Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. For Trump

 

To make it clear, I will vote for Trump in November, waiting until Election Day to mark our absentee ballots. I am a firm believer in having an actual day for voting, instead of the months-long smear that is now the practice.

However, this missive is not for the purpose of examining our current election practices, but to make the case for Trump as I have come to understand the matter. I did not vote for Trump in 2016, mostly because it was not clear to me what his policies might be. Sure, there was the “build the wall” issue and other matters but at the time it did not seem to make a coherent whole.

It did not help that his critics were vociferously against him, mostly assuming that he was not competent, not intelligent enough, would lose interest once in office, and on and on. Moreover, the attacks on his character made him out to be the worst person on earth. Better to elect Stalin than to let Donald Trump in the White House.

Virtually none of his critics, especially those in the Never Trump camp of the conservative faction, were right. No scandal has been manifest in his administration. Certainly none like those of previous presidents. This is not to say that things have been calm. But it is fair to say that the chaos that seems to be the normal state of affairs is largely the ongoing efforts of the critics to bolster their mostly false assessments of him. I take him to be a combination of the locker room towel snapper, always loud and frequently annoying, but still somehow doing well, and of the frenetic, mile-a-minute boss who expects everything now and his way. I have worked for men like that. He seems the type to say he needs a report on X and as soon as you say, “Yes sir!” his mind is elsewhere and if he looks up and sees you, he says, “Well, where is it?” If there has been seemingly tumultuous turnover in the cabinet, it is certainly because he has a clear idea of what he wants but has a hard time convincing those would-be princes to do what he wants.

He has accomplished much. If we do not yet have a sea to sea wall on our southern border, it is not for lack of trying. If there ever was a case for stifling a hyperactive judiciary, it is the fight over funding for a wall. It seems as if every two-bit rent-a-judge in the country feels empowered to frustrate him on this and virtually every other presidential action. And we need not rehearse the awful Mueller probe or the utterly groundless impeachment effort that began even before he took the oath of office.

There are two things that have made firm my choice this election. First, are the astonishing Arab-Israel agreements. It may not be full recognition, but it is something that has not been accomplished for more than half a century. The critics may dismiss it as low-hanging fruit but it is the first step to a real change in the Middle East. For all that, those same critics will not give credit where credit is due. For my part, if the Democrats win this election, it will either be undone completely, leading to decades more of terrorism and violence, or they will cynically claim it as their own and deny Trump, Pompeo, and Jared Kushner the recognition for a truly great accomplishment.

The second significant matter is that of his Supreme Court appointments. Amy Coney Barrett is an excellent choice simply because she will certainly apply the law rather than her personal wishes and the Senate should recognize that without regard to party affiliations. Trump and McConnell are completely within their rights to appoint and confirm her, rather than deferring to the opposition, thus allowing them the opportunity to place another partisan hack on the SCOTUS bench.

It is, however, his handling of the Kavanaugh appointment that earns my greatest respect. Again, there is no need to rehash the story save this. It is best told in the account by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino, Justice on Trial. The ferocity of the opposition to Judge Kavanaugh was appalling. So intense was it that even conservative stalwarts like Senator Ben Sasse began to suggest withdrawing his nomination. Regardless of all that, President Trump was unwavering in his support of Kavanaugh and, of course, ultimately won the day. That staunch loyalty won my admiration and would be enough alone to gain my vote and it speaks volumes about the real character of Donald Trump.

In a recent column, Kevin Williamson (no fan of The Donald, for sure) mused as to what might have been were Ted Cruz been elected rather than Trump. I have news for Kevin and all the anti-Trumpers in the conservative world: It would not have been one bit different. No one who defeated Queen Hillary would have escaped the wrath of the left. To be sure, Cruz, or any of the others who could not overcome Trump, would have conducted themselves differently. The reality is that, as with the Kavanaugh debacle, the real goal was to control the office. Trump could have appointed the Pope to the Supreme Court and the response would have been no different. Nor was there any presidential candidate who would have been even slightly acceptable to the left.

For all this, and my intended vote, this election is not as significant as the pearl clutchers might think. Trump’s chances do not look good at this point. If he fails, the Democrats will pursue court-packing, statehood for DC and Puerto Rico, and all the rest of the baggage. If he wins they will be back in 2022 and 2024 with the same agenda and maybe more. They will pursue it until they succeed, or until the right finally gets its act together and realizes that more is needed than winning the next election. Rather than shedding crocodile tears should Trump lose, the conservative punditry should be explaining the consequences of the Democrat agenda and persuading the voters that these are bad ideas and more than just election gimmickry.

For all of the above, I will vote for Trump on November 3. I think you should, too.

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Biden Insider Tony Bobulinski Provides Trove of Documents to Senate Investigators Biden family insider Tony Bobulinski has provided a trove of documents to U.S. Senate investigators from the Senate Homeland Security and Senate Finance Committees, Breitbart News has learned. Bobulinski, the recipient of one of the emails retrieved from Hunter Biden’s laptop, went public on […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. QOTD: Mediocrity is Over-Rated

 

Budowsky: Chief Justice Roberts can rescue democracy | TheHill

The people I can’t stand are those who strike a delicate balance between logic and absurdity and congratulate themselves for not being extreme.” – Thomas Sowell

Chief Justice John Roberts, who balances his logical decisions with absurd ones, added to the absurd half of his ledger with his refusal to issue a temporary stay on Pennsylvania’s violation of its own election laws. After all, it is only a closely contested swing state; one that could decide the presidential election.

Pennsylvania has decided to accept mail-in ballots as late as three days after Election day, without a legible postmark. This will give dishonest vote counters three days to determine how many votes they need to manufacture to get their desired outcome.

Pennsylvania law states that ballots must be in by 8:00 pm on Election Day and be properly postmarked. The State Supreme Court decided to ignore that law.

Pennsylvania Republicans (and only Republicans) petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a temporary stay against the decision by the Pennsylvania Court. A stay would have required five votes by SCOTUS. It got four. The Chief Justice voted “No” without explanation.

Chief Justice Roberts’ defenders say he maintains a “balance” to protect the reputation of the Supreme Court. Otherwise, people might think the court is “partisan.”

It is an interesting concept. Making bad decisions to protect your reputation. Lifetime tenure was supposed to prevent that.

Some say Roberts is afraid that the Democrats will pack the Court if he makes too many decisions against them. The Democrats are threatening to pack the court anyway, for reasons that have nothing to do with the Chief Justice. In other words, Chief, it didn’t work.

Also, when one strives to maintain a “balance” like that above, he or she will lose the trust of others. According to an article in National Review, neither the liberal nor the conservative Justices trust Mr. Roberts on second amendment issues, which is why they can’t muster the four votes necessary to hear a case.

The Supreme Court sat on the Pennsylvania petition for three weeks before rendering the decision. The internal discussions must have been frustrating for a sane person to hear.

When it comes to reputations, Chief Justice Roberts, there is no substitute for doing the right thing. Be bigger.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Did You Say “Politicization of the Vaccine”?

 

It seems that the governor/dictators of New York and California this morning have indicated that they will question the safety of any vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus that is approved, and they will require State approval before the vaccine may be given to their citizens subjects.

Trump Derangement Syndrome now governs whether any new vaccine will be approved in New York and California. I am waiting for the rest of the blue states to do the same. The states above say they are worried about the politicization of the vaccine, when they are the ones doing it! They are stating that they will potentially harm their own citizens, especially the elderly who might most benefit from a vaccine, in order to deny President Trump some sort of “victory.” This is evil.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Anachronistic Costumed Nerds – RenFaire in the Time of Plague

 
A RenFair captured in a single photo

I majored in History and Secondary ed, with an English minor… and I carefully tuck all that away when I go to Renaissance fairs. It is a lot easier, that way, to just roll with the anachronisms and have fun. One of the regular acts that comes through Ohio, The KamiKaze FireFlies, sells t-shirts that say “Just a bunch of nerds, playing dress up in the woods,” and I cannot add to that. This fair (faire?), whose grounds are permanently set up just south of Wilmington, Ohio, is nominally supposed to be set in 1590-ish. So they have a Queen Bess and royal attendants, and of course (during a normal year at least, which this is not) they have jousts and sorta-period-correct games, but any actual adherence to historical accuracy is no more than lip-service and happy accident. In any other year this would have been a massive affair, with long lines just to get into the parking field, long lines of people donning and fixing costumes while queuing up to scan their tickets under the portcullis, long lines for food and drink, and dusty hot crowds cheering on the stage acts and jousts.

This year it was like a ghost town. Tickets were strictly limited and purchased in advance. Half the grounds were roped off and closed, and among what was open there were numerous vacant stalls under the mock towers. But it all felt like a family reunion anyway; I recognized nobody in particular but they were all familiar anyway. The festival had been canceled back at the beginning of August. Then abruptly, near the end of August, they quietly posted on Facebook and elsewhere a partial reversal: for three Saturdays only, on a presale basis, they would open. The tickets sold out in days and the owners added a fourth Saturday. That sold out in 48 hours. We were among the lucky ones, doubly so since the day we got fell the day after our release from our family’s month-long quarantine stemming my Daughter #2’s COVID infection. For us, it was a celebration.

