Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. TV History 8: High Definition Television


Ask any critic: We’re living in the era of Peak TV, when major cable and streaming projects have become as important and glamorous in our world as theatrical films are, sometimes even more so. Television’s been an important part of our lives for seventy years, but other than for live events, it’s always been the (relatively) family-friendly, 21 inch-wide, generally low prestige cousin of the movies. That all changed in this century, and this post will claim it’s partly due to a non-artistic advance that’s supposedly “merely” technical, as if anything is “merely” technical: The stunning quality, size, and affordability of today’s high definition home screen.

The traditional movie theater is increasingly reserved for spectacle; your living room flatscreen is now your movie screen, just as your laptop or tablet has become your kitchen table TV, and your mobile phone became your daily, carry around computer message center. Just considering sheer cultural impact, “The Sopranos”, became “The Godfather” of our era, and “Game of Thrones” has been “The Lord of the Rings” of the past decade. It’s hard to recall how recent this all is. Even a quarter century ago, you’d have to have been a Hollywood millionaire with a 35mm home theater to see a picture anywhere nearly this good in your living room. Now you only need $500, and 55 inches (diagonal) of wall space. The story of how video reached film quality, and is now approaching the limits of human eyesight, involves enterprise, decades of backdoor deals, art, science, the politics of the Sixties through the Eighties, and a high money stakes engineering fight with Japan; which we won. Here’s how it happened.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Hackneyed Demand for Reparations Lives On


The Democrats are at it again. It’s election campaign time, and Kamala Harris, for one, is demanding reparations, 150 years after the Civil War, for black Americans who probably know as little about that war as most other Americans:

I think there has to be some form of reparations. We can discuss what that is, but look, we’re looking at more than 200 years of slavery. We’re looking at almost a hundred years of Jim Crow. We’re looking at legalized segregation and, in fact, segregation on so many levels that exists today, based on race. And there has not been any kind of intervention done understanding the harm and the damage that occurred to correct course, and so we are seeing the effects of all of those years play out still today.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Critic Series #31 North By Northwest


Terry Teachout and I talk about North By Northwest, or marriage in modern America. What would it take for a noir hero, betrayed by a beautiful woman, to make his way from thriller back to romance by way of comedy?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Remove Children from Sex Offender Registries


With several septuagenarians competing for the presidency, the ghost of the 1990s looms over the 2020 race. Joe Biden has faced criticism for his sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill. President Trump tweeted “Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected.”

Here’s some context. Violent crime rates in the United States began a steep climb in the mid-1960s and reached their peak in the early 1990s. Americans were extremely worried. Donald Trump, for example, recommended bringing back New York’s death penalty in response to a much-publicized Central Park attack. Politicians listened. Many states passed tough anti-crime measures and in 1994, the federal government got into the act. Though Republicans criticized the federal crime bill for gun restrictions and what they called “pork,” the measure passed the House on a voice vote and the Senate by 61-38 with many Republican votes.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Perfection on Every Level


“We held our nation’s fallen heroes close to our hearts in everything we did. From the care of our uniforms to the precision of our marching to the grooming of our horses, it was our sacred duty to honor the fallen in ways big and small. Our standard was simple: perfection on every level. A funeral in Arlington is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the family. And for us, service in Arlington National Cemetery was a once-in-a-lifetime privilege.” — Tom Cotton, Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery

Ordinarily, I don’t encourage people to strive for perfection; those who do are generally disappointed because, in everyday life, it is nearly impossible to achieve. Also, perfectionists are usually unhappy because they are preoccupied with demanding perfection of themselves and everyone else. It’s not a pretty picture.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Beyond the Beltway


Eating veggie burgers was always the equivalent of biting into a soggy styrofoam sammich. However, we are now seeing meat alternatives that are actually pretty darn good. Carl’s Jr. has the new Beyond Famous Star (it is delicious), Del Taco is now serving Beyond Tacos (again, very good!) and Burger King is locally testing the Impossible Whopper (which we haven’t tried).

Whether or not you are grimacing reading this, and everyone can choose their own diet based on health and environmental reasons, it’s these new technological breakthroughs of plant-based alternatives that serve as a good reminder of the difference between free-market and big government solutions and how they should be implemented.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Men in Barack


View original artwork here.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Insatiable Appetite for Dour Data About a Decent Economy


If you look at the national unemployment rate of 3.6% — the lowest in more than 50 years — American capitalism doesn’t appear to be terribly broken. And as the economy has rebounded from the Great Recession and Financial Crisis, real wages continue to rise, especially so for lower-income Americans. Another seeming sign of non-brokenness.

Or to approach things a different way: A recent Federal Reserve survey finds 75% of U.S. adults say they are either “doing okay or living comfortably,” 56% say they are better off than their parents were at the same age (vs. 25% saying “about the same” and 19% “worse off”), and 64% rate their local economic conditions as “good” or “excellent.”


