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Climate Change Denialism and the Conservative Loss of the Skeptical High Ground

 

I posted a comment on this week’s Ricochet Podcast (Bjorn Lomborg was one of the guests) and someone suggested I turn it into a post. I think that’s a great idea, so here I go.

I am essentially as much of a Climate Change Denier as one can intelligently be. Yes, the Earth’s climate is always changing, slowly, for various reasons, and yes, perhaps it is changing slightly and slowly from human activity. But the current Consensus on Climate Change that is making predictions of what is going to happen to Earth’s Climate in the next 20-100 years, I believe, is radically wrong.

Manhattan will not be underwater in 100 years. We will not all be dead from hurricanes and heat waves. We will still have plenty of snow days and blizzards, and the average person will experience everyday weather in 100 years in basically the same way we experience it today, and like they did 100 years ago. In other words, there is no Climate Change crisis, and the field of science that is telling us that there is has basically been captured by activism. This is the current residence of the new Green Movement that is, at its heart, anti-capitalist, and needs a crisis like Climate Change that can be both catastrophic and vague at the same time.

The purpose of my post is to point out how much I have noticed that conservative commentary on Climate Change has shifted, in, say, the last five years, in the direction of retreat. By that, I mean that there are very few conservative journalists and commentators who actually hold and defend what has come to be called the Climate Denier position. What has replaced it has been a kind of lukewarm position that concedes that of course Climate Change is happening, and of course it’s a problem, but. … And then comes the list of things that basically amount to a kind of changing of the subject. “But China and India are the real problem, not us.” “But thanks to fracking, we’ve actually lowered our carbon output.” These arguments basically imply that conservatives care about the problem, and we just have different ideas on how to solve it. And I suspect, for most of the commentators and columnists making them, that these arguments aren’t really sincere. At least I hope they aren’t.

I first noticed this after Trump pulled us out of the Paris Agreement. I expected to hear, from the Right, “good, because Climate Change is a load of hooey.” But I didn’t. Instead, I heard, “good, because actually, the Paris Agreement wouldn’t have really solved Climate Change. It wasn’t even binding!” This caused me to do a mental double take because it was almost as if we were suddenly pretending that we were concerned about really tackling Climate Change, and a non-binding agreement simply wouldn’t do. Of course, we don’t really believe this, because if we really thought Climate Change was a big problem, we would be proposing solutions to it. We aren’t, because we don’t.

So then why have we ceded the skeptical high ground on this subject? The burden of proof is on a very young branch of science that is making stark predictions of something that is apparently 1) already happening, and 2) going to, very soon, get catastrophically much worse. Their record of successful predictions since the 1980s (and I won’t even take the obvious cheap shot of mentioning the global cooling predictions of the 1970s) has been abysmal, and anyone saying that the Earth’s climate today is really any different than it was in 1980 is insane. The record has been failed prediction after failed prediction. So why are we now acting as if they are slowly being proven right, and we need to jump on board the Science Train lest we get left behind?

My answer to this question is that climate science, as a field and a community, has been utterly captured by this issue and the activism that has flowed from it, so there is really no alternative science being done from within its ranks. Yes, there are excellent bloggers and researchers who are holding up the Denialist conversation, but these have all been thoroughly outcast from the scientific field. So it’s hard to go on CNN and stake out a Climate Denier position because you immediately get bombarded with “but 97% of the scientific community says you are wrong!” Even people like Lomborg have taken the Lukewarmer position and run hard from accusations of being a denier. So I get that it’s hard to do. But we need to be honest about what we really think about this issue because otherwise less informed people will really start thinking the science is settled and now all that remains is discussing solutions. And once we start having that discussion, it will become apparent that a lot of people who are saying of course this is a problem, really don’t think it is, as evidenced by how much we are truly willing to sacrifice for it.

I have become, in the same time period, somewhat obsessed with reading every single pro-consensus climate article that comes across my feed, because I really want to know what is passing for evidence for climate catastrophe these days. Most of it is click-baity stuff like “This Town Has Been Ravaged By Climate Change,” and you click on the article, and it’s about a town in Louisiana that is sinking into the ocean because it was built on the Mississippi Delta. Then the article will say “a combination of sinking, unstable ground, and rising oceans is making this town get slowly swallowed by the sea,” basically handwaving the evidence of rising oceans, as if coastal flooding from sea levels is a thing that is happening in the US.

Another article came out last year in Canada’s Globe and Mail called “The Costs Of Climate Change Are Rising.” In it, the author, who presumably is an intelligent person who went to college, compares insurance claims from the 1980s to insurance claims today, and, get this, tells us that the amounts of insurance claims due to weather events are going up. Can you imagine why insurance claims due to weather events are more costly today than they were in 1980? I can’t! The lesson we are supposed to take away is that our weather today is much more extreme that it was 30 years ago, a claim that people are apparently accepting without any serious critical thinking or scientific study.

All this to say: it is clear to me that either a hardcore denialist position like I have, or perhaps a more lukewarm position like Bjorn Lomborg maintains, is going to be shown to be correct as the decades pass. Weather and climate in 2050 are going to be pretty much like it is now, and most of us will be there to see it, and point out all the hysterical predictions of our current decade that didn’t come to pass. So why would we cede the skeptic’s high ground for a kind of lukewarm “of course its a problem” middle ground that no one actually buys? I think this is one of these issues where conservatives will be shown to be on the right side of history. We should talk like we are.

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I’m Barefoot and Hopping Mad

 

I just finished reading the excellent post by @richardeaston on Affirmative Action in Inventions, about the burgeoning movement to rework history. Not by acknowledging that, in many cases, the contributions of minority workers, including women, in scientific and mathematical fields have been overlooked or ignored (which would be a fair statement of the case). But by assigning influence far beyond what such sterling efforts actually merited, even so far as to assert that in some cases the minorities and/or women actually did the inventing themselves, and then that the credit for doing so was stolen from them by (wait for it… ) patriarchal white men who didn’t deserve it.

It seems perfectly timed to go with a far less consequential, and somewhat amusing (as I reflect back on it in tranquility) experience I had yesterday, which seems to me much of a piece, and which I’d like to share.

As many of you know, I’m an avid knitter. I’ve been knitting for over half a century. I’ve lost count of the number and type of things I’ve knit and for whom, and I’ve probably knit thousands of miles of yarn, some of which I sheared and spun from my own sheep or Angora goats. I’m really quite knowledgeable about the craft and history of knitting, even if I say so myself.

I enjoy the company of other knitters. I’m not really a “mingler” in crowds of strangers, but I’ve often thought I might enjoy a knitting cruise. There’s something reassuring about the thought of hanging out in the company of a bunch of most-likely-braless, and unmade-up, middle-aged ladies in their organic natural-fiber muumuus, padding around in their Birkenstocks and debating the merits of the Turkish cast on versus the long-tail, or the best way to do a left-leaning double decrease. As you can probably intuit from the foregoing, though, I’m well aware that, in a nautical sense, the majority of knitters heave firmly to port, and I’d probably need to take along a couple of sane and seaworthy friends (calling @susanquinn, @katebraestrup) to sit on deck with me periodically, enjoying an adult beverage and getting our minds A.J. Squared Away for the remainder of the voyage.

I do belong to an online knitting and crocheting community called Ravelry. It’s an invaluable resource, first for instant access to millions of searchable and downloadable patterns, either free or for easy purchase through PayPal. It’s also a social network, a knowledge resource, and a place where you can go to find that one particular color of yarn you suddenly realized you don’t have enough of to finish your project. It’s great. I love it. Over the years, I’ve downloaded dozens of patterns from Ravelry, and other than the rare, and very much appreciated errata update, I’ve never been contacted by one of the vendors for any reason at all.

Until yesterday.