A crowded market street in 2019
The same market street, 2020

Though the grounds are permanent, the fair itself only runs on weekends in September and October. Thousands of people show up having donned costumes ranging from barbarian-ish to Roman, Medieval, Restoration, Georgian, Victorian, Steam-punk, Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien, Wiccan, or whatever they found in the closet (no joke: I saw a rather rotund guy on year in flip flops and a ratty bathrobe, with a cheap plastic “samurai” sword tucked in his belt – to be fair it was a very warm day, but I did not want to have that image burned into my retinas). It’s all cosplay, with all the good and bad you typically find with that. I saw more plague masks this year than last, for obvious reasons (and would have purchased one there too, but the good ones were expensive!), but they’re always about. Of course, masks of all sorts were abundant this year, and clever cosplayers found ways to obey the letter of the law while keeping within the spirit of the festival.

Someone has a case of staff-envy.
Can we talk later? I’ve got a village to plunder.

As for the vendors, they vary from skilled blacksmiths making and selling very real swords and armor, down to hawkers of cheap Chinese spring-steel wall hangers, both selling alongside people making clothing and accessories both for cosplay and everyday wear. Most often it is very well made too, with pride and flair, with only the occasional mass-import stuff (usually toys or overly garish garments). All of the craftspeople can make to order too (though when I asked one blacksmith about a true pattern-welded Norse sword, he made an accurate if anachronistic allusion to trading for a car – the real-deal is not cheap). Many of the craftspeople have web stores or sell at flea markets, but theirs is a business that mostly relies on the impulse, with folks caught up in the spirit of the costumery (I mean, in what other sort of frame would one feel inspired to purchase a chain-mail bra?).

A skilled glass worker

Food and alcohol are abundant, of course, and as marked up as you’d find at any bar, but be wary of the mead as it packs a wallop. The food, for obvious liability, licensing, and tax reasons is carefully controlled and not made by craftsmen. Beer and cider come from very modern cans, bottles, and kegs, though many folks bring their own pewter or horn or wooden flagons, lashed to their belts alongside pouches, knives, and pistols. For some reason, large turkey legs are a popular foodstuff (I think the massive bones make them a “barbarian” thing?), but so are various fried dough confections and anything else you’d find at a fair.

The acts and shows are the sorts of folks you can still find in what circuses are still running – they’re comics and musicians, stunt performers, and daredevils. You usually don’t have to pay to watch their shows, but the performers live on the tips and any merchandise they sell. They all have backstories too. For some, this is a weekend gig while they have “real” jobs, for others this is the job. The Fireflies are a husband and wife act, and they always work in at the beginning that she graduated Summa Cum Laude in English before taking up the vagabond life. This year has been a near run thing for them all. Youtube and Patreon subscriptions helped plug some of the leaks, but for the full-timers this year has nearly done them in. Some have tried what is basically public busking, doing pop-up shows in parks or on street corners, but others have gear and props that just don’t move well. The stunt acts were the hardest hit for that very reason, while those, like the shimmying belly dancers and improve-comic pirate, have had a little more leeway since they have “real” jobs during the week (make no mistake thinking that the stunt folks are somehow not holding “real” jobs – this is their “real” job, and we tip well). There were no jousts this year, sadly. The lists were empty, and the knights were tilting elsewhere.

A double unhorsing, 2019
Empty lists this year

I don’t cosplay (unless “ordinary 21st-century middle-aged guy with camera” is a costume), but my kids do a bit. One of my sisters used to cosplay as well, but a lot of people don’t. This year, over half did, I think because it was their one opportunity as new lockdowns threaten. I don’t really buy any stuff there either for myself (the wife and kids are another matter – #3 came home with throwing knives), mainly because I have enough clutter, but also because I got my swords years ago in other venues, and what I really need is a good scabbard. And I put away the history degree unless I’ve had too much mead.

Death is bargain shopping.

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If it were not for the connotations of the term “RINO” the GOP should drop the elephant mascot and go with the rhino instead. It is more emblematic of the current state of the party led by Donald Trump. Eons ago, the ancestors of the rhino were hyracodonts, critters who came in varied sizes but […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Has Britain Turned the Corner: Is COVID-Prevention Now Killing More than COVID?

 

A recent report from the British government has found that deaths in hospitals and care homes are now running below the five-year average despite the surge in COVID “cases.” However, deaths in private homes are up 30% and most of that is not COVID related.

Is this is the first clear indication of what many have predicted for some time: the policies to combat COVID-19 have created circumstances and conditions that will ultimately kill more people outright and reduce more net life-years than did COVID-19? Delayed medical treatments, isolation, fear, job loss, stress, increased substance abuse, and depression were predictable consequences of an extended disruption.

Mentally disturbed people continue to blame Trump for every COVID death in the USA. Sane people with arithmetic skills now know that nothing that any national or US state government has attempted has made much of a difference in halting the spread of the virus. However, the cause and effect link between lockdowns/shutdowns/closings and a large array of adverse outcomes is going to be far easier to demonstrate for a long time.

We are told we have been merely following: The Science while the actual scientific practice of examining empirical data is screaming out the truth that we have made incredibly, unconscionably bad policy choices that will cost us far more lives than any we allegedly saved.

In some states, the average age of a COVID-related fatality victim is higher than the average expected lifespan age. Instead of circling the PPE wagons around the elderly and vulnerable while otherwise living normally, we decided instead to cause widespread business failures, educational disruption, economic loss in the trillions, along with large-scale unemployment all while wearing non-functional masks. This was our response to COVID and we called it “science.”

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How Long Does It Take to Make Microwave Popcorn?

 

Our boy scout troop is in the middle of popcorn selling season. In August, at the beginning of the sales season, I asked a simple question. “How long does it take to make microwave popcorn?”

They said three minutes or two minutes or even, “there’s a popcorn button on the microwave and it senses when you’re done, so whatever that is.”

They were way off. It takes thousands of years to get to that microwave popcorn. You just need to look beyond that button on the microwave.

The scouts seemed unimpressed, but I explained that they only see the time it takes to make the popcorn in the microwave. I wanted them to think beyond the immediate and understand the foundations upon which the popcorn pops. If you don’t ask questions and think and learn about the past, it could cost you.

It takes one growing season to grow the popcorn kernels that go into a bag. It takes another season before just to grow the seeds to plant to grow the corn that becomes popcorn. There’s all the work to make sure the crops are planted, fertilized, and watered. No one thinks about the work taken to harvest and combine the corn so that it’s ready to be graded and then dried to about 14% moisture from about 35% moisture.

Once dried, Popcorn kernels are mixed with cooking oil, seasonings, and natural or artificial flavorings in a sealed microwave-safe paper bag. The bag had to be specially designed with a metal patched weaved at the bottom of the bag so that it heats evenly and expands from flat to allow the popcorn to expand and let steam out as it pops. Microwave popcorn didn’t even get sold until the early 1980s.

Going even further back, it took someone, probably sitting around a campfire, to see that a particular type of corn would pop. Only the “Zae mays everta” variety of corn can be popped, but, over time, it’s expanded to about 100 different strains of this variety corn developed by people like Orville Redenbacher. The first evidence of popcorn dates to about 3500 years.

Corn was native only to the Americas. The Columbian Interchange brought corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and other crops to Europe, Asia, and Africa, while the Americas received citrus, apples, bananas, coffee, wheat and rice, among others to the Americas. This movement had a great impact on the reduction of hunger and famine as the expansion of food crops diversified.

As food sources became more plentiful and transportation of the crops moved longer distances, corn was sorted and graded for its different uses and sold in larger units. This began the development of commodities markets in places like Chicago. Technology for farming grew over time from human and horse-driven to tractors to GPS-programmed farm equipment where farmers can binge watch Netflix from their air-conditioned planters and combines. The growth of agricultural and transportation markets freed up more people from farming and allowed for the further development of technology and industry that allowed.

Coming out of all of this is the technology that led to cars and airplanes. As airplanes filled the skies, especially during war, you need to think about tracking them in the air. From that comes the development of radar. One day in 1945, a researcher at Raytheon was testing magnetrons, the high-powered vacuum tubes inside radars that produced microwaves, noticed that a peanut butter candy bar in his pocket was melting. He thought about it and started testing how the microwaves affected other foods, including popcorn in a sealed metal box. From this, Raytheon patented the “Radar Range”, the first microwave oven.

Microwave ovens only work if you have electricity. Ancient Greeks were the first to recognize static electricity in about 600 B.C. by rubbing fur against amber, but English physician William Gilbert used the Latin word “electricus” to describe the force that certain substances exert when rubbed against each other. Founding father Ben Franklin did early experiments with electricity. Alessandro Volta discovered that the chemical reactions that could produce electricity and built what he called a voltaic pile or an early electric battery. Within one century, as scientists were learning how to generate electricity, there was a competition between Edison and Tesla to determine if the country would be wired with alternating or direct current.

