that covered “certain intimate human relations . . . in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious and cultural ends.”

Why has PayPal cancelled Toby Young and the Free Speech Union?


This article is from The Spectator edition published Thursday, September 22 and is reprinted here with permission.

I thought one of the benefits of being cancelled – I lost five positions in quick succession at the beginning of 2018 – is that it immunizes you from being cancelled again. After all, what more dirt could be thrown at me? The offense archaeologists did such a thorough job four years ago, sifting through everything I’d said or written dating back to 1987, that there was nothing left to dig up. But it turns out that was naive. Last week I got cancelled again.

You Know You’re Over the Target When . . .


Am I the only one who’s noticed how Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking even more flak than usual over his transporting migrants to Martha’s Vineyard? Why haven’t Gov. Abbott of Texas or Gov. Ducey been receiving their share of flak?

Now the illegal migrants are being represented by attorneys who claim that offers made to the migrants were fraudulent.

So what’s really going on?

Quote of the Day: Tapping into Our Own Wisdom


Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.
— Moses, Deut. 30, 11-14

When I first read this Bible portion, I was deeply moved and encouraged. Even a novice like me, who was still getting her feet wet in the Jewish tradition, could count on exploring and understanding the Bible. A book that had always seemed unapproachable and difficult to parse was intended to be accessible! I didn’t have to be an observant Jew (although what I do observe helps me), a Hebrew or Biblical scholar. I simply had to be willing to dive deep with my Torah study friends to see what G-d wanted to teach me and desired for me to know. Grasping that truth has been very gratifying.

But in addition to realizing how I could pursue understanding the Torah, I realized that, in truth, it was a guideline for living my life, not just in a general sense, but in every moment of my life. And I don’t mean just applying the laws of Torah to my concerns and decisions, but to believe that life, in the best sense of the word, offers me the opportunity to learn and grow in so many ways.

Watching a Slow-Moving Train Wreck


I’m surrendering. Well, I’m pretty close to surrendering. We had a lively discussion on my most recent post; I worked very hard to point out not only how unjustly the Republicans have been accused of the problems in this country, but also how feckless the Republicans have been in responding to the lies. And I was hoping that all of us could identify not only the glimmers of hope that we are already seeing, but also what positive outcomes could unfold in the future. To your credit, you were honest and direct with me.

There’s little to no hope.

The train wreck has been in process for many years, and for the most part, people shrugged their shoulders: it’s been bad before; we’ve always turned it around; we’ll take care of the problems once we’re back in power; and other assurances.

Biden’s Bile, or How to Guarantee a National Disaster if Republicans Don’t Act


While Joe Biden raves and rants at MAGA Republicans, who he thinks are determined to destroy our democracy (which is actually a republic), the rest of the country is taking stock of Biden’s presidency and asking the difficult question: why are we supporting this man who has led this country in such a disastrous direction? I’m becoming more convinced every day that he has sealed his own fate and that of all citizens by believing that the country will be inspired by his rhetoric, which is not only irresponsible but denigrates the very people he is supposed to be serving.

Why have I come to this conclusion?

He insists on thinking that Democrats don’t realize that his administration is responsible for all the hardships that are unfolding. Inflation has risen on his watch; the borders have been decimated with his ignoring enforcement; interest rates are rising; the food and household goods continue to be in short supply.

Spellbinding Fairy Tales with a Modern Twist


Fairy tales served as medieval entertainment. They were cautionary tales, with advice about how to live your life as much as fables. They were not just for children.

“Odd Magics: Tales For The Lost,” by Sarah Hoyt, are a dozen updated fairy tales, snatched from traditional roots and garbed in modern clothing. Hoyt has taken stories you read as children, giving them her unique spin.

They are all there, The Frog Prince, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and seven more. No longer set in Never-Neverland, they take place in 21st-century America (mostly Colorado).

Quote of the Day: A College Degree


“In the end, a college degree is either valuable or it isn’t. If it’s valuable, it will pay for itself. If it’s not valuable, no one should pay for it. Either way, there’s no reason for the government to be involved in higher education. The more involved it does get, the worse the problem becomes.” — Antony Davies

If one could graph the decline of the institutes of higher education in this country, it would follow a curve inverse to the level of government involvement in academia. I am not talking about the 19th-century land grant schools created by the Morell Act. Yes, state and federal governments established colleges and funded them over the next 100 years, but it was a period of benign neglect. The government pretty well let the institutions run themselves.