Several years ago, I purchased a pattern for a nice pair of knitted slippers, quick to make, knit out of thick yarn, with a geometric design knit into the leg part. Nice, comfy, easy, and warm. Yesterday, I received an email from the folks who sold me the pattern that went as follows:

We’ve changed this pattern’s name Mukluks to Dogwood Slippers.

We are sorry for the hurt our pattern has caused. We are not part of the indigenous peoples from whom the word Mukluks originates nor are we part of the First Nations whose knitting traditions inspired the design.

We have changed the name to Dogwood Slippers. This pattern is part of a print book so we are not able to take it down, but we will no longer financially benefit from it. We are currently researching charities to donate all proceeds of this pattern to (as of Feb 15, 2019).

“Mukluks,” for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “are a soft boot, traditionally made of reindeer (caribou) skin or sealskin, and worn by Arctic aboriginal people, including the Inuit, Iñupiat, and Yupik.” The photo at the top of this post gives you an idea of the mukluk shape and is pretty similar to the shape of the knitted slippers.

I laughed the first time I read the email from Ms. X. Then I got rather annoyed. The email arrived at a bad time on a bad day, and I’m afraid I responded:

Dear Ms. X,

Glory be. I can’t believe your email about your “mukluk” pattern. There. I said it. The word. I’ll say it again. Mukluk.

Are you “hurt” that I said “mukluk?” Of course you are not. Neither is anyone else. Mukluk.

You pattern caused no “hurt.” Words are not actions.

Someone should remind “First Nations” that their “knitting tradition” was appropriated from the white settlers, and was given to them in the nineteenth century by the Sisters of St. Ann Missionaries when the Europeans introduced wool sheep into their lives.

I don’t see anyone complaining about that bit of historical revisionism and cultural appropriation

And it is equally absurd to claim that somehow, using the word “mukluk” in your pattern, or incorporating a design that looks like some sort of butterfly, or perhaps a snowflake, or even a flower, in the leg of your slipper is any sort of insult or offensive gesture or thought towards any culture or race.

I wonder how much of the campaign of abuse directed against you by those members of “First Nations” triggered by your harmless, and very nice knitting pattern, was conducted through email? Since, as far as I’m aware, there is no “First Nations email tradition,” and no member of “First Nations” invented email, I choose to be offended that they have culturally appropriated my own culture’s “email tradition,” and I suggest they return to a form of communication that is more organically associated with their own history: smoke signals.

What utter drivel. Don’t bother replying to me. I’ve spent almost my entire life in countries and cultures that are not the one I was born in, and I don’t need a lecture from some historically illiterate and spineless outfit that caves at the first sign of pressure from politically-motivated and money-hungry grievance-mongers.

I’m deleting your pattern from my Ravelry library, and won’t be patronizing you again.

How absurd. Grow up, please.

Kind regards,
Ricochet She

I haven’t heard back. I hope I don’t. Because, frankly, I think I’ve already taken my best shot. Not sure I’ve got much left.

How [redacted] ridiculous.

P.S: Lord. I hope someone doesn’t take offense to my description of myself as “Barefoot” in the title of this post. No reference to Chief Barefoot of the Sioux is intended or should be inferred. All I meant was that I’d removed my mukluks. Oops.

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The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

 

Democrats have been talking about the need for the next Democrat President to expand the size of the Supreme Court in order to counteract the baleful effects of the Trump appointments.

A Proposal: Trump should himself submit a plan to Congress to expand the size of the Supreme Court. Let’s get the Democrats in Congress on the record as to why expanding the court is a bad idea.

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Quote of the Day: “You Cannot Be Serious”

 

I’m old enough to remember it in real time: the moment on June 22, 1981, when the enfant terrible of men’s tennis had a meltdown in the hallowed grounds of the Championships, Wimbledon, rocking the well-mannered crowd and the horrified announcers to their core. (He’d almost been thrown out earlier in the tournament for having called one of the umpires “the pits of the world.”) Lawn tennis (when you can find it) has not improved since the advent of “Johnny Mac,” at least in this former fan’s opinion — I was always more about the strawberries and cream, and the cream teas, than I ever was about the on-court antics of spoiled and vulgar young men and unnaturally muscular and grunting young women.

John Patrick McEnroe turned 60 years old Saturday. Welcome to geezerhood, John. Nice to see you’ve decided to act your age at long last. Or at least that you’re self-aware enough to quote basketball great Connie Hawkins: “The older I get the better I used to be.”

Gosh, I think that’s true of me too. And probably everybody else. Happy Birthday, John McEnroe!

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Too Rich for Words

 

Was this not transparent as a hoax or fake from the start? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6713267/Chicago-police-believe-Jussie-Smollett-PAID-two-Nigerian-brothers-ATTACK-street.html ‘I will never be the man that this did not happen to,’ he told ABC on Wednesday. ‘I am forever changed.’ Jussie Smollett, Feb 16 2019. Right Jussie. You ARE the man to which “this” happened. “This” just isn’t “that”. And why […]

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William Barr: Consequential Man

 

William Barr is the new Attorney General. He will likely be the most consequential Attorney General in our lifetime. His investiture comes at a time when it has become apparent that the apparatus of government has been unconstitutionally wielded against a presidential candidate and then sitting president. Powerline today links to a piece from Mark Penn and includes the following quote:

The most egregious anti-democratic actions ever taken by the what can now fairly be called the Deep State are confirmed with the publication of fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s new book detailing how the FBI and Justice Department plotted to remove President Trump from office for firing FBI Director James Comey.

Justice Department and FBI officials spied on U.S. citizens with false warrants, gave a pass to one presidential campaign with a predetermined investigation, investigated another political campaign on the basis of no verified evidence, and illegally leaked information on investigations. They discussed wiretapping and using the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove President Trump, and appointed a special counsel as a retaliatory move for Comey’s firing.

It is now crystal clear that the highest echelons of the Justice Department and FBI had morphed from the world’s most professional law enforcement organization into a Third World rump group. They had the hubris to believe that they – not the American people or their duly elected representatives – should decide who governs and how.

The Powerline post also includes references to other notable summaries of the political moment in which we now live, from Byron York, Michael Goodwin, Willis Krumholz, Roger Kimball, and Ramesh Ponnuru.

Scott Adams has commented that Andrew McCabe and others may have been honestly alarmed by an incredible belief that Trump was under the control of the Kremlin. (An incredible belief that is now understood to be Trump Derangement Syndrome, for which media are manifestly responsible for making a national and international epidemic.) But, regardless, their acts were still seditious. And whether senior government officials were deluded or malign, it is incumbent upon the new Attorney General to address the circumstances under which this was permitted to occur and implement the necessary processes to restore constitutional government.

Failing that, Barr will be responsible for permitting a British-style civil service — independent of legislative oversight — to become our way of governing from here on out. Pray that he does the right thing.

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Affirmative Action in Inventions

 

Last June, I attended my monthly nonfiction writers meeting. Afterward, I spoke to the black gentleman sitting next to me. He mentioned that he’d just found out that a black woman invented GPS. I said that was strange since my father invented it. He chuckled and said that I was holding out on him. I looked it up and a Dr. Gladys West was the person. It appears that she worked on refining satellite orbits and models of the earth. She did valuable work but is one of hundreds or thousands of people at that level. I dismissed it; errors about the origins of GPS are rife and in spite of my extensive writings about it I’m a relatively obscure person.

More recently, the articles about Dr. West have multiplied and an unrelated erroneous documentary about the origins of GPS was released.

Yes, the contributions of women and minorities have sometimes been ignored. But the reverse is starting to become the case. GPS was created in 1973. The major issues were the orbits, how time is transmitted to the receiver, and the nature of the signal. The first two came from my Dad’s Timation system. The last came from the AF/Aerospace system. Dr. West played no role in these decisions. She worked on interpreting data from spacetracking systems. My Dad designed two spacetracking systems. The order of priority should be clear.

