ACF PoMoCon #32: Slackers


So I talked to my friend Oliver Traldi about slacking–partly, the music, movies, and attitude of the ’90s, but also the way slacking has been replaced by woke activism, therapy, and work, including in worrisome combinations like Woke Capital. Slacking is what idleness is called in America, where it’s perpetually under suspicion–yet slackers are needed critics of the hyper-activity and restlessness of our times. Further, Socrates was a slacker!

QOTD: C.S. Lewis on Picturing Hell


“We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.” – C.S. Lewis

I guess this means we must picture Hell as Twitter.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and guest co-host Kerry McDonald continue our celebration of Black achievements with Terry Teachout, drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, and author of such books as Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington. They explore how Louis Armstrong became such a brilliant, internationally beloved musician, and the indispensable genius of the distinctly American art form known as jazz. Teachout talks about the influence of Armstrong’s roots in New Orleans on his long career spanning several decades, from the Jazz Age of the 1920s-30s into the 1960s with his #1 hit, “Hello Dolly.” They then turn to Duke Ellington, described by Teachout as the greatest jazz composer of the 20th century, whose works were complex and ingenious, yet accessible, and whose demeanor was polished and elegant. Best known for classics like “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Mood Indigo,” he led the 1920s-30s-era orchestras at the famous Cotton Club. As a writer and former jazz musician himself, Teachout offers insights into what educators, students, and aspiring young musicians can learn most from these widely contrasting giants of jazz about their craft, as well as about race relations in early 20th-century America. The interview concludes with a reading from Teachout’s biography of Armstrong, Pops.

Stories of the Week: In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the school district reached a deal with the teachers union to reopen elementary and middle schools in March, after 10 months of remote instruction. Is there a correlation between school reopening and factors such as the strength of union leadership, or competition from private alternatives? Colby College in Maine will be the first small liberal arts school to launch a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) institute, that will integrate machine learning and big data into its instruction and research programs. AI could change teaching and learning forever – presenting both challenges and opportunities.



“Human curiosity,” said Poirot, “Such a very interesting thing. To think what we owe to it throughout history. I don’t know who invented curiosity. It is said to be associated with the cat. Curiosity killed the cat. But I should say really that the Greeks were the inventors of curiosity. They wanted to know. Before them, nobody wanted to know much. They just wanted to know what the rules of the country they were living in were, and how they could avoid having their head cut off or being impaled on spikes or something disagreeable happening to them. But they either obeyed or disobeyed. They didn’t want to know why. But since then a lot of people have wanted to know why and all sorts of things have happened because of that. Boats, trains, flying machines and atom bombs and penicillin and cures for various illnesses. A little boy watches his mother’s kettle raising its lid because of steam. And the next thing we know is we have railway trains, leading on in due course to railway strikes and all that. And so on and so on”

That’s from an Agatha Christie mystery novel, as is clear in the Hercule Poirot character attribution. It caused me to reflect on the course of cultural and political events in America these days and connecting those to my own life. I’m not the most curious person around, that’s for sure, but I have been asked on occasion why I like to read so much, and my answer has frequently centered around my quest to know.

Who Will be Polk to Trump’s Jackson?


About ten years ago I read an interesting biography on James Polk by Walter Borneman. In short, he was Andrew Jackson’s protege and cemented in place the changes that Jackson started. Many of these held, even after the Civil War. Polk and Jackson were opposites with regard to temperament. However, Jackson was a mentor to Polk, both ideologically and practically. Even so, Polk made his own mark, was his own man, and was not a mini-me to Jackson. In many ways, Polk was more ruthless than Jackson. The strength of Polk’s presidency was that many of the changes he established became the bipartisan establishment for decades. Possibly until the rise of the Progressives in the late 19th century.

In my opinion, Trump’s show-biz instincts will come to bear now. He will see that he’s going to be more powerful and more appreciated if he becomes an “elder statesman” for the MAGA set of policies. This will be the political equivalent of licensing his name on other hotels. If I’m right, I suspect that the same Polk-Jackson dynamic will develop. I do not know who it will be, although I have some thoughts. Who do you think and why?

What will the Men with Guns do?


How would the US military react if ordered to suppress large-scale civil disobedience? With Washington D.C. still being patrolled by thousands of National Guard troops and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordering the military to observe a 60-day stand down to combat ‘extremism’ in the ranks, it’s a question that certainly deserves closer examination.

