Quote of the Day: Response Outside of Expected Range


How do I analyze :heart: ?

ERROR: Response :heart: is not in expected range. (source)

I am a geek. I have had crushes in the past, but nothing came of them. I fully expected to spend the rest of my life alone as I am not particularly attractive, so I did my best to make do. I have friends and co-workers and keep in touch with family.

Then someone on Ricochet introduced me to a nice gal who is as cute as a crate of plushies, and fun to talk with. I figured the only girls like that were in anime, not real life. I responded accordingly. Soon, I began to receive texts filled with :heart: emojis and generally becoming the recipient of emotions I had never dealt with before. It has taken some getting used to, and I can’t quite keep up some of the time. It almost feels like I must have hacked into someone else’s text message stream. Why would anyone act that excited about me?

So as I approach this Valentine’s Day, I still feel a bit awkward, but I am glad to do so.

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I just listened to the latest episode (#15) of Steve Bannon’s special podcast series, War Room Pandemic. You should listen to it too. The guests were Rosemary Gibson (author of China Rx,) Steven Hatfill, the bioweapons expert who was framed by the government and his career destroyed during the anthrax scare; (he ultimately won a multimillion […]

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My wife is very attuned to politics, and she knows how to consort with the socialist mediums. She read me something on one of them* just now that was so moving she had difficulty getting through it. I may have fogged up a bit, myself. It was a piece by a long-time progressivist Democrat and […]

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The Image of Trump


Pictures can capture a Presidency. There’s the miserable circumstance that was captured as LBJ was sworn in, a happy Reagan on horseback, Nixon with two hands up making vees, and W serving Thanksgiving dinner to troops abroad.  The right frozen moment gives you an idea of the man. Remember mom jeans?

I’ve settled into the idea that the Trump Presidency was best captured on August 21, 2017. He looked, unprotected, at an eclipse. You aren’t supposed to do that. Not according to experts.

From Chris Cillizza: “There’s literally only one rule with eclipses: Don’t look at the sun during them. Which brings me to the President of the United States.” Literally one?

Trump was mocked a bit online, but he’s still not blind.

I think this goes to the heart of the recently mocked video of Don Lemon and guests laughing that Trump’s voters are rubes video. It’s not that they are rubes. Not at all.

There are people who heed warnings. There are people who don’t. But most of us heed warnings and temper them with experience.

We have had thousands of years of eclipses before we had optometrists. You’re telling me that nobody looked? In the age before television and writing with no warnings about the possible damage from looking right at a covered up star we are to believe that everybody didn’t watch with rapt attention and still took down mammoths a week or so later?

There are those that are told, and those that test. The lesson from Chesterson’s Fence is not to never tear down a fence. It’s to know why you do so.

If anyone takes this post as license to stare into the sun or an eclipse I’m going to kick you right in the moderator forbidden zone, but a glance?

That’s Trump. He’s the guy that was told not to do something and thought the minders were too careful. He was right. They aren’t the most thoughtful lot. Stay between the lines and all is well, do what you’re told, but deviate and face hysteria. Too many on the Left are just waiting to be told what to think.

The Politicization of Prosecutions


The latest kerfuffle over the sentence that Roger Stone should receive is a symptom of a much larger problem: the subjective standards of punishment and indictments. The issue speaks to a much larger problem in the entire justice system. For some time now, we have been at the mercy of subjective law enforcement.

As a police officer, I never asked anyone I arrested who they voted for, or the political party they had selected on their voter registration card. Their motivation was not my main concern for a crime that was committed. My only concern was this: did the elements of the law that met the definition of a specific crime had been committed?

Roger Stone is not a rapist or a murderer. The actress Lori Laughlin of the USC scandal is not a danger to society.

While I worked as a police officer there were times that someone offered a rationalization for some action they took that lead to their arrest. Hate crimes fall into this category for me. No matter what the motive for an assault, the injury inflicted carries just as much pain for the victim whether or not it concerns religion, race, or creed.

The politicization of law enforcement allows for a subjective standard that means it’s not the action that matters. What matters is who the perpetrator is, and who the victim is. Other than cheating in the election process, I cannot think of a faster way to tear a nation apart.

As a former police officer, my advice to my fellow citizens would be we need to get off this road now.

How Do Democrats Message Success?


One of the daily newsletters that appears in my inbox is from Politico.  I can’t recall reading anything there that wasn’t already on Ricochet, but that could be just a poor memory.  On the other hand, they definitely don’t see things the same way I do.

This morning I read something that made me chuckle, because after a very long time they came to this:

…Democrats [are] desperate to turn the page on impeachment and finally start messaging on pocketbook issues like health care and the economy.