This week, I was contacted by an Aerospace executive who started working on GPS in the late 1970s. His story of the origins of GPS differs greatly from that propounded by Parkinson and he scoffed at the award which was announced this week.

He said that, as far as he could tell, one of the execs at the Navy Lab where she worked was upset that no women were listed in their hall of fame. Thus, the story was propounded that this was another hidden figure. But it’s not true. She did good work but was not involved in the design or invention of GPS. Of course, most of the people writing these types of stories know nothing about it. Even well-regarded people like Simon Winchester get tons of details wrong.

These types of myths are infecting Wikipedia. Black women have done wonderful things, but inventing GPS is not among their lists of accomplishments. Another example of this myth follows. I responded and definitely did not convince at least one person.

.

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The 411 on the Latest National Emergency

 

President Trump’s declaration, on 15 February 2019, of a “national emergency,” is quite ordinary, the latest in a long line of such declarations going back to President Carter. Far from creating some dangerous precedent, it only reinforces our constitutional order. While it will certainly be challenged in federal court, this may actually be the opportunity to set Article III courts back on their proper path, ending bad behavior by the lowest level, federal district judges.

The Ricochet editors desk posted the entire text of the declaration in Trump Declares National Emergency at the Southern Border. The text is quoted from the White House page, Presidential Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States. C-SPAN has the video and transcript of President Trump’s remarks, followed by some hostile questions on the lawn.

In his remarks beforehand, President Trump repeatedly invoked Angel Moms and had them stand with the photograph of their dead loved one. These women, seated in the front row, turned and put the inconvenient truth into the face of the media who have pointedly ignored their loss. Do watch the video.

Trump pointed out that declarations of national emergency are quite ordinary. We need not take his word for it. Instead, take the word of ABC News: Here’s a list of the 31 national emergencies that have been in effect for years. You can check these yourself in the Federal Register.

Far from creating some dangerous precedent, President Trump is only reinforcing our constitutional order. His declaration conforms, in its contents, to the requirements of the National Emergencies Act. This law is neither too long to read nor too hard to find — especially if you are reading this now. Consider the text of the declaration (emphasis added):

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 201 and 301 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), hereby declare that a national emergency exists at the southern border of the United States, and that section 12302 of title 10, United States Code, is invoked and made available, according to its terms, to the Secretaries of the military departments concerned, subject to the direction of the Secretary of Defense in the case of the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. To provide additional authority to the Department of Defense to support the Federal Government’s response to the emergency at the southern border, I hereby declare that this emergency requires use of the Armed Forces and, in accordance with section 301 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1631), that the construction authority provided in section 2808 of title 10, United States Code, is invoked and made available, according to its terms, to the Secretary of Defense and, at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense, to the Secretaries of the military departments.

He then reinforces the requirement to act in accordance with law (emphasis added):

Section 1. The Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of each relevant military department, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law

Sec. 2. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and, subject to the discretion of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretaries of the military departments, shall take all appropriate actions, consistent with applicable law

The declaration cites “sections 201 and 301 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.).” Consider each of these brief sections, emphasis added.

Section 201 provides:

(a) With respect to Acts of Congress authorizing the exercise, during the period of a national emergency, of any special or extraordinary power, the President is authorized to declare such national emergency. Such proclamation shall immediately be transmitted to the Congress and published in the Federal Register.
(b) Any provisions of law conferring powers and authorities to be exercised during a national emergency shall be effective and remain in effect (1) only when the President (in accordance with subsection (a) of this section), specifically declares a national emergency, and (2) only in accordance with this chapter. No law enacted after September 14, 1976, shall supersede this subchapter unless it does so in specific terms, referring to this subchapter, and declaring that the new law supersedes the provisions of this subchapter.

Section 301 provides:

When the President declares a national emergency, no powers or authorities made available by statute for use in the event of an emergency shall be exercised unless and until the President specifies the provisions of law under which he proposes that he, or other officers will act. Such specification may be made either in the declaration of a national emergency, or by one or more contemporaneous or subsequent Executive orders published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

As laid out in The “411” on “National Emergency,” the words “national emergency” have specific, limited, legal effect. It is not “abracadabra,” giving the President anything he wants. It is only an “open sesame” to access legal authority given in other statutes that specifically refer back to the National Emergencies Act.

Section 12302 of title 10, United States Code, provides for involuntary activation of National Guard and drilling Reserve personnel, together comprising the “Ready Reserve”:

(a) In time of national emergency declared by the President after January 1, 1953, or when otherwise authorized by law, an authority designated by the Secretary concerned may, without the consent of the persons concerned, order any unit, and any member not assigned to a unit organized to serve as a unit, in the Ready Reserve under the jurisdiction of that Secretary to active duty for not more than 24 consecutive months.
(b) To achieve fair treatment as between members in the Ready Reserve who are being considered for recall to duty without their consent, consideration shall be given to—(1)the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
(2) family responsibilities; and
(3) employment necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest.
The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe such policies and procedures as he considers necessary to carry out this subsection.
(c) Not more than 1,000,000 members of the Ready Reserve may be on active duty, without their consent, under this section at any one time.

Section 2808 of title 10, United States Code, provides:

(a) In the event of a declaration of war or the declaration by the President of a national emergency in accordance with the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) that requires use of the armed forces, the Secretary of Defense, without regard to any other provision of law, may undertake military construction projects, and may authorize the Secretaries of the military departments to undertake military construction projects, not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces. Such projects may be undertaken only within the total amount of funds that have been appropriated for military construction, including funds appropriated for family housing, that have not been obligated.
(b) When a decision is made to undertake military construction projects authorized by this section, the Secretary of Defense shall notify, in an electronic medium pursuant to section 480 of this title, the appropriate committees of Congress of the decision and of the estimated cost of the construction projects, including the cost of any real estate action pertaining to those construction projects.
(c) The authority described in subsection (a) shall terminate with respect to any war or national emergency at the end of the war or national emergency.

President Trump telegraphed in his remarks that he expects to lose at the federal district court and appellate levels in the Ninth Circuit. He also expects to win at the US Supreme Court. While his declaration will certainly be challenged in federal court, this may actually be the opportunity to set Article III courts back on their proper path, ending bad behavior by federal district judges. I explained how this could play out in Declare National Border Emergency, Kill Two Birds with One Stone:

Done right, this is the opportunity to force the Supreme Court to confront the issue of nationwide injunctions, that has already been addressed by Justice Thomas in his concurring opinion in Trump v. Hawaii. The idea that a district court judge would dare to claim to bind the whole nation, and so all his judicial peers, by his decision flies directly in the face of common sense, legal tradition, and, arguably, the Constitution.

While the Supreme Court has not yet seen the need to rule on the issue, it would be forced to if the Fifth Circuit asserted its rights over its geographic area and rejected claims by the Ninth Circuit to have any binding authority in the same space.

As Mark Davis says, “President Trump makes everyone better.” He is putting the courts in a position to remedy overreach by district judges. He is, once again, showing Congress that campaign promises can and must be kept. He is showing the difference between using limited statutory authority and “pen and phone” executive overreach. It has been another good day in America.

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We Have a Politically Savvy Senator

 

Unfortunately, it is newly elected Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). She just got herself harshly denounced by NARAL for announcing her support for a fellow Arizonan nominated by President Trump to a Federal judgeship. NARAL is upset because nominee Michael Liburdi served for five years as chairman of the Arizona Right to Life PAC:

Sinema said she has known Liburdi for years, and during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing praised him as someone who will be a fair-minded judge.

“Mike and I do not share all the same political beliefs, but I believe the role of the Senate is to evaluate every nominee based on whether he or she is professionally qualified … and can be trusted to faithfully interpret and uphold the law,” Sinema said.

This is after Sinema came under criticism for standing to applaud Trump at his State of the Union because of his support for “right to try” legislation.