Over the last century and a quarter, the world has been wired and connected more closely than ever. And, like the scouts, we take it all for granted. If there’s ever an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that takes out the electric grid, we’re going to lose those microwave oven and TVs. We’re going to have to go back and learn things we’ve forgotten like knots, lashings, making a fire in wet conditions, farming, blacksmithing, and a whole lot of things we won’t be able to look up on our phones on the internet.

The time it takes to make microwave popcorn is just a small amount of time it takes to cook the popcorn. We can’t take it for granted and we need to read and learn about the past. We can’t ignore all the time and effort it took to get us to this point in civilization where we can have popcorn at the push of a button.

But really, this is just a long way of saying, contact your local cub pack or boy scout troop and order some popcorn. We need kids who know how to tie knots and lashings and can start fires in wet conditions in case that EMP ever happens.

I’m sure there’s also some poor popcorn kernel who didn’t ask anyone about past sales and didn’t read that you can’t return the unopened cases of peanut butter cup popcorn for credit. By this time, I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to sell you some at cost.

Please.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How Can G-d Murder?

 

Atheists, Humanists, and even the occasional Christian read the Torah and asks whether a deity who destroys the world in a flood and incinerates Sodom and Gomorrah is a G-d who values life for its own sake? In other words: why should we serve or worship a deity who commits mass murder?

Good questions!

To answer them, I’d like to show how the Torah uses a single key word to explain G-d’s point of view. The way the word is used helps us understand how the text both explains mass killings and what G-d expects from every peoples on earth.

The word the Torah uses for mass murder is mashchiss [for clarity I will use this word as the common expression even when the text uses a different form of the same root word]. Mashchiss is used to describe killing off an entire people, generations of people, a form of genocide.

In the Torah the word mashchiss almost always a descriptor for a society; it is only used to describe one individual: Onan. Onan spilled his seed into the earth instead of into Tamar, and in so doing, he denied the world his own descendants, those of Tamar, and his deceased brother.

But Onan, knowing that the seed would not count as his, mashchiss the earth whenever he joined with his brother’s wife, so as not to provide offspring for his brother. (Gen. 38:9-10) 

Indeed, if the earth is supposed to be elevated through the acts of mankind, Onan’s act denigrated not only himself and Tamar, but also the earth itself.

Onan’s example is straightforward. The crucial next step is to understand that the Torah’s use of language is itself a way to link stories together. In other words, when we consider the different places where the Torah uses the word mashchiss, we’ll have comparable examples to the sin of Onan.

When are those times? The first and most prominent is the flood itself, when G-d maschiss the world and destroyed almost all the life on its surface. But mashchiss did not originate with G-d. It was, instead, a human innovation! The flood, which is an act of mashchiss by G-d, was in reaction to mankind first doing the same thing to the earth and all living flesh. Gen 6:11:

The earth became mashchiss before G-d; the earth was filled with hamas. [This last word, hamas, means some kind of moral violence – Gen. 6:2, in the runup to the flood, the Torah tells us that men of renown took/raped the women they wanted. Also see Sarai using this word in Gen 16:5, describing the damage to herself from Abraham impregnating Hagar at her request. Other examples in the Torah include false witness (Ex. 23:1 and Deut. 19:16). It is the same word used in Arabic for the terror organization.]

Note the use not only of the word mashchiss but also of the word for “earth.” The Torah tells us that what mankind does affects the world around us – not just in an environmental way, but also in a moral or spiritual way (which is why the Torah later promises that if man behaves immorally, the land will spit us out.) This is very clear with the flood story: if mankind is corrupting the earth with our violence and selfishness, instead of elevating it through holiness, then we have forfeited our right to life. It happened to Onan, and it happened to the flood generation.

It also happens, in the Torah, to Sodom and Gomorah. Those cities were not merely populated with evil people; they had institutionalized the practice of evil. As we see by Sodom’s response to Lot having guests, it was illegal to host guests, to be kind to others. It also seems to have been a place without true private property, with no legal right to close your door and be left in peace by your neighbors. Then, too, we have a widespread understanding that Sodom practiced sodomy, which agrees with the common use of mashchiss for Onan, a man who wasted his seed.

Sodom could – and was – destroyed not just because it was evil, but because it made evil a requirement. The city made it legally impossible to be good. That made Sodom irredeemable in G-d’s eyes.

Which starts to make some sense. . To G-d, life does not have intrinsic value; it only has value if people use it for good. In the long run, all the living will be dead, sooner or later. What matters is what we do with the opportunities we have. But if we are going to prevent human progress and waste opportunity to improve as individuals and as collectives, then in G-d’s eyes (as described in the Torah) we have forfeited our right to live.

The raw moral lesson is hard to handle in today’s hedonistic environment where the common culture is fixated on sexual self-discovery and realization. As much as we want to think that we have totally free choice to waste ourselves and our lives on drugs or selfish relationships or wasted time, the Torah is telling us that G-d does not, to put it mildly, approve. There comes a reckoning at some point after we no longer try to grow ourselves and our societies.

Mashchiss is a tool in G-d’s hands, a reactive tool that can be deployed after mankind commits evil. Mankind and nature corrupt the earth, and G-d wipes the world out in a global rinse cycle, the Flood. Onan performs mashchiss and he forfeits his life for it. The Sodomites practice it as well, and receive the same consequence.

The next incidence of the word is found describing the runup to the Exodus from Egypt. The Egyptians had mandated drowning Jewish newborn babies. G-d’s response is to mashchiss the firstborn of the Egyptians. Measure for measure, like for like, G-d retaliates only in response to mankind’s evil choices.

How do we avoid mashchiss? It is not merely by not sinning; there are positive acts that spare us:

And the blood on the houses where you are staying shall be a sign for you: when I see the blood I will pass over you, so that no plague will mashchiss you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Ex. 12:13)

The word appears again in the same sequence!

For when the LORD goes through to smite the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, and the LORD will pass over the door and not let the [mashchiss actor]  enter and smite your home. (Translations suggest that this “mashchiss actor” is the Angel of Death, though if we see how the word is used earlier in the Torah, it is clear that while mashchiss is a destructive force, it is neither reserved for G-d, nor unique to this example.)

Got it. Blood on the doorpost. But exactly how does the blood protect us?

The answer is found by seeing that the marked doorposts represent the very opposite of mashchiss – if mankind’s mission is to elevate the earth (using grass for the vegetable kingdom dipped in the blood of the animal kingdom, and elevated upward to become part of the houses and homes that mankind has created), then it is symbolically contradistinct from the practices of the Egyptians. Mankind should choose to use our creative powers for good and not evil, for productive and constructive ends instead of wasted seed and rapacious violence. In other words, we counter mashchiss by engaging in precisely the opposite!

The Torah recognizes that every death affects potential future generations. Mashchiss is closely tied to procreative powers, from the implied sexual immorality of the flood generation and Sodom to the explicit sexual wrongdoing of Onan. Sexual creation is the single most potent biological power mankind has, and choosing to use it for evil denies that we have a productive purpose on this earth. Annihilating the future, as Onan did to his brother’s memory, and the Egyptians did to the Jewish people, means that we have made it impossible for society to improve.

The calling card for the Jewish people is to elevate the world and combine it with our own creative powers (the house and the family within its walls). Which beautifully connects to Onan (who had done the opposite by using biology to break a house), and also connects to the Sodomites who had acted in opposition to growing the world, who had sought to break down Lot’s door (Gen. 19:9). The door and the house are both symbols of building, and family and the modesty within a household. The symbolism of marking the door also counters the violence, rape, and the inability (or refusal!) to hear G-d’s voice characterized by the generation of the flood.

The Torah does not stop here! The central idea of mashchiss in Exodus is most commonly found connected to the golden calf, and the powerful animalistic and sexual symbolism of worshipping that idol:

The LORD spoke to Moses, “Hurry down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted [with mashchiss]. (Ex 32:7)

By worshipping the Golden Calf, we as a people started to regress, to lower ourselves to nature, rather than elevating it. The people had left the ultimate pagan society, Egypt, just a few weeks before. So choosing to worship the calf, and its natural sexual vitality, shows that the Jews had missed the central lesson of the Exodus and the revelation at Sinai.

As Moshe summarizes it later:

And the LORD said to me, ‘Hurry, go down from here at once, for the people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted [with mashchiss]; they have been quick to stray from the path that I enjoined upon them; they have made themselves a molten image.’ (Deut. 9:12)

To which Moshe replies, trying to break the proverbial cycle of violence (or mashchiss):

I prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord God, do not mashchiss Your very own people, whom You redeemed in Your majesty and whom You freed from Egypt with a mighty hand. (Deut. 9:26)

I had stayed on the mountain, as I did the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the LORD heeded me once again: the LORD agreed not to mashchiss you. (Deut. 10:10)

For the LORD your God is a compassionate God: He will not fail you nor will He mashchiss you; He will not forget the covenant which He made on oath with your fathers. (Deut. 4:31)

The sexual connections for mashchiss are also found later in the Torah:

You shall not offer to the LORD anything [with its testes] bruised or crushed or torn or cut. You shall have no such practices in your own land, nor shall you accept such [animals] from a foreigner for offering as food for your God, for they are mashchiss, they have a defect; they shall not be accepted in your favor. (Lev. 22:24-25)

Once again, the Torah makes the connection between mere destruction and the potential for intergenerational loss – the testes of the animal.