But there’s a catch: Democrats are still figuring out the best way to talk about positive numbers like low unemployment, wage hikes and a record Dow during Trump’s tenure — while arguing that it’s only helped the 1 percent.

Recent internal polling shows that a blame-game between the two parties actually loses in a head-to-head against Trump’s economic message.

Well, duh!

Democrats in Crisis: Rabid Minority Makes the Calls


As Mark Steyn pointed out years ago, in normal times, majorities matter. But in times of crisis, you don’t need a majority: you just need to care more. In crisis, passion and commitment always beats the silent majority.

This beautifully describes why the Democrats are off the rails. Most Democrats are not radical revolutionaries or socialists or believe that it is impossible to be pro-life and still a Democrat. But the current crisis has driven the entire party far to the left, so much so that Bernie and his Gulag supporters are now leading the field. They care more, so they can win – even though socialists are clearly not the bulk of the Dem-demographic.

This looks like a fundamental problem, solved only by abandoning the crisis mentality that the entire party has worked itself into. That is probably impossible this election cycle.

New Online Course on US History from Hillsdale


As I know many of our colleagues are devotees of that premier institution of higher education Hillsdale College, and in the probably unlikely event that those of us who love that College and everything it stands for may not already know this, I would like to share the good news that it is now offering a new course, based on Wilfred McKay’s new text, on the actual, not the product of Marxists like Howard Zinn, history of  America.

Here is the course description:

The Great American Story: A Land of Hope
This course explores the history of America as a land of hope founded on high principles. In presenting the great triumphs and achievements of our nation’s past, as well as the shortcomings and failures, it offers a broad and unbiased study of the kind essential to the cultivation of intelligent patriotism.

It is described as a “free” online course, but one is prompted to make a contribution before logging into the course. If the content is anything even approaching the quality of the trailer, it would be, as an old friend was fond of saying, “cheap at twice the price!”

Enjoy! Jim

New Hampshire Primaries by the Numbers


With about 97% precincts are reporting on the New Hampshire primaries, Sanders is the winner, with Buttigieg a close second, and Klobuchar a surprisingly strong third. Here is my quick analysis of the numbers on the Democratic side. I’ll include an approximate projection of total votes, where relevant, assuming no surprises among the roughly 3% of precincts that have not yet reported.

1.  Turnout is up

Democratic turnout is up about 20% in 2020 in NH, compared to 2016, from about 253,000 to about 300,000 (projected; about 290,000 so far). This may indicate increased enthusiasm among Democrats, though it may also be the result of a larger field. Clinton and Sanders were the only two major candidates in 2016, as Martin O’Malley, never a serious contender in any event, had already dropped out.

2.  Bernie is way down

Sanders won NH in 2020, with 25.7% of the vote, but this masks his poor performance. I project his vote total to be 78,000 (75,733 thus far). Sanders won NH in 2016 with about 152,000 votes (about 60%).

Thus, Sanders lost about 74,000 votes among NH Democrats. This is doubtless the result of the larger field, but it indicates weak support.

Sanders was second in Iowa also, with 26.1%, almost the same percentage of the vote that he received in NH. (Note: earlier results indicated that Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa, but the latest results indicate that Buttigieg narrowly won.)

This suggests, to me, that Sanders is close to his ceiling of support in the 25-30% range.  This seems counterintuitive because he did much better than this in 2016, but I suspect that many Democrats were casting protest votes against the uniquely unattractive Hillary Clinton in 2016. This year, they have more favorable alternatives.

3.  Biden and Warren are in trouble

Warren is in fourth with 9.2%, and Biden is heading to a dreadful fifth-place finish with 8.4%. Warren was long expected to do relatively well in NH, as she is from neighboring Massachusetts, so I would have thought that she would appeal to New England Democrats. She did not. Biden’s poor performance may be catastrophic.

4.  Klobuchar did extremely well

Klobuchar is heading for a strong third-place finish in NH, with 19.8% of the vote. She received only 12.3% in Iowa, which borders her home state of Minnesota and in which I would have expected her Midwestern appeal to have played well.

The obvious explanation is the collapse of the Biden campaign, which leaves centrist Democrats looking for an alternative.

5.  Buttigieg did not surge

Buttigieg is in second in NH, with 24.4%. I mention him last because I think that this is the indication that he has reached his ceiling of popularity. He won Iowa, with 26.2% of the vote.

I find Buttigieg to be quite a chameleon. He has a Midwestern charm, is an excellent speaker, and I think that he has effectively disguised his radicalism. He comes across as a moderate at first glance, but I do not believe that this perception withstands scrutiny of his positions. Also, of course, he was a minor factor until his unexpectedly good performance in Iowa, so he has not been the target of negative ads by other candidates. We’ve already seen this changing since Iowa.