Attacks on Religion Are Ramping Up


Would anyone argue that religions of every faith (except perhaps Islam) have been at war with the secular Left, including Marxists and the Woke community? It isn’t a war that the religions have invited or instigated, but their viability and faith practices are being challenged and they must push back. I think you’ll find two stories especially intriguing, because they have both occurred in the last couple of weeks, highlighting attacks on Christianity and Judaism.

The first story is about Gov. Ron DeSantis. We could discern that the most recent attack against him is just one more effort to discredit and demonize his efforts in Florida:

While visiting a private Christian college in southern Michigan that wields influence in national politics, Gov. Ron DeSantis rephrased a biblical passage to deliver a message to conservatives.

Dems Gone ‘Rogue’ on SCOTUS


Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with the concurrence of much of the Left, believes our democracy is once again under attack, this time from our own “rogue” Supreme Court. MSNBC agreed that “the Supreme Court has gone rogue.” The Congressional Progressive Caucus insists “we must hold these rogue justices to account.”

It goes beyond coordinated hysterical rhetoric. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demanded that Democratic Party leaders share their plans for “solving the problem of the rogue court.” The New York Times advised “the Constitution provides a number of paths by which Congress can restrain and discipline a rogue court.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse introduced the Supreme Court Review Act to “check the court’s rogue decisions.”

Not only is the court rogue, but so are the six justices who normally form the majority. According to protesters at a recent anti-court rally, Roberts is an “impotent fool,” Kavanaugh a “drunken rapist” and Thomas a “traitor and perv.”

California’s Fast-Food Fumble


On September 5, California Governor Gavin Newsom lent his hearty endorsement to California’s FAST Recovery Act (short for Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act), which has been widely praised—and chastised—for its intention to raise minimum wages for the industry from $15 to as much as $22 per hour, the highest in the nation, with further increases in the offing. The major discussion over this new law has been directed to the perennial question of whether the loss in employment from its adoption will more than offset the salary gains to the workers able to maintain their positions within the industry. That is not likely, in my view, given the huge jump in mandated wages, which will make for a difficult transition period.

In dealing with this peculiar calculus, moreover, the inevitable losses in industry profits are given little or no weight in the economic evaluation of the law, on the implicit assumption that while the wage increases may put a dent in firm earnings, they will not drive all fast-food providers into bankruptcy—high-end operations are likely to be better able to weather the storm. It is also assumed that any increase in prices passed on to consumers will be borne with good grace, though many customers of the fast-food industry have marginal wage and income profiles not all that different from the workers (or at least those who retain their jobs) inside the industry.

The common assumption is that the only recourse available to deal with this new threat to the industry is a referendum to overturn the law, which would require the collection and validation of 623,000 signatures by December 4, 2022, for the referendum to appear on the ballot. Such an effort would attempt to replicate the successful 2020 initiative Proposition 22, which was designed to exempt companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash from a California law that reclassified their drivers as employees entitled to all sorts of protections not made available to independent contractors.

I Don’t Care About Your Feelings


I’m writing this post for anyone on the Left who might be curious about the political Right. Not for your leaders or political elites, but for you: the everyday person who believes the stories and the rhetoric of the Left, and feels that those on the political Right are to be feared and condemned.

But before I tell you why I don’t care about your feelings, let me tell you about myself and how I suspect you might feel about me.

Why Americans Honor the Queen


As expected, Americans are expressing their deep sense of loss for Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, as well as sending our good wishes (regardless of how we felt about his politics) for the ascendance of Prince Charles as King Charles III. But I couldn’t help feeling that our participation and engagement with all these traditions, history, and formality were somehow different this time around. In the past, we have been intrigued and excited about events in the United Kingdom, ranging from the blessings of weddings, to the tragedy of Diana’s death and the controversy over misguided royals. With the loss of the Queen, however, I believe our reaction reveals a deep sense of loss, not only for the Queen, but for the losses we ourselves have sustained over the last several years in our own country.

Think about it. We have had people determined to destroy the historic symbols of our country, whether they have characterized us as racists while disregarding our determination to transcend our commitment to slavery. The Constitution, monuments, statues, and schools that represented our admiration for, and commitment to, the founding of our country have been desecrated and condemned. Our strength and power, which have always been important forces for the world, have been weakened and disregarded. We no longer have a history to be proud of, a tradition of freedom to celebrate, and a foundation to point to; these have all been criticized and downgraded in the eyes of the political Left. And we watch, perhaps with envy, the love and affection the people of the U.K. have for their departed Queen and their country.

A Socialite Turned War Correspondent


In 1935 socialite Virginia Coles was a society-girl columnist for toney magazines like Harper’s Bazzar, writing about fashion and gossip. She traveled the world writing light pieces about the places visited. Then in Italy she encountered Mussolini and his fascists and her career took a different turn. She became a war correspondent.