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Judge Koh Is No 5G Wiz


Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California gave the Federal Trade Commission an enormous victory this past week in its antitrust lawsuit against Qualcomm. Her conclusion was that “Qualcomm’s licensing practices have strangled competition” in key markets to the detriment of rivals, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and consumers.

Her solution was a stern edict that at a minimum forces Qualcomm to abandon its “no-license, no chip” policy in three key ways. First, as that label suggests, Qualcomm may no longer sell its chips only to parties who have already obtained a license—perfectly proper under patent law—to use chips that contain Qualcomm’s patented technology. Second, Qualcomm must renegotiate all of its contracts worldwide to make sure that it only charges “fair and reasonable rates” for all of its technology and chipsets, including now required sales to its direct competitors in the 5G market. Third, the order prohibits Qualcomm from entering into “any express or de facto exclusive dealing relationships” with its customers. As the Wall Street Journal wrote, Judge Koh’s “Qualcomm coup” effectively “kneecaps” the major American player in the 5G market.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Blooming Idiots or Bureaucratic Blight?


There is nothing inevitable about the trajectory of a nation or a business enterprise. While we may perceive patterns, these arise from human nature at the mean. Yet, we see moments when individuals and relatively small groups make a real difference for some time. Consider two instances of business enterprises seeming to go badly wrong, and ask if blooming idiots or bureaucratic blight are to blame.

Cadillac: an instance of automotive industry decline?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Limits of Power and HBO’s Chernobyl


The unsatisfactory ending of Game of Thrones may have left a lacuna in your Sunday evening viewing habits, but there is a balm in Gilead in the form of its Monday-evening replacement: Chernobyl.

Stellan Skarsgård and the criminally underappreciated Jared Harris star in this incandescent HBO thriller surrounding the accident and consequent ecological catastrophe at the infamous nuclear power plant in 1986.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Saving Snowflakes May Save the Country


I know: some of you are rolling your eyes at the OP title, but believe it or not, it’s our patriotic duty to do what we can to transform the snowflakes into Samsons. Given our current economic situation, we have no choice.

Taking a national view, we are enjoying not only the lowest unemployment rate since December 1969, but we are short of workers : the number of job openings in March 2019 rose to 7.5 million (an increase of 346,000). Many seniors are retiring and returning to work , but those numbers are increasing slowly.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Two Podcasts


May and June are typically busy months for me, thanks to the confluence of end-of-year volunteer work at the little Catholic school which, until the last one’s recent graduation, my younger three children attended, and the product release cycle of my largest client. During these months, pretty much everything else — the lawn, social media, folding the laundry, working out, recreational reading, my modest social life — takes a back seat to these seasonal exigencies.

However, my drive time remains unchanged, and I’m still able to fill it with podcasts. Two, in particular, seemed worth mentioning today.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. How to Build a Computer 32: X-Rays


I think x-rays have had their dramatic potential shortchanged by the way they’re actually useful. You hear “gamma rays” and your mind is drawn to the Incredible Hulk and how he gained his bright purple shorts. Cosmic Rays? Space madness! But when your mind turns to x-rays you start thinking “dentistry.” Much less exciting.

Right. Computers. Today we’re going to spend one more post on Electron Microscopy, and another way these things are useful. This one is actually pretty straightforward from topics we’ve already covered. I’m sure y’all have been taking notes, and know immediately that I’m referring to Computers 5: Fundamental Chemistry, where I described the process of prodding electrons into giving up photons. I’ll save you the reread, even though jokes about New Jersey never get old. Here are the useful bits:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Thank You


View original artwork here.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Pretty Blossoms, but the Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit


An American citizen, a single mother, worked her way through undergraduate and professional schools. She did all the right things. She networked successfully. At long last, she got a job with a six figure salary at a highly secured facility, in an industry under intense federal regulation.

Employment at such facilities is subject to constant federal scrutiny. The FBI takes the security clearances very seriously, and apparently routinely monitors indicators of risk, of possible compromise. We should all want this, because very bad things could happen if an employee in the right position was corrupted or coerced, perhaps by blackmail.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Help Wanted at 10 Downing Street


View original artwork here.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Memorial Day Weekend “To Do” List


You have been bombarded with messages about sales, specials, and entertainment opportunities for this weekend. Please add the following items at the top of your list for the weekend, slipping the big sale a little ways down the page.

If you have not seen the HBO movie Taking Chance (included in Amazon Prime, available elsewhere), watch it. Have a box of tissues or a couple hankies handy. If you had other entertainment plans, watch this trailer, and reassess your priorities for the weekend:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Critic Series #30: The Walking Dead


Paul Cantor joins me for the second part of our conversation on his new book: Pop Culture And The Dark Side Of The American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, And Zombies. It’s time for the zombies–for the postmodern Western, The Walking Dead, from Shane to Wagon Train to our times of crisis, when we ask ourselves, could we be what we think we are without the institutions and technology that prop us up? Is American character able to withstand the test of the state of nature?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Jews: The Canary in the Coal Mine for the Democratic Party?