The last references in the Torah to this word deal with another way of worshipping nature – creating an idol. The Torah tells us not to make an idol (as we had with the Golden Calf):

For your own sake, therefore, be most careful—since you saw no shape when the LORD your God spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire — not to act mashchiss and make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness whatever. (Deut. 4:15-16)

And

When you have begotten children and children’s children and are long established in the land, should you act [with mashchiss] and make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your G-d and arousing Him to anger. (Deut. 4:25)

It is an echo of the golden calf as well as the flood generation and the quid pro quo nature of the commandments remains. Destruction comes to us when and if we make destructive choices, especially choices connected with intergenerational repercussions and corruption of the land.

Ultimately, the use of the word maschiss throughout the Torah is a constant reminder to us that G-d calls us to elevate ourselves and everything around us. When we do not live our lives in this way, there are serious consequences from G-d.

 

**************

Notes: Other Incidences of mashchiss with explanation:

When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and mashchiss it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. (Ex. 21:26)

The act makes it impossible to heal, to recreate. It has to be an enduring wound.

When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not mashchiss its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city? (Deut. 20:19)

There is an environmental component to this destruction, but also a generational one. The commandment is not about grass, but about trees: it is the things that take time to grow and nurture that matter, that should not be carelessly destroyed. Mashchiss is about attacking intergenerational growth of all kinds. The Torah wants us to recognize the intrinsic value of the things that take time to build.

Only trees that you know do not yield food may be mashchiss; you may cut them down for constructing siegeworks against the city that is waging war on you, until it has been reduced. (Deut. 20:20)

In this example, mashchiss is not categorically forbidden. When it serves a positive purpose (such as winning a war), we can do it. Just as G-d used it as a tool to destroy His enemies among mankind. Indeed, the specific example is interesting: we can mashchiss a tree when we use the wood to build something.

 

 

Near the end of Moshe’s life, the word comes up again, echoing the story of the flood and the golden calf:

For I know that, when I am dead, you will mashchiss and turn away from the path that I enjoined upon you, and that in time to come misfortune will befall you for having done evil in the sight of the LORD and vexed Him by your deeds. (Deut. 31:29)

And the very last use in the Torah of the word, Deut. 32:5, tells us what happens ultimately when we practice mashchiss.

They mashchiss Him and are not His children: blemished, they are a warped and crooked generation.

This is the most radical of all: the text seems to telling us that our mashchiss, which initially (before the flood) filled the earth and all living flesh, can in extremis, even damage G-d Himself!

This is the power that G-d has bestowed upon mankind. We can elevate ourselves, the earth, each other, and even G-d. Or we can do precisely the opposite. This is our choice and our responsibility.

Of course, choices have consequences.

 

 

[another @iwe and @susanquinn production]

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I had a fairly irritating experience this week which is yet to be resolved. I purchased a set of carbon fiber wheel rims in order to build a new set of wheels for my new bike. The rims and hubs turned out to be incompatible, so I had to return both, the hubs to my […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: It’s Not Just About Politics

 

The article in the New York Times, like its companion piece in the Washington Post, is one long dog whistle. Its warning is not about Judge Barrett herself, who will fold into the life of the Supreme Court, but the possibility that others who share or are attracted to her active religiosity might be rising out there in the country to pose a threat to the secular dominance of America’s cultural mores that began some 60 years ago.

The new counter-belief system back then argued that shared community values grounded in religious belief—or virtue of the sort evident in the Barrett family—imposes unnecessary constraints on personal or private behavior.

Why this tension should have divided eventually into liberal versus conservative isn’t immediately obvious. There still are many liberal traditionalists. But it did. So now the possible appearance of a “conservative Christianity” needs to be delegitimized, or canceled, before it spreads. Perhaps it is a sign of the dominant culture’s lack of confidence in the durability of its own value system that its main tool of opposition isn’t argument but suppression and condescension. — Daniel Henninger

This observation by Daniel Henninger grabbed my attention: that the tension between secularity and religion seemed to have divided into the positions of the Left and Right. I agree with him, but I believe the reasons are clear. I believe that the dogma of the Left has rejected most of what the Right stands for: the importance of values, belief in G-d, the sacred, community, responsibility, compassion, and kindness—in other words, everything that religion represents. Of course, the Left has created a religion of its own, one that distorts religious values and creates division, hatred, and violence.

Unless and until we can bring the beauty, benefits, and meaning of religion back into the mainstream, the Left will continue to desecrate its purpose.

Do you see any signs of a restoration of religion in our times?

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. 1950s of the Future: Freedomland vs. Stepford Wives

 

Qu’elle Future!
When the 1950s and early 1960s are discussed by the retrospective experts of academia and PBS hush-toned documentaries, traditional families are generally portrayed as vehicles for an oppressive patriarchy. They are nothing more than little capsules of conformity; individual bulwarks against personal expression and freedom; a suppression of human nature and appetites.

Culture was reflected in the popular radio and television shows at the time. Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Ozzie and Harriet were all shows that seemed to reinforce this notion. Today, they’re used by the progressive left and the radical feminist movement as examples of an oppressive, conformist society. They mean to scare people into thinking this would be America’s future if conservatives had their way, especially if President Trump is re-elected. Women would lose their right to vote! Birth control would be banned! Abortions outlawed!! (Okay, this one wouldn’t be bad) America would be awash in Old White Man power and no one will stop them! But these are just outlandish caricatures of the views of the time.

They had it backward from the beginning. The American trajectory from the 1950s and 1960s was headed to prosperity, equality of opportunity for the sexes, and declining racial disparity. But a funny thing happened on the way from Baby Boom to Woodstock: a growing federal government “safety net” and conscripted cultural conformity. For all the high hopes of a rebellious Hippie Generation – the protests, fighting the Man, and questioning authority – the left grew up and became exactly what they purported to be against. What the left is doing now, is…whitewashing history to advance their own agenda and using fear of a return to a false history to do it.

The Civil Rights movement was well on its way – the support and outspokenness of political and civic leaders together, with a strong foundation in Christian churches helped shift momentum towards equality. And government intervention, like the 1968 Fair Housing Act, actually did little to nothing to help black families rise out of urban poverty. In 1970, 42% of black households owned their homes. In 2017, it was 41%. As for women in the workforce, the number has increased exponentially, as well as the number of women with higher education degrees. But is it making for happier women? Studies show it has not, further, it has created a backlash of sorts and a return to a more traditional view of gender roles in the home.

These trends create a terminal problem for the radical idealism that started in the 1960s through the 1970s. The Baby Boomer generation set out to change the world, and by god they did, just not for the better. The welfare state created a dependent class and the war on families and traditional American values of patriotism, individual freedom, and self-reliance became sources of shame, not pride. If only the Donna Reeds of the suburbs and Alice Kramdens of the cities would unite in burning their bras and kicking their oppressive husbands to the curb – only then would we finally breathe the air of freedom!

But being a contrarian is different from being a nonconformist. The left conflates the two, then uses it to declare their ownership of individuality, human progress, and justified rebellion. What they want to do is claim their political and cultural views of an egalitarian utopia as morally superior, while ignoring basic human nature. It is an impossible task. So they double down on silencing and shaming anyone who dares utter a contrary word to their dogma.

Michelle Obama railed against women who voted for Trump. Hilary called them traitors. Joe Biden stated out loud that black voters who were undecided on whether to vote for him or President Trump “ain’t black.” And Carla Hall, writing an op-ed in the LA Times agreed with him. One needs only to look at the resistance to Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court to understand the left’s devotion to the abortion cause.

The press, too, has closed its collective mind. Instead of indulging intellectual curiosity and holding the powerful accountable to the people, it plays its dutiful part of partisan lapdog perfectly and obediently. Mostly gone are the days of a local street beat, now swallowed by the petty, junior-high catty club of a national press corps and cable news. News has always been big business, but now it’s far more business than news. The explosion of social media has transformed the enterprise into a multiple platform superhighway of information into a narrow road of approved viewpoints and carefully curated narratives. The side that chided Nixon for paranoia and witch-hunts are now engaging in the very behavior they once rebelled against. They’ve turned the Red Scare on its head and play the part of Walter Winchell finding Russians under every voting booth. “Russia!” has nearly overtaken the left’s use of bigot as a catch-all accusation to into which they dump any truth they find inconvenient.

