How Long Will the Ammunition Shortage Last?


If you’re like me, you’re extremely frustrated about the difficulty in finding ammunition for your guns. The shortage is becoming a long-term problem, and those of us who like to keep our skills honed are finding it difficult to practice. The situation is dire and is predicted to last through 2021:

One Scottsdale, Arizona, based ammunition manufacturer, Ammo Incorporated, is currently facing an $80.1 million backlog in orders despite working around the clock.

Voting Act Doesn’t Deliver ‘For The People’


The “For the People Act” (FTP), designated HR 1, is by far the most comprehensive federal voting rights act ever proposed. The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on January 4 and passed there along strict party lines two months later—220 for and 210 against. This divisive legislation represents a concerted effort by the House Democratic majority to consolidate and build on its gains from the 2020 election cycle. Its unabashed supporters, such as New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, hail the legislation as “a roadmap to an inclusive, diverse, and equitable democracy.”

While there is much to criticize about the act’s hamhanded efforts to expand the regulation of campaign finance and disclosure requirements, I will concentrate on the FTP’s effort to organize a federal takeover of the electoral process as it applies to members of Congress and the president via the Electoral College. Its proposed changes are manifold. The FTP would mandate an expansion of automatic registration and same-day voting. It would create a two-week early-voting period and extend the franchise in federal elections to all former convicts. Finally, it would allow those citizens who lack any appropriate photo ID to gain access to the polls with sworn affidavits to their identity.

For all its ambition, FTP is vulnerable to both constitutional and administrative challenges. On the former, the new legislation appears to treat states as extensions of the federal government. By dictating the kinds of rules and regulations that states must adopt in order to comply with federal law, FTP may intrude on state authority to conduct elections. In addition, the act raises a host of practical problems, including the need for dual administration of state and federal requirements of the same election.

H.R. McMaster’s ‘Battlegrounds’ a Very Good Second Book


Retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s second book, Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, while mostly well researched and clearly argued, will not have the institutional significance of his first book Dereliction of Duty, written as a young Army major. If you heard little of Battlegrounds after its publication, that is to McMaster’s credit and our media’s continuing shame. General McMaster kept his honor clean, refusing to put himself out on the same corner Bill Kristol and John Bolton have been working. This is a work well worth your consideration. At the very least, take a look at the brief video summary of his central claim: American long-term failure in foreign policy comes from “strategic narcissism” and a lack of “strategic empathy.”*

“Strategic empathy” refers to the conscious effort to understand the viewpoint, the motivations, of others, rather than projecting assumptions and motives the observer prefers, for whatever reason. “Strategic empathy” is presented as the alternative to wishful thinking across administrations. McMaster is using “strategic empathy” as a term of art, limited to understanding/ taking the other’s position and claimed motivations seriously, not sympathizing. McMaster advances his vision for a more successful foreign policy through country case studies, most importantly addressing Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea. In each case, he names names and cites failures across multiple administrations of both parties.

McMaster points to foreign policy scholars on the left and right arguing for a deterrence policy with a nuclear Iran. He says it is foolish to suggest that deterrence might work with a set of leaders and at least a significant population that deeply believes in the Shia emphasis on supernatural victory through their own blood. Iran’s religious-political leaders believe in “victory of blood over the sword.” This linked text points to official propaganda seriously asserting that America was defeated by killing the Iranian top terror master. His blood, being spilled, supernaturally created victory for the Iranian revolution. Take them seriously, rather than dismissing it as spin, and you see that under no condition can they possibly be allowed a nuclear weapon.

Choose Optimism


What if I told those of you who are “realists” or “pessimists” that changing your worldview, particularly about the current state of the United States, could help save the country? I know, I know. Sounds like the statement of a dedicated optimist. But if you will bear with me, I’ll make the argument that it is possible to change our worldviews (which often determine what we say and do) and it is a worthy endeavor.

First, let me provide my understanding of these words: realist, pessimist, and optimist. A realist has an “inclination toward literal truth and pragmatism.” I would also say that in many ways, a realist can practice either optimism or pessimism when he looks beyond the present. The reason for these pairings of beliefs is that it’s nearly impossible for a realist to accurately (in his or her view) see the current situation without looking to the future. Whether your secondary worldview is pessimism or optimism will determine whether you are hopeful for this country or are assuming the worst.

Why Speak Up? Why Bother?


In the most recent Federalist Hour podcast, Tales from the Frontlines of the Woke Revolution, hostess Evita Duffy interviews Jason Hill, a DePaul University professor of Philosophy. Professor Hill has come under fire for stating the obvious truth in an unambiguous way, when he said that it was wrong and unfair to women to have male athletes competing against female athletes.

