Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Irrelevance of the Truth


The letter sent by 1,100 former officials from the Department of Justice condemning AG William Barr is a travesty. That these former officials would demand AG Barr’s resignation in the face of the circumstances that have been publicized and the lack of a complete set of facts is so blatantly political that it should be embarrassing to all of them. They are so blinded by their political biases, however, that they have no clue about how they have tarnished their own reputations.

If we look carefully at this situation, we can see that there are differences of opinion on what actually happened regarding the sentencing recommendation of the Stone case. The protest letter authors assume they know exactly what happened, but given AG Barr’s reputation, I think they don’t have the grounds for a legitimate protest. In their letter, they make this statement:

The Department has a long-standing practice in which political appointees set broad policies that line prosecutors apply to individual cases. That practice exists to animate the constitutional principles regarding the even-handed application of the law. Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case. It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here — after the President publicly condemned the sentencing recommendation that line prosecutors had already filed in court.

The statement that I italicized is simply untrue. It may be rare for the top leaders to overrule, but they do. In fact, AG Barr had to step in because although the four prosecutors had recommended seven to nine years to the top leadership, they were told this sentence recommendation was excessive and to reduce it. They decided, however, to “bully” Timothy Shea, who had recently been made the top federal prosecutor in DC, into signing off on the longer sentence. It’s called insubordination. Shea’s misstep was one factor behind this judicial mess.

But AG Barr refused to let the recommendation stand; he was not going to let these rogue prosecutors decide on their own what was appropriate.

Jonathan Turley, a highly regarded professor at George Washington University Law School wrote on the appropriateness of AG Barr’s actions:

First, the prosecutors may have filed without approval and in conflict with the views of Main Justice. That would be an act of insubordination if Main Justice had not signed off on the recommendation or ordered a different recommendation. These prosecutors are subject to the decisions of the Justice Department on policy and strategy.

Second, Main Justice may have demanded a change after the recommendation that the prosecutors may have viewed as political interference from the White House. The prosecutors could argue that they set the recommendation at the high end, but still within, the sentencing guidelines. That would, of course, be equally serious and concerning.

Turley’s concern was not the action that AG Barr took to rescind the recommendation, but the circumstances that motivated the action:

Thus, it is not improper as a general rule to have Main Justice intervene in a case or countermand local prosecutors. The sole question is the impetus for the change. If the Criminal Division objected on the same grounds that many of us have been raising, it would not be improper. If the White House objected, the move to override the local prosecutors would be a serious breach of prosecutorial integrity and independence. Given the President’s public statement, we cannot rule out the latter and assume the former. That is why Barr needs to make this normally confidential process much more transparent.

Timelines for these actions are mixed and confusing. President Trump was foolish to speak publicly about the Stone case; he could have privately consulted AG Barr. I fully supported Barr’s public criticism of Trump’s tweets regarding specific cases in the DOJ, although it’s not clear whether his protest will make a difference. At least he told the public that he’s not under anyone’s thumb.

He will appear before the House Judiciary Committee in late March on this subject.

Naturally, if you hate the President and AG Barr’s actions in the DOJ to-date, you assume the worst. The willingness of the former DOJ employees to tar the DOJ and AG Barr because of their assumptions is one more example of the irrelevance of the truth for the Left.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Scenes from the Media Meltdown


That’s Steven Hayward’s headline for today’s post on the (continuing) decline in journalism. It was prompted by a lament in the New York Review of Books by Dean Nicholas Lemann of Columbia, asking Can Journalism Be Saved? Hayward excerpts some of the key points, including Lemann’s rather clueless exposition on the trend towards opinions in disguise on the front pages, after a litany of statistics on the declines in readership, advertising revenues, local papers still publishing, and overall employment in the field. (Hayward says he understands if we consider this the feel-good story of the day. Heh. I do.)

Anyways, I think we know the answer to Lemann’s question, based on the industry’s decades of abuse of their consumers: No, it cannot be saved. At least not in its present form with its present cadre of bloviators. Journalists with no relevant expertise have no business offering “news analysis.”

I’m not sure what will replace the current practice of journalism, though the plethora of special purpose blogs suggests that something of that sort will win in the end, with trusted individuals (or small groups) acting as aggregators. (Think Instapundit and friends.)

I was an early mover in this area, contributing to the decline of journalism all the way back in 1995 when I fired my local paper (Myrtle Beach’s Sun-News) for egregious bias in the coverage of gun control and the concealed carry permit debate. The Internet had not yet sprouted a plethora of blogs, Fox News hadn’t been founded, and Rush was still a fairly new and lonely voice in the wilderness. I have since reveled in the internet’s growing role in the dispersal of information sources and the removal of gatekeepers. I don’t think the genie can be put back in the bottle.

How would you answer Lemann’s lament?

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. From NeverTrump to Humbled Supporter: A Journey of Faith


From NeverTrump to humbled supporter A journey of faith

For a few weeks, I’ve had an article brewing in my brain. It’s a follow-up to a previous article that I wrote, and I was pleased to read the new article last night. I didn’t write it, so I owe Western Chauvinist a debt of gratitude for not only writing what I was thinking, but doing it better than I would have. The article — “Reluctant Trump Christians, Where Is Your Confounding Love?” — is pretty much the defense I was planning on making as a follow-up to the Christian perspective for supporting our President.

I have a new wrinkle to add to the argument. I was a NeverTrumper. In fact, I was such an angry NeverTrumper that I left the GOP in July 2016, and started a new political party. Things were going extremely well as we surpassed 30,000 members very quickly, but I was blindsided by dissension from within that evicted me from the party I established. It hurt. I withdrew from politics and public society for several months.

The small, empty spot I left open in the world of politics would have stayed empty for a long time had it not been for two things. First, I had given everything to the party prior to being usurped. I sold my half of a company that I’d worked hard to build because I believed my calling was in politics, not advertising. Most of the money I received from the sale went into two things: The party and my newborn son’s healthcare. He was born with a bum ticker, putting me and my wife in hotels in Hollywood for three months through his three open-heart surgeries. It was expensive, much more than expected. The party was expensive as well; getting to the point that fundraising could support it required money upfront. Just as we were a month or two away from making the party self-sufficient and able to start paying me back, I was hit with the bad news that they were moving on without me.

At least I thought it was bad news at the time. As it turned out, the second thing that brought me back into the world of politics was a direct result of what took me out of it. Depressed, I turned to faith. The Bible is far more capable of curing all ills than most people realize. Human expression falls short in describing how amazing the Bible truly is because Λόγος, the Logos, the Word itself has power beyond what our feeble minds can grasp.

I can’t recall exactly what it was that made me realize the “bad” things that had happened were really blessings in disguise. It would be nice to tell a story at this point about how this verse or that passage made me re-examine politics and my place in it, but I was too stubborn to let it all happen at once. It was gradual. I started writing again. I even did a couple of interviews, something I did every other day when the party was going strong but had stopped doing mostly out of shame. Through it all, I gradually realized my complaints about the President weren’t nearly as prevalent as the good things I saw happening in America.

For the last year or so, my transition from NeverTrump to unabashed Trump supporter was completed. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but I actually have no lingering reservations about the President. Do I still get annoyed by some of his Tweets? Absolutely. But I’ve been wrong about him enough to realize the fight over his bombast is insignificant compared to the fight against the once-creeping Marxism that is now in full sprint towards America. I was sure he’d buckle on the wall. He hasn’t. I was sure he’d cave to gun control. He didn’t (bump-stock ban notwithstanding). I was sure Chinese tariffs would cripple our economy. It hasn’t.

At heart, I’m still a conservative who opposes the populist, big-government agenda. But I’m also aware that the long-term goal of less government and more constitutional conservatives in control in DC can only be achieved by walking the populist path for now. In fact, I’m confident that my dream of inserting fiscal and social conservatism into the DNA of our lawmakers is only possible after the growing allure of Marxism is beaten back into its dark cave. The right person to do that is President Trump and the right party to see it through is the GOP.

Someday, I’ll be back to fighting for a resurgent Tea Party-esque entity that’s putting in limited-government, federalism-minded conservatives to replace RINOs and neocons. But the bigger fight right now is against Mike Bloomberg, Antifa, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Extinction Rebellion, Bernie Sanders, Justice Democrats, Everytown for Gun Safety, George Soros, Planned Parenthood, mainstream media, and the Democratic Party.

We need to limit government. We need to fight Cultural Marxism. We need a whole bunch of people fighting the good fight. For the next five years, the person to lead those fights is President Donald J. Trump.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. It’s a Funny Old World: Mike Bloomberg Edition

Bloomberg with Halo and Wings
St. Michael of the Blessed Democratic Party.