It’s telling, that not only do self-proclaimed Progressives continually mischaracterize traditional gender roles. Being the keeper of a home is one of the most important and crucial responsibilities for the continuation of our strongest ties: that of the family. The left likes to use women who gravitate towards traditional household roles as depressed and neglected. But that’s usually the situation in which modern feminists find themselves. Even in 1958, The Donna Reed Show episode (aptly titled “The Male Ego”) Donna’s husband laments the modern housewife, “What happened to the days beyond recall when a man made decisions? Women control the PTA. They own 70 percent of the nation’s wealth. They dictate where we live, how we live…Today the PTA, tomorrow the world!” this doesn’t sound like a man with a tight grip on the goings-on of his wife.

In 1972, Ira Levin wrote the satirical novel The Stepford Wives, and it was immediately adopted as the cause around which a generation who thought themselves counter-culture warriors rallied. But the left only wants to ‘stick-it-to-the-Man’ if they aren’t the Man. They would be burning their face masks like they burned their bras. They would object to a public school system that indoctrinates instead of educates. They would truly welcome contrarian ideas and hypothesis about climate. They would recognize the undeniable science about the unborn. They would welcome the heterodox views of minority groups, who want to make freedom, not government dependency, a priority and reality in their lives.

When the post-political elites (they are above the petty politics of debate and know liberalism is the only accepted ideology) discuss traditional mores, it’s with the poison tongue of disdain. They robotically repeat condescending tones, reassuring themselves of their faultless views. They are unable to see the nuance in the sexes because they have banished the idea from their mind. They are unable to accept the dignity of work and independence because they see themselves the savior of the minority underclass.

This is how post-modern ‘art’ sells in the millions of dollars: that something so hideous could demand the fawning admiration of an elite class that should, well, know better, considering they’re supposed to be the arbiters of fine taste. And I wonder if they truly believe a post-modern ink-spot to be the most profound art since the Mona Lisa – or are they just lemmings in a pop-culture driven crowd, moved only by the sheer force of their depraved needy acceptance of their well-heeled peers? It is less about strength in the herd, than acceptance in the herd.

It’s similar to organizations like the NBA or companies like Sony publicizing support for BLM or espousing critical race theory nonsense. It would be silly if it weren’t so dangerous. Do these companies comply with the radical left as they fawn over Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog because they believe it, or because they seek immunity from cancellation in the herd? They bop along in their privileged world, unable to hold or accept views opposed to their own.

I think they’re more Stepford than they will ever acknowledge. They conform not because they think they’re right, but because they’re afraid they’re wrong.

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(Announcer) “Hello, my name is Gary McVey. I’m a Ricochet member, just like you. I’m here to ask you to help put a stop to one of the most pernicious trends in American politics, Overuse of Stock Shots”. (Images) A tracking shot inside a museum. Old movie cameras. World War II era searchlights. Costumes hanging […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Hand Holding

 

“Hands are made for holding.” – Corina T., Nevada

I usually don’t get Dove chocolates but I saw some in the dollar store, had a craving, and picked up a bag. I’m a little aware of the quotes Dove includes inside the wrappers. Some find them insipid and rant against them. Others find them humorous. I enjoyed the above pre-Chinese Flu quote on my wrapper. With St. Fauci saying that shaking hands will be a thing of the past, this is a nice reminder that people need a human touch.

Now to class it up a bit from a quote on a Dove wrapper. I wrote this post last week when I bought the chocolate. Yesterday, @aaronmiller shared this following quote in the PIT and it fits the theme.

“A handshake is a mystery or a sacrament; there is something visible about it, namely, the clasping of hands; there is something invisible and spiritual too, namely, the communication of friendship.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Healthcare Metric-Industrial Complex

 

Brady Harold never knew what a miracle he was.

After his car accident, he was rushed to his nearest trauma center. Unconscious, the trauma team inserted a breathing tube and resuscitated him. A CT scan of the brain revealed an epidural hematoma, life-threatening bleeding on the brain. Dr. Oliver, the local neurosurgeon, was called in and deftly removed the blood clot, preventing a catastrophic brain injury.

Brady underwent his recovery. Dr. Oliver rounded on him daily, carefully documenting his progress in his clinical notes.

“Dr. Oliver, we have to talk about your notes,” the administration would say to him. He would be called into a meeting where they highlighted how his documentation is sub-par. There were six members of the coding team, all present at the meeting. Two were MDs and four were RNs.

What was his offense? Not making Brady Harold look sicker in his notes.

“When you state his CT scan showed ‘swelling,’ we can’t risk-adjust for that. You need to use these terms approved by the coders,” the coding team would lecture him. “We need you to make the patient look as sick as possible.”

They would pester and hound Dr. Oliver, pointing out how his documentation didn’t make Brady look sick enough. They would send him angry emails, page him during surgery and call his cell phone after hours. Dr. Oliver would eventually relent and try his best to alter the documentation. It took him away from other patient care duties, but that was beside the point. After the administrators were done, they could paint the picture of Brady Harold, chronically ill patient who already had an unusually high risk of death. He never knew what a miracle he was.

So how did we get to this place? I, for one, blame baseball. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sport. It conjures up associations with warm summer days, hot dogs, and statistics. In fact, it’s the perfect statistical game. It’s zero-sum; for every offensive accomplishment, there is a corresponding defensive blight. Many kids’ understandings of statistics, probabilities, and averages comes from baseball. As the science of statistics has advanced, analysts have fine-tuned metrics that closely approximate the “true skill” of players. Batting average gave way to OPS which gave way to exit velocity and launch angle: better and better numbers to reflect the players’ skills.

If we care so much about a silly game to devote years of brainpower to its statistical analysis, surely, we could do the same with medicine. Physicians and hospitals should have their statistics published. A patient should know which doctor has the best “batting average,” right? This is where the analogy breaks down. Patient care is not a zero-sum game. There is no official scorer in medicine. There is not even consensus on the ideal outcomes.

Despite this, the government thought that incentivizing outcomes would improve patient care. The reasoning is easy to see. Instead of incentivizing more care, the government thought it would make more sense to incentivize better care. This is only necessary because there isn’t a functional free market in medicine. As Hayek eloquently stated, “Once the free working of the market is impeded beyond a certain degree, the [government] planner will be forced to extend his controls until they become all-comprehensive.”

Of course, that meant statistics must be derived. If the patient can’t determine value themselves, as is the case with a functioning market, the government must determine value. Therein lies the problem. It’s not as simple as baseball, where an objective scorekeeper can decide what is a hit or what is an error. Medicine is an infinitely complex system without defined “good” or “bad” outcomes. Instead of hits, outs, errors, and runs, what are the scorekeepers of medicine to measure?

“…as if only that which can be counted really counts.” – Jerry Z. Muller stated in The Tyranny of Metrics. Tracking statistics for physicians is not as simple as it seems. What statistics should be tracked? Comparing the survival rate between a trauma surgeon, oncologist, and pediatrician doesn’t seem appropriate. In fact, looking at the mortality rate of a pediatrician would yield very little information about the quality of said pediatrician. It’s very difficult to find reliable, objective measures of physician quality. Creating artificial metrics can have disastrous outcomes in any industry. Every centrally planned economy in history has faced this problem.

Of course, what really matters is the patient. The metrics should align with what the patients value. However, patient satisfaction scores, as measured by a number of quantifiable surveys, is highly subjective. In fact, it’s influenced by wait times, hospital décor, and cafeteria quality more than the ability of the physician. One study even showed that the patients with the highest satisfaction had the worst outcomes (along with costing the most). In some cases, notably drug-seeking patients or those wanting to self-harm, satisfying the patient’s wishes would be counter-productive to health. How does one judge value at the end of life? Some patients want to live as long as possible, while others just want to die a dignified death at home.

Early metric tracking in medicine seemed to be filled with promise. Just tracking the number of infected central lines (IVs inserted into the big veins near the heart) led to an improvement in practices and drops in the number of infections. The same principle was applied to urinary tract infections (UTI) after urinary catheters. Then hospitals realized they could game the system. A hospital-acquired UTI would count against the statistics, but not if the patient had one on arrival. All patients were suddenly tested for UTI when they enter the hospital, leading to a massive increase in testing costs in order to document UTI on arrival. Then, when a physician wanted to test for a UTI during the hospitalization, that test would be blocked by administration. You can’t find a UTI if you don’t look.

Gaming metrics reached its peak with the observed to expected complication ratio. Some hospitals have sicker patients at baseline than other hospitals. It wouldn’t be fair to penalize those hospitals with sicker patients. Thus, the metrics all must be risk-adjusted. Based on a risk-adjustment formula, hospitals would have an expected complication rate that would be compared to their observed complication rate. There’s a much bigger return on investment in making the expected complication rate as bad as possible rather than actually improving care. Just by having the coders round with the physicians, revenue on a single service was increased by 40%. This was without improving care in any way.

A whole industry has grown around this metric fixation. The US government has spent over $1.3 billion on developing quality metrics from 2008-2018. This money has gone to several private firms to devise these metrics and risk adjustment formulas. Five organizations alone were awarded nearly $900 million. On top of that, given the complexity of these metrics, consulting firms have sprung up. These firms will assist hospitals in coding and tracking metrics, improving the expected to observed ratio. This also partly explains the continued rise in administrative costs within US healthcare. More metrics require more administrators. People who say our system of multiple private insurers is what’s driving administrative growth have never dealt with Medicare.