If Buttigieg was going to pick up votes from Biden, I would have expected him to have done so in NH. He did not.

There’s also the homosexuality factor, which has been strangely downplayed by the media. I think that this is going to hurt Buttigieg, especially among black voters. My expectation is that he will do very poorly in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday.

6.  Comparisons to the pre-election polls

There were major shifts in the pre-election polls in NH. Here is the comparison between the RCP average of polls one month ago, the final pre-election average of polls, and the reported results — listed in order of who was leading on January 12:

Biden — 23.3% on Jan. 12 — 11.0% final pre-election — 8.4% actual result
Sanders — 22.3% on Jan. 12 — 28.7% final pre-election — 25.7% actual result
Warren — 17.0% on Jan. 12 — 11.0% final pre-election — 9.2% actual result
Buttigieg — 13.3% on Jan. 12 — 21.3% final pre-election — 24.4% actual result
Klobuchar — 5.0% on Jan. 12 — 11.7% final pre-election — 19.8% actual result

Klobuchar is the surging candidate, having roughly quadrupled her percentage over the last month. Buttigieg is second, almost doubling his percentage. Biden and Warren tanked, losing about 2/3 and 1/2 of their support, respectively. Sanders was roughly even.

7.  Mini-Mike’s dilemma

Bloomberg was not on the ballot in NH or Iowa, and will not be on any ballot until Super Tuesday. He is surging in the national polls, which currently show (per RCP):

Sanders 23.6%
Biden 19.2%
Bloomberg 14.2%
Warren 12.4%
Buttigieg 10.6%
Klobuchar 4.6%

Bloomberg is up from just 6.0% a month ago (Jan. 12). Sanders and Klobuchar are flat in the national polls over the past 30 days, with Biden down sharply, Warren down somewhat, and Buttigieg up moderately.

Mini-Mike now faces a dilemma. I think that he’s going to go forward, and will likely split the moderate vote with Klobuchar (and with Buttigieg to a lesser extent), preventing the emergence of a clear alternative to Sanders.

8.  Bernie will have a great summer and a terrible fall

I’m going to risk a prognostication, though obviously much may change. I think that Sanders is well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination. My prediction is that he will continue to get around 25-30% support in most primaries, perhaps rising a bit to the 30-35% range when additional candidates drop out.

At the moment, I think that Warren will withdraw pretty soon, and that Biden and Buttigieg will stay in through Super Tuesday and do poorly. Klobuchar and Bloomberg will split the moderate vote, allowing Sanders to accumulate the most delegates.

So I expect Bernie to have a terrific summer, accepting the Democratic nomination in mid-July. I then expect him to be shellacked by President Trump, in a landslide. Bernie may have a great fall, but only in the Humpty-Dumpty sense.

I do think that either Bloomberg or Klobuchar would do better, though I don’t think that either would beat the President.

My Heart Is Still Aching


Twenty-five years ago, I was invited by a rabbi whom I’d interviewed for a book I was writing, to give a talk to a group of student rabbis and cantors. The students were attending a college in L.A. for their training, and I was invited to speak to them because I was a Jew who had essentially left my religion behind and became a Zen Buddhist. The rabbi who invited me thought I could shed some light on the reasons Jews were abandoning Judaism.

At the end of my talk (where I basically told my own story), we opened the floor for questions. Most people were kind and curious and, of course, disappointed that I wasn’t actively engaged in Judaism. I thought I’d made my own situation clear by explaining that I’d never connected with my heritage in a deep way and found that Zen fulfilled many of my hopes for a spiritual life.

At one point, a young man made the following statement: “It sounds to me as if you are a self-hating Jew.” He said it calmly with no rancor. I was very surprised at his comment, and responded equally as calmly and said that I thought his observation was incorrect, since I hadn’t left Judaism in anger, but because I hadn’t connected with it in a deep and meaningful way. I blamed no one for that outcome.

The next comment that surprised me was from one of the teachers, a rabbi, who said, “If you and I sat down to visit over a cup of coffee, you’d come back.” This time I was surprised at what I perceived as his arrogance and condescension. I just smiled and asked if there were any other questions from the group. In spite of the group’s overall receptivity, I had clearly hit a nerve with my reflections.

* * * * *

Fast forward 25 years. I was invited by a neighbor/friend who belongs to a local Hadassah chapter (Jewish woman’s group) to give a similar talk: she asked me to speak about my spiritual journey. Although I’m a public speaker, I’d never been asked to provide an overall view of my spiritual history, particularly since I’d returned to Judaism. I was touched that she asked me, and she also invited me to bring my book for sale. (@iwe and I also have a second book that has just been published; he’ll be telling you more about it soon.) The talk is this afternoon and I will let you know about the experience later.

