Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The NEPA Stranglehold


This month marks the 50-year anniversary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which, when passed, was hailed as one of the key building blocks of the modern environmental movement. When speaking about NEPA recently, President Donald Trump denounced the law. Because of NEPA, many of “America’s most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process.” The “endless delays” generated by this ongoing “regulatory nightmare,” he went on, snatch jobs from “our nation’s incredible workers,” who are unable “to build new roads, bridges, tunnels [and] highways bigger, better [and] faster.” He then offered a suite of regulatory reforms for NEPA that “will reduce traffic in our cities, connect our rural communities, and get Americans where they need to go more quickly and more safely.”

His Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) just published in the Federal Register a detailed and lengthy report that proposes a mix of substantive and procedural reforms to break the logjam. What is most notable about Trump’s proposed reforms is that they are all incremental. They try to tweak through regulation a broken statute instead of working to replace it with a sounder remedial structure, which is the only way to fix the current unsatisfactory status quo.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Trump’s Sins


Because I try to be reasonably self-consistent, I occasionally find myself wondering about the apparent inconsistencies in the way I felt about President Obama and the way I feel about President Trump. In particular, I ask myself why I’m willing to give the latter a pass on so much with which I really don’t approve while being much less lenient with the former.

I wanted to know about the terrorists and bigots in Obama’s past, about his affiliations with socialists, about his speeches to anti-Semitic groups, etc., because I thought that Obama himself was motivated, at least in part, by animus toward the country I love. I have always believed that he thought America is too big for her britches, a country in need of being taken down a notch, too proud and too self-confident — a country that must atone for her sins. I think his past associations hinted at that, and I think he often governed with those motives in mind.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Students in Tehran


If there’s one thing about Iran you were told was impossible, by both conservatives and liberals, it’s this:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Sir Roger Scruton 1944-2020

Sir Roger Scruton

Philosopher, scholar, academic, and perhaps the most articulate conservative of our time, Sir Roger Scruton died this morning, a victim of cancer.

Conservatism, he held, means, above all, protecting what we hold dear—it means conserving. This view made Scruton a champion of freedom (during the Cold War, he smuggled books into Eastern Europe, assisting the Czech freedom movement in particular). It also made him a champion of beauty (read his work on the glories of European architecture), tradition (although never a believer, he admired the Church of England’s music and liturgy), and a patriot of a the most impressive kind (a proponent of Brexit, he devoted much of his final years to explaining, calmly, that centuries of development had given Britain a distinctive character, including a distinctive form of self-government, that was well worth withdrawing from the European Union to preserve).


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘Everything Trump Touches Dies’


ETTD. You’ve seen it here and undoubtedly encountered it elsewhere. Everything Trump Touches Dies.

The great thing about slogans is that they’re catchy, memorable, and spare you the heavy lifting of actually thinking critically about things. “Bush Lied, People Died” is a classic. “No Blood for Oil” is another, as are “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” Repeat them often enough and the ideas for which they’re lazy shorthand seem self-evidently true, and such simplicity is comforting in a disturbingly complicated and nuanced world.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Winter and Summer Songs


As we variously huddle in, dig out, or get on with the new year, here are a few popular music tunes from the late 20th Century, the start of a soundtrack. I invite your contributions in the comments. Or offer up a few tunes of your own, in the same genre or other genres! There are plenty of days left in our monthly theme “Winter of our Discontent,” so feel free to express yourself! Let’s start in 1966:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. When Ricochet Speaks


Then there was the time back in my radio days —1996, I believe — when my charming cohost, Sydney J. Michaels, volunteered her opinion that, “Dave, you have a face for radio.” She was quick to add that I had the voice for it as well, which was very kind of her. And judging from recent listener trends (the number of downloads of “The Dave Carter Show” has increased nearly 1,000 percent in the last 60 days alone), it seems that a rapidly increasing number of you share Sydney’s assessment about what you’re hearing, which quite honestly leaves me happily shocked, humbled and grateful beyond words.

What’s even more important, of course, is that I hear from you. Which is why I followed closely the responses to Blue Yeti’s New Year’s Eve post, “2019 Ricochet Focus Group,” wherein he asked several questions of our members. One of those questions had to do with the podcast offerings at Ricochet, and your comments and suggestions were quite insightful and intriguing. A member who goes by the username, ToryWarWriter wrote:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Overplaying the Weak Hand


If people keep getting away with outrageous behavior, if their provocations and incursions against decency and order are tolerated, for whatever reason, they begin to think that they’re in control. If their followers and those around them reinforce that impression, they risk growing deluded about their own authority and power.