On top of the expense in creating metrics and hospital tracking of metrics, it is handcuffing independent physician practices. Annually, the cost to physician practices in metric tracking exceeds $15 billion. Physicians spend over 12 hours every week simply entering metric data into the electronic medical record.

These expenses are necessary from the hospital standpoint, as they can make or break the bottom line. In 2019, CMS adjusted $1.9 billion in Medicare part A payments. This program is revenue-neutral, so that $1.9 billion was simply shifted from the “worst” hospitals to the “best.” Losing out on these payments could mean closing hospitals. In some communities, it leaves populations with only one choice for healthcare (or employment if you’re an HC worker). Even worse, it leaves some communities without any healthcare.

Are these value-based payments worth it? If healthcare quality improves, one could argue it is worth the cost. The data is robust: it does not help. The hospitals treating the most vulnerable patients are hurt the most. It worsens disparities. This makes sense, as Medicaid patients tend to be sicker, cost more to treat, and reimburse less. This leaves these hospitals with less money to spend on consultants to help game the numbers. It can also detract from actual attempts to improve care. As coders get better and better in making patients look as sick as possible, stagnant care will actually appear to be improving. This “improvement” in care is just a byproduct of improvement in risk adjustment coding. It has even been shown that hospitals will engage in behaviors that increase mortality in order to meet statistical benchmarks.

Shared medical decision making is the core of the patient-physician relationship. The patient and physician should arise at a treatment plan after careful discussion. Each patient will have different goals and willingness to accept treatment recommendations. This is the core of healthcare. Fostering this relationship should be the goal of government intervention. The metric-industrial complex does the opposite. It inserts metric fixation into the patient-physician relationship. Physicians are forced to care about their stats, either consciously or by aggressive administrators.

Medicine is not baseball.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Let’s Have a Ricochet Thanksgiving Vow This Year

 

These are the new Thanksgiving Edicts from the CDC:

Thanksgiving is a time when many families travel long distances to celebrate together. Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved.

Lower risk activities
  • Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family
  • Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home
Moderate risk activities
  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place
Higher risk activities

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race
  • Attending crowded parades
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.

And it’s the same story in California:

According to California’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, residents should have all gatherings outside, either in their yards or nearby parks. The only time people should go inside is to use the restroom, which must be sanitized frequently.

The people at the gathering should be limited to no more than three households. Those who are considered high risk or elderly should stay home. Of course, mask-wearing and social distancing are a given and gatherings should conclude after approximately two hours. The argument is that the longer a person is in contact with others the greater the likelihood of contracting the Wuhan coronavirus.

The state also stressed the importance of Californians wearing masks if they plan to sing, chant or shout because “physical exertion significantly increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission because these activities increase the release of respiratory droplets and fine aerosols into the air.”

I would like to suggest that Ricochet Members take a Thanksgiving Vow this year, to Defy Tyranny.

We Ricochet Members vow to have the best Thanksgiving ever this year. We vow to have an enormous family dinner, with all the kids, grandkids, aunts, uncles, and cousins we can fit in the dining room. We further vow to celebrate the True Meaning of Thanksgiving, which is to Celebrate The Greatest Country on God’s Green Earth, the United States of America. We further vow to recognize that we are blessed to live in the United States of America, and to go out into the world as it exists, and happily do our very best to live our lives as we normally do, and not in fear.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Meander: Prediction vs Prescription, Science, Engineering and the Meaning of Life

 

Purists love to talk about what is and is not a science. Clearly, for example, physics is a science, because it allows us to offer theories, and test them against data. And we learn from the results.

By way of contrast, economics or sociology or psychology are not sciences. Of course not! Those soft squishy subjects have no real predictive power after all, right?

Not so fast. Sure, physics will tell you, with impressive accuracy, what happens when a billiard ball hits another one. But if you replace the target billiard ball with a kitten, physics is not so helpful. And if we replace the kitten with a person, then physics has nothing at all useful to tell us.

On the other hand, some of those squishier subjects, albeit with large error bars, do have some predictive powers when it comes to people. When we scare people in a pandemic, we know some of the likely outcomes. We know how people tend to react to scarcity and plenty, how they change as a result of marriage or divorce. We don’t learn these things from physics, but we can learn them from the study of mankind through these softer “sciences.”

And aren’t people ultimately more interesting than billiard balls? After all, the physical world is at least partially deterministic. The more predictable the natural world is, the more boring it is. Billiard balls, writ large or small, are still inanimate forces acting on each other.

Of course, the physical world is not really deterministic, not all the way down or all the way up. And as we leave the realm of simple mechanics, we see that the parts wherein the “hard” sciences end up unable to give definitive answers at all, resembling distributive answers that look more like statistical spreads in sociology than Newtonian certainty. In other words, science stops telling us what will happen, and instead tells us what is more or less likely to happen!

Indeed, if you come right down to it, if “All Models are Wrong, but Some Models are Useful,” then there is another variation from the math-grounded physics down through chemistry to sociology: the error bars get larger. All answers to all predictive questions in every field end up offering a statistical range of answers. The difference between physics and sociology is found not in whether the operative models are predictive, but in how large the error bars are.

“Ah!” you might say. “But at least Science is falsifiable! That is what makes the difference!”

This sounds nice. But how falsifiable is physics, really? If 97 or 99% of the mass in your galactic model is not actually directly detectable at all but is instead measurable only by its assumed effects on other objects (see Matter: Dark), then where is the falsification?

Or take Climate Change. All the models have been wrong. None have been useful. Does that stop the Science Train from continuing to double-down on nonsense? Not so far.

There is no objective scientific discipline, free from human interference and biases. We might argue that this is because people are the practitioners of science. But we cannot be sure. After all, anything can be described in more than one way, so why should there be an “objective” way to describe a leaf? In a language not bounded by human models of physics and chemistry and biology and dendrology and even poetry, is there such a thing as a “leaf”? And if there is, does it even matter?

I would like to offer that the ideal scientific metric of “predictive authority” is itself a false goal since it can never be absolutely, 100%, no-wiggle-room-whatsoever- TRUE. We instead should be very happy with an engineering standard: Either it works, or it does not.

And one of the really cool things about engineering is that there is a natural constraint on wasted time: engineers have to, sooner or later, make something that someone else will pay for. That is the true measure of a “useful model.”

Creating new things is not scientific. Engineers care about what works, not what is True. Nor do engineers, unlike, say, mathematicians, often make things that are perfect, that can never be improved-upon. Instead, I offer that engineers are doing something much more open-ended and interesting: engineers always have to keep working and growing and improving. There is no “best for evermore” mousetrap or software program or packaging plant.

In engineering, there is a falsifiable check at all times: are people paying for your product? As any study of the history of technology shows, it is not simple to predict what will work – at least not in advance. This trend holds in absolutely every field, from the internal combustion motor to cooling technologies to software languages. Dozens of people built flying machines before the Wright Brothers, and even after Orville and Wilbur broke the barrier, the next iteration in aerospace engineering did not retain the Wright approach to controlling flight.

Engineering consists of betting on the future, using all the tools we have to hand. Those tools include the tools of the harder sciences, but they also require substantial teams comprised of a vast range of human talent. A new drug requires not just biologists, but lab techs and quality teams, lobbyists, regulatory experts, marketing… and all the support staff to support them as well as all the tools used in drug development, tests, approvals, production, and distribution. The result is companies that themselves resemble biological entities, possessing staggering capabilities, but at the cost (and even as a result) of complex and unpredictable systems and teams and individuals.

Predictive powers … your mileage will vary. On the other hand, I am personally entranced by prescriptive powers: the ability to create and shape and carve the future based on what we decide we want it to be.

There is, for example, no denying that without Elon Musk, electric cars would not be where they are now (and this is from a guy who thinks that electric cars will never compete, on a utilitarian valuation, with internal combustion-engined cars). Musk applied his vision and sold it to people. Nobody predicted Elon Musk.

Similarly, Steve Jobs (and other great visionaries) took this one step further: he did not give people what they needed. He TOLD people what they needed, and created entirely new markets for things that people now cannot live without – but somehow had functioned perfectly well without in the past. Coupled with a great engineering company, Jobs showed that his prescriptive vision could alter the course of human history. That is impressive.

Ultimately, it is the popularization of tools that enables maximal human prescriptive powers. Edison invented the phonograph, but he thought the purpose of a phonograph was to record last wills and testaments! It was everyone else who pioneered so many other uses for analog storage systems.

From a societal level down to the individual person, visionaries create everything from new drugs and software to personalized curtains. The modern age, with our unprecedented wealth and access to tools and the knowledge of how to use them, opens the gates of heaven for every person who dares look upward.

