Is the Party of Lincoln Now the Party of Lee?


This year will mark my 30th anniversary as a syndicated columnist. During these years, I have written more words than I would have preferred about race. But race is America’s great moral stain and unending challenge. I’ve tackled school choice, affirmative action, transracial adoption, crime, police conduct, family structure, poverty, free enterprise zones, and more.

Some of those columns took the Left to task for maliciously accusing Republicans of racism. An email from the list serve “Journolist” for example, an online forum of left-leaning journalists started in 2007, plotted strategy for how to defend Barack Obama from the taint of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Spencer Ackerman advised “If the right forces us to either defend Wright or tear him down . . . we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them – Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares – and call them racists.”


Dueling Losers in Charlottesville


My most recent contribution over at PJ Media concerns, as you might expect, the recent events in Charlottesville, specifically the apparent failure of the police to prepare for and respond to the violence they should have known was coming. In that piece I recount a memory of my youth (it was in or about 1970) in which I witnessed the LAPD deal very effectively with a group of neo-Nazis who appeared intent on disrupting a large demonstration against the Vietnam war. A sample:

After an awkward standoff of a few minutes, the Nazis began marching east on Wilshire, with the cops marching right alongside. Upon reaching the east end of the park, at Alvarado Street, the Nazis turned around and marched back to Park View, again matched step for step by the same 50 cops.


America and Marvel, Part IV: Show Business and the Marvel Identity


Let us now see how all this emerges from show business. The box office seems to be growing exclusively on the strength of pricier tickets, as fewer people go to the movies. Fewer movies are made every year, counting movies with any kind of broad release — not 4,000 theaters, but say more than 500. The number of studios and the number of sources for stories are also decreasing. In the business, the idea is called intellectual property. In that sense, a minuscule oligarchy sells what a massive democracy wants to buy. The view of America you get at the movies is concentrating, ignoring more and more of the country. So, let us look at what we buy or, rather, buy into, while only really renting.

Today, cinema is dominated by three genres:

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Book Review: The Challenge of Dawa


“The Challenge of Dawa” by Ayaan Hirsi AliAyaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia in 1969. In 1992 she was admitted to the Netherlands and granted political asylum on the basis of escaping an arranged marriage. She later obtained Dutch citizenship, and was elected to the Dutch parliament, where she served from 2001 through 2006. In 2004, she collaborated with Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh on the short film Submission, about the abuse of women in Islamic societies. After release of the film, van Gogh was assassinated, with a note containing a death threat for Hirsi Ali pinned to his corpse with a knife. Thereupon, she went into hiding with a permanent security detail to protect her against ongoing threats. In 2006, she moved to the U.S., taking a position at the American Enterprise Institute. She is currently a Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

In this short book (or long pamphlet: it is just 105 pages, with 70 pages of main text), Hirsi Ali argues that almost all Western commentators on the threat posed by Islam have fundamentally misdiagnosed the nature of the challenge it poses to Western civilisation and the heritage of the Enlightenment, and, failing to understand the tactics of Islam’s ambition to dominate the world, dating to Mohammed’s revelations in Medina and his actions in that period of his life, have adopted strategies which are ineffective and in some cases counterproductive in confronting the present danger.

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The Speech Trump Should’ve Given


This Jew Isn’t Buying It.

We are in cloud cuckoo land. The media, the Left (I know, I know… I repeat myself) and the Right are justifiably disgusted with what took place in Charlottesville. It was an embarrassment and stain on the nation, who collectively look at the Neanderthal group of Nazis on their tellies with vitriol and disdain. Approximately 200 neck-bearded basement dwellers marching goose-step with Nazi symbolism was abhorrent to every decent person from both sides of the political divide. Understood? Got that? Good. Now…


The Sex Crutch


I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. To quote Mr. Justice Daniel Snow from First Monday in October, “I’ve never been prejudiced by sex — entertained, yes — prejudiced, never.” (That line is a lot funnier when it comes out of the mouth of Walter Matthau.) I’ve not just been entertained by sex, I have the four kids to show for it.

In the 70 years since Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male we’ve gone from whispers and protected conversations with our psychiatrists to seeing our sexual peccadilloes as just another piece of fodder for our Facebook pages. There’s a lot to be uncomfortable about and the plan here is not to document them one-by-one.


America and Marvel, Part III: The Role of Cinema


I will start with some eminently questionable remarks. Let us start from the place of cinema in American life. Americans are notorious for the great gap their society leaves open in-between personal, private experiences, particular to each one and interesting mostly to himself — and public debates or public discourse, which is dominated by abstractions.

Tocqueville famously said Americans are uniquely given to general ideas — whenever doubt should arise about anything, a principle will be stated with god-like certainty. What lies in-between the abstract or universal and the personal or particular is judgment. Judgment, in both common senses of the word, is frowned upon in America. Obviously, moral judgment is frowned upon because it is a form of discrimination and the ground and mode of discrimination — it also odors of inequality, as he who judges necessarily sets himself the superior of he whom he judges. But judgment offends not merely equality — it also offends independence, or individualism.