A number of posts have been written about Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and their anti-Semitic remarks, including my own. Many of us have speculated on the reasons for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s silence regarding those comments, or their apologies on behalf of these two representatives. I’ve looked into the reasons for their not condemning their behavior, and the results were even more disturbing than I anticipated. (For the record, I don’t separate attitudes about Israel and the Jewish community.)


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Think Globally, Act Locally


A classic leftist slogan, and not even the most harmful. (Not sure which is, but ‘my body, my choice’ springs to mind.) Still, it leads to obvious problems. Let’s try a test syllogism, shall we?

  1. Think Globally: The Kulaks are robbing the Soviet State blind.
  2. That guy Jerry is a Kulak.
  3. Act Locally: Excuse me while I find a short length of rope.

There are three problems with that syllogism. One, the initial premise is just wrong. The Soviet state can rob itself blind, thank you very much. Two, it doesn’t follow that even though Jerry is a Kulak he’s one of the ones causing trouble. And three, what are you doing hanging around with a Kulak to begin with? Do you want to get sent to the camps?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Code Talkers


We are between Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day. The first is a minor holiday intended to honor those serving in our military. The second is a major federal holiday and is intended to commemorate our honored war dead. A recent conversation with a younger veteran led to talk of his grandfathers’ service in World War II, and that in turn led to a broader reflection on a seldom remembered or only partially understood group of Americans in the two world wars.

The younger veteran’s Hopi grandfather was a tank mechanic. His Navaho grandfather was a code talker in the Marine Corps. As we talked, I mentioned recently learning of the original WWI code talkers, a small team of Choctaw Indians in the American Expeditionary Forces. The Native American veteran replied that there were Hopi and other tribes also used as code talkers in WWII. It is just that the Navajos were the largest group and became the center of historical attention.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why America’s Social Media Firms Aren’t ‘Parasites’


It’s hard to be a big tech company these days without somebody rooting for your demise. But some cases are a bit more understandable than others. Like this one: “Bannon says killing Huawei more important than trade deal with China.” I mean, I get it. Former Trump White House adviser and nationalist Steve Bannon wants America to launch and win a Tech Cold War against China. Taking an ax to what might be its most important tech company, a key player in the global 5G rollout, might be a big step forward in such a plan.

But it’s not Americans wanting to shut down just Chinese tech companies. Sometimes it’s Americans going after American firms. “Maybe we’d be better off if Facebook disappeared,” writes Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, in an op-ed for USA Today. And his problem isn’t just with the social media giant run by Mark Zuckerberg. According to Hawley, Twitter and Instagram, though oddly not YouTube, are also “best understood as a parasite on productive investment, on meaningful relationships, on a healthy society,” He claims they’ve created an “addiction economy” based on extracting and selling data gleaned from uninformed users. The first sentence of the piece: “Social media consumers are getting wise to the joke that when the product is free, they’re the ones being sold.”


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. What’s Missing from Trump’s China Policy


The Dow plunged 450 points on the opening bell May 6 in response to this presidential tweet: “The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No! The 10% will go up to 25% on Friday.” Economists eye this brinkmanship fearfully. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s global research team, among many others, has warned that a trade war could cause a global recession. Desmond Lachman of AEI notes that there are splash back effects of imposing harsh tariffs. They may succeed in weakening China, but “Any marked slowing in the Chinese economy is bound to have spillover effects on those economies with strong trade links to that country.”

Among those countries with “strong trade links” to China would be ours. Lachman is warning that Trump’s policies may be undermining the strong economy, and that this should worry him looking at 2020. But before we get there, spare a moment to savor the irony of what Trump’s policies have so far achieved on one of his favorite 2016 hobbyhorses — the trade deficit. In 2016, the goods and services trade deficit with China stood at $309 billion (which Trump frequently exaggerated to $500 billion). As of March, 2019, the trade deficit with China was $379 billion — a 23 percent increase.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. QOTD: The Political Scapegoat


“In order to see yourself and your group as all good, you have to project the evil you are unable to acknowledge in yourself onto an external entity: some other group, the ones not like us. The stronger the cognitive dissonance, the more intense will be the projection. The other becomes the embodiment of evil. This then gives rise to the pathology of victimhood and is the ultimate source of scapegoating: ‘It wasn’t us, it was them.’ From this flowed rivers of blood of human sacrifice throughout the ages. They still do today.” — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Covenant and Conversation

In this book, Rabbi Sacks explains how the meaning of “scapegoat” has come to mean precisely its opposite. In ancient times, two identical male goats were selected: one was to be sacrificed to G-d, the other was taken by the High Priest who took the sins of the Jewish people and placed them on the second goat, which was then sent into the desert to Azazel, where the goat would plunge to its death.