For me, the archetypal prescriptive tool is the Torah. The text does not tell us what the natural world is, or how to use an abacus. There are no predictive tools in the Torah. But as a prescriptive document, it forms the basis of Western Civilization. The Torah tells us how we can grow, how we are to build productive and constructive and beautiful relationships with each other, and with our Creator. It tells us to be holy, and then explains what holiness means.

If we think of our underlying religious presuppositions as guidance for our lives (e.g. Do we think our lives should have meaning and purpose? Can we seek to understand what that purpose can be?), then we can work to ask ourselves those questions and make something of ourselves. Not because the world (and certainly not humanity) is predictable, but because we each have the opportunity to help shape the future. And the sooner we all recognize and embrace this way of seeing the world, the better our tomorrow’s look.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Planning for Post-Election Destruction

 

I work in a building two blocks from Lafayette Square in downtown DC. On top of the devastation from the friendly fire/own goal COVID policies of the District of Columbia, my immediate work environs were also badly damaged in the Floyd riots. A number of those places have not and will not re-open. Every morning I pass by the desecrated stretch of 16th Street with those stupid giant yellow letters honoring the farcical BLM. It takes up several blocks and pollutes the otherwise impressive view of the White House and Washington Monument bathed in the early morning sunlight. There are also semi-permanent barriers along all the streets that are approaches to the White House.

Apparently, the genius brigades are planning to camp out around here on election night to get ready to force Trump from the White House if he loses or if he cheats (i.e., wins). See, this article.

Our office building management has already sent all tenants a notice that they will start boarding up the place (they are getting pretty good at that now) the day before Halloween and probably close the building if the armies of Deep Stupid appear to be massing for more mindless destruction in the days after the election.

The DC Police, the uniformed Secret Service, the Park Police, and whoever else Homeland and the Pentagon decide to deploy will need to seal a number of intersections to prevent the Orc-wannabes from reaching the White House. I suspect the authorities will be less tolerant of “demonstrations” in or near Lafayette Square than they were more recently.

When I was a kid, I could ride my bike down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House (closed to vehicular traffic since 9/11) to go to the big movie theater near the White House (gone) or go to the downtown department stores (long gone) to buy a birthday present for my mother or go to the museums. One Saturday when I was around 13, some plainclothes Secret Service guys or cops appeared out of nowhere, flashed badges, and made me and my friend climb down from a tree in Lafayette Square. It was a rule or something–we might be shooters aiming at the White House, I guess. That was the only heavy security I ever encountered back then.

DC has been a very open, very relaxed town most of the time. It has never really had the intense downtown feel of New York, Boston, or Chicago. The museums are all free as are the monuments. The tourist hordes in spring and summer always seem like mostly polite people from polite towns who are kind of awed by seeing the iconic buildings and monuments they had only seen in pictures and movies. Somehow, they seem to be more patriotic in their awe than us jaded locals.

The oppressive unending stupidity of petty government gone wild on one side and the more malignant stupidity of Antifa and BLM on the other is debilitating and demoralizing. Cops and idiots battling for control of an increasingly depopulated area. If this keeps up, it almost won’t matter who wins.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Knowing Everything About Nothing

 

Today on Powerline, Steven Hayward quoted a paper from “Lorraine Whitmarsh, an environmental psychologist.” I thought, “Huh?” So I looked up environmental psychology on Wikipedia: “Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings. It examines the way in which the natural environment and our built environments shape us as individuals … The field develops such a model of human nature while retaining a broad and inherently multidisciplinary focus. It explores such dissimilar issues as common property resource management, wayfinding in complex settings, the effect of environmental stress on human performance, the characteristics of restorative environments, human information processing, and the promotion of durable conservation behavior.”

Well, ok then. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t that pretty much just a cross between behavioral geography and architectural psychology? Yeah, the same thought crossed my mind, obviously. But Wikipedia addressed this hot-button controversy as well: “Although ‘environmental psychology’ is arguably the best-known and most comprehensive description of the field, it is also known as human factors science, cognitive ergonomics, ecological psychology, ecopsychology, environment–behavior studies, and person–environment studies. Closely related fields include architectural psychology, socio-architecture, behavioral geography, environmental sociology, social ecology, and environmental design research.”

So there you go.

My kids and I discussed this before college. I explained that Daddy was not paying for a degree in socio-architecture and that if they were going to spend years of their lives studying something, they might as well choose something that might help them and someone else at some point.

The explosion of fields of study that I’ve never heard of intrigues me. Where did all this stuff come from? Why? What kids go to their 1st grade grown-up day dressed up as a cognitive economist? And if they don’t aspire to such fields, what pulls them into these disciplines? And how do colleges tempt them to choose something they’d never heard of until this afternoon?

It’s not the job market, I wouldn’t think. I’m always amazed at how many waitresses have college degrees, and how many of them are in behavioral geography (or whatever).

Many of these kids borrow money – lots of money – to get advanced degrees in subjects that don’t matter to get jobs that don’t exist where they can earn no money. Why? What is their plan?

I understand the colleges’ motivation. They’re in the business of selling degrees. Fine.

What I don’t understand is the motivation of the students. Why do they choose fields like this? What is their plan?

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

There will be a court hearing tomorrow in California to decide if Gov Gavin Newsom has acted illegally in his creating mandated restrictions and dictatorial decrees regarding the COVID infection. Two state legislators in California joined together to bring forward a lawsuit to determine if Newsom’s COVID laws can be overturned. They are a Mr […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Ghetto Mind in 2020

 

Conservatives have probably never felt as criticized and condemned as they are now. We are called white supremacists, labeled Nazis, and are viewed as alien to a culture that expects everyone to toe the line of conformity to the Progressive cause. The ostracizing and censuring that the Right is experiencing goes far beyond the extremes of the past. Due to the level of malevolence, we are being marginalized and hated by the most radical of the Left. Even those who aren’t as radical are buying into the propaganda.

I believe the current environment is leading to the development of an unconscious mindset for Conservatives that is debilitating and destructive. I call it “the Ghetto Mind of 2020.” I hope that by shining a light on this mentality, we can make a conscious effort to free ourselves of this subtle yet pervasive mindset and use this awareness to strengthen our roles in, and our impact on, America.

To provide some background, I base this mindset on the Jewish ghettos of Europe. (Although blacks in America have also lived in areas called ghettos, now the inner cities, the Jewish example is much older and creates a clearer model.)

The first ghettos were formed in the 12th century, but the one created in Venice is one of the best known and was used as a model for the ghettos established by the Nazis:

The ghetto in Venice was enclosed by a wall and gates that were locked at night. Jews had to observe a curfew, and were required to wear yellow hats and badges to distinguish themselves, a practice that the Nazis would later adapt in the 20th century. The ghetto in Venice was crowded, and therefore it was necessary to add new floors onto existing buildings, leading to the first so-called skyscrapers. While the 1516 law creating the ghetto limited Jews’ freedom of mobility, to some degree it was less severe than policies elsewhere in Europe, where Jews were often forced to leave altogether. Inside the confines of the ghetto, Jews had the autonomy to govern themselves and to sustain their own social, religious and educational institutions.

Ghettos were varied in their purposes, restrictions, and constructions:

The ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe — primarily Poland — were often closed off by walls, barbed-wire fences, or gates. Ghettos were extremely crowded and unsanitary. Starvation, chronic food and fuel shortages, and severe winter weather led to repeated outbreaks of epidemics and to a high mortality rate. Ghettoization, however, was seen as a temporary situation, and in many places the ghettos existed only for a brief time. With the implementation of the Final Solution in 1942, the Germans began to destroy the ghettos by deporting the Jewish occupants to forced-labor and extermination camps.

Although there are a number of areas in cities throughout America that house Jewish communities, usually Orthodox Jews, living in these areas is voluntary, and until recently, Jews have not been limited in their activities in those areas.

* * * * *

You may ask, what in the world do European ghettoes have to do with the people of America? Remember that Ghetto Mind has to do with attitude, beliefs, and values, not location. Let me provide examples.

Outsiders: Jews were nearly always seen as outsiders. In most cases, non-Jews knew very little about Judaism, the reasons they wore distinctive clothing, and the reasons they were such a strong communal society. Jews were sometimes blamed for tragic events, such as causing the plague or economic downturns; they were the epitome of the scapegoat.

If you look at Conservatives today, they are not understood by non-Conservatives, and the far Left prefers to demonize them rather than learn their ideas. The polarization that has emerged is separating the Left and Right, particularly on social media and the mainstream media in general. The Left has worked hard to isolate the Right from sharing its ideas in most venues, through written attacks, physical threats, and threats of firings. The Right is blamed for most of the social ills, often with President Trump as our leader, so COVID-19, the disrupted economy, the strained relationship with China and Iran—all of those difficulties fall at the feet of the political Right. We are being condemned, marginalized, demonized, and rejected in many ways.