I’m one of those reluctant Trump supporters who are more or less pleased with his policies, but just wish he’d be quiet once in a while. I’d like a better Republican choice, like Nikki Haley perhaps, but that’s not in the cards for this year. On balance then, I’d like to see four more years and a couple more Supreme Court picks for Donald Trump.

None of the Democrats running for president, all 24 of them at one point, struck me as having anything particularly appealing to offer the voting public. Mostly a bunch of puffed-up Senators and second-rate posers/opportunists, but I repeat myself. Biden concerned me for a little while, but once he appeared on the campaign stage, it was painfully obvious that he was well past his sell-by date. The first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire suggest that the rest of the Democratic electorate see that too. Trump could have saved himself the four months of impeachment headaches from that Zelensky phone call. It turns out Biden was destined to blow himself up without any help from Hunter or the Ukrainians! Hah! Who knew?

But for the past several months I’ve been concerned … really concerned, that Mike Bloomberg just might have what it takes to beat Donald Trump. Bloomberg is a guy with some gravitas. He built a multibillion-dollar technology company from the ground up. He was, by most accounts, a successful mayor of America’s largest city where he regularly dealt with big issues of real significance. Oh … and the money. Don’t forget the money. He’s got billions and billions of dollars, and he’s apparently decided he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to defeat Donald Trump. Judging by what I read, Bloomberg’s advertising buys are apparently an order of magnitude greater than anything ever seen before in modern politics.

And I see the appeal of Mike Bloomberg. I kind of like some of the things he stands for. Despite being currently registered as a Libertarian, I’m not particularly offended by his support of the stop-and-frisk policy. It may have been politically incorrect, but Bloomberg, following in Rudy’s footsteps, recognized that the gun violence in New York City was largely a problem within one particular demographic. And that demographic didn’t just describe the perpetrators of the violence, but the victims as well. Bloomberg supported a controversial policy that may not have sat well with the ACLU, but it worked. I guess I’m one of those pragmatic Libertarians. Profiling does not send me looking for the smelling salts. And today I saw an old video of Bloomberg talking about how meaningful healthcare reform will require saying no to some people. Well, duh! What true Libertarian will disagree with that?

Oddly enough, you know what this card-carrying Libertarian objects to the most about Michael Bloomberg? His soda ban! While mayor of New York City, he instituted a limit on the size of your soda cup because he thought he should decide for you how large a soda to purchase. For your own good, of course! You were too stupid to make that decision for yourself. Mike Bloomberg, clothed in the robes of the All-Powerful Nanny State would make that decision on your behalf.

So I kind of like Policy Mike Bloomberg, but I hate Nanny-State Mike Bloomberg. How petty is that? Well, as it turns out, not really so petty after all. Mike Bloomberg is also a gun control freak and a climate alarmist. So, this Libertarian can comfortably oppose him on solid policy grounds without having to look like a petulant child throwing a tantrum because my Mountain Dew portion is too small.

So, back to my previous concern. What if this guy wins? It could happen. I kind of like him. Some Republicans and plenty of independents will like him. And the Donald is such a blowhard. He pisses off a lot of people. So many voters viscerally hate him. Plus, Donald inherited his fortune and squandered a lot of it. Bloomberg earned every penny of his. Bloomberg may not be the showman Trump is, but does anybody really doubt that Bloomberg is probably a lot smarter and way more capable than Donald Trump?

And the money. All that money! And despite Bloomberg’s nominally Republican past, he would be a disaster for conservatism in this country. And he could win. Did I mention that? Abortion-on-demand judges, trillions frittered away on the Green New Deal, and the Second Amendment facing the most significant threat in my lifetime. That’s what a Bloomberg presidency could mean.

Here’s where we stand today: It’s still a crowded Democratic field. There’s a progressive lane dominated by Bernie Sanders and a so-called moderate lane still cluttered with a slew of possibly viable contenders, none of whom can emerge because the others won’t get out of the way. And to the horror of the Democratic establishment, it’s starting to look like Bernie Sanders could win with an anemic plurality. Bernie emerges victorious, by some reckoning, because he is the cleanest dirty shirt. And swooping in to take advantage of this lack of clarity in the Democratic race is the seemingly invincible Mike Bloomberg. It’s a plausible scenario. I was starting to get worried. I was almost convinced.

But then, something happened. Something changed. I’m still not complacent, but I see a few green shoots of hope blossoming from the election results of the past few weeks. It turns out, this Libertarian isn’t the only one who is worried about Mike Bloomberg. It turns out there are a lot of Democrats who are worried about him too. I’m starting to see news stories and anti-Bloomberg ads paid for by other Democrats. Every other Democrat in the moderate lane opposes him because he’s their competition. They resent his Johnny-come-lately entry into the race while they’ve been slogging away for months. They resent his bottomless well of money that will be spent against them before any of it is spent on Trump. And they resent that he is climbing up in the polls based on advertising while never having had to face the scrutiny of the debate stage.

If the moderates resent him, the Bernie Bros absolutely despise him. He represents everything they hate in politics. Bloomberg is a billionaire former Republican who is buying the election, and who, no matter what he says now, has had impure thoughts in the past on some of the most sacred tenets of progressive orthodoxy. The moderates, if defeated, will fall in line behind Bloomberg. But Bernie would probably cut off his left testicle before he would endorse Mike Bloomberg for president.

Some of the Bernie Bros will swallow hard and vote for Bloomberg. Many will stay home or vote Green. Oddly enough, the Donald will likely convince some to vote Trump in 2020. Either way, the edifice that is Mike Bloomberg seems to be slightly less imposing now that his Democratic opponents have seen fit to focus more attention on him. And the irony is that if Bloomberg is defeated, it will not be at the hands of Donald Trump, but at the hands of his fellow Democrats. The same fellow Democrats for whom he represents, even if they don’t realize it, the only real possibility of beating Donald Trump. Trump should lay off of Mini-Mike for the time being. Let the Democrats beat up on Bloomberg for him. It’s time for the Donald to channel his inner Napoleon. Don’t interrupt your enemies while they are destroying themselves.

The irony of this situation is difficult to ignore. If Bloomberg wins the Democratic nomination, he alienates, perhaps permanently, a sizeable portion of the Democratic coalition. If he loses, he cedes the stage to a much more beatable alternative, no matter who that is. Republicans, who have the most to fear from Mike Bloomberg, needn’t lift a finger to oppose him, at least not yet. Democrats are rushing forward to take up the banner against him. After months of campaigning by a lackluster group of Democratic presidential candidates, one late arrival starts to emerge as someone who actually has the capacity to beat Donald Trump. A star has appeared in the eastern sky. A potential savior has been born unto the Democrats to wash away the sins of months of clumsy, ineffectual, and at times viciously adversarial campaigning, and the response of the rest of the Democrats is to try and smother the new arrival in his crib. Mike Bloomberg, the brightest hope the Democratic Party has for rescuing them from four more years of Donald Trump might just end up being defeated by the very people he is trying to rescue. It’s a funny old world.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. I’d Like to Pass on the Corona


I haven’t seen a post on Ricochet talking specifically about the coronavirus, now known as 2019-nCoV or COVID-19, since Rodin’s post on the 7th. Let me take this opportunity to provide a short update from the other side of the world in Yokohama, Japan. While it’s not China, and not as bad off as China, the way this outbreak is progressing, Yokohama is now, as I’ll explain below, another front in the COVID-19 outbreak. Although I was in the Navy and spent time working in Emergency Management, now I’m just a plain ex-pat enjoying my retirement overseas, so most of what I’ll relate here comes from personal observations and local news sources.

Even with the occasional friction that occurs between China and Japan, Japan remains a favored destination for Chinese travelers. Before the outbreak kicked off, there were tons of Chinese tourists at popular locations across Japan every day. The last time I visited Kyoto a couple of years ago, the big tourist sites, buses, and sidewalks were packed as I had never seen them before. The famous shopping area in Tokyo called Ginza was crowded every day with tour buses and tourists, and while not all of them were Chinese, a vast majority appeared to be. However, starting at about the beginning of this month, Japan’s tourist locations saw traffic dry up. A store owner at Asakusa, one of the most popular sites in Tokyo, just mentioned on a news program that the number of tourists is way down, about 10 percent of normal, or a drop of 90 percent. One of the bigger duty-free stores called Laox, which sells electronics and electrical goods, is decreasing its workforce by 20 percent due to the outbreak.

Although it’s a different scale than China, the number of people in Japan infected with COVID-19 continues to slowly increase, as of today at 63, which I believe is the second highest after China. The first reported case of Japanese who tested positive with COVID-19, but had not visited Wuhan, was a bus driver who had driven a tour group of Chinese from Wuhan a few weeks ago. Soon afterward, a tour guide that had worked on one of his routes was also confirmed to have it. Whether the guide caught it from tourists from China or the driver hasn’t been reported, although this was a big question in the news a couple of weeks ago.