Appeasement makes people foolish. Yes, it makes the appeaser seem weak, but it also misleads the appeased into imagining that they hold all the cards, and encourages them to raise too fast and bet too much. They begin to believe their own bluffs.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: “Bless Your Heart”


“And should life get dicey, I have a couple surefire strategies for coping. You can say almost anything with both strength and dignity if you start with, ‘With all due respect.’ And a well-timed ‘Bless your heart’ will keep your enemies guessing. So live your life with grit and grace. Count your blessings. Love your family. And remember: Even on our worst days, we are blessed to live in America.” — Nikki Haley

Every time I think of these two comments, I can’t help smiling. The “Bless your heart” comment is apparently one she uses in a sardonic way, Southern woman-style. She said it to President Trump after he attacked her during his first Presidential campaign when she wasn’t yet supporting him. The “With all due respect” comment, if I recall correctly, was her reaction to Larry Kudlow, after he publicly called her “confused” because he was unsatisfied with something she reported. It wasn’t his best moment, and she wanted him to know it. Eventually, she persuaded him that he had to publicly correct the record.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Blizzard of ‘78


It was the most catastrophic storm to hit Massachusetts in over 200 years. And I was caught smack-dab in the middle of it.

To provide a little background, my husband and I moved to MA in 1977. I grew up in California, so although I could visit snow in the mountains, I’d never lived in a snowy locale.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Escalation: US Launches New Iranian Offensive


The United States is launching a new offensive against the Iranian regime, in hopes of further destabilizing that country’s tyrannical government through non-military means. Though details of the offensive are classified, a high-ranking defense department official spoke anonymously about the new initiative.

We don’t talk about it much, but the defense and intelligence agencies sometimes work together on what we call psychological operations, or psyops. These are behind-the-scenes efforts to confuse, mislead, intimidate, and demoralize the enemy, to reduce his effectiveness as a fighting force and, sometimes, to encourage regime change. It’s really that regime change we’re after in Iran.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Justice Long Delayed: Sentencing in Brian Terry’s Murder


On December 14, 2010, Brian Terry was murdered. Barack Obama and his willing accomplice Attorney General Eric Holder put the gun in the killer’s hand. They did so for the real purpose of subverting the Second Amendment, creating such ugly facts on the ground in Mexico that they could jam through federal gun bans. The facts on the ground ended up boomeranging in the Arizona desert, and the cover-up was on. Wednesday, 8 January 2020, in a courtroom in Arizona, the sixth man was sentenced in the murder of Brian Terry. The Arizona Republic has the story:

U.S. District Court Judge David Bury sentenced Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes to life in prison. U.S. prosecutors accused him of being part of a five-men “rip crew” that robbed smugglers once they crossed the Arizona-Mexico border.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Cultural Sites Are No Crime


It should not be surprising that even commenters on Fox News would miss the obvious. President Trump tweeted about having 52 targets to match the 52 American hostages seized and held by the Khomeinist regime at its founding. He included the word “cultural” to describe at least one of the targets. Why is no one seeing the obvious here?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Winter of Discontent Prolonged for Dictators?


The pattern of precision strikes this past year against ISIS leaders, the IRGC Quds Force commander, and one or more senior proxy militia commanders not only has put the Khomeinist regime on notice but also serves as a useful object lesson to Little Rocket Man, Kim III. Notice that the promised “Christmas surprise” never arrived through the full 12 days of Christmas. Whatever Kim’s calculations, the American military just reminded him, and everyone else, that there is nowhere the eagle’s talons can’t strike.

Chris Wallace asked Secretary Pompeo if impeachment trial talk was weakening the president’s hand in foreign policy. Pompeo’ deadpan answer: “You should ask Soleimani.” Kim has enjoyed a family tradition of acting the mad dog and getting thrown nice meaty bones time after time. Suddenly he has an opponent who gets showmanship and high-pressure negotiations. And the man just had a senior official in the old axis of evil snuffed out, an official all had believed untouchable; off-limits as the game was being played.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: We Left the Playground Long Ago


“Intelligent people tend to talk about the facts. They don’t sit around and call each other names. That’s what you can find on a third-grade playground.” –Ben Carson

Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, seemed to have everything working against him when he was growing up. In spite of having poverty as an excuse to fail, his mother demanded that he read and study. As most of us know, he became a world-renowned neurosurgeon. Eventually, he became well-known in Conservative circles and was selected to serve as a cabinet secretary by Donald Trump.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. My Message to Iran


If I had my druthers, the U.S. would deliver the following message to Iran, and would back it up with corresponding kinetic engagement:

Dear People of Iran,


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. California Wrecks Its Gig-Economy


The economic law of unintended consequences should serve as a cautionary note for anyone wishing to enact lofty, far-reaching social legislation. The intended purpose of such legislation is typically laudable: It is often to protect disadvantaged groups unable to fend for themselves against potential exploiters. But such legislation backfires by ignoring its unintended consequences. No legislative initiative in the realm of economic and social relationships can advance the position of a protected class unless it also imposes costs on the groups with which it does business. Stressing the intended consequences ignores the countermeasures to which other groups will resort to minimize the impact of the legislation. In the end, by shrinking the economic pie, both sides are left worse off.