He’s right, and he’s unapologetic about it. That’s enough both to earn him the scorn of the Woke left and to make him a target for their speech suppression and cancelation efforts. I applaud the Professor for standing firm and exhibiting the spine almost wholly lacking in the invertebrate halls of academia. I know little of what he thinks on any other topic or issue, but am completely with him on his criticism of transgenderism (which I think to be absurd nonsense), and more importantly on his defense of both western civilization and free speech.

How Many Times Have You Read the Bible?


While driving in my car last week, I was listening to talk radio. A caller was having a conversation about Donald Trump, and he made the following comment: “I’ve read the Bible four times, from beginning to end.” I felt my forehead wrinkle in puzzlement, wondering about the point he was trying to make. And then I realized he was trying to add credibility to his comments by his reading of the Bible. Four times.

I wasn’t impressed.

From my viewpoint, a person could read the Bible one hundred times and not really learn anything. The teachings don’t necessarily penetrate a person’s soul unless a person fully embraces and integrates the teachings into his or her life. I believe that outcome is true for Christians and Jews. We are so fortunate for those people on Ricochet who are not only deeply religious and virtuous, but can quote from the Bible because they have engaged it as a means to live a moral life. But there are also those people, such as some TV evangelists, who can preach the Bible and live a life of decadence.

On the dissipation of confidence


Now and then you read a piece that doesn’t just hit the bullseye, it produces paragraph after paragraph that cleave the arrows already quivering in the center of the target. Describing the enervated modern mind, Canadian essayist and poet David Solway says:

One detects a certain frivolity of mind, the readiness and even eagerness to capitulate to a prevailing orthodoxy, in effect, a superficiality of thought, a dwindling of intellectual range, a loathing for the things we ignorantly take for granted and a perverse desire to see them taken from us.

Taking Wisdom Where You Find It


A movie I didn’t think of in response to the recent Guilty Pleasures thread, but wish I had, is Serenity. It’s a pretty decent little science fiction flick based on the short-lived television series Firefly, which I also enjoyed.

There’s an iconic scene in Serenity in which the spaceship captain, Malcolm Reynolds, resolves to expose a crime despite a deep conspiracy to keep it silent. I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but the gist of it is that Reynolds is about to defy the government, and he’s telling his crew that he wants them to join him in the effort. He delivers a little speech which culminates in this:

Achieving Peace through Massive Superiority


Thomas S. Power, the Strategic Air Command’s leader in the late 1950s and early 1960s was easily caricatured. The ultimate bomber baron, he was routinely mocked as a warmonger. Dr. Strangelove’s General Buck Turgidson was a parody of Power. After retirement, to ease the path of the fighter mafia in taking control of the Air Force, its establishment tacitly supported criticism of Power.

“To Rule the Skies: General Thomas S. Power and the Rise of the Strategic Air Command in the Cold War,” by Brent D. Ziarnick is a new biography of Power. It provides a more balanced view of Power’s life and his contributions to the Strategic Air Command and to peace. In it Ziarnick overturns many conventional wisdom myths about Power.

Power came from an immigrant family in New York City. Ziarnick traces Power from these origins to his eventual rise to command. Power never attended college, and may not have graduated high school. He scrabbled his way into the Army Air Corps studying to be a flying cadet at night, working construction during the day.

In Defense of the Burqa


I never expected to be writing this but, after a lot of thought on the subject, I think I’ve grown to understand the value of this garment, and I’m prepared finally to withdraw my objections and actually encourage women to wear it.

The burqa, for those unfamiliar with it, is the traditional body-covering garb worn by many Muslim women when out in public. I once thought it oppressive, but now think I was mistaken in that assessment because I failed to appreciate the purpose it served.

ACF Europe #13 Afterimage


So here’s Ricochet’s own @FlaggTaylor back on the podcast to talk about Andrzej Wajda’s artistic testament, Afterimage (2016), a movie about Poland’s most famous painter, Wladyslaw Strzeminski, who stood against Communist ideology in art education and was destroyed for it. Communism is gone, this art has survived, but on the other hand, there’s a new ideology canceling art and reducing it to ideology–the militant woke. So–art and tyranny, education, the souls of children.

The Still Small Voice


Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’ He replied, I am moved by the zeal for the Lord, G‑d of Hosts…’ The Lord said to him, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire – a still, small voice. (I Kings 19:9-12)

When we think of powerful winds, many of us think of tornadoes, hurricanes, or other destructive forces. The very strength of these natural phenomena, if we are caught up in them, may bring us to our knees, at least figuratively: we pray that G-d will save us from disasters caused by the violence of these forces.

Giving the JPod Its Due (or, Horton Gaslights a Who)


Despite occasional comments of mine that might suggest otherwise, I’ve always thought John Podhoretz a decent and good-hearted man, obviously bright and articulate (if prone to outrageous and sometimes comic hyperbole).