There’s another group of infected people that show the difficulty of limiting the infections, especially since news of the outbreak wasn’t reported early enough. There is a group of Tokyo taxi drivers that tested positive for the coronavirus, and when I first heard about it, I guessed that they must have caught it from a passenger. However, it’s been verified that they caught it from someone on a dinner boat ride they took a month ago, on 18 January. (This is before the outbreak became serious news.)

They were on the boat as part of a company “new year party,” known in Japanese as a shinnenkai (新年会). Many Japanese companies, families, and friends participate in end-of-year parties, known as bonenkai (忘年会, which means “forget the year party”) or new year parties. One of the people working on the dinner boat looks to have caught COVID-19 from someone else who came into contact with a person who had visited Wuhan. Of all of the people on the boat, 2 employees and 9 of the passengers have COVID-19. Did these people spread it before they were tested? How many of the other passengers might not be showing any symptoms but be carriers of the disease? While the public health officials have leads to investigate this incident and try to contain it, there are a couple of other small outbreaks at different locations, in Wakayama and Aichi, where they don’t know how the outbreak started.

Note that the number of infected people in Japan doesn’t include everyone in the country. There’s a cruise liner called the Diamond Princess that has spent many days over the last week or so sitting pierside in Yokohama, about a mile from where I used to work. It spent some time initially at anchor in Tokyo Bay before going pierside, and went to sea outside Tokyo Bay at least once during that time, probably to empty its sewage tanks. Allowing it to moor seems compassionate for the welfare of the crew and passengers. This is much better treatment than what another cruise liner, the Westerdam, has faced in Southeast Asia, since it was refused entrance to a few countries before being accepted by Cambodia. The Japanese are testing people on the ship who show symptoms of COVID-19 and taking those who are verified to have the disease to local hospitals. The total number on the ship who have tested positive was just reported as 454 by NHK news. This number is being reported separate from the total infected in Japan, although the infected people from the ship are being treated ashore in Japanese medical facilities.

It would undoubtedly stink to be stuck onboard the ship, waiting for the quarantine period to end, where you’re not allowed off the ship unless you’re confirmed to have the disease. I’ve been wondering whether, by staying onboard that ship, the infection may have been able to spread to more passengers. If the ventilation system on that cruise liner is anything like the ones on the Navy ships I’ve served on, I wouldn’t be surprised if the disease were to spread to other rooms. However, in response to these concerns, the cruise line company provided a letter containing information from a director at the CDC to all its passengers that there’s no evidence that the disease can spread via shipboard ventilation systems.

That said, there have been more incidents than I knew of where people on cruise liners suffered from virus outbreaks. A trip on a cruise liner sounds appealing, but the information at this site doesn’t make one seem enticing.

The first evacuation of American citizens was from Wuhan early this month. The next evacuation I know of involves American citizens on the Diamond Princess. There were originally around 400 Americans on it. The US government-chartered a couple of passenger jets to evacuate Americans who didn’t show signs of the disease to a couple of military bases in the US. According to this news page, around 330 of them departed this morning, so they should have arrived stateside by now. The news also reported that a few other nations, including Australia, Canada, Italy, and Hong Kong, are planning to do the same thing in the next few days. Other passengers who aren’t infected will have completed the 14-day quarantine in a few days, so those who aren’t infected should be able to get off of the ship soon.

As for personal protective equipment, the Japanese are well-known for wearing face masks when out in public. However, many of the face masks that they sell here are made in China, so the disruptions in China have caused the supply to run very low here. Japanese domestic manufacturers of masks are upping their production, but I don’t think they’ll make up for the shortfall anytime soon. Alcohol-based hand disinfectants are in the same situation, which is too bad since alcohol appears to be the ideal way to kill the virus.

China being a few hundred miles away, the outbreak has been a significant news item on all the news shows and newspapers since it became clear it would be big. I feel fortunate to speak Japanese well enough to understand much of the discussion from the subject matter experts that are brought in for interviews. The information provided has been detailed and dispassionate. Japan is not immune to the desire to avoid discussing embarrassing news, but in this case, the broadcasters seem to be pretty open to most aspects of this problem. Some of the daytime “wide shows” provide a lot of information on what’s going on, with questioners addressing different perspectives and bringing up things that cannot be easily answered.

Even though this is Japan, land of electronic screens, the hosts use huge boards the size of whiteboards, filled with information with details including maps, charts, tables, pictures, as well as comments from experts. These help to make complicated issues more accessible for the layman to understand, while also mentioning details that experts need. In comparison to Japanese commentators, I’m embarrassed when I see the type of coverage shown on American news programs, and how meager it is in comparison. My Navy and EM time have taught me to seek out the details, so I’m also not interested in how someone feels about the problem, I want to know more about various aspects of the problem.

Some of the Japanese experts I’ve seen on local television have said that this outbreak probably won’t die out until May, in which case it will probably get worse before it gets better. The Japanese are cutting down activities here, including such annual major public events as the celebration of the Emperor’s birthday at the Imperial Palace, which was scheduled for this coming Sunday but has been canceled. I expect to see more of this, and my family is limiting how much we go out, a form of voluntary quarantine that serves to lessen risk. They’ve already started talking about possible impacts on the Tokyo Olympics, but the jury is still out on that.

Thankfully, we’re not in China, where more people than the entire population of Japan are currently quarantined. Under the current situation, stopping flights to and from China, as the US and several airlines have already done, seems to have been a prudent move. Hopefully, that’s as far as the restrictions will have to go.

I’ll end this here, let me know if you have questions.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. It’s So Shmoooth!


“That champagne velvety taste, So shmoooth!”
Champagne Velvet Beer radio commercial, 1940s-1950s

If you listen to old-time radio shows, and if the person posting them leaves the ads in, you will eventually run across this ad from a mid-sized regional brewer in Terre Haute, IN. The brand survived Prohibition, then faltered in the great brewery consolidation era, eventually reformulating as a high-alcohol malt liquor before failing and then having their brand revived as a retro-craft beer by Upland Brewing. The ad pitchman’s delivery of the “so shmoooth” line in a slightly nasal tone, with smooth changed to a drawn out shhmoooth, produced a great earworm … which came back to mind when I saw a Korean beer in my local Korean supermarket.

I had a passing and somewhat contemptuous familiarity with OB, the biggest Korean beer brand. It belongs in the same class as Rainer and Rolling Rock, if those mean anything to you. I mean bottom shelf, best tucked behind some Miller Lite.

But, what was this Kloud? I was intrigued by the name and the can, with a price around that of Coors or Budweiser meaning that I could satisfy my impulsive curiosity without much conflict with my inner skinflint. Notice the beer’s name is rendered in a gothic style, suggesting German roots. Of course, this is strictly true, as most beers, outside of the old British Empire, reflect the 19th Century surge of German business and emigration around the world.

What struck me about Kloud is the claim on the can: “Enjoy Rich & Smooth Foam.” As my eyes scanned over that phrase, my mind accessed the old pitchman’s voice “shmoooth!” A bit of research revealed that the Champagne Velvet advertising pitch was a mid-century departure from CV’s classic line “the beer with the million dollar flavor,” a claim based on their marketing decision to insure the recipe for one million dollars. That early tag line has been revived by the current brewery, but would never have triggered this bit of word and sound association. What bits of old ads pop up in your mind?

Oh, what about the taste you ask? Kloud is a serviceable brew, perhaps fitting in the Coors “Banquet Beer” range.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: The Thirty Year Book


Some thirty years ago I joined the Conservative Book Club. As a premium, I received some books for a cut-rate (you remember: five books for a dollar, or a penny, or some such). Among them was Witness by Whittaker Chambers. I am proud to announce that on February 1, 2020, I finished reading Witness. The first half of the book took thirty years. The second half, two weeks.

The turning point (which, it turns out, is the name of the chapter in which it appears) for me was this:

When I was a small boy on Long Island, sitting up in bed to listen in awe to the ocean pounding the beaches on winter nights, Rainer Maria Rilke stood one day on the tower of the castle of Duino near Trieste. There, while a storm hurled the Adriatic Sea, two hundred feet below him, at the tower’s base, he heard a voice, partly within and partly without him, ask this question:

Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich aus der Engel // Ordnungen?

Who, if I cried out, would hear me from among the orders// Of the angels?

It fills me with hope that, in my own lifetime, a few years before the war that would change the life and destiny of mankind, there was still left in the world a man who could hear such a question in a storm. The question is as changeless as the voice that asks it. The failure of an age or a man is not to hear it.