She’s also made a couple of early votes not aligned with the Democrats, has been circumspect in her public statements and, unlike most of her colleagues, does not denounce Trump every day.

Sinema ran a very temperate, moderate, and competent campaign (in contrast to the incompetent McSally) and she seems to be following the same template post-election. Usually, Democratic senators elected in swing states vote liberal for four years and then only build a “moderate” record as they prepare to launch their reelection campaign. Sinema seems to be thinking about her reelection from the start. I am sure she will mostly vote with the Progressives but her strategy seems to be to avoid verbal excess, pick a few higher-profile spots where she can dissent from Progressive orthodoxy, and build a reputation as an independent — a brand appealing to Arizonans.

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The Elephant on the Border

 

As I watch the coverage of President Trump’s efforts to secure the border and Democrat-Republican efforts to thwart any effective form of Border Security*, I’m struck by the fact in the mainstream media, the simple fact that Democrats (and a lot of Republicans) oppose Border Security because they want the uncontrolled migration of cheap labor and loyal Democrat voters from Central America (and, increasingly, Africa and the Middle East) to continue unabated. This is, in fact, the central issue of illegal immigration and opposition to Border Security, but you never hear it brought up on CNN, NBC, ABC, or even Fox News nor on the pages of the New York Times or Washington Post. Why is that?

The pundits obfuscate the issue by talking about “asylum seekers” (without mentioning that migrants can apply for asylum without leaving their home countries, much less illegally rushing the border), but more often, any discussion on the issue is limited to “Trump wants to stop immigration because he is a racist and Democrats oppose a Border Wall because they are not racists.” That is the current intellectual depth of the average network discussion on the topic.

It just seems to me you can’t have a full and honest discussion about the issues of illegal immigration and border security without discussing the motivations of politicians who support the former and oppose the latter.

* Now, Democrats will claim, “We support putting cameras on the border, so it’s unfair to say we want open borders.” But cameras at the border are as useless as a California Republican. To make an analogy, it’s as though someone owned a liquor store in a bad neighborhood and was getting robbed every night. His city tells him, “You can’t lock up your store at night, but you can install security cameras.” So, he installs cameras to take pictures of the guys robbing his liquor store. But the city refuses to arrest or prosecute them because “People have a moral right to rob liquor stores.” That’s pretty much the situation with illegal immigration. Cameras at the border are similarly useless.

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Slamming the Overton Window

 

The Overton Window, as most people probably know, is a term used to describe the range of ideas that are considered serious and worthy of, or acceptable for, public discussion and debate. As the window moves, ideas that would previously have been entertained become unacceptable, and ideas that previously would have seemed too outrageous for consideration enter […]

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If We Could Stop Being Good at Math, We are Saved!

 

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has discovered a new and exciting way to fund every social program and eliminate all government debt. Follow this example:

  1. Amazon negotiates with NYC to open a large facility.
  2. As an inducement, the state and city governments agree to waive as much as $3 billion in tax revenues.
  3. The deal falls apart.
  4. NY now has an extra $3 billion to spend on needed programs.

Brilliant! In a new public-private nationwide effort, jurisdictions can offer absurd inducements which the targeted company helpfully rejects and all that inducement money is then in the coffers of the state or local government offering the absurd deal.

And we can have all this money right away to fund the GND and save us from dying in 12 years. Genius!

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Tequila or Bourbon?

 

Okay. So, I was introduced to tequila at the age of 11. To make a long story short, my father, not unreasonably, assumed that one taste of the stuff would inoculate me from any further interest in hard liquor until I was at least in high school.

As it turns out, my ol’ dad does not have the gift of prophecy. Three shots into his experiment, he picked up on the inescapable fact that I loved the stuff — salt, shot, and lime! I have loved tequila ever since, including rather forgettable attempts at finding a good mix of various cocktail combinations with vodka and whiskey known as the “Swirling Maelstrom” that have never quite worked out…

Fast forward to the last few years: I have discovered bourbon … good bourbon: Sipping bourbons, heart-of-America bourbons. I find that the more really good bourbon I taste, the more other liquors have lost their appeal.

But not so tequila. If anything, appreciating bourbon has sharpened my liking of good tequilas.

So I put it to you, fellow Ricochetti: good tequila, or good bourbon, or good “something else?” Why or why not?

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Turbulence, CDG, and Valentine’s Day

 

Two years ago, I had never even seen an airplane in person. When I made the decision to go abroad for university, though, they became a constant part of my life. I’ve run to six different gates in the space of an hour in Dublin, escaped a crowd of protesters with the help of a French military policeman to almost miss my flight at CDG, and set off more metal detectors with 1 pound coins than a Saudi arms dealer at Logan. Despite these, and much more mundane, experiences, I have a little ritual every time that I board an airplane.

Rationally, I know that air travel is quite safe, and am by no means a nervous flier. I’m perfectly happy to peruse my Bernard Lewis book, or allow a 6’3″, 250-pound Swedish man fall asleep in my lap, in peace. But life is hardly predictable, as dinner in Paris after a lifetime of living hours from any skyscraper testifies. So, each time I’ve settled down into my seat, I take a picture out of the nearest window, and send the same text to my friend:

“Taking off in a few minutes. The pilot says there may be quite a bit of turbulence.

If anything happens, I love you, and tell everyone (I trust you to know who)

that I loved them.”

I’m in no doubt that he doesn’t like that text; we’ve known each other from the age of five, and consider each other siblings with different surnames. He hates acknowledging the chance I’m taking, and the others that I take in traveling alone to such far-flung places. I never doubt, though, that if something ever does happen the ebullient art major that we shared too many bad English classes with, the crotchety AP teacher who we both have an abundance of fondness for, and the Benedictine monk who laughs with him at my ability to knock over statuary when nervous will have comfort.

It was Valentine’s Day, with its bubbly pink hearts and extortions to positivity, that put me in mind of all of this. We (rightfully) celebrate the joys of romantic love today, but on this feast day for the patron saint of lovers, epileptics, and bee keepers, we should also keep in mind those that we love enough to trust them with our family and friends when we are gone. Philip Larkin, hardly the most sentimental bard of this island nation, wished that “what will survive of us is love.” He came to the conclusion that this was almost true; I think it is the exact and beautiful truth. If I fall from the sky, what will trail in my wake, more than anything else, is the thing that I felt fitting to be my last words, that I loved and did so in return, in every possible iteration.

I hope, this cloudy February 14th, that you have someone that you trust deeply enough to preserve what remains too.

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Thursday Night TV History: Syndication and Reruns

 

In “Back to the Future”, one resident of Hill Valley, California in 1955 is puzzled by a word that Marty McFly uses. “What’s a rerun?”, she asks. Like much of the film, it’s a witty exaggeration. Television viewers of the mid-Fifties were just beginning to see reruns show up in morning and afternoon TV time slots.

But if you go back only a few years before that, Bob Gale’s BTTF joke is literal truth; at the beginning of the Fifties, there were, for all practical purposes, no reruns, because there was no market in old TV shows yet. At that time, programs were still owned by their sponsor and/or their major broadcasting network. Radio shows, even with the biggest stars, had never been worth a lot of money years after they’d gone off the air, and there seemed no reason to think TV would be any different.

So suppose you’re running one of the pioneering American TV stations described in the first chapter of this history series. What do you fill the time with? If you’re one of those lucky network affiliates, your evenings are taken care of, but you’ve still got daytime and late night to program. Plenty of stations are not big enough, or in big enough cities to go network, and they’ve got the whole day to program. Old movies, from the few studios small and hungry enough to run Hollywood’s undeclared blockade against television, are plentiful and cheap. You can get all the East Side Kids, Roy Rogers, and Mr. Moto you want. Local sports are cheap or free. But in those days, there weren’t many places where you could buy affordable, ready-made TV shows that were nearly as good as what you’d see on NBC or CBS. (At this time, ABC was in the major leagues but just barely. Same with the slowly expiring Du Mont network.)

