Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Rob Long’s Data-Driven Utopian Dream


In the first 15 minutes of the latest Ricochet podcast (Episode #483), Rob said a couple of things that caught my attention. At one point, when talking about our communication- and data-centric technical culture, he suggested that the answers to all our big problems were probably in the wealth of data we’ve collected.

What came to my mind when he said that was the movie WarGames (1983), in which a wayward defense computer is discouraged from initiating Armageddon when it crunches the numbers and concludes that there’s no way to win a nuclear war. Setting aside the question of whether or not that’s a correct conclusion (and I recently re-re-re-watched Dr. Strangelove, in which Buck Turgidson makes a compelling contrary argument, so I’m really not so sure), what the computer in WarGames did was reach a kind of meta-conclusion. A thorough examination of the available information suggested that no good answers could be found.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. It’s Not About You, but the Survival of the Republic


We are at a critical juncture in the history of this country: survival of the Republic is at stake. We can’t afford to try to be comfortable with politics; all the evidence points to more disruption, anger, and chaos, as the Progressives realize they are, for one of the first times in their movement, in serious trouble. Now is not the time for conservatives and Republicans to quibble about differences. The moral high ground is not what you’ve always thought it was. And we need to deal with the shift through the power of our own unity.

Donald Trump has been the scapegoat of our rebellion against social and political change. But instead of throwing up our hands in resignation, or blaming everyone but ourselves for the mire we find ourselves in, we have to face the truth: the Constitution itself is at risk. We have violated it by allowing our children to be taught to disrespect it; we continually see the misuse of the court system; we’ve allowed politicians to distort the Constitution and the rule of law for their own purposes. It’s time to act.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Twin Sisters Give Advice


What were the odds that twin sisters, Jews raised in Sioux City, IA, would achieve international fame as givers of advice?

I can’t calculate those odds, but Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer came to be known as Ann Landers, and Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips followed quickly in her footsteps to become Abigail van Buren (Dear Abby). They were born on July 4, 1918 to Russian Jewish immigrants, Abraham and Rebecca Friedman:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The National Conservatism Conference in Rome


Friends, I don’t usually do reporting, but I made an exception for the second National Conservatism Conference in Rome where I finally met our own @melissaosullivan! I don’t remember anyone else from Ricochet being there, so, as I said, I’ll do the reporting.

Let me start with the important things: Rome on February 3-4 is bright, clear, with intense blue skies, scarcely a cloud, the temperatures rise to the low 60s, winds get strong, sometimes approaching 20 mph, and the cypresses and pines are evergreen. You can see the gulls’ padded feet in the Tiber working rhythmically against the current. You can see the Romans go around in winter coats with silly little pocket dogs. It is paradise with occasional chills. Not a lot of tourists, either, so I recommend it if you’re ever in the mood to visit a city where they have big buildings from 2,000 years ago and they make decent coffee, too.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. My Heart Is Still Aching


Twenty-five years ago, I was invited by a rabbi whom I’d interviewed for a book I was writing, to give a talk to a group of student rabbis and cantors. The students were attending a college in L.A. for their training, and I was invited to speak to them because I was a Jew who had essentially left my religion behind and became a Zen Buddhist. The rabbi who invited me thought I could shed some light on the reasons Jews were abandoning Judaism.

At the end of my talk (where I basically told my own story), we opened the floor for questions. Most people were kind and curious and, of course, disappointed that I wasn’t actively engaged in Judaism. I thought I’d made my own situation clear by explaining that I’d never connected with my heritage in a deep way and found that Zen fulfilled many of my hopes for a spiritual life.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Is a Decadent America a Technologically Stagnant America?


Has America been technologically stagnant for a half-century? That’s apparently one of the main arguments found in New York Times columnist and AEI visiting fellow Ross Douthat’s upcoming book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success.

Now, I haven’t read this book. But it was just reviewed by entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who quotes the following passage, I assume accurately: “Over the last two generations,” Douthat writes, “the only truly radical change has taken place in the devices we use for communication and entertainment, so that a single one of the nineteenth century’s great inventions [running water] still looms larger in our every­day existence than most of what we think of as technological breakthroughs nowadays.”