Chambers heard the voice of truth, and at great cost to himself and his loved ones, testified to it.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Things Get on My Nerves


I’ve finally put to rest the old DocJay phrase, “harshes my mellow.” It was cute for awhile, but it had run its course, as all things do in time. To make up for the missing excitement that DocJay’s phrase added to my post, I’ve started each item on my list with the letter B.

Blowers: I hate these darn things. Leaf blowers interrupt my naps, they blot out my conversation with Marie as we walk the neighborhood, and they scare Bob the dog.

Here’s what really frosts my cookies: I’ll see some guy, an internal combustion engine strapped to his back spewing out the decibels, its nozzle blowing out a 200 mph wind that moves three leaves and speck of dirt from a sidewalk. It’s like picking your nose with a shovel.

I think I know why leaf blowers seem to be everywhere during their three seasons: Whereas raking and sweeping with a broom are chores, blowing leaves with a 200 mph concentrated stream of air is fun. So a yard maintenance man who has been assigned the leaf-blowing chore will drag it out by removing even tiny pieces of debris that no one would ever think of removing manually. I’ve seen them blow a single leaf off a flower bed. I’ve seen them go into the streets in front of a house to blow away a few leaves.

If there is a Hell for non-sentient objects, gasoline-powered leaf blowers — the DeWalts, the Stihls, the Husqvarnas, and all the others of the leaf-blowing fraternity — will end up there. The electric leaf blowers will end up in Limbo to work off their sins.

Blowhards: I love the back and forth of conversation. I hate to listen to monologues. I used to teach at a university, a place that attracts people who think they need to tell the world, in a torrent of words, how things work. Your ideas mean nothing to a blowhard. If you try to interrupt his river of words, he only raises his volume and goes on. You’re trapped. The only way out is to turn and walk away. I’ve done that before. I usually lie by inserting a “I have to go” into his word stream. Don’t judge.

Brainstorm Usurpers. These are people on Ricochet who beat me to a topic that should have been mine. I have enough trouble coming up with new posts on Ricochet without some Ricochet person coming up with a topic that I could have thought of, given enough time. Sawatdeeka, for instance, recently posted an essay (Advice from Popular Culture) that was perfect for me to write on. If you had just given me a few days more to think about it, Sawatdeeka, I think I would have come up with that topic. I’m not saying you didn’t handle it well. In fact, you did better with it than I could have. But it was me, Sawatdeeka.

Bathroom Trespassers. I discussed this in a Postscript tacked onto a previous post, but you probably didn’t read it so I think I’ll repeat it. If you’ve already read it, just go on to the next B.

I dropped by Portland’s Powell’s Book Store a couple of weeks ago. When I started to walk into the men’s restroom, I noticed this ominous sign on the door: USE THE RESTROOM YOU FEEL MOST COMFORTABLE IN. When I entered, there was a female drying her hands on the blower. Damned if I was going to use the urinal with a female standing a few feet away, so I tried to wait her out. Unhappily, those darned blowers take forever to dry a person’s hands. So there I was, standing in the middle of the room, an old man whose bladder was crying out for attention, while some pushy female was taking her time drying her hands on the blower. That woman just plain harshed my mellow.

Bob. When the vet told us that Bob’s infected paw meant that he was going to have to wear a cone over his head, my first thought was, “Photo-op for Ricochet!”

Almost immediately, I chided myself for that insensitive response. Rather than think of Bob’s discomfort, my first thought was a photo-op. So that’s how Bob harshed my mellow: He caused me to think badly of myself.

(And that is probably the lamest excuse to get a photo of Bob into my post that I have ever used.

Weird Postscript: I was watching Life, Liberty, and Levin on Fox this evening. Levin was interviewing a well-known conservative historian, Burt Folsom, when I had an awkward thought: I once went on a date at a drive-in movie with Burt Folsom.

Here’s how it happened. Folsom was a colleague of mine at a state university. He was in the history department; I was in English. We both liked horror movies and our wives didn’t, so we decided — I don’t know who asked whom — to go to the drive-in to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Later, Folsom moved on and hit the big time by publishing a number of seminal works in economic history, leaving me behind to nurse along my undistinguished career. By the way, Folsom was a perfect gentleman.

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Andrew McCarthy always provides the savviest analysis of the inner workings of the Department of Justice. Last Saturday on February 15, he explained in his column in National Review why DOJ did not prosecute Andrew McCabe. The final reason he cited, that a D.C. jury deciding guilt or innocence would be made up of jurors […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Thinking Outside the Swamp


It should be no surprise if everyone on Team Swampy gets off without even facing charges voted out of a grand jury, even if FBI agents gave away secrets to a foreign spy. To restore justice, both real and perceived, it is time for Attorney General Barr to think outside the legal swamp. It is time to make a serious case, in public and all the way to the Supreme Court, for a change of venue to a pool of demonstrably fair-minded prospective jurors.

Without this credible threat, the chance of the outside review team, leaked to the New York Times to discredit any negative findings, actually unearthing the wrongdoing of Democrats in career prosecutor disguise will approach nil. The Flynn review will produce little in the way of real justice, that is in severe legal, financial, and career consequences to the team that perpetrated this fraudulent prosecution. The wider review of political prosecutions, together with the Durham legal campaign, will produce so little as to support the DNC, deep state, and TruCon lapdogs’ claim that it has always been noble public servants standing against Orange Man Bad and his Deplorables.

The case to be made is that voter rolls, campaign contributions, and geotagged social media posts, coded for political and social views and intensity, all overwhelmingly show what “everybody knows.” We all understand that the same group of voters who put the radical Democrats into power in Virginia is conflicted out of fairly considering grand jury testimony involving Orange Man Bad. This means every single case that every social media, print, broadcast, and cable forum is demonstrably coding as pro- or con-Trump and his Deplorables.

The Supreme Court needs to have it put squarely, in a DOJ symposium or a Senate Judiciary hearing in the next one to three months. It would be nice if the third branch of government was politically neutral, but no one outside of a few judges’ chambers sees it that way, or Justice Thomas and Justice Kavanaugh would not have been treated as they were, and still are. Were the courts not seen as deeply political, we would be reading the opinions of Justice Bork. Nor are the legislators, presidents, and voters confused or misinformed. Layout the hot button cases and the justices’ votes. Show the reality of the “Greenhouse effect.” Give Roberts the intervention he desperately needs, then offer the way to redemption of the courts’ character through rulings that are seen as fair by “Deplorables.”

Move for a wholesale change of venue for all politically sensitive cases, moving them to populations of prospective grand jurors and trial courts where the voting rolls and patterns of political behavior are “purple,” are right down the middle, showing real willingness to consider both parties, including President Trump. There are such judicial districts and they are not all that hard to find.

Offer to pick up the tab for transportation, food, and lodging for witnesses and subjects of investigation, at standard federal worker rates. After all, this is a matter of the highest national interest, affecting public perception of the entire system’s legitimacy and affecting the actual integrity of our most powerful federal agencies. Moreover, the deep state actors whose actions must be reviewed are already federal employees, so should have little basis for objecting to being perhaps put on TDY for some period of time. We must know who did what to whom and why. Short of a simple tit-for-tat tally of pre-dawn raids, perp walks, and financial ruining of targets, we need to see real results of the reported deep state clean-up campaign that are actually trusted by Obama-Trump voters.

Attorney General Barr and Chief Justice Roberts should be in violent agreement that Americans deserve timely justice, as viewed by voters in swing districts in 2016, lest the next election and the election after that bring out real wrath that imperils our constitutional republic. This is where Attorney General Barr should urge President Trump to weigh in, to put his thumb, armed with briefed facts and published products to link in his tweets and speeches.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Jesus Preaches on Isaiah


In Luke chapter 4, Jesus/Yeshua reads from Isaiah 61 and makes a shocking claim about it:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

But Jesus’ sermon on Isaiah 61 is recorded in the book of Matthew, not Luke. We know it by another name. It’s the Sermon on the Mount–or at least the first bit of it, the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:2-12 (English Standard Version):

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Now here’s the Isaiah passage:

Isaiah 61:1-8 (ESV):

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed meto bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6 but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.

8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

You can tell that Jesus is preaching on Isaiah 61 from the vocabulary. A number of the words in Matthew’s Greek are the same as those used in Isaiah 61 in the ancient translation of the Old Testament into Greek–the Septuagint. Here’s a good online version (with side-by-side English), and here’s another one.

I confess I don’t actually know what the Hebrew words are here, but I’m fairly confident that Jesus used whichever ones were in Isaiah 61: When Matthew converted Jesus’ Hebrew/Aramaic sermon into Greek for a popular (and not purely Jewish) audience, he very sensibly used the vocabulary that was already in place. That meant using the Septuagint vocabulary.

Let’s look at these words. I notice four major connections in verses 3-6. After looking at them we need to look at the astounding verses 11 and 12.