One of the busiest, most prosperous places you could go would be the Hollywood offices of producer and entrepreneur Frederick Ziv, who immodestly but accurately called himself “The George Washington of TV Syndication”. This was originally a legal and business structure, a joint venture of Ziv and the stations who signed on to the syndicate, a limited partnership to produce and air a specific show.

Since the word “syndication” has changed over the years to mean, simply, “a library of old TV shows”, it overlaps with “rerun”. We’ll get back to reruns later. In the Fifties, syndication also meant original production, and it could produce memorable TV: “Highway Patrol”, “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon”, “The Cisco Kid”, “I Led 3 Lives”, “You Asked for It”, “Whirlybirds”–none of them were on the networks. Fred Ziv was something of a training academy for directors and writers like Robert Altman and Gene Roddenberry. Ziv’s shows were first run on local, non-network stations.

Gradually, rising network “production values”–expense that (supposedly) show on screen—made it tough for independent producers to manufacture similar TV shows at a reasonable price. So one popular option was buying British and Canadian TV. Shows with British subjects, like “Robin Hood” and “The Invisible Man”, were followed by the transatlantic popular antics of “Thunderbirds Are Go”, and “The Saint”. Our northern neighbors sent us “Cannonball”, a low budget Fifties highway adventure about a pair of Ontario truckers that could have been filmed anywhere in North America.

TV reruns can have cultural staying power that casts a shadow far into the future. In 1951, when Desi Arnaz negotiated a deal for his wife’s TV show, he offered CBS and the sponsor, Philip Morris, a break: They’d sell them the rights to the first broadcasts of the shows below the price of producing them; but in return, Lucy and Desi would own the shows, and the rights to the reruns forever. That’s been the business model for TV ever since. To protect the value of their investment, Desilu Studios filmed “I Love Lucy” on sharp, durable 35mm film with multiple cameras, just like a live TV show. Jackie Gleason would do the same with “The Honeymooners”. It would be an incredibly smart investment.

In 2000, many people laughed when Rush Limbaugh’s radio show staged a call with former actor Ken Osmond, who played eternally insincere suck-up and con-man Eddie Haskell on “Leave It to Beaver”. He was, he said, seething with indignation at hearing Eddie Haskell compared to Al Gore. More than forty years after “Leave It to Beaver” went off the air, generations of people who know nothing about it still had a vague idea who Eddie Haskell was. They still do. A few of the TV shows of my childhood were so well known that even people born many years after me are familiar with their names and basic premises: “The Honeymooners”, “I Love Lucy”, “Dragnet”, “The Twilight Zone”, “The Untouchables”.

Given how much time has elapsed since then, it’s not surprising that some big-time network shows that were equally famous in their day have gradually faded from mass consciousness over the decades—“Peter Gunn”, “Bat Masterson”, “Route 66”, “The Defenders”, “Have Gun Will Travel”. Even if you can’t remember actually having seen an episode of any of those shows, major hits of the era, you just might recognize the names. (One of my all-time favorites, “Sergeant Bilko”, falls somewhere in between; a number one hit for years, remembered for generations, but perhaps faded by now.)

All eleven shows that we’ve listed so far were in black and white, greatly limiting their sale-ability once American TV fully went over to color in the mid-to-late Sixties. As superficial as it may sound, program buyers for TV stations learned early on that color’s a big deal for TV reruns because audiences regard black and white as another, earlier world. Okay, it’s not exactly like the difference between silent and sound films, but to TV audiences, it’s still a pretty profound barrier. Color is one reason why even 50-year-old network shows like “Mission: Impossible” and “Mannix” get by as reruns. Yeah, they use wireline phones, play LPs on record players, and their TVs come in boxy shapes, but they’re more or less in our world.

Reruns came to dominate syndication early on, once there were enough hit shows with enduring appeal. By the end of the Sixties, even shows that were still in production and aired on a network would buy ads in Variety, whetting TV station appetites: “Can’t Keep ‘Em Much Longer! ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ Escapes Soon! 142 30 minute color episodes!”

Reruns are predictable moneymakers. Mind you, they aren’t all big moneymakers, but to a degree unusual in the entertainment business, a smart team can forecast earnings potential of even a medium hit for the next dozen years. Barring freakish luck, good or bad, Warner Bros. Television knows already what “The Big Bang Theory” will earn in each aftermarket, worldwide, through the early 2030s. That’s why we had a Nineties civil war in the entertainment business over an obscure issue called “fin/syn”; studios were sick and tired of having their sensitive parts trapped in a network vise, and networks were sick and tired of spending a fortune to develop and publicize shows that they didn’t have a piece of.

No entertainment property is ever really rated as zero potential value, though. Until then, the forgotten TV program waits in storage, like Woody Allen in “Sleeper”. Just maybe the untapped possibilities of 1978’s “Manimal” or “Supertrain” will someday tickle the fancy of some mid-21st-century retro-mogul.

Oh, and how did I get into this week’s topic? A couple of months ago, while researching material for a Ricochet Silent Radio story, I was surprised to see episodes of “I Led 3 Lives” on YouTube. Surprised, because the show hasn’t been rerun for nearly sixty years. It was one of my favorites when I was a little kid. Creepy as it sounds, it was also Lee Harvey Oswald’s favorite, and you can see why: it’s full of fantasy and Marxist conspiracy right here in everyday, workaday America, taking place under the Coca-Cola sign at the local Piggly-Wiggly’s. “I Led 3 Lives” was one of the best-known TV programs of its day, and it never appeared on a network. If TV historians remember it at all, it’s to condemn it as a relic of the McCarthy era. Once Gene Roddenberry became The Great Bird of the Galaxy, he disowned the modest start that “I Led 3 Lives” gave him as a new TV writer. But, looking at it again, it’s really not a bad show.

There’s a small backstory here. In radio days, Frederick Ziv produced a thriller called “I Was a Communist for the FBI”, with many of the same premises and ideas. It seemed to fit the mood of the times very well. But the author of that series, Matt Cvetic, was a drinker who’d been kicked out of the FBI. He wrote a colorful, fanciful tale that J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI disliked. So Fred Ziv got hold of the memoirs of another, more sober FBI infiltrator, Herbert Philbrick, enabling him to create a show that the Bureau approved of. An anonymous internet commenter accurately compared the two shows to “Dick Tracy” and “Dragnet”. “I Led 3 Lives” was a procedural; the actual work of tracking Communists generally involved going to people’s apartments and listening to political arguments, not de-fusing atom bombs.

This is the sixth in a series of brief monographs on TV and media history. Yes, @hankrhody does the electrical engineering better, @ejhill does TV history better, and @titustechera does culture’s Big Picture better.

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Eight Days In May–Rosenstein Did Wear a Wire and Discuss Using the 25th Amendment to Remove the President of the United States

 

I had written a slightly sarcastic post about how it was our civic duty as American citizens to rush out and read the latest book by a member of the Swamp, and how their families could probably use the money in the future when all appeal delays have expired after criminal proceedings have been wrapped up, and then I read Byron York’s piece of this morning, and Powerline’s comment on the same, and saw the book in a whole new light.

I strenuously urge a reading of York’s discussion of the number of suspicions and speculations some of McCabe’s book confirms, such as:

“If it’s all true, that is, if revelations in an upcoming book by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe are accurate. The bottom line on that is that, at least from what we know now, McCabe’s story seems consistent with information congressional investigators have been able to glean elsewhere.”

“It’s just like we thought all along,” said one House Republican upon hearing the news. “If McCabe’s account is true, it confirms what we thought, that Rod Rosenstein was serious when he talked about wearing a wire and invoking the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein should be under oath answering our questions. We need to know who was in the room and what was said.””

There is a lot more in York’s piece, especially about Rosenstein who is, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous people in government today.

As John Hinderaker concluded on Powerline, “Someone should be doing hard time.”