John made a point in the March 9 Commentary podcast that I thought was perspicacious and worth repeating. I give him full credit for the observation, and nothing I say here adds anything of substance to what he said in the podcast. I’m repeating it mostly for the benefit of those who won’t hear the podcast, and also because I want to reaffirm his observations with my own experience.

Keeping Your Cool on the Climate Debate with Bjorn Lomborg


Dr. Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and visiting professor at Copenhagen Business School. He’s also been speaking and writing about climate science for almost 20 years. In this wide-ranging discussion with Peter Robinson, Lomborg analyzes the Biden administration’s plan to address climate change, lauds a slew of new clean energy technologies that are coming in the next decade, and discusses the upsides—and the downsides—of migrating the world from a carbon-based economy to one based on electricity generated by clean energy sources.

Does China Have a Japanese Economic Future? Overlearning and Underlearning from History.


A few years back, I attended a discussion on US economic competitiveness. Several of the experts had been to this rodeo before. Back in the 1980s, they had been pushing for America to mimic Japan’s obviously (it seemed then) successful industrial policy. If America failed to abandon its more laissez-faire approach, they warned, Japan would surely become the planet’s dominant economic superpower.

It was a view hardly limited to Washington wonks back then. “Japan takes over the world” was a popular theme in movies and television back then, so much so that it has an entry at the TV Tropes website. As the site describes it, Hollywood in the 1980s and early 1990s frequently portrayed a world where America was distracted by the Cold War, and “Japan was quietly taking over the business sector with a seemingly inhuman affinity for technology and a hive-like dedication to work. It seemed that, no matter what we did, we’d all soon wind up working for the Japanese.” This trope can be seen in many films of the era such as Alien, Back to the Future II, Black Rain, Blade Runner, Die Hard, and Rising Sun.

Of course, things didn’t work out as predicted. Japan didn’t take over the world economically or otherwise. The boomy 1980s were followed by decades of stagnation, something reflected in Japan’s stock market. The Nikkei index hit a record 38,957 at the end of 1989 and only returned to the 30,000 level a few weeks ago. “Today, the [Japan takes over the world] trope has been replaced in the Western world with a preoccupation over China taking over the world,” notes TV Tropes.

Righteous Demands


Whenever a person on the political Right hears the word “entitlement,” he or she likely cringes or growls in anger at the images the word creates: those people who believe that the government or the wealthy “owe” them benefits. Included in that list would be free student loans, free cellphones, free services, interest-free mortgages, free money, food stamps, welfare . . . well, the list is extensive, so I’ll pause with these examples. Over the years, the list of entitlements has grown significantly, and the belief that people are owed these entitlements has become ubiquitous in a part of our population.

Those of us, on the other hand, who think that people benefit from working for their hard-earned dollars, are considered selfish, arrogant, and we might as well throw in, racist, too. We’re now learning that the House is developing legislation that would provide “Covid relief,” providing as much as $14,000 per family; unfortunately, it appears a way of instituting a universal basic income program.

Introducing Kite & Key


Admit it: you’re a nerd. Admit it, Ricochet!

No worries — me too. And during my years as a think tank executive, that was always a frustration. People who casually followed politics would ask me how to get a quick understanding of a public policy issue and … I wouldn’t know where to send them.

TV and the major newspapers increasingly focus on the political dimensions of policy fights, without telling you anything meaningful about the substantive debates. But where was I going to steer people? To one of our white papers? To a book I knew they didn’t have the time to read? I got paid to be immersed in that stuff — and I loved it. But these people had lives to lead. They wanted to be responsible, informed citizens, but didn’t have endless free time to delve deep into policy research.

What you cannot say


When I was a kid immersed in comic-book culture, there were a few names that stood tall over the others. Kirby, of course; a deity. Romita. Steranko. 

Marvel produced two horror / supernatural titles in the early seventies: Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness. Original stories and artwork. Didn’t sell well, and eventually they ended up reprinting old monster-of-the-month comics. Fin-Fang-Foom, Grotto, Spoorg, Blorggo, and so on. But the first issue of Tower had a story called “At the Stroke of Midnight,” which was one of the most innovative comics I’d ever seen. All Steranko. (Romita did the cover, though.) From then on his name was associated with the apogee of the sequential arts.

‘Systemic Racism’ a Red Herring in Evictions


Last month, I testified before the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights on the vexed question of “Discrimination in Eviction Policies and Enforcement.” Several months before my testimony, the commission issued a report concluding that the United States “is in the middle of an eviction crisis, one in which persons of color are disproportionately impacted and suffer unequal treatment.” The study further held that the racial disparities in eviction that existed pre-COVID have been magnified since the pandemic struck—such that the eviction crisis has an important civil rights dimension.