1. ptochos, “poor.” As they told me in undergrad, it refers to “a crouching beggar.”

Isaiah proclaims good news (euangelizo) for the poor. The simplest interpretation is literal: This means the materially poor. I don’t challenge that interpretation (but see below on ashes!). However, Jesus adds another: spiritual poverty, those who are poor in the spirit. Perhaps this means poor in their own spirit–perhaps broken, hurting people with no psychological resources to cope with life. More likely it means a more literal translation–ptochoi to pneumati, “poor in the spirit,” i.e., in the spirit of G-d.

There is good news for those who come to G-d without spiritual resources of their own–in spiritual poverty. Those who have nothing to offer G-d, but come to G-d anyway, coming for help as beggars to G-d. Blessed, says Jesus, are they; this is the good news (euangelion, or Gospel) announced beforehand by the prophet Isaiah.

(Verses: Matthew 5:3 and Isaiah 61:1.)

2. pentheo, “mourn,” and parakaleo, “comfort.”

Parakeleo has the sense of being called to come alongside the sufferer. The word paraklehtos used for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16 is from the same roots.

What sort of mourning are we talking about here? Maybe more than one. But the mourning of repentance seems to be central. Isaiah 61:3 connects mourning to ashes, the sign of repentant mourning (see Job and Jonah). Blessed, says Jesus, are those who mourn in repentance, for they shall be comforted when one comes alongside them.

(Verses: Matthew 5:4 and Isaiah 61:2.)

3. klehronomeho, “inherit,” and gehn, “earth” or “land.”

Isaiah 61:7 seems to have a primary meaning of again inheriting the land of Canaan–at the return from the exile. There is also a farther-reaching secondary sense, given verse 6: G-d’s people will be priests and ministers of G-d who “eat the wealth of the nations,” and it is in this manner (or due to this) that they will inherit that land. So inheriting the land involves a service to G-d and ministry on the earth with a much broader scope than the land of Canaan.

Not just anyone gets to be such a minister before G-d, but the praus, the mild or meek or gentle. (See also Psalm 37:11.)

(Verses: Matthew 5:5 and Isaiah 61:7.)

4. dikaiosuneh, “justice” or “righteousness.”

If you are familiar with the word “justified” or “justification” in Christian theology, it comes from this word and words related to it, like the verb dikaioo and the adjective dikaios (which is also in Isaiah 61:8); see these three verses in the New Testament referencing justification by faith, for example.

I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with translating this as “blessed are those hunger and thirst for justice.” But there is more here.

There is a sense here of longing for righteousness in G-d’s sight in light of his covenant with men. G-d judges us to see if we are faithful to his covenant (Deuteronomy 27-30). Isaiah 61:8 speaks of an eternal covenant to be made between G-d and his people in which the just/righteous found innocent in G-d’s sight are blessed. Jesus is telling us that the fulfillment of this prophecy is at hand.

(Verses: Matthew 5:6 and Isaiah 61:8.)

Now let’s look at Matthew 5:11-12.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This is an astonishing claim. Jesus says that the earlier persecuted prophets were persecuted houtos, “in this manner” or “thus.”

In what matter? Thus how? In the manner of being evilly treated “on my account” or “for my sake” (heneken emou).

In other words, this is a claim to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus is saying that he is the reason for the prophetic ministry of the earlier prophets. He is the reason they suffered, he is the reason they prophesied. He is the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Doing Sound for Films


For movies and television, the image is king and always will be. After all, they call them movies, not soundies. But since 1928 or thereabouts, most films have been made with live sound. Audiences usually want some degree of real-life to mingle with cinematic fantasy. Doing the show right from a technical standpoint is a key element in maintaining a viewer’s willing suspension of disbelief. Whatever you think of Hollywood, the polish and expertise of our technical crafts have led the world’s screens for more than a century, a good part of the gloss of an American success story.

Doing sound for the movies is a little different than doing camera. On a movie set, the camera is treated like a sacramental altar, with attendants performing guild rituals, a technical priesthood, and its own nearly incomprehensible jargon. Superficially, on the other hand, sound looks like an afterthought that seems easy to do — just stick a mike in someone’s face, wear earphones, and run a tape recorder. Simple, right? But it’s surprisingly hard to do it well, especially on the cramped confines of a noisy film set.

An example: Consider the sheer difficulty of finding or creating a truly quiet room on location. Maybe you’re in one right now. How quiet is it, really? There’s a laptop in front of you, with a cooling fan and probably a hard disc. If you’re in the kitchen, the refrigerator motor quietly cuts in and out. A clock is ticking in the next room. A plane passes overhead. Outside, in the distance, a dog barks. A truck rumbles by. A heating or ventilation system whispers in the background. Upstairs, someone is taking a shower and the faint sound of running water runs through the pipes in the walls. You don’t normally hear all this, but the microphone does.

That’s why at the end of a day in a new location, the sound crew will ask for silence so they can record “room tone,” just what it sounds like: the faint sound of a specific room.

The right microphones make a difference. Controversial TV talk show host Les Crane, sort of a 1964 cross between Phil Donahue and Glenn Beck, used a photo of himself pointing a so-called shotgun mike as his signature image. They were a new, faddish thing then. They aren’t really what they look like, sound telescopes that can focus in as exactly as telephoto lenses can.

Les Crane is forgotten now, but his pointing the shotgun mike into the crowd was meant to symbolize his willingness to go farther than mainstream hosts to seek out politically ignored populist voices in his audience.

At the other end of the microphone “closeness” spectrum, lavalieres—neck microphones—can be very useful, and in some situations like outdoor recording they are real lifesavers. In a film like Robert Altman’s Nashville, as many as a dozen actors were miked up with lavalieres, so Altman’s cameras could roam everywhere in the scene without fear of filming an intrusive microphone boom. Lavalieres don’t have absolute top sound quality, though. For dialog, there’s still nothing better than a good mike on a fiberglass pole overhead, pointed right at the actor.

On some filming days, a crew won’t have to bother with location sound. The film industry has a tradition that goes back ninety years: of referring to shots filmed without sound as being “MOS” in camera report forms — “Mit Out Sound” after Josef von Sternberg’s accent. Examples are brief shots of a car driving up a trick ramp and overturning, a safecracker turning a dial, checking his watch, or jumping in a cab, a nun crossing the street to a phone booth, or close-up smiles of delighted kids filmed among other seated actors in an otherwise empty stadium. You don’t always need a sound crew.

Another time-honored exception to the difficulties of recording live sound goes back nearly to the dawn of the talkies. “Filming to playback” is what we’ve come to know as “lip-syncing.” No sound is recorded on the set because everyone is pretending that they’re speaking or singing what’s coming out of the loudspeakers. This is how nearly all musicals have been made since the earliest days of sound, but not quite all of them.

In At Long Last Love, director Peter Bogdanovich set himself and his actors the challenge of doing outdoor musical numbers with a live band riding alongside them. I like an original approach and appreciated the tribute to a brief, obscure moment in early film history. It wasn’t a disaster, but it didn’t really work out either.

Outdoors, even a peaceful breeze that just ruffles leaves can make it hard to record acceptable sound, let alone crowds of spectators, car alarms, or aircraft. Period films have special problems with anachronistic sounds.

A film crew can work much faster if sound isn’t a consideration. In Europe, dubbing has always been much more popular than it is in the States. Many or most of their golden age films were filmed on the streets without live sound, to be dubbed later even in their own language. Of course, it means lengthy sessions in the dubbing studio later, something actors normally dislike. It’s harder than it looks to match your own speech rhythms and lip movements, and harder still to do it with anything like the dramatic effect it had on the set when it was filmed.

When you do have a strong, clear signal from the microphone, what you record it on has changed greatly over the years. In the beginning, it was phonograph records and then a separate “sound camera” flashing a fluttering signal onto a 35mm soundtrack. The great big camera and the great big sound recorder were linked with a mechanical cable, like the brakes of a bicycle. During the Thirties, selsyn motors or synchros started to replace the mechanical connection with a multiphase, high amps electrical one.

That’s the meaning of the zebra stripes on a classic era film slate; the “clacker” gives an exact moment of synchronization between the picture and soundtracks. Editors marked a grease pencil X on each spot and spliced away excess picture and sound film. That was called “syncing up the rushes.” From this point until the final stage of the film production process, they will be handled separately but in sync with each other.

A top-quality Swiss tape recorder called the Nagra became the industry standard of sound recording nearly everywhere in the non-Communist world. Virtually every movie or TV show you ever saw between about 1960 and 2000 was recorded on one. Today, many of the problems of isolating good location sound are the same as in the past, but the equipment used to record it has changed. The extreme mechanical precision that led to nearly perfect recording isn’t needed anymore. A modest lump of solid-state digital technology can do what a Kudelski Nagra could twenty to sixty years ago, and at a twentieth of the price.