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Asia #5: Parasite


Friends, here’s my conversation with Peter Paik on the big Oscar winner, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. We talk about the movie as a story of the conflict between liberalism and Korea’s older ways. We try to explain the new social and economic situation in South Korea, but also Bong’s interest in character study that reveals virtues and vices that reverse the judgments implied in the class analysis liberalism usually offers. This is not a story about wicked rich people, or systemic inequality, vs. innocent or virtuous poor people. It’s about the desire for self-mastery and the desire for comfort, or the difference between absorbing suffering and fleeing anxiety.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Rent Control Laws Are Unconstitutional


New York City recently implemented its far-reaching Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. That law enacted extensive amendments, all plaintiff protective, to New York’s 1969 Rent Stabilization Law (RSL). The Act imposes the RSL throughout the state. It also reverses the state’s earlier position on Luxury Decontrol for High Income Tenants. Formerly, when a tenant earned over $200,000 per year and paid a rent of at least $2,700 per month, the unit was decontrolled to allow the landlord the benefit of market rate rents. But under the new law, well-heeled tenants can continue to pay at most 15 percent of their gross rent on city housing.

The new act also sharply limits rent increases when landlords make improvements on a tenant’s premises. The older system allowed increases of up to 6 percent per annum, but the newer rules cap that figure at 2 percent, which makes it highly unlikely that a landlord can recover the costs of those improvements (assuming these are still made) over their useful life.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The World According to Thiel


Peter Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal and Palantir; early investor in Facebook, LinkedIn, and SpaceX; and the founder of the Thiel Fellowship, which encourages young people to drop out of college to start their own businesses, is interviewed live on stage in front of the members of the Mont Pelerin Society. This wide-ranging conversation covers globalization, the continuing and ever-growing threat from China and what the United States can and can’t do it about, what the rise of Bernie Sanders means for the future of US capitalism, the “derangement” (Thiel’s phrase) of Silicon Valley in the last decade, the scourge of political correctness on campuses and in society at large, and why Thiel thinks we should rethink the doctrine of American exceptionalism.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Writing on Oscar Movies


This was the year of Scorsese, even if only two people say so — the three-Oscar-winning writer-director-producer of the four-Oscar-winning Parasite, Bong Joon-ho — and me. Tarantino should have swept the Awards, but the Academy still desperately hopes that a sufficient number of sufficiently clever and sentimental auteurs will save cinema from the twin evils of Disney, perpetually snubbed, and Netflix, perpetually snubbed despite throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at winning a Best Picture Oscar.

Recent victorious auteurs include the insightful, but irresponsible enemy of liberalism Jordan Peele, the uninspired, sentimental Guillermo del Toro, his more insightful friend who’s absolutely clueless about the world we live in, Alejandro Inarritu — to say nothing of the other moralistic winners based on the hope that finally Hollywood will fix America’s race problems: Green Book, Moonlight, 12 years of slave…


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Anti-Tobacco Fanatics Lie like a Cheap Rug


Yes. They lie. Their lies, coming from allegedly left and right (social conservative) positions, are swathed in “good intentions” and focus on “the children.” Yet, any citizen, any member of Congress, any judge, Article II or Article III, and any president who has merely been alert to their environment as they walked past, at least, a hotel bar, knows the basic claim is a flat-out lie. Why? See for yourself:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. What Can the 2020 Democrats Do About the Strong ‘Trump economy?’


There are perhaps only two core messages in politics: “Happy days are here again” for incumbents and “It’s time for a change” for challengers. But how does an American presidential candidate make the change argument during a strong economy? That’s the challenge for Democrats in 2020 — and a particularly obvious one after yet another robust employment report. (January jobs were up a surprisingly strong 225,000, and gains have averaged 211,000 over the past 3 months.)


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. It’s Hard to Get Old


We sat around the oaken table following the singing performance. My friend was sitting next to me; Eloise was sitting on my other side; and Joe sat quietly next to her. He seemed especially restrained after enjoying the music. I listened in to his conversation with Eloise:

Joe: I think it’s time for us to head home.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Friday Night Lights: Celebration


Lights on HilltopsA visit to the White House homepage prompted two thoughts. First was renewed admiration for the nameless team working tirelessly to keep up with reporting on the good things happening in our country under the leadership of President Trump. Second was a bit of happiness, joy even, at living in this land, right now, even with all the sound and fury seeking to continuously stir up negative emotions. So, I offer a snapshot, really a screenshot, and a song to close out the week and start the weekend.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Media Musings: Is That Chicken a Bit Off? [Updated]


Don't be Chikin Fill Red KettleIf food has a sell-by date, perhaps news, as opposed to history, has a tell-by date. I am just getting around to this topic, reflecting on a story that was very much under the radar this past month, after initially being served up with lots of sizzle before Thanksgiving. Yes, this would be Chick-fil-A versus the Salvation Army.