“Looking for Trouble: The Classic Memoir of a Trailblazing War Correspondent,” by Virginia Cowles tells that story. It is her memoirs during the period 1936 through 1941, collected from the columns she wrote for various US magazines over that period.

During that period she was everywhere. She covered the Spanish Civil War, her first attempt at being a war correspondent. She was the only correspondent to report from both sides of the conflict, visiting both Republican and Nationalist Spain during the struggle.  It proved addictive. From there she went on to cover events in Europe as the continent slid into World War II.

Quote of the Day: Longevity


“If you’re starting a new job today and intend to match Queen Elizabeth’s work longevity you’ll have to keep working there through April 11, 2093.” – Keith Olbermann

Yes, I am quoting Keith Olbermann. On Ricochet. But sometimes even the worst man in the world has a valid point, one worth hearing. Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then. This is one such time.

The Founding Fathers Despised Political Parties


In spite of the dangers that political parties could pose to our nascent Republic, and the protests that were lodged by many of our Founders to having those parties, no mention of banning political parties appeared in our Constitution:

The framers of the new Constitution desperately wanted to avoid the divisions that had ripped England apart in the bloody civil wars of the 17th century. Many of them saw parties—or ‘factions,’ as they called them—as corrupt relics of the monarchical British system that they wanted to discard in favor of a truly democratic government.

George Washington warned against political parties when he left the Presidency in 1796. The divisions first emerged over whether to have a strong central government as proposed by Alexander Hamilton representing the Federalists; Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who feared putting too much power in the hands of the federal government, ended up forming the Democratic-Republican party. The animosity became so great that Adams tried to stop anything that would interfere with his own goals as President and approved making the criticizing of the president and his policies a federal crime. Jefferson took revenge when he became President by firing half of all federal employees at the top, essentially wiping out the administrative state.

Is Ron DeSantis Slipping into the Swamp?


Debates will continue about whether Gov. Ron DeSantis should run for the Presidency in 2024 or whether people should support President Trump. I’ve seen insightful and intelligent arguments for both positions. But there’s one argument that I think is illegitimate and there are many reasons for pushing back on them: Ron DeSantis is not going to be swallowed by the swamp.

Student Debt Cancellation Is Constitutionally Infirm


In one of the most audacious acts of his presidency, President Biden recently issued a fact sheet offering “Student Loan Relief for Borrowers Who Need It Most.” To Biden, that group consists of all individuals who have received student loans but have not yet paid them off, with an exception for loan payments made during the pandemic. The president wants to give this group “breathing room as they prepare to start repaying loans after the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.” The terms of the proposed loan forgiveness program are clear: the Department of Education will allow for $20,000 in debt relief to Pell Grant recipients—undergraduates with exceptional financial needs—and $10,000 for other students, so long as their individual income is under $125,000 per year (or $250,000 for a married couple). The plan also makes a number of technical adjustments that cut repayment rates for future loans.

The equity of this program has been under fierce attack for forcing the impending financial shortfall on the shoulders of individuals who have already repaid their loans, blue-collar workers who never took out loans, and the general taxpayer who already faces heavy rates. And the burden is no small thing: the Wharton financial model projects that the cancellation program will cost over $500 billion, and could jump to over a trillion dollars depending on future regulations and practices on both existing and new loans.

One might expect that a program of this magnitude would receive extensive congressional discussion followed by legislative approval. One would be disappointed. Here, the president is proceeding by executive order, which he claims is authorized under the HEROES Act of 2003 (an acronym for The Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act). Biden relied on an extensive memo by Christopher Schroeder, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, an office within the Department of Justice that provides legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies. The memo does not hold water. The key provision of the HEROES Act on which it relies reads:

The Antislavery Activist That Time Forgot: Historian Walter Stahr on Salmon P. Chase


Historical biographer Walter Stahr has given us definitive biographies of William H. Seward and Edwin Stanton, two of the ablest and most influential members of President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. Earlier this year, Stahr followed those books with Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln’s Vital Rival, the definitive biography of Salmon P. Chase, Treasury secretary under Lincoln and one of the country’s most important antislavery lawyers, one of the few who defended fugitive slaves against state and federal prosecutors. After his stint as a lawyer, Chase was elected to represent Ohio in the US Senate, where he was instrumental in helping to settle the slavery question in the United States. Chase also served as governor of Ohio and then as Treasury secretary, where he standardized the dozens of currencies then being issued by local banks and gave us a national currency and a system of national banks. Spend an hour learning about this man, who contributed greatly to the country but whom almost no one today remembers.