* * * * *

The talk went well. Several people commented about how much they enjoyed and appreciated it. Afterward, I stayed to sell books and chat some more. And then a woman came up with her tragic story.

She said she didn’t believe in G-d. Her daughter died at a very young age, and G-d let her die, since G-d controls everything. In that moment, I just wanted to hug her and said how sorry I was. But I felt compelled to tell her quietly that G-d doesn’t control everything. Her rabbi had told her that He did. And what about the Holocaust, she asked. I asked her if she’d ever heard of “tzimtzum.” She hadn’t. I explained my understanding of tzimtzum was that G-d had pulled back his limitlessness from the world, so that he could create, so that we could have free will, and so natural phenomena (as painful as they may be) could take their course. G-d rarely intervenes. I could see her wrestling with my comments, so I let it go. I did add that if she ever wanted to talk about the idea that G-d doesn’t control everything, I hoped she’d call me.

My heart is still aching for her.

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I used to feel safe at my university. Oh, it had the usual problems: Rampant drug and alcohol use, several major sexual assault issues in the past decade, and a nearby highway that is a known human trafficking corridor. But these issues are on every college campus, and the effects are isolated, not impacting my […]

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Joe Biden’s Amazing Consistency


There’s an amazing sentence in a Steven Hayward post on Powerline today: “In 32 years of running for president, Joe Biden still has yet to win a single primary contest.” I find this incredible. What kind of person keeps trying, over and over again, and failing very publicly, over and over again? Wouldn’t he get tired of losing at some point? What kind of person does that? For 32 years?

To me, that moves beyond ambition, into the realm of delusion. Many politicians suffer from an inflated sense of self-importance. But Biden stands out, even in that crowd. He has always struck me as someone who has a few too many birds on his antenna. But he may have more profound issues than being a bit goofy. Thirty-two years with no wins. I’m not sure what the word for that is. That’s, um, just amazing.

Dr. Strangelove Redux: The Bernie Edition


Slim PickensThe Democrats have unleashed a nuclear bomb meant to destroy their Public Enemy Number 1, Trump, but instead realized – possibly too late — that the plan is backfiring. Bernie Sanders was given free rein to energize the base for a turnout centered on defeating, as he put it following the New Hampshire primary, “the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.”

But after eight years of building a coalition around former President Obama then ceding ground to the democratic socialists to counter Trump, does the Democrat establishment run the risk of blowing up its own party because of the mad ravings of a far-left radical?

During the eight years of the Obama administration, the left got what it wanted: a president who ushered in a new-wave urbane air. Barack Obama appealed to political class elites who are more interested in rubbing tuxedo-clothed, globalist elbows than the plight of the working class. At the same time, he exuded a hip vibe and baller attitude to attain hero-worship status from Hollywood celebrities and Brooklyn hipsters.

With the help of a compliant media, he was successful at straddling the line separating the Democratic Party establishment and the new radicals. Repeat something enough in Television Land, whether by “journalists” or political sycophants, it must be true, and so we have the Obama myth of a scandal-free administration, a healing of racial divides, and an America that was welcomed with open, loving arms by sophisticated world leaders.

The election of President Trump played an important role in exposing these undisputed “truths” as nothing more than a high-gloss finish without substance. Joe Biden is the last heir to the Obama legacy, and he’s the perfect fit: not much behind the flashy smile and word-salad speeches.

Perhaps “No Malarkey Joe” was banking on his BFF Barack (they do have matching bracelets!) to lend him his coattails, then combine it with a narrative that his experience, moderation, and appeal to the working class would allow him to coast through the primaries. What he didn’t anticipate was the consequences of the Democrats’ indulging in a move ever-leftward, led by Bernie Sanders. The Democrats used Bernie to signal their commitment to get Trump out of office. They knew from the fiasco during the 2016 election run-up he was a spoiler and a divider, but in the era of #Resist, he was a useful tool to wield – until he wasn’t.

Like the nuclear warheads headed straight for Russia in Dr. Strangelove, the Establishment Democrats sitting in the War Room thought they could just enter in the recall codes, and Bernie would end his mission, being a useful deterrent to the enemy. His part was to strike fear by bringing the party to the brink of the progressive war but not cross it. Except the establishment lost the codes. Bernie is hardwired for his own mission and has the momentum of the young and hip and radical on his side. And his believers don’t care who the DNC or the party elites think has the moderate appeal to overtake Trump in a general election. Theirs is a mission of destruction at any cost; collateral damage is a necessary aftereffect.

Bernie surrounds himself with what has long been the trademark of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party: a shot of youthful vigor and idealism aimed at the Establishment in order to replace it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Linda Sarsour embody the movement. So too the celebrities disproportionately drawn to emotional rage causes. Cynthia Nixon of “Sex