The economic impact of the pandemic has been exceptionally devastating in New York, in part because of the severe limitations that Governor Andrew Cuomo placed on economic activities under his broad emergency powers. These restrictions directly hamper the ability of tenants to earn money and pay rent, thereby affecting the earnings of landlords, many of whom are part-time. The question then arises as to what kinds of remedial activities should be taken in both the short and long term.

To the New York State Advisory Committee, as well as many other commentators, the solution is a moratorium on tenant evictions. The committee believes the current moratorium should be kept in place, perhaps for as long as it takes for the economy to return to normal. This assessment is supported by the common assertion that the disparate impact of evictions on black and other minority populations is evidence of an entrenched form of “structural racism” that requires corrective measures. The disparate impact of the pandemic cannot be denied. But in my view, any claim of structural racism (or worse) cannot be sustained.

The Make-Believe Administration


Many ideas have been battling in my brain regarding the Biden administration. In trying to make sense of it, I realized that there was an ideal way to describe what has been going on. For the Left, it’s all make-believe. Whether their actions are practical, realistic, helpful; whether they will improve the lives of our citizens; whether they will make us a stronger and more resilient country—are all irrelevant. It is like watching a child playing with tinker toys, creating funny and weird figures that are fun but meaningless. Or watching them create card castles and then watch how far they can go before the entire structure collapses. When it does, they can always pick up the cards and start all over.

Only playing with the future of our country is not a game.

Dr. Jay Goes Lib


Herewith, our own Dr. Jay Bhattacharya in a discussion with that uber liberal, Naomi Wolf. I note that, whereas during his most recent appearances with us here on Ricochet, Dr. Jay goes tieless–see, for example, this week’s Ricochet Podcast–here he wears both a tie and a jacket. But he’s so ineffably charming here that we’ll let that pass.

Cruising the Ancient Mediterranean in a Modern Cruise Ship


Eric Flint’s Assiti Shards stories are alternate history series where people from the present are cast into the past by shards of time-shifting artwork striking the Earth. It started with “1632,” with a West Virginia small town transposed with space from Thirty Years War Germany. In 2017, a new branch of the series began. In “The Alexander Inheritance,” cruise ship Queen of the Sea gets sent back to the ancient Mediterranean, the year after Alexander the Great’s death.

“The Macedonian Hazard,” by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett continues Queen of the Sea’s ancient voyage. It follows the cruise ship’s adventures navigating the narrow waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the narrow minds of Seleucid leaders attempting to control pieces of Alexander the Great’s disintegrating empire.

The Queen of the Sea won uneasy neutrality in “The Alexander Inheritance,” becoming a floating embassy for the various civilizations ringing the Mediterranean. It hosts passengers from most, serving as a platform where they parley. It also crossed the Atlantic to establish a settlement on Trinidad, from which it extracts fuel to keep the ship going.

The Bad Side of History


I’ve never cared for the phrase the wrong side of history, perhaps because it is so often invoked by progressives to justify the grinding away of traditions and values of which I approve and that I think we will miss. When invoked as a defense of as-yet unrealized ambitions, it’s presumptuous: who really knows, after all, how history will judge the latest transformative social experiment?

Speculating about future history’s take on our times is always a high-risk endeavor. Just ask Martin Luther King Jr. or Theodor Geisel, if you doubt that. Or Andrew Cuomo, for that matter.

Arizonans Are Revolting


Filling the restaurants and small venues in the beautiful outdoor weather. While Lord Governor Ducey talked out both sides of his mouth*, desperately trying to split the difference between Abbott/Desantis and Cuomo/Newsom, the bikers rolled back into downtown Mesa for bike night without permission or Mesa city hall control. Live music from an earlier rebellious era filled Main Street, punctuated by the sound of more Harleys rolling in. It was the sound of freedom.

Beyond the biker crowd, people jammed into every surviving eatery and watering hole, including new ones optimistically opened by small, true entrepreneurs. For the first time in nearly a year, you had to search for parking on a Friday night.

Mystery and Not-Knowing


Recently I had pretty much put aside concerns of not-knowing the outcome of one last test regarding my breast cancer. When the surgeon called a couple of days ago, I was stunned to learn at least part of the results. As I struggled to calm myself (since I was certain the test results would set me free from the possibility of chemotherapy), I realized that I didn’t know a whole lot more than I knew before he called. The results still left me in a state of not-knowing, and I didn’t like it one single bit.

Most people go through life in a continuous state of “not knowing” and don’t even realize it. We don’t know if we will encounter heavy traffic when we go out; we don’t know if it will rain in the afternoon in spite of a sunny forecast; we don’t know if we will catch a cold or get a hangnail. But because these are minor and transient conditions, we don’t worry about them; not knowing is not something we fear because we don’t give it much thought.