Today’s digitized soundtracks are vastly easier to clean up, copy, and shift around. Many film industry procedures of the 21st century still echo those of the film era of analog sound and photochemical images.

Electronic filters can reduce extraneous noises, like faint hums or buzzes, and can reshape sounds to make them more top or bottom heavy. But they can’t accomplish the miracles that they can in fiction, eliminating specific people’s voices, or stripping away an orchestra so you can hear the singer, solo.

In post-production, once a particular section of the film is declared “locked,” picture and dialog editing are considered over and the timings unchangeable. That means the musical score can now be recorded with some confidence that it will match the picture. One whole subunit of music editors works with the composer, conductor, and film director, under the supervision of the chief editors, to determine, to a fraction of a second, where to place the music once it’s recorded.

While that goes on, a different set of small editing teams are working over the sound effects on those same “locked” reels. You’ve probably heard of “Foley artists,” a fancy name for people who make sound effects, often out of seemingly outlandish materials that sound terrific.

It all comes together in the sound mix. The goal is to leave with a fantastic soundtrack, but more specifically, for a feedstock mix that is as final as the one in theaters, but is separated into DME—Dialog, Music, and Effects. The foreign market can dub a version in their own language that will still have the complete multichannel wraparound music and sound experience.

For nearly fifty years mixing boards have shifted over to linear volume controls; sliders, rather than knobs. It’s easier to see at a glance and manipulate as groups of tracks. But plenty of us remember those big, solid RCA dials, and the flickering needles of analog gauges. On a mixing panel, each individual track can be steered along a left-right stereophonic sound field with “Pan Pots,” panoramic potentiometers.

It was noted in the recent post about editing Star Wars that in May 1977, George Lucas was still re-dubbing and re-mixing the film for later monophonic release even as the stereo version was premiering in theaters across the country. You might ask why mono required a separate mix.

Here’s an example: Suppose Ricochet member @Arahant is walking along a factory floor talking with someone. In stereo, you can toss the sounds of machinery all the way to the left and right, at maybe 20% of the total volume on each, with Arahant’s voice right down the middle at 60%, three times as loud as either extreme. He’s perfectly audible and every word is clear. Now take the same mix and play it all through one speaker: it’s muddled. His words are barely louder than the noisy machinery. In mono, you don’t have left-right position to differentiate sounds, so you simply have to give the dialog track priority, fading back the surroundings of the factory.

A final word on the value of doing sound. Young directors are able to attract free acting talent to their early films with the promise of showcasing them. They are also able, in many cases, to get ambitious young cinematographers to work for almost nothing, or for shares in the finished film, because a great camera job on a low budget independent film can launch a Hollywood career. But doing sound, vital as it is to the film, is merely down to Earth, hard, unpretentious work. As a result, soundmen always get paid, because there’s no dream of yours that you can fob off on them and yet you need them anyway. That’s pretty close to a bedrock capitalist proof of their necessity

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. This Is How You Start a Presidential Race


President Trump brought The Beast and Air Force One to Daytona Motor Speedway Sunday. Notice that NASCAR knows its customers and is not going to alienate them. So, NASCAR invited the president to be their grand marshal for the opening race of the 2020 season, the Daytona 500.

President Trump did a fly-by with Air Force One as the crowd waited for the beginning of the big race on Sunday, then rolled into the race track with his motorcade, stepping out of The Beast to greet the crowd and start the race, He and First Lady Melania Trump led the first warm-up lap in the presidential vehicle. The race was soon shut down, as a rainstorm came in, and will end up being run on Monday, Presidents Day.

After meeting people at the speedway and delivering brief remarks, Trump kicked off the race by announcing to the drivers: “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

Engines revved, and Trump got back into the limo with his wife, Melania, for a lap around the track, with the race cars following behind. Some fans chanted “Four more years” while Trump was there.

Trump’s campaign planned to take advantage of the president’s appearance by flying an aerial banner near the speedway and running a television ad during the Fox broadcast.

Shortly after starting, the race was postponed until Monday because of rainy weather.

Here is the flyby. You can hear “USA! USA! USA!”

President Trump kept the speech short and sweet, under four minutes. He honored our military, veterans, and families, especially calling out by name several Gold Star families in attendance. He also recognized a recent Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sergeant David Belavia, attending the race.

Here is the official Fox video of the race start:

WKMG News 6 had a very factual and fair report on their evening broadcast:

Considering Monday is Presidents Day, take a look at an AutoWeek article on presidential limos. The Henry Ford Museum, naturally, has an extensive exhibit on presidential limousines, including a good online presentation of the 1972 Lincoln Continental in which President Reagan rode.

Cheddar, an online infotainment channel, has a very nicely done short video on presidential motorcades:


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. China: The Prosperous Face of Socialism


The Chinese government demands socialism be taught by priests. Many churches have been demolished. Christian funerals have been banned. A steadfast bishop lives on the street because the government threatens anyone who would house him. 

As so many Westerners today ignorantly condemn capitalism and demand socialism, no country promotes such a rosy image of socialism as communist China. Unlike its South American and Mediterranean counterparts, China seems orderly and prosperous. 

That’s the nature of wealthy tyrannies. When citizens are slaves, governments build grand monuments (Olympic cities, even). From Giza to Versailles, the products of power sure look fine. Around tyrannical rulers is always a class of prosperous enablers, exhibiting visible privileges bought with hidden favors. Visitors are sure to meet the happiest people, because naysayers are shot or imprisoned. 

Welcome to the latest iteration of socialism, where you are free to buy but not to pray. 

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. QotD: Government Policy


A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. – George Bernard Shaw

If any statement explains how blue states work, it is this one. The number of makers is always fewer than the number of takers. So design policies to bribe the takers to vote for you.

This is certainly the philosophy behind the Democrat’s current Presidential platform: buy the Presidency by promising enough goodies. Medicare for All, free college tuition, and more.

Yet at some point, it hits a law of diminishing returns. Voters realize the wealth promised them by the government will be paid for by themselves. Or enough voters realize they are really participating in a robbery; the benefits they receive are forcibly taken from someone else, and that their own turn will come eventually.

The best defense against this is a healthy economy which leaves enough people feeling they do not need government assistance to survive.

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I was watching a professional basketball game on TV. It seemed like I knew the players but I can’t correlate them to existing NBA players. The game was clearly rigged. The whole atmosphere was sketchy. The referees were calling ticky-tac fouls on one team, ‘walking’ violations, technical fouls – just anything – while the other […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Getting Fit in Retirement

I have a new exercise regimen that consists of getting 10,000 steps by walking around the neighborhood while picking up trash – adding in some bending and stretching. 
In the process, I’ve become something of an authority on litter. For example, nearly half the trash is booze containers: beer bottles and cans, wine bottles and boxes, and liquor bottles. Probably, this is an unintended consequence of open container laws – people want to get rid of the evidence as soon as possible.
I’ve also noticed that Whataburger is very popular in the area. Though the neighborhood Chik-Fil-A is always packed, there isn’t much litter from that store; perhaps Christians are less prone to litter.
People’s reactions to my regimen also vary. A few have thanked me. Some have complained on the neighborhood Facebook page about an old, homeless man who’s wandering around picking up trash. I only mention this because, when I get arrested for vagrancy and unlicensed trash removal, I may need character witnesses at my trial.

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No further commentary needed, I don’t think. What do you think? EDIT: Here is the legend at the bottom that is too small for you to read (sorry about that). It adds very important context to the above. Why is this sign here? Many trans and gender-nonconforming people face the threat of harassment and violence […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Super Bowl: A Data Point on the Re-emergence of Roman Decadence


A friend of mine recently lent me a book called The Social Results of Early Christianity, by C. Schmidt, Professor of Theology in Strasburg. The impetus for the book, written in the 19th century, was an essay contest proposed by the French Academy “to trace the influence of Charity on the Roman World during the first centuries of the Christian era.” The first third of the book is devoted to describing various facets of Roman society and culture as they existed at the appearance of Christianity.

The parallels of pre-Christian Roman culture to the ethos of secular Western culture in our own age are numerous. Chapter 3, section 5 addresses the “Occupations of Slaves. Actors. Gladiators.” The Super Bowl, with its garish halftime show, represents a unique confluence of the actors and gladiators in American entertainment. Schmit’s description of the state of Roman entertainment I found especially pertinent:

Formerly, in Greece, dramatic art had been untrammelled and important. The artist was esteemed by his fellow citizens because he only represented the greatest works of the immortal poets… At the time of the appearance of Christianity, the ancient theatre, with its heroic tragedies and witty comedies, had vanished; the taste for theatrical representations was not less, but the art had become thoroughly immoral.