Another reason the issue important is the suspicion with which some people posting around the conservative media-sphere appear to view the American military. They seem genuinely afraid that the US Army and Marines are reincarnations of Caesar’s legions, the Waffen SS, the 300 Spartans, and possibly Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes. Citizens frightened by their supposed protectors can only heighten the already high level of distrust many people already feel towards most American institutions.

The Gadsden Flag: Don’t Tread On Me


It’s hard to miss the Gadsden Flag these days. Although it sprung back into popular American consciousness when the Tea Party first got its legs, this is a flag with a long and storied history. In fact, the flag is older than the United States itself.

Back in 1751, Benjamin Franklin designed and published America’s first political cartoon. Called “Join Or Die,” it featured a generic snake cut into 13 parts. The imagery was clear: join together or be destroyed by British power. But why a snake? Around this time, Great Britain was sending criminals over to the colonies. Franklin once quipped that the colonists should thank them by sending over shipments of rattlesnakes. As American identity grew, so did an affinity for American (as opposed to British) symbols. Bald eagles, Native Americans, and the American timber rattlesnake – the snake depicted on the flag.

It’s a delicious thing, Winston


Epicurious is rewriting its recipe archives to ensure that none of the listed ingredients or dish descriptions cause Harm. Someone might encounter a word from a 1973 recipe that grates against their sensibilities, minces their nerves, adds a soupçon of rage, and they would be shook, and possibly could not even. 

Since July, the small staff at Epicurious, a resource site for home cooks, has been scouring 55 years’ worth of recipes from a variety of Conde Nast magazines in search of objectionable titles, ingredient lists and stories told through a white American lens.

How Much Do We Disassociate Flawed Men From Their Ideas?


Several years ago, my rabbi was arrested on charges of voyeurism. He had placed a secret camera in the bathroom of the ritual bath of our synagogue and captured ~150 women on tape (I was one of them). The story became the biggest in the Jewish world that year, and I found myself at the center of it, as the most public of the victims. (You can read the whole story here)

This is how my attention to sexual scandals from those in positions of religious power came to be. And as such, I read this piece from David French in the Dispatch with great interest about a scandal involving another religious leader, the now-deceased Ravi Zacharias. I also have a personal connection to the story, similar to French, in my friendship with his former spokeswoman, Ruth Malhotra. I’m not as close to Ruth as David (I had to ask David for her number to send a text of sympathy when all of this broke), but David does an incredible job deep diving into the scandal and devoted a great deal of space to how Ruth tried in vain to right the ship.

Coca-Cola’s Diversity Diktat Falls Flat


It is a commonplace of modern rhetoric to exalt diversity and inclusion as a first step toward racial justice. The standard account, widely accepted in political and business circles, insists their combined benefits are unambiguous: a firm’s performance will improve if its employees, suppliers, and customers are composed of individuals from all races, genders, sexual orientations, and general points of view. These diverse persons are not intended as mere tokens but are respected for offering their distinct and valuable perspectives on vital matters critical to corporate and national welfare.

As an abstract matter, it is hard to oppose an employment strategy that generates higher revenues and superior innovation. But once we get down to brass tacks, the overall picture is far more complex. The massive coercion involved in implementing diversity norms was recently revealed by Coca-Cola, which has gone all-in on diversity and inclusion for its more than 700,000 employees: “We champion diversity by building a workforce as diverse as the consumers we serve. Because the more perspectives we have, the better decisions we make.”

It would, however, be a mistake to assume that Coke thinks that it has made good on its key promise. In January, Coke’s new African-American general counsel, Bradley Gayton, laid down this broadside, “Commitment to Diversity, Belonging, and Outside Counsel Diversity,” in which he describes what he perceives to be the abject failure of prior efforts to reach requisite levels of diversity and inclusion at Coke and in the legal profession more broadly. Without a link to a source or statistic, Gayton lashes into the legal profession for being “too quick to celebrate stagnant progress and reward intentions.” Gayton demands specific actions to meet the “crisis on our hands” engendered by a lack of diversity.

Cuomo Receives Special Emmy for Nursing Home Cover Up


Having become the first politician to receive Emmy’s coveted Founders Award for his 111 press briefings in 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will receive a second Emmy for his role as a tough-as-nails Democrat of immense probity who in reality was covering up the fatal consequences of his decision to send Covid-positive patients to recover in upstate nursing homes.