Indeed.

Sincerely, Jim

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Anti-Vaccine Moms are Risking Children’s Lives

 

In 1956, an infant contracted whooping cough. It was agonizing for the family to watch a child suffer through this illness. She was so sick one day that her parents had to call the fire department; they were able to revive her and likely saved her life. This incident took place just before the whooping cough vaccine came out.

That infant was my sister.

We are now experiencing a serious measles outbreak in this country, primarily because so many parents still believe the myth that vaccines cause autism. Even though the study that made this claim was debunked, the lie has remained alive. Now we have children coming down with measles currently at alarming levels, because so many children have not been vaccinated:

The Centers for Disease Control said so far this year, there are 101 cases of the measles in ten states and 58 cases of the mumps in 18 states. As these outbreaks grow, experts said vaccines are the key to stopping them.
‘It’s incredibly effective; 97 percent effectiveness with two doses of the vaccine, which is what’s recommended for children – and it’s inexpensive,’ Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said.

The MMR vaccine is for measles, mumps and rubella; there is also an MMRV vaccine which also covers chicken pox.

Although people downplay the dangers of these childhood diseases, the CDC doesn’t :

Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. From 2001-2013, 28% of children younger than 5 years old who had measles had to be treated in the hospital.

For some children, measles can lead to:

  • Pneumonia (a serious lung infection)

  • Lifelong brain damage

  • Deafness

  • Death

So refusing to vaccinate children has serious implications for all children. If we want to see what happens when vaccination levels drop, we only need to look at the Philippines:

The Philippines is in the midst of a growing measles crisis, with at least 70 deaths, mainly of children, in the past month. In January, there were 4,302 reported cases of measles in the country, an increase of 122% on the same period last year. The outbreak has been blamed on a backlash against vaccinations. The outbreak has continued into February. Last week, a measles outbreak was declared in Metro Manila – populated by 12 million people with many living in poverty-stricken slums. This follows 196 reported cases in January, compared to just 20 recorded in the same period last year. In Manila, 55 children under the age of four have died of measles since the beginning of the year.

In addition, there is a worldwide increase in cases:

The outbreak in the Philippines follows an alarming wave of measles cases worldwide, which has been blamed mainly on conspiracies and misinformation around vaccinations, particularly in Europe and the US. There has been a 30% increase on measles cases worldwide since 2016, according to WHO.

Overall, south-east Asia is one of the few regions where measles vaccinations are on the rise but other countries in the region have seen recent outbreaks similar to the Philippines. In November last year, a measles crisis was declared in the majority-Muslim southern regions of Thailand, which have high levels of poverty, even though the disease was said to be almost eradicated in Thailand. There were 4,000 measles cases reported in Thailand last year, causing the deaths of at least 22 children.

In a global society that travels a great deal, we are going to be exposed in this country to those in Europe and Asia who come here and bring this highly contagious disease with them.

Due to the drop in immunizations in the U.S., we are also losing our “herd immunity.” That provides resistance to a contagious disease if a high proportion of the population is immune to the disease, i.e., has been vaccinated. With so many parents refusing to immunize their children, this mass protection is disappearing.

What can be done? Many people understandably do not want the government to step in and legislate a requirement for vaccinations; I agree. I also think that using a rational approach to a highly emotional issue has proven to be less than effective. I recommend that we take a dramatic approach.

Have you seen the whooping cough advertisement for a vaccination? I think the times call for this type of approach.

Any other suggestions?

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Build a Wall Around Nouveau Intellectual Know-Nothings

 

Brandon Darby has a target on his head from the Mexican cartels. Concealing his Second Amendment rights under his vest, he hides among some of the most dangerous people in the Western Hemisphere. With more than half of the 32 Mexican states being run by the cartels, Brandon, a father and family man, understands his life is on the line daily.

We just interviewed Brandon, who was at an undisclosed location on the southern border. Unfortunately, it was a phone call and only after the interview, we realized we didn’t pick up his feed. Truly tragic as he discusses the reality at the border most of the media is missing.

He considers himself apolitical, saying he has disdain for both sides of the political aisle (Breitbart finances Brandon’s Border and Cartel Chronicles Project where he is the Editor in Chief and Managing Director). Yet he wouldn’t hold back his anger over how the Democrats are using the border debate for purely political motives. He believes their lack of action is resulting in rape, disease, and murder of innocents in both countries. We transcribed my introduction to the interview, which we hope to do again down the road.

We can’t escape them. The complicit media are sensationalizing AOC and Ilhan Omar, stuffing them down America’s throat daily, foie gras style.

Outside the beltway and twitter echo chambers, their presence on the national stage is wearing thin. With this new freshman class of neophytes, we find ourselves listening to debates on simple economics that most people learned in junior high (when they taught econ.) These debates ask Americans to reconsider almost 250 years of history by restructuring the constitution around their warped ideologies. Case in point; Immigration. Those of us who are paying attention know the Left’s desires to shut down ICE and our border control are doing so for two reasons:

First, Orange Man Bad.

Orange Man Wants Wall.

Wall Bad.

And two, well… that’s a lot more sinister.

Nancy Pelosi talks about the wall being immoral. Much of the media agrees with her. You can hear and see the way they color stories, such as the tear-gas mom that turned out to be fake.

As President Trump said at the state of the Union, not having a wall is immoral. Providing free health care, education, food, shelter, and legal rights, while having a border where anyone can cross not only incentivizes those to make the dangerous journey but makes a mockery of our laws. Advertising to the world the U.S. does not take border control seriously IS an incentive that ultimately leads to children being sexually assaulted and raped.

Yet the media have bought the emotional left’s argument which perpetuates untruths about the border crisis. On the series of migrant caravans, the liberal media have stuck with their narrative, straight from the talking points of House Democrats. Democrats are famous for using Alinsky tactics of never letting a good crisis go to waste.

This is where the Left has gone full Cloward-Piven.

Illegal immigration is the perfect tool for this strategy. It’s fairly straightforward as it has been implemented over the last few decades. We will import millions of illegal aliens into the country, it will eventually overwhelm a system that already cannot keep up with the demand for handouts while creating the need for a massive expansion of the federal government.

And now we are starting to see the results. If you’ve read your Cloward-Piven Strategy you know the end game is “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty.”

“A guaranteed annual income,” Gee I feel like I have heard that somewhere recently… I wonder if that will be provided for those unwilling to work too.

This is where the Left’s pantomime is so sinister. This whole debate is about POWER. The current migrant caravan story is only the latest example. We’ve been in an illegal immigration crisis for decades, with tens of millions of people entering the country illegally. And to those who say it hasn’t changed the country, well, they’re trying to sell you something.

We had Victor Davis Hanson on the show some months ago and we discussed how the open borders policy has led to states flipping from red to blue. It’s hard to believe that not all that long ago California had some great Republican Governors. Pete Wilson and way back, Ronald Reagan. Nevada has flipped. Arizona’s latest favorite classic rock band is Deep Purple. Colorado has not only flipped but they are going full Daily Kos. There is a bill floating up in the CO legislature that will repeal the Electoral College. It will likely pass and along with other leftist states going along for the ride, we could see this end up at the Supreme Court in the next few election cycles.

So this isn’t some conspiracy theory. It’s happening now. It’s been happening for over 30 years starting with Ronald Reagan who was bamboozled by Tip O’Neal and Teddy Kennedy. Let’s set a precedent for amnesty, they said. Let anyone in, they said. The more people need government, the bigger the government gets. We can sharpen our pencils and make the voters think we’re concerned about border security every few years when an election is upcoming. Gang of Eight, your table’s waiting.

This faux debate isn’t a debate. It’s strategery. Open borders invite illegal immigration. And who are illegal immigrants? Typically they’re people who have nothing. They probably don’t speak the language. They likely don’t have jobs or support systems ready. So many become wards of the state. Have you noticed there are more and more immigrant families at the supermarkets looking at their EBT checks trying to decide what to buy for their kids?