Religion: All Western religions are being criticized and rejected by many on the political Left. (Eastern religions and Islam are free to practice.) Christianity and Judaism in particular are labeled archaic and primitive. During the virus lockdowns, religious communities were especially targeted for longer shutdowns and limited access to facilities. Groups that tried to find creative ways to be together were sanctioned (like those who met by staying in their cars). Religion not only honors a Supreme Being but empowers Him uniquely above any other belief system.

Values: The motivations of the Left are alien to the beliefs of the Right. At this time, the Left is calling for revolutions, social disruption, and condemnation of systemic racism. In diametric opposition, the Right firmly holds to the original American values of individual rights, liberty, rule of law, property rights, gun rights, and freedom of speech. None of these are held in high regard by the political Left; they interfere with their socialistic and Marxist goals, and anyone who practices them is not only suspicious but should be found guilty of obstructing their plans.

* * * * *

The many reasons that the Left condemns the Right justifies, in their minds, the efforts to marginalize us, subtly moving us to Ghetto Mind:

They see us as suspicious outliers. We should be rejected for our ideas which are rarely fully understood but are condemned anyway. We need to be banned from places (locations, media, institutions) where we can distract others from the “true way” and try to convince them that the Left’s ideas are wrongheaded. Our voices, actions, and efforts need to be stopped and silenced.

We develop Ghetto Mind when we feel we only have each other; when we feel our children are being shut out from the schools due to the propaganda that is taught; when we feel unsafe at our jobs because we don’t “fit in” and if found out, may be fired; when we wonder if there is anywhere we can go and be welcomed, given what we believe; when they discourage worship and the belief in G-d. We may be finding more ways to isolate ourselves from non-Conservatives and the larger society.

I believe Ghetto Mind has already made inroads into the Conservative mind. I don’t assume, as with the ghettos of Europe, it will be temporary. President Trump can’t fight alone for this country.

He will need every one of us to be behind him.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Trump and Asian Americans

 

William Huang, a prolific demographic researcher who was raised under China’s one-child policy published an article tracking how Trump is doing in the 2020 campaign with Asians versus his 2016 campaign. Some highlights:

When a blind Chinese activist named Chen Guangcheng spoke at the Republican National Convention praising Trump for standing up to the Beijing regime in August, many Democrats called him ungrateful, as the Chinese lawyer and pro-life activist who exposed the evils of the one-child policy implemented in his hometown of Linyi was rescued from China and found refuge in America during the Obama administration.

Blue check accounts on Twitter were also bewildered about why any Chinese person, or Asian person would still support Trump in 2020 when he is an “anti-Asian racist” who made up nicknames for the virus like the “kung flu” and “China virus”. Surely, they believed in their detached-from-reality universe, those mean nicknames would seal the deal and make Trump lose every single Asian voter.

Trump cannot possibly be gaining among Asians especially after what he has been saying during the pandemic, right? Many Asian Americans, particularly Chinese Americans, are said to be greatly turned off by Trump doubling down on attacks against China, accusing him of anti-Asian xenophobia and scapegoating them in a pandemic which they did not cause. Surely, Biden is in position to run away with the Asian American vote, right?

Wrong.

What mainstream media and Twitter activists do not understand is that, when Trump tweets out “China virus” or shouts “China must pay a price for what it has done” at his campaign rallies, these comments are not anti-Asian. In fact, many, many Asians love it. They relish it when Trump attacks China. Not only are his “anti-Asian” comments making him more popular among traditional Asian demographics that lean red, he is also gaining from other Asian American groups with his blunt rhetoric and action towards Communist China.

See, Asians are not some unified bloc which acts all indignant when Trump attacks China. Many Asians do not see that as an attack on them, but instead as an attack for them. Anti-Communist and anti-Chinese sentiment run deep in many Asian communities, with the beef often going back centuries between Asian countries. Assuming Asians are united is as naïve as thinking Brits and Russians will agree on anything just because they are all “white people”.

Trump has gone from a 79%-18% deficit in 2016, to a 55%-30% deficit in 2020. Don’t tell the Biden campaign, but Trump’s anti-CCP stance since banning travel to and from China in January has helped him in an Asian community that includes staunch anti-Communists who came to this country to escape the ravages of Marxist regimes. Democrats touting Xi as a Biden supporter have been doing Trump a favor in this area, as well.

If we dig even deeper and break the vote down into ethnic communities, we will find a lot more astonishing gains for Trump. He is now winning the Vietnamese vote comfortably at 48% Trump-36% Biden, making them the most pro-Trump Asian bloc in America, completely reversing his performance in 2016. He has more than tripled his Indian American support, with him now on course to getting 28% of their votes instead of the 8% in 2016. And despite everything from banning TikTok and WeChat to tweeting about punishing China for the pandemic, he has only lost a few percentage points of Chinese American support, with 20% intending to vote for him this year compared to the 24% that voted for him in 2016.

In the PRC they know who Xi endorses:

Perhaps the most telling sign of who Beijing actually favors is this recent one: when the Vice-Presidential Debate took place a few days ago, the CNN signal in Beijing showed Kamala Harris when she talked, but when Mike Pence began speaking, the signal was immediately cut in true CCP-style censorship.

China is perhaps the best “get out the vote” machine for Trump. Every time Trump attacks China, he actually gets more Asian American votes, not less. Also remember that 15% of Asian voters remain undecided. If half of them go Trump’s way on Election Day, he might win 40% of the 2020 Asian American vote, double the votes he got in 2016. They are the fastest voting group in America and can play a significant role in many battleground states. Immigrants who fled socialism in their home countries may well become part of the bastion protecting America from falling to the left itself.

Read the whole article.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Houston DA Lets Suspect Go. 2 Days Later, Suspect Kills LEO.

 

Houston Police Sergeant Harold Preston was killed in the line of duty Tuesday. He had been with the Houston Police Department for 41 years and was due to retire at year’s end. As tragic as that is, his death was 100% preventable. His partner also was shot and will survive his injuries. In addition, the shooter’s own 14-year-old son was shot.

The suspect, Elmer Manzano, a convicted felon with multiple prior assaults on his record, was in custody, detailed just a day before this tragedy occurred. On October 18, HPD officers responded to a call from Mrs. Santos, stated that her ex-husband, Elmer Manzano, was at the location brandishing a gun, threatening Mrs. Santos and her children.

Officers took Manzano into custody that day but Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg declined to take charges, instructing Officers to release him and return the six bullets he had in his pocket. He was also allowed to keep his gun, which he claimed was locked in his safe. Had charges been accepted, Manzano might be back on the street, but his gun and ammunition would have been seized and held as evidence. No gun would have meant no dead officer and injured officer.

Tuesday, responding to another call from Mrs. Santos, officers responded. Manzano answered the door with gunshots at point-blank range. The two officers and Manzano’s 14-year-old son were hit.

This was 100 percent preventable. The actions of Harris County DA Kim Ogg are inexcusable. While Manzano pulled the trigger, Ogg put the gun in his hands. Her actions are directly responsible for the death of HPD Sergeant Harold Preston.

Citizens mourn the tragic and senseless loss of HPD Sgt. Preston. They have an opportunity to ensure this does not happen again. DA Ogg’s fate is in the hands of Harris County voters now. She is on the ballot today. Vote to keep your streets, your neighborhoods, your homes, and your family safe. Vote to keep the men and women of law enforcement from preventable perils. Vote to hold Kim Ogg responsible for Sgt. Preston’s death.

This is yet another dead police officer at the hands of a Soros-funded district attorney — the first Democrat DA in 40 years in Houston. I’ll note that the voters of Harris County are getting what they asked for, good and hard. There will be a lot of pain and suffering for citizens until the voters understand what they have done and get hold of their senses.

RIP, Sgt. Preston.

http://montgomerycountypolicereporter.com/hpd-sgt-killed-after-harris-county-da-orders-his-release-two-days-ago-and-his-weapon-returned-to-him-2/?fbclid=IwAR3EhkucJbLjRXw-6S2blHB_2tryyyMcdYeJoIgGTjXWng9NzMiy_MxXSmk

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Remember 15 days to flatten the curve back in March??? More like 15 fortnights to flatten the Trump economy I was talking to my friend and asked him, Is it really a pandemic if the survival rate is greater than 99.9%? Is it really a pandemic if average covid death (79 or 80) is higher […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: BLM on Peaceful Protests

 

From Hawk Newsome, chairman of Black Lives Matter, speaking on Fox Nation:

I think that it is a tool of white supremacy to say if you want freedom, then you get it by protesting peacefully. For a country that drops bombs on people, for a country that incarcerates people, for a country that enslaves people — to criticize us for vandalism is preposterous, Why is it a tool of white supremacy? Because the white supremacists who built this country never earned anything peacefully. They did it through bullets and blood. And that’s the American way.

I wonder why gun sales are up as cities defund their police to meet this man’s demands. Like Austin, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Hartford, Norman (OK), and Salt Lake City, to name a few.

I wonder why Apple and Amazon and Google are pouring millions of dollars into this guy to support his ideas.

The Minneapolis City Council is locked in a legal battle to disband the Minneapolis police department.

VP Biden, do you have a response? Senator Harris? Hello?