You will recall that Chick-fil-A very prominently disassociated itself from the Salvation Army, smearing the Salvation Army as bigoted. This smear by a professedly Christian family-owned business was especially dangerous to the continued viability in the public square of any bible-believing Christian organization or individual. Such action demanded a response from organizations like the American Family Association, yet we heard nothing all through the Advent and Christmas season, the prime time for Salvation Army fundraising.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Counting the Cards in Nevada


President Trump is putting Nevada in play for the 2020 election. The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage project has always been a political hot potato and a hole in the ground into which Congress pours money. Senator Dean Heller, like Senator Reid before him, is opposed to the Yucca Mountain project, and there are likely not the votes to force the issue. Now the story in important Las Vegas news outlets is President Trump is on Nevada’s side.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Vice President Pence Is Right


Reviewing Vice President Pence’s brief remarks at the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast, I was caught up short by the phrase he always uses. It was a phrase I heard him use in a large non-denominational church in Mesa, AZ, when he was the VP candidate in 2016. It was fitting then but, oh, how much more fitting today.

Here it is in the context of remarks by Vice President Pence at the 68th Annual National Prayer Breakfast, emphasis added:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Group Writing: The Queen of Advice


The most important piece of advice I can give you: don’t take my advice. It’s not that I give bad advice — at least most of the time. But I’ve spent the last 40 years trying not to give advice. Giving advice can be an obsession, and I’m trying to cure myself of it. Let me tell you why.

For most of my life, I thought everyone was entitled to my advice, whether they wanted it or not. So I felt free to offer advice for any number of reasons:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Question Time: The Roth Effect Edition

What questions do you have for me? I am going to be answering some of your questions on The Roth Effect. Ask anything you want about business, capitalism, politics, finance, dating, pop culture, hair or whatever you want to know and I will answer as many as I can!

The comments are open!


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. One Woman’s Fight to Ensure No One Has an Abortion Because of Finances


Emily Berning, co-founder and president of Let Them Live, shares on “Problematic Women” that she saw a gap in the pro-life movement. “Crisis pregnancy centers are amazing. They do so much work and save so many lives, but a lot of them don’t have the funding to pay for rent for women that come in or car payments for an extended period of time,” she says.

“That’s where we come in,” Berning, our Problematic Woman of the week, adds of her organization. “Because 73% of women who are getting abortions are doing it because of financial reasons.” Read the full interview with Berning, posted below, or listen on the podcast.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Advice to Republicans on Winning over Non-Republicans


So you want to be elected? Do you really? How’s about acting like it? If you must, fake it ’til you make it. Here are a few suggestions, for free:

  • Show up.
  • Listen actively and respectfully.
  • Act on what you hear.

Free is much less than Karl “The Architect” Rove charged, but we all know how his advice worked out, leaving President George W. Bush in the hands of Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid. Take a look at the latest State of the Union address, consider the many actions, words, and images that formed the basis of a string of accomplishments, and you might find a path to maximizing your chances in future elections, near and far.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Confine Presidential Impeachment to Criminal Acts


The United States Senate has voted, along virtually strict party lines, not to call witnesses on the two key charges in the impeachment trial of the President: that President Trump abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine, and that he also obstructed Congress by refusing to participate in the House’s impeachment investigation. Given this outcome, the acquittal of the President is virtually assured to come Wednesday.

The Senate’s decision rests on this narrow but controversial definitional question: What is an impeachable offense? This past December, a “Letter to Congress” signed by over 800 constitutional law professors defended the legal position that “conduct need not be criminal to be impeachable. The standard here is constitutional; it does not depend on what Congress has chosen to criminalize. Impeach is a remedy for grave abuses of the public trust.”


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. I Hate to Kick the Iowa Dems When They’re Down…


Oh who am I kidding? I love doing this!

It’s good to know that all the money they could have spent making sure their app for tallying caucus votes was actually useful and functional was spent on outfitting themselves with a palatial, expansive, state-of-the-art state party headquarters.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. High Plains Blizzard: Discontent on a Montana Highway


Move across the Great Plains in November and you are chancing sudden, serious winter weather. My parents did this twice in the 1970s with four young children. As we recall, the family dog was flown instead of sharing in the road trip both times. This was before hotels and motels catered to people with animals.

November 1977 found the Brown family convoying west from Fort Knox, KY, to Fort Lewis, WA. Dad had been reassigned from an Army hospital, commanded by a colonel, to an Army medical center, commanded by a one-star brigadier general. This was very good, as it meant he was moving into position to be promoted, as a clinician rather than administrator, from lieutenant colonel to colonel. What was not so good was the weather.