And don’t @ me. We are talking about illegal immigration. I’m an immigrant that waited in the long line and took 12 years to become naturalized.

This mess is exactly what Canada’s, Australia’s and yes, even Mexico’s immigration system prevents. You cannot just walk into those countries without ending up in jail and then deported. They have a meritocracy. If you heard my recent talk with Brian Roberts, the liberal television Director, it’s bloody hard to emigrate to Canada. They need bank statements, employment history, assets and you still may not get in.

But in America, Democrats bribe illegal immigrants with promises of healthcare, education, food stamps, etc. When I get a $30,000 bill for taking my son to the emergency room, how much of that is to cover the illegal’s that don’t pay a dime? They create dependents. So now you have a whole new class of Democrat voters that will be with them for life. This is why the new push from the Left is for illegal’s (or undocumented’s) to vote.

The Washington Examiner had a recent study that shows that 63 percent of non-citizens are on some kind of welfare program. 70 percent of non-citizens who have been in the country for longer than 10 years are on a welfare program.

Meanwhile, the country has $22 trillion dollars of debt. Middle-class parents can’t afford college for their kids and are quickly being priced out of health care. Yet these nouveau intellectual know-nothing children, like Ocasio Cortez and Ilhan Omar, are pushing socialist ideas that their constituents like, that will tax you even more. Of course we then end up with the Socialism paradox; Eventually, you run out of other peoples money.

The new batch of politicians who the media love stuffing down our throats as if these kids have some monopoly on economic wisdom, says more about our media and education system than it does about those particular new congress members.

It’s not that we don’t know that a know-nothing bartender from Queens or an anti-semitic, brother-marrying Somalian is that dumb. Sure they may know how to tweet… but boy are they dense. But, I don’t blame them for they are just the recipients of a strange new electronic hype machine that is turning our politics on its ear. Social media. Could these brainiacs have been elected before the dawn of the interwebs?

Their biggest challenge (and ours) is they aren’t smart enough to know what they don’t know.

I blame their teachers, the fast food media and ultimately the low information voters in their districts who went to the same schools, watch the same inane drivel on prime time tv and didn’t vet their representatives. Many of whom are the recipients of the government largesse AOC and Nancy Pelosi wants more of. So they will vote for more treats.

But now, at least for this term in Congress, we are stuck with them and their emotional outbursts, twitter rants and blatant untruths about this President, all in the name of “compassion.” They have the media carrying their bankrupt economics to unsophisticated voters: As long as the Orange Man is in office, we will double down and become a doormat for the rest of the worlds poor.

If you disagree with them, the know-nothings will shout you’re a monster who wants to pull babies away from their weeping mothers.

It’s just too bad they don’t feel that way when the baby is 39 weeks in the womb.

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It is a national emergency.

 

Build it and name it The Trump Wall of Greatness Again. Why the Repubs in the House did not already make this happen is unconscionable and a very black mark on Speaker Ryan.

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Exorcising Valentine’s Day: It All Works Out in the End

 

Surgeon General’s Warning: This has feelings in it, and it’s personal. You’re probably better off reading @cliffordbrown. In fact, it’s a little creepy to think you’d want to know a stranger this well; but I’m going to do this anyway. Damn the torpedoes, no sleep ’til Hammersmith!

Most of us don’t wait as long as I did to finally grow the hell up. I’ve mostly been a responsible sort for much of my life, but that’s hardly a marker of adulthood. You can save for retirement and still be a wretched hedonist with no understanding of the grace of God or mercy for His creatures. That was me in my 30s: too much Ayn Rand, fetish clubs, and waking up hungover on the floor.

Of course, I met a girl halfway through those terrible times and, of course, she thought I had my life together. Outwardly it must have seemed like I was a model of deliberate living. I worked for NASA, had all the appropriately edgy opinions that all the appropriately edgy smart people had, I showed up on time and did my best to take care of her. I fell in love, hard, like only a turgid teenager can or should. Maybe for a while, it was even reciprocal; I’d like to think so. But the degeneracy of my life started to take over and I began treating her like everything else in my life: as property that served a selfish or useful purpose.

It should come as no surprise that we started to drift apart, and I wanted to fix that somehow. We were engaged to be married but neither of us wanted to set a date. I knew something was up but I didn’t really want to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Why do that when a wildly romantic gesture could suffice? So, with the approach of Valentine’s Day, I put together a Plan™. It was a great Plan, a day of adventure and celebration. It would have been a blast and I get a little excited just thinking about it now, but it never happened.

We were supposed to meet up at my house at 10 AM, but she never showed. I started getting anxious and at 10:30 a text message came through. It was from her, and the gist of it was that she was in love with someone else and she was sorry.

My response was ugly and short. Suddenly I understood months of strange behavior and evasive answers, evidence staring me in the face that I had been actively, willfully ignoring. It was, in fact, the most painful moment of my life, more painful than breaking my neck and spending eight or ten hours tied to a backboard, as I had done in my teens, but it was also the moment I started to become an adult.

Looking back on it now, I’m overwhelmed by gratitude that I was given this opportunity. I wasn’t strong enough to leave her, left to my own devices. I needed something I could not rationalize away or overcome. For most of my post-adolescence, I had been acting like a sailor mocking the sea in calm waters, and the sea had finally had enough. It made quick work of me and, having survived it (a story in itself) I could start to become a man who might be of some use to his friends and his Creator.

It all worked out in the end. I met the woman who would become my wife and help me return to the Church. She’s more than a wretch like me deserves and I’m thankful for every minute I have with her. Something changed when we were married: I stopped living solely for myself and my own sensual gratification. I see now that rather than being a villain, that poor girl was overwhelmed by a bad situation and she needed out of it, and more important than my forgiving her is my hope that she has forgiven me.

Sometimes we get what we deserve and, thanks be to God, sometimes we get what we don’t. What are some of your worst Valentine’s Day stories?

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How Does He Make That? Watching a Cigar Roller

 

Nicaragua, the Undiscovered Luxury Beach Destination for Billionaires and CelebritiesThis past December, a conversation with a local cigar lounge owner turned to his plans for 2019. He was planning to become the first cigar establishment in Arizona to be approved as a cigar manufacturer, to be legally selling cigars rolled on the premise.

A week ago, I stopped by and watched the roller at work. So, how do you roll a cigar? It turns out that the more important question is “how do you make a cigar?”

To start, you will need to get on the Internet and look up the appropriate federal government office. Like distilling alcohol for drinking, the manufacture of tobacco products is federally regulated. Unlike distilling, you could legally grow your own tobacco plant, cure the tobacco, and turn it into a smoking product for personal consumption, as a hobby. Good luck with that. So, we are back to asking Uncle Sam’s permission to manufacture tobacco products.

The application process takes about fifteen months, less if you’re good at filling out government paperwork. Assuming you have your paperwork in order, you will need a dedicated climate controlled storage area for the tobacco leaves and freshly rolled cigars. The freshly rolled cigars must stay out of the retail humidor both until they have had a chance to stabilize in moisture level and, critically, until you have paid the tax man.

The feds demand their cut up front and the tax is assessed per cigar, so, inventory control is critical. This issue leads to a second requirement.

The cigar lounge owner wants to highlight his roller at work. That is fine, great for business, but subject to a strict rule: you can look, but you better not touch. Uncle Sam wants his cut of each and every stick: no exceptions, no freebies, no exempted sample stock. So, the business owner must build out a glassed-in work area for his roller, barring anyone from reaching for a freshly rolled cigar.

Beyond the climate-controlled storage area, and the glassed-in work area, the roller needs a sturdy wooden workbench and a set of wooden molds that are placed in a steel press to mold the cigars. The roller might bring his own tools for cutting and forming.