Throughout the duration of the Empire, after the time of Augustus, obscenity prevailed in the theatre. It was no longer a school of patriotism, recalling the traditions of the heroes of the earliest times, or criticising contemporary oddities; it had become a source of corruption to both actors and spectators. The only things represented were the adventures of deceived husbands, of adulterers, of the intrigues of libertines, of scenes in the lupanar. Only immodest women and effeminate men were seen there. Only the most disgraceful things were represented. Everything was debased that ought to have been respected. Virtue was made a mockery, and the gods were ridiculed. The actor aroused a love of evil in the soul of the spectator. He inspired base or criminal passions, and completely familiarized as he was with vice, he yet blushed sometimes at the disgraceful part he was made to play in the sight of the crowd.

I only caught the first few minutes of the Super Bowl halftime show, but I’ve heard that the antics of Shakira and J-Lo were not far off from what we find in the preceding paragraph. Andrew Klavan often discusses his view that we should be aware of and engage in popular culture. He has a valid point that stories should reflect the human condition as it is, with its vices, its brokenness, and all of its vulnerabilities and imperfections. But I think he goes too far in recommending that Christians go beyond awareness and telling real stories ourselves, to being consumers of some of the more debased offerings of popular entertainment. I am thinking specifically of “Game of Thrones.”

I do not believe that it is proper for Christians to participate in an enterprise that relies on the debasement of its actors. Historically, Western art has relied on certain devices or conceits that communicated those messy realities, without “corruption to both actors and spectators,” to the medium and the audience. That seems to no longer be the case. The stories are now in some ways a mere pretext for the gratuitous exploitation of women and the base reptilian appetites of the viewers. Maybe there is something that can be redeemed from modern entertainment, like a wedding ring that has traversed the alimentary canal of a dog.

There is still good culture out there—stories true to life, music that edifies, art that uplifts. Mr. Klavan is right that it is up to us to be the creators ourselves. But don’t expect acceptance by the corrupt and crumbling institutions that serve as the gatekeepers of mass popularity. The goal of Christianity is not mass appeal, but to glorify God in our lives and our works, and that will require love, joy, peace, and patience.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post


Apparently, its not all giggles and guffaws when you’re waiting to die in China. Note the support for Taiwan and Hong Kong in her desperate plea.

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Reluctant Trump Christians, Where Is Your Confounding Love?


Consider this an exhortation. I hear things from Trump-ump David French (“calling balls and strikes,” but never tallying RBIs) and read articles from Christians anguished over the President’s ugly, New York Americanism, and I have trouble finding the Spirit in it. Rather than digging a channel to God’s ocean of mercy, it seems some Christians are trying to dispense it with a teaspoon. It’s all so pinched and joyless and, well, unfamiliar to me as “Christian.”

Donald Trump is a sinner. Christians should not be surprised by this. What is astonishing is the good he’s done and is continuing to do, which must, by necessity, originate with God, who is the source of all goodness. “Oh, but he’s not really Christian, he just mouths the right words about the preciousness of all human life as made in the image and likeness of God,” some say. The subtext of this criticism is he’s hopelessly irredeemable no matter what he says or does! Is that Christian love? Is it even recognizable as faith in God’s ability to work in and through Donald Trump’s life?

A reading from morning prayers from the book of James:

Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

And from Romans:

Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

“Yes, but affiliating with Donald Trump gives Christians and Christianity a bad reputation.” With whom? Are you really concerned about ingratiating yourself with the worshipers of Moloch? 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

In case you haven’t noticed, apologizing and making excuses to the Left is just chumming the water. Donald Trump gets this. Never apologize. You should not attempt to reconcile with evil or evil ideologies.

“But his tweets are embarrassingly juvenile and crass.” Maybe my response isn’t so much about my Christian faith and is more about my family genetics. My family of origin has ornery in its DNA. We like sassy and get a lot of laughs out of each other’s antics. I like to think of us as little lambs frolicking in the Lord’s pasture, and get the feeling He gets a good laugh, too.

It’s not that I don’t believe we’re all called to holiness, it’s just that these are minor infractions against the calling and I do believe we’ll all get there by the grace of God — eventually. And “holiness” doesn’t mean boring. Even Saint Augustine prayed, “Lord, make me holy, but not yet.” Father Michael Gaitley likes to say, “Make me a saint, but be gentle.” Our Good Shepherd is gentleness personified. Mercy Himself. We should strive to be imitators of Him.

And finally, “But Donald Trump once said he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness, even though he’s been an adulterer, a fornicator, a liar . . .” Were you born knowing you need a Savior? When did you figure it out? Have you never failed to ask for forgiveness when you should have? Have you come to know God better than you did 20 years ago? Why would all these things not also be true of Donald Trump? Whose timetable is he on anyway? Yours or God’s? 

Frankly, I see a lot of ego and pride sneaking into the Christian angst over Donald Trump. And we all know where that leads. Will you be a joyful, loving, merciful disciple of Christ? Or a joyless scold, attracting no one to the faith? God gives us free will to choose.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Would Lenny Bruce Be a Trump Voter Today?


I can’t explain why but topical humor has always appealed to me. Entering high school, when I was supposed to be studying algebra, I usually had my nose in the latest edition of Mad magazine (I still have issues dating back to 1962). When the other kids were watching cop shows and westerns, I was watching “That Was The Week That Was” (like a lot of other 16-year-old boys, many of my fantasies revolved around the “TW3 Girl,” Nancy Ames). While my classmates were watching American Bandstand, I was listening to the comedic routines of Bob Newhart and Mort Sahl.

A hitch in the Army and four years of college did nothing to change my proclivities, except that I graduated to sophomoric humor such as National Lampoon (the parody ad showing a floating Volkswagen Beetle and the caption of “If Teddy Kennedy Drove a Volkswagen, He’d be President Today” is a classic) and idiotic movies such as Porky’s and Naked Gun.

Now, what does this have to do with anything? In a word, nothing; I’m just attempting to make the point that we, as Americans, have the right to determine for ourselves what we think is (and, is not) humorous.

I thought about this a few days ago as I was reading an article in the Washington Examiner which dealt with a fairly new website known as the Babylon Bee. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Bee. It was launched back in 2016 with a format based loosely on that of The Onion and a penchant for satire that, evidently, makes the liberal establishment quite uncomfortable (examples: blaring headlines that feature stories such as “Coronavirus Polling Higher Than All Presidential Candidates” and “Democrats Warn That American People May Tamper With Next Election”).

Incredibly, the Bee has driven the mainstream media into paroxysms of indignation with dark warnings that this type of humor poses an existential threat to us all. In a laughable editorial last summer, the New York Times intoned, “The line between misinformation and satire can be thin, and real consequences can result when it is crossed … humor has been weaponized to help spread falsehoods online.”And, not to be outdone, Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, chimed in, “Maybe you know that (an) article is satire, but a lot of people can’t tell the difference.”

Now stop, stop, and think about this. Consider the implications. One of the things that makes this country, and we as Americans, unique is our ability to laugh at ourselves and to use humor to point out the foibles of our society, our government, and our so-called leaders. From publications such as Mad and the National Lampoon to standup comedians such as Mort Sahl and George Carlin, we may have been angered and perhaps even scandalized but we recognized that this was the price to be paid for our freedoms.

But now, something has changed and I believe that we have a good idea of what that is. Does anyone remember the Our Gang comedies? I remember one episode in which one of the kids had been hurtful toward one of the others. Naturally, there was some payback and this payback was accompanied by the line, “You can dish it out Spanky but you sure can’t take it.”

And this is precisely where we are today. For decades the Left has been comfortable in that most, if not all, social satire was directed at conservatives. Pro-life? Pro-Second Amendment? That was all grist for the (supposedly) better educated “sophisticates” of our ruling classes. Most of them eagerly tuned in to Comedy Central every evening to chuckle at Jon Stewart’s “news” broadcasts. Appallingly, some of them viewed Stewart as a “trusted news source.” Funny thing; The New York Times and Harvard University didn’t seem to be as concerned back in those days.

I don’t believe that there’s any question that the Left has always had a “Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee” philosophy but now they have become truly brazen about it. What is particularly galling is that they have clothed their attempts at outright censorship in flowery language such as “the avoidance of misinformation” and the ever-popular “hate speech.” Does anyone still remember Garry Trudeau’s nauseating remarks following the murders at Charley Hebdo? In a typical act of liberal hypocrisy, the Doonesbury creator bloviated, “Freedom should always be discussed with the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious.” In other words, “I’m safe to write anything I wish, but those guys over in Paris deserved it because they made the wrong people angry.” Gutsy guy, that Garry Trudeau. But, sadly, he’s not alone. There are unprincipled cowards aplenty in the Fourth Estate.