This proposition is particularly relevant in labor contracting, where the language of exploitation is never far from the lips of today’s most aggressive reformers. Exhibit A is the fighting words of Lorena Gonzalez, a progressive Democratic assemblywoman from the San Diego area who, in September 2019, led the successful drive for the passage of Assembly Bill 5 (AB5). That legislation is now reshaping the California economy for the worse by forcing the reclassification of many independent contractors as employees.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. When We Retreat from Progress: Nuclear Power Edition


Nuclear Power PlantThere’s a special word — such an important word — right in the final paragraph of the new NBER working paper “The Private and External Costs of Germany’s Nuclear Phase-Out” by Stephen Jarvis, Olivier Deschenes, and Akshaya Jha: “Trade-off.”

Yup, trade-offs exist. And their reality is something that policy activists tend to ignore, but policymakers must eventually confront. No such thing as a free lunch. No something for nothing. Here’s the nuclear power trade-off identified by those researchers:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Don’t Forget the Strong Horse


When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will naturally want to side with the strong horse. When people of the world look upon the confusion and atheism of the West, they see that Islam is the strong horse.

These were the words of Osama bin Laden; they were prescient after 2001 and are still relevant today. In all the discussions about killing General Suleimani of Iran’s Quds Force, the focus has been on challenging Trump’s authority to have him killed and the possible reaction by Iran to the strike. Left out of the discussion is an understanding of the Arab and Islamist mentality and how we should take that into account now and in the future.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How to Decide When Blowing Someone Up Is the Right Thing to Do


It isn’t always obvious.

Of course, a priori (that’s Latin for “before we know better”), we probably want to assume that blowing someone up is not the right thing to do. This position has among its many advantages the virtue of complying with Rabbi Hillel’s famous statement of the Golden Rule: “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to another.” Most of us would consider being blown up to be “hateful” (I don’t think that’s too strong a word), so we should advocate the blowing up of others only sparingly. That just seems like good sense to me.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Creative Destruction, the American Way


The Republicans have been “over the target” for three years, led by President Donald Trump, and that’s a great outcome. Their efforts have been hit and miss (such as not getting a healthcare bill and immigration bills passed). But it’s been clear for a while that the Democrats’ hysterical and irrational behavior is an indicator that the swamp is being drained, bit by bit.

For many of us, watching this slow, chaotic process unfold is unnerving. So much can happen while policies, traditions, and plans are being disassembled. Yet this slow-motion unfolding, when studied carefully, is encouraging for the future.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. What I Love About Ricochet: No $exting


@blueyeti promised us in Ricochet’s recent Focus Group that “We also do not sell your email addresses or anything else to third parties even though we get asked about it on a regular basis.” As testimony to how good Yeti’s promise is, let me share what happened right after I subscribed to some other well-known right-wing outlet (which shall remain nameless) just this fall. I’ve been a Ricochet member for years. And for years, the partisan demands on my money have been negligible. Few emails, no texts. Life was good. Then, I signed up at that other right-wing outlet:

Now random politicians won’t stop $exting me. You know what I’m talking about. $exting. Those endless texts demanding money, burning up your phone faster than you can block them. Various personas claiming to be “Newt” or “Mitch” or “Scalise” take credit for sending them, though it’s hard to imagine the sender as anyone other than some pitiable peon of a staffer or intern, unhappily grinding out the wheedling that’s below everyone else’s pay grade.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Lebanon? Wasn’t This About Iraq? A Brief Note to the Perplexed.


I thought it noteworthy that an unnamed Pentagon source claims that “an Army brigade” has been put on alert for Lebanon:

Around 5,200 American troops are based in Iraq to train Iraqi forces and help in the fight against Islamic State group militants. Defense officials who discussed the new troop movements spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision not yet announced by the Pentagon. A Pentagon official who was not authorized to be identified said the U.S. also had placed an Army brigade on alert to fly into Lebanon to protect the American Embassy. U.S. embassies also issued a security alert for Americans in Bahrain, Kuwait and Nigeria.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Winter Turning to Summer of Discontent?


There is a useful fiction that “politics stops at the water’s edge,” but that has always been only a fiction. So, we should not be surprised that politics drive divergent responses to the death of a terrorist mastermind, an actual general, with a real uniform, in the “terror war.” At the same time, we should be cautioned by the contrast between the opening lines of Richard III and the end. It was not just a rapid change of political weather, but also of the seasons, as winter turned to summer only to turn back to winter for the house of York.

Remember that the line after “now is the winter of our discontent” is “made glorious summer by this sun of York.” At the time, the Duke of Lancaster and the supporters of his house, might have said, “now is the summer of our repose made gloomy winter by this storm from York.” So it has always been with political power. “Can’t we all get along?” Not when there are even the smallest stakes (see Henry Kissinger’s (?) snark about academic internal politics).


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Journalism: The Obama Era vs. the Trump Era


CNN reports that “President Trump dined on ice cream as news of the air strike broke.”

Meanwhile, we still don’t know what President Obama was enjoying for dinner as our Ambassador and aides died in Benghazi.