How to Become a Conservative Author: Marjory Ross, President at Regnery Publishing


Marji Ross, Regnery PublishingWhat do William F. Buckley, Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Dinesh D’Souza, Sen. Mike Lee, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, Mark Steyn, Michelle Malkin, and David Limbaugh all have in common? They, along with dozens of other best-selling authors, are all published by Regnery Publishing. Marji Ross shares with Ricochet how to become an author and have the best chance of becoming published in the hyper-competitive conservative literary space.

Marjory Grant Ross (Marji) has been President and Publisher of Regnery Publishing since 2003. She currently serves on the boards of the National Conservative Campaign Fund, the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, and the Beth Chai Congregation. In February 2005, she was named the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute’s Woman of the Year.


America and Marvel, Part II: Reflections of and on Society


A few days ago, I talked to my associate Prof. Harmon who raised a fundamental question by way of a preposition. This is not as rare an occurrence as you might think. He asked whether I meant to speak of American cinema as a reflection of American society or a reflection on it. As I said, the movies are our human way of seeing what we’re like, as humans. But what does that mean more clearly?

“Reflections of society” involves the obvious meaning of imitation. What you see on the screen is what the movie-makers saw looking around — America. But this could mean two different things, being that no movie can reflect America as a whole. American movie-makers might offer Americans the images they think will please them — they see what Americans approve, and are governed in their works by that experience. This would mean cinema is a kind of flattery; a barely concealed form of self-congratulation. Every theater-going experience is really an awards ceremony in disguise. There is more than a little truth to that. Do people leave the theaters of this great notion in a soul-searching mood, somewhat chastened by the experience, or rather smug, and even self-important?


New Study Finds that Minimum Wage Hikes Are Great News for Robot Workers


Back in 2014, I wrote a post that asked, “Why are minimum wage proponents dismissing automation risk?” I just wasn’t getting a sense from the “Fight for 15” crowd that it had thought much about the possibility that dramatically raising the minimum wage might worsen the competitive position of low-skill humans versus machines.

Or maybe it had, but the politics were so tantalizing that they took precedence over sound policy. My conclusion back then: “Pushing for an unprecedented boost in the minimum wage given both the weak economy and automation risk seems like foolhardy public policy.” That, especially given the low-risk alternative of raising and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.


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Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” the memo written by Google’s now-fired software engineer James Damore, addresses a taboo topic in modern American life — namely, sex differences that relate to the abilities and occupational choices of men and women.

Damore’s critique of diversity and inclusion, which he supports in the abstract, hit the tech industry hard for this very simple reason: firms like Google and Facebook have tech workforces dominated by white and Asian men. As Damore observes, Google has spent millions on programs to recruit and hire more women and non-Asian minorities, with little to show for its efforts. He urges Google: “Stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders and races,” and to “de-moralize diversity.” In his view, this reverse discrimination drives Google’s rigid, ideological conformity, lowers overall production, and undercuts professional morale.


Play Your Own Game


It’s almost as if there were a law. In the pregame of every major sporting championship the intrepid sideline reporter will catch up with the coach of the underdog team and breathlessly ask, “How to you beat those guys?”

“Simple,” says the underdog, “We have to play our game. If we play their game, we lose.”


Berkeley Cowers from Campus Violence


Do you remember hearing last year about the special door for the Berkeley university chancellor’s office that was built to protect him and his staff from potentially dangerous protestors? You probably didn’t. But the Wall Street Journal “outed” them last week. According to the WSJ,

In a proposal requesting funding for the $9,000 security door, the chancellor’s office detailed the risk of ‘vandalism & malicious mischief’ and a ‘high . . . level of probability of future loss or injury if [the] condition is not addressed.’ The proposal noted that protesters had ‘rushed the building and attempted to occupy’ the chancellor’s office in April 2015. ‘Staff people pushed to close the office doors while protestors pushed them open.’


America and Marvel, Part I: Introduction


At first, this series may seem strange to you. All I can say by way of preparatory remarks is that cinema properly understood is the self-understanding of a society. It comprises individual taste, popular phenomena, prestige, and also great achievements. It is at once all-American and almost universally opposed in America. Cinema is part of civilization — it is an attempt to think through and therefore to educate Americans about what it means to be a human being. But it retains elements of barbarism — a surprising fondness for images, let’s say.

Cinema is remarkably democratic in that it shows us the bodies of human beings whom we instantly recognize, with all the moral and intellectual consequences that follow from that knowledge. But it is also aristocratic, in that it privileges stories which are impressive by reason of being unusual — we generally look for great beauty, great power, or great achievements in stories. Or at any rate, cinema inevitably produces celebrities, the most obvious form of inequality in America.