One of the most heard phrases that we hear coming from the Left is that anyone who disagrees with them is a “hater.” Each time I hear that I think of two things; one, the definition of projection (the act of projecting one’s feelings onto others) and two, George Bernard Shaw’s phrase, “Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.”

Each time I see videos of those cute little college students running amok, shouting down any speakers that they disagree with, the first thing I see (other than roomfuls of participation trophies) is the raw hatred in their faces. And then, I can’t help but think that these narcissistic little Torquemadas will be entering the workplace; maybe at The New York Times; maybe at Google or Microsoft and they will be taking that hatred with them. Unlike the tiresome ’60s student radicals, many of today’s college graduates will have the power to shape, and most importantly, censor ideas that come through the internet and over the airways. In other words, they will be able to construct their very own “Ministry of Truth” made famous by George Orwell.

Unfortunately, some of those folks that we have come to know as Never-Trumpers seem to think that this hatred will go away when there is no Donald Trump residing in the White House. They could not be more wrong. Do they actually believe that the hatred of the Left can be placated? I believe that they would do well to take the words of the Babylon Bee’s publisher to heart, “The more zealous a movement is, the less that movement can abide mockery and humor. Since the Left is now a religion, its prophets and priests want to silence the heretics that mock their faith.”

“Avoid zealots; they are generally humorless.” We’ve all heard that proverb. However, we can’t avoid them. We now have an entire political party that has given itself over to far-left zealotry (and bigotry).

There may be a few of you that are unfamiliar with the name of Lenny Bruce. He was a standup comedian who frequently ran afoul of the law due to his frequent use of obscenities during his performances and a drug habit that ultimately caused his death in 1966. His talent as a social critic and satirist was undeniable. I thought about Mr. Bruce a few days ago as I heard the idiotic patter of three “commentators” on CNN.

In one of his routines, back in the early ’60s, Mr. Bruce observed that “We’ve forgiven the Japanese once and the Germans twice, but the white Southerner has been getting kicked in the a** for the last 100 years. ‘Folks, I think this nuclear fission is’… Aw, shut up you schmuck! You don’t know anything.” As a native of Appalachia, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the truths that Mr. Bruce spoke and what I heard on CNN.

A Never-Trumper “Republican Strategist” by the name of Rick Wilson seemed to take great pleasure in the denigration of Trump supporters by labeling them as “credulous boomer rubes” and with an exaggerated Southern accent mimicked them, “Donald Trump’s the smart one – and y’all elitists are dumb.” The host, Don Lemon, seemingly could not contain his mirth and made overblown gestures of wiping his eyes. (I had never heard of the third participant and his name is not worth remembering.) The scene was truly bizarre. The three of them reminded me of the two toothless, murderous mountain men in Deliverance; there was nothing funny in the entire scene. Particularly weird was Lemon’s high-pitched giggling (Note: Please, no comments that Lemon would have been perfect for Ned Beatty’s role). I could almost hear the strains of “Dueling Banjos” in the background as I reflected; after 60 years, Lenny Bruce’s words still rang true.

As strange as this scene was, I would never dream of censoring them. They have the freedom to say anything they wish; the same freedom that they seek to deny us. And, I wonder if our Never-Trumpers have any grasp of this whatsoever. Have they ever contemplated the old saying that “Inside of every Progressive there is a totalitarian screaming to get out?” Do they even care?

I am to the point that I have completely lost my patience with the Never-Trumpers. Before the Presidential election of 2016, National Review ran a special issue devoted solely to the Never-Trump movement. There were several articles and I read each one. There were some excellent points that I agreed with. However, there was not a single one that would have justified the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I admit that there is much about Donald Trump that I do not like. However, he has done nothing to limit the freedoms that I enjoy as an American. Every Democratic candidate that I have heard has threatened to limit my freedoms; from speech to owning a firearm to even the freedom to buy a soda containing sugar. I’m simply not having it.

P.J. O’Rourke once observed that, “The Democrats hate you. They hate you like a prostitute hates her John.” I’m tired of Republicans who just can’t get that through their heads. I’m also tired of Republicans who continually lose elections and still shrug it off with the attitude of, “Sure, we lost again, but we still adhered to our principles.” Although I voted for John McCain in 2008 and the now-Senator from Utah in 2012, I had the feeling that neither one of them had the “stomach for battle” that was needed to defeat Obama. I was right.

So, in answer to my own question, I’m not sure that Lenny Bruce would vote for Donald Trump. One thing is sure though, he would not be pleased with the plunge into totalitarianism that the Democratic Party has taken.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: President Donald J. MacGuffin


To me, the key to understanding Trumpism is remembering why he was elected. What do I mean? Voters chose Donald Trump as an antidote to the growing inflammation caused by the (OK, deep breath…) prosperity-crushing, speech-inhibiting, nanny-state building, carbon-obsessing, patriarchy-bashing, implicit bias-accusing, tokey-wokey, globalist, swamp-creature governing class–all perfectly embodied by the Democrats’ 2016 nominee.

This was from the Op-Ed in the February 10th Wall Street Journal by their Inside View columnist, Andy Kessler. The rest of the column describes all the distractions used by President Trump to set up the press and the other party, to take their attention away from all the positive things getting done behind the scenes. It worked, too, didn’t it?

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. February Group Writing: Advice from Popular Culture


From Hollywood to kids’ cartoons, to sappy inspirational Facebook posts, entertainment culture is full of advice on how to live our lives. Imagine the consequences of taking this wisdom seriously. Actually, you don’t need to imagine: our culture is littered with living examples of men and women who embraced the subtle and not-so-subtle popular messages. Still, it would be interesting to flip through a book called A Year of Living Hollywood. Here is some of the most common propaganda of social media, celebrities, and movies:

1. Follow your heart. This pretty saying comes first because it’s our culture’s favorite. I remember years ago asking a wise older friend for advice about getting married, and this is what she said to me, very tenderly though: Follow your heart. I was confused. My very problem was that I had followed my heart, and it wasn’t getting me anywhere. What I needed was some sensible input, help weighing up the pros and cons and identifying flags of all hues in this relationship.

For big decisions, we need more than a heart: we need a compass. Our hearts are like the weather: changeable, vulnerable to all sorts of variables. The compass helps guide us through the weather. Prime casualties of this heart-following philosophy are young women who are drawn to bad-boy types and then fall in love. Being in love leads them through a string of bad decisions, and then they are dealing with the fallout for the rest of their lives.

2. You can be anything you want to be.  Um, no, you can’t. Just watch a few minutes of American Idol, and you’ll see this isn’t so. You might dream of being a great singer, and even get on TV, but most of us are just not entertainers. Even intensive singing and dancing lessons, makeovers, and special diets wouldn’t help us in that cutthroat world. Same with becoming president. It takes more than wanting it–we’d actually have to win elections. A more helpful way to frame the concept, although not with the same ring as the original, would be, “You have so many career options available to you.” And that is a wonderful reality.

3. Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dreams. Okay, I get it–grit and determination and everything. Stories of strong-willed men and women who succeeded in spite of social, economic, and physical obstacles are inspiring. Their hard work is to be commended. However, as a general statement, Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dreams could mean that whatever you want, you should have. That others in your life, your community, aren’t important. Sometimes, you should listen to those closest to you, especially when they are saying to you, “About that singing career . . . Don’t quit your day job, honey.” They just might know what they are talking about.

4. Just be you. Well, that depends on what you want to do. If being you means relaxing at a party, smiling, telling your favorite story without worrying about what the listeners will think, it’s great advice. But this bit of popular wisdom has the whiff of relativistic, existential claptrap.

5. Rules are for breaking. Don’t you know the most interesting, accomplished people are all rebels? If they had been compliant angels, we’d never have heard of them. (It’s beginning to sound like whoever came up with all these wise words had a problem with authority. Plus, when I think of men and women I know who broke rules, both their own lives and the lives of their loved ones are all the more messy and complicated for it.)

Someone once said, “No man is an island.” Maybe it came from a Facebook meme? That one with a famous puppet sipping tea. Or the guy with the mustache and beer bottle. Anyway, if you see that quote in your feed, you ought to share it–once you’ve changed “man” to “person,” of course. On second thought, let it be. Rules are for breaking, after all.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Memories Are Made of This


Saturday’s Wall Street Journal has a long story on life for the passengers and crew aboard the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess which is docked at Yokohama. Interesting story but this is definitely the best paragraph:

Ellis Vincent, a 76-year old retired airline executive from Sydney, Australia, said he has spent more time than customary conversing with his wife while cooped up inside. She has an excellent memory, he said: “She is able to bring up every transgression I’ve ever had. I believe she is not finished”.