On March 2, Cuomo conducted a media briefing from Manhattan to delude New Yorkers and the public at large about the coronavirus outbreak that was just starting to be recognized as a massive public health threat. The 110 briefings that followed would be aired on CNN, MSNBC, and other fake news outlets.

Cuomo’s lies, angry deflections, and refusal to take any responsibility for policy mistakes have reinforced his image as the kind of governor New Yorkers deserve. Cuomo is especially popular in the state’s urban areas: on Thursday approximately 10,000 people gathered in Central Park chanting “Thank you sir, may I have another” while supporters in Buffalo marched downtown carrying banners that read “Cuomo-Spitzer 2024.”

Humanity’s Inhumanities


Long time no see Ricochet. Long story. Not interesting. I’ve taken to reading the material of many of the journalists who have gotten the boot from the mainstream media (or mainstream media adjacent). Bari Weiss is one of them.

She recently had an article discussing the Gina Carano firing, and then hiring, and her defense of Gina and the possible rethinking of that defense. It’s a good article. You should read it.

No Confidence Vote and an Investigation


“Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.” The January 6 riot and the invasion of the Capitol building in Washington DC were, as a police officer would say, an epic fail. An epic fail in planning and coordinating a defense in a city that probably has the largest presence of different law enforcement agencies in the United States. From Fox News:

The U.S. Capitol Police Labor Union on Monday delivered an “overwhelming vote of No Confidence” on the senior leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police.

Unni Turrettini, lawyer, speaker, consultant and author of Betraying the Nobel: The Secrets and Corruption in the Nobel Peace Prize, joins Carol Roth to talk about the secrets behind the prestigious prize. Unni and Carol discuss why Norway instead of Sweden awards the prize, how a president with little experience could be awarded such a distinction and whether President Trump has a shot at the 2021 prize award. Unni also shares the ins-and-outs of how the prize has moved away from its original purposes and what learnings we can take away more broadly in other aspects of media and politics.*

Plus, a “Now You Know” segment on a very cold natural anti-depressant.

Chef’s Surprise: Taste & See


I’m going to cheat a little bit here and not write about food at all. Instead, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture. In fact, I love it so much that it’s in my email signature.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!”
Psalms 34:8 CSB

Why Conservative Justices Aren’t True to the Constitution


Remember when we were all celebrating Trump’s election because he would have the opportunity to nominate people who were supporters of the traditional understanding of the Constitution? How we were relieved that at least the Court would be dedicated to maintaining the rule of law and the foundations of this country?

As often happens when conservatives are nominated, the results historically have been a mixed bag.

Free Speech Lives! Parler is Back Online.


Parler is back! Seems a bit buggy, but free speech always was. At the moment I can get it on Chrome using my phone, but not on the laptop.

I’ve occasionally toyed with the response I might give when someone is upset that I’m on Parler. I imagine some statement of dismay from a friend or co-worker, something like, “You mean you’re on that website that has extremists, that internet playground for conspiracy theorists?” I lean towards a response along the lines of, “Yes, I’ve been on Facebook for some time.”

Montana Journal V: The Property


In the first three installments, I was preparing for the big move from San Diego to Montana. Part IV found my husband and I and two young daughters at one of our country’s most breathtaking national parks. Now in Part V, we go to the twenty acres of forested property on which we’d hoped to have a move-in-ready house by the time the girls and I came to Montana. Little did I know that our construction journey would have more bumps than a dirt road in springtime. (Read Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here, and Part IV here.)

September 10, 2006

Sam’s Speech from ‘The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers’


Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings trilogy is in my top ten favorites, both in literature and film. We’ve been rewatching the movies this month and watched LOTR: The Two Towers a few days ago. Sam’s speech near the end of the movie is so powerful and moving it still makes me well up every time I watch it. This time around, I thought of the political state of our country today and thought: yes, this.

Why We Need Mozart Now More than Ever


“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”
— Mozart

“In art there is Leonardo da Vinci, in literature there is Shakespeare, in music there is Mozart.”
— Itzhak Perlman

In this age of political unrest and divisiveness, one question stands out: Why is Mozart great?

Poll: Best GOP President of the 20th Century?


Time for a little Presidents’ Day diversion. I wondered who is Ricochet’s favorite Republican president of the 20th Century. I excluded the 19th Century (Lincoln would win running away) and I excluded our current century because of the recency bias (there’s a reason the Most Admired Person polls almost always go to the current president).

Is there a groundswell of support for Gerald Ford? An unexpected love for Warren G. “Regulate” Harding? It is time to make your stand!