What Happened in Charlottesville This Weekend


This is a preview from Monday’s Daily Shot newsletter. Subscribe here free of charge.

By now you’ve probably heard that something happened over the weekend in Charlottesville. We want to fill you in on the details. First, to clear up a common misunderstanding, this happened in Charlottesville, VA, not Charlotte, NC. While they’re both named after the same lady, they’re very different places. Charlottesville is near Monticello and it’s home to the University of Virginia.


Duck and Cover and Bert the Turtle


As Americans, we learned in the 1950’s that it might not be a good idea to take life for granted. In particular, children were deeply affected by the threat of annihilation by a nuclear bomb. The Virginia Historical Society described that period in this way:

Air raid drills. Conelrad. Bomb shelters. Duck and cover. All of these were familiar terms to Americans in the Cold War culture of the 1950s. The future looked uncertain in the new Atomic Age, and there was growing tension between America and the Soviet Union. People lived with the threat of nuclear war as part of their daily lives.


ACF #9: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman


Hello, folks, this week’s podcast completes last week’s discussion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a discussion of the DC superhero movies. My friend and PoMoCon coconspirator Pete Spiliakos joins me–he is a columnist at First Things and writes for NRO, too. You can take my word for it, he’s the kind of conservative we need to hear more of!


The Projectionist’s Booth


The desire for everlasting fame in the shape of a star embedded in concrete is what keeps people coming to Hollywood to become a star and be “somebody,” and the engine of the American entertainment runs on narcissism. We elevate our movie stars so high above the rest of us, it gets to the point where some of us believe their political opinions should be taken seriously, just because they’re really good at smiling and memorizing lines to be read later.

Narcissism is not without it’s drawbacks: If you’re being told you’re the center of the universe, you tend to believe that you’re an expert on everything the universe contains, such as climatology, vaccinology, and geology, as if playing a scientist on the silver screen suddenly made you a scientist, or something.


Jim Rogers: Biggest Financial Collapse in my Lifetime Is Overdue


The billionaire commodity guru Jim Rogers believes the next economic catastrophe is coming and when it arrives it will be the worst financial calamity the 74-year old investor has ever seen. “The financial markets are going to have the worst problems in my lifetime.” Jim joins us at Whiskey Politics and discusses China, Janet Yellen, why “Mr. Obama wasn’t a very smart guy,” his opinions about Donald Trump, and of course we ask Jim to suggest how we can protect ourselves.

Find Jim all over the financial websites, including CNBC, Business Insider, Zero Hedge, and Wall Street Journal and his website: Be sure to subscribe to Whiskey Politics at YouTube and our audio podcasts at iTunesStitcher or GooglePlay where your 5-star rating would be appreciated as it will help get the word out about our fledgling production (iTunes especially!) In: Little Green Bag, George Baker Selection. Out: Take The Money And Run, The Steve Miller Band. Produced by Praemonitus Communications and pictures by Thompson Clicks Photos.


On Big Tech, Competition, and Startups


Just how alarming is this Wall Street Journal story, “The New Copycats: How Facebook Squashes Competition From Startups”? I think I am supposed to be pretty alarmed. It tells the story of “hot video app” Houseparty and its emerging battle with Bonfire, a planned live group-chat app from Facebook. And as they say, Houseparty is not alone:

The deep pockets of giants such as Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, Apple, and Inc. make it increasingly difficult for startups to compete and stay independent. The four firms have a combined market capitalization of almost $2.5 trillion, a rough equivalent to the annual gross domestic product of France. Facebook acquired photo-sharing app Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and messaging service WhatsApp in 2014 for $22 billion. Google in 2013 bought Waze, a rival to Google Maps. Amazon in 2010 bought Quidsi, the online retailing company behind and other sites, after trying to copy it. Lately, the titans also appear to be imitating smaller rivals more aggressively. In July, a week after the initial public offering of Blue Apron Holdings Inc., an Amazon subsidiary filed to trademark a meal-delivery kit with a tagline that echoed Blue Apron’s offering. Both Google and Facebook have taken aim at features on Snap. Inc.’s Snapchat platform.


Come Back! We Miss You!


They don’t let me see the numbers (for organizational purposes, I rank just below the guy who scrubs Rob Long’s gold-plated bidet), but we get a lot of visitors to this homepage, who aren’t current members. And a lot of you reading this are actually former Ricochet members.

What I’m about to say is aimed at you.


A Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot


Last night while playing cards, a friend of mine asked me my opinion of the whole “Google memo” affair. I told him the truth: I had no opinion.

In order to have any kind of reasonable, intelligent opinion, I’d need to look into the details, not just the headlines or what other people are saying about it. We’ve already crossed the line into this being “a thing,” and anyone writing about it at this point will emphasize some details and obscure others, to push their particular narrative or agenda.