I watched the roller working steadily, clearly a master the craft he learned in Cuba. He employed the classic Cuban techniques, producing the highest quality at a steady 150 cigars per day pace. Cigar Journal explains the entubado technique:

This is the classic method. It was actually developed in Seville at the end of the 17th century; originally it was only the tobacco that came from Cuba. For this, the filler leaves are formed into individual rolls that are then placed next to each other and formed into a bunch. The ligero leaf is placed in the middle of the filler. This is a very strong, spicy leaf, which burns slowly. It is what gives the cigar its strength. The seco leaf is aromatic, spicy and burns reasonably well. It gives the cigar the necessary balance. The volado is mild and burns easily. The individually rolled filler leaves allow the smoke to move freely through the finished, cylindrical cigar; the smoke must pass through all the leaves, and thus carries more aroma and flavour to the palate. A well-rolled cigar produces a cool, slow and even burn. The torcedor then completes the bunch (Span: bonche) by rolling them in the binder. The cigar must be rolled from the head (the end that goes in the mouth) down. During this process the filler must be evenly packed along the full length of the cigar. The foot of the bunch (end that you light) is trimmed using a guillotine or a chaveta. The finished bunch is placed into a mould, where it will be pressed for at least 30 minutes. In order to ensure that the cigar is evenly shaped, the mould is opened once and the bunch turned.

After the partially completed cigars rest in the molds, the roller finishes the cigar with a wrapper leaf. This is selected for consistent color and lack of blemishes. The wrapper leaf spirals up the cigar. The cutter trims off the excess except for a flap. The flap is fastened over one end with a dab of vegetable glue. You must then glue a round piece of leaf over the flap, forming an end cap. The classic Cuban technique has the roller apply a second circular cut piece, ending up with three layers of leaf on the end and two round caps protecting the cigar from unraveling when cut and lit.

Through the whole process, the roller is careful to control the moisture level in the leaves. After all, the materials are dead plant matter. Nature’s course is for a leaf to dry into dust or to rot into mulch. A spray bottle and a lightly damp cloth keeps the tobacco properly pliable.

The roller’s steady daily production is building up an inventory towards a premier event, kicking off sales on 1 March 2019. For perspective, 150 cigars is about 6 boxes of premium cigars. With an average local price of $10 per cigar, that is $1,500 minus materials, labor, and taxes. The roller is usually paid on a production basis, per cigar rolled. The owner explained to me that he had agreed with the roller on 150 as the target, maintaining consistent quality with sufficient quantity.

I admire a small business owner innovating, taking risk, in the face of hostile do-gooders, claiming to act in the public interest, and formidable bureaucracies with law enforcement power over him. A major cigar maker, Rocky Patel, proclaims: “Socialism stinks, Cigars don’t.” At this moment, in both Latin America and the United States, lovers of liberty should be able to enthusiastically endorse the first half, and recognize prohibitionist and restrictionist “for the children” attacks as attacks on the liberty of others.

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Officer Mathew Rittner

 

Milwaukee Police officer Matthew Rittner was shot and killed last week while serving a search warrant. Today was his 36th birthday. He was a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq before joining the Milwaukee Police force. He was the third MPD officer killed on duty in the last eight months; two were shot, and one in an automobile accident.

There was a procession today from the church in Oak Creek to the funeral home in Brookfield that wound through several parts of the city that were significant to him. I don’t know exactly how many vehicles were in the procession, but it was an amazing site. It was *miles* long, all squad cars and emergency vehicles with their flashing lights on. I passed by the head of the procession on my way home from work just as it was entering the south end of the Hoan bridge on the south side of Milwaukee, and passed the end of the procession near the airport about 20 minutes and three or four miles later – and my route didn’t parallel the route of the procession. Right by where I passed the end of the procession, on a bridge over the freeway the St. Francis Fire Department had a ladder truck with a flag hanging from the extended ladder.

Officer Rittner was a Brewers fan and was married on the field at Miller Park before a game, though inadvertently. The wedding was scheduled at the stadium, and then due to a hurricane, a Brewers series that was supposed to be played in Miami was moved to Milwaukee instead. The team worked around it.

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History’s Sneakiest Bastards Connive-off

 

Willie: Welcome to another edition of Thunderdome! Boy oh boy this time we’ve got a real treat for you! We’re broacasting live from the History’s Sneakiest Bastards Connive-Off Invitational, and let me tell you we’ve seen some really underhanded dealings today. The skullduggery is only going to get better from here so stay tuned! As […]

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Tax Refunds vs. Tax Burden

 

It is expected that individuals will receive smaller federal tax refunds than they did last year. Does that mean people are paying more in taxes? No, but will that stop people from making that claim?

A refund is an overpayment. If you paid $5,000 through withholding and your actual tax bill is only $4,000, you will get a $1,000 refund. In other words, you gave the government a $1,000 interest-free loan and now they are paying you back. If your tax bill was $4,000 and your withholding throughout the year was $4,000, then you won’t get a refund. In both examples, you paid $4,000. The fact that you did not get a refund in the latter example doesn’t change anything.

When the new tax laws were implemented, the withholding tables were also adjusted so that people could see the benefit of lower taxes in your paychecks immediately. Are middle-class taxpayers paying more or less under the new plan? Is this, “a middle-class tax hike to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations and the 1%”? Probably not. How this works out as a whole is yet to be seen. For me, the increased child tax credit leaves me with a lower tax burden. However, if I did not have kids, I would be paying more under the new tax laws. To tell if you are doing better or worse under the new tax laws you will have to look at the amount of tax you are paying, not the size of your refund.

When I hear people talk about their taxes, they are more likely to mention their refund rather than the amount of tax paid. Since withholding happens before you ever see the money, people think in terms of net pay rather than the gross. So when they get some of those taxes back the act like they won something. The truth is, a lot of people don’t really know how much they pay in taxes. Your payroll taxes come out before you ever get the money. Your property taxes are often hidden in your mortgage payments. And if don’t know how much the government is taking from you, how likely is it you’ll ever complain about how it gets spent? Know how much you are paying. Look at your federal taxes, your social security tax, your state tax, your local taxes. Add them all up and see if that doesn’t make you just a little more of a conservative.

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The Standard of the Black Knight

 

“The Black Knight always triumphs!” I should probably say “spoilers ahead,” even though the movie is 44 years old. Also, those of you looking for transcendent inspiration should go elsewhere.

We open with King Arthur traveling through the forest, where he encounters the Black Knight. This massive warrior is guarding a ridiculously tiny bridge over a minute, apparently dry brook. As the scene opens, the Black Knight dispatches an adversary after a ferocious battle. The King naturally asks him to join the knights of the round table, only to be met with stony silence. Arthur tries to proceed, but the knight blocks his passage with a thunderous “None shall pass” and the fight is on.

Arthur quickly lops off the knight’s left arm, but Blackie refuses to give up. He continues to attack and the King eventually severs all his limbs. Even so, he taunts Arthur: “Come back here and I’ll bite your legs off.”

The group I hung out with in college were fanatics about Monty Python and the Holy Grail and quoted lines from the movie ad nauseum. Any physical mishap on the intramural courts or fields would be met with a stoic “’tis but a flesh wound,” or “I’ve had worse” from the injured player. Our defensive line in football would chant “None shall pass.” (With about as much effectiveness as the original. I think we won one intramural football game in the two years I played.) Taunts from the opposing team would be met with “What are you going to do, bleed on me?;” and, as inevitably happened, we were getting our rears handed to us, someone would pipe up with “Okay, we’ll call it a draw.”

I’ll bet most of the frat boys and business majors who played against us thought we were nuts. Even so, in this supposedly enjoyable activity, we always seemed to have more fun losing than they did winning.

This also gave me a lifelong standard for judging movies. If your supposed masterpiece doesn’t have as many memorable lines as this one scene, it’s not quite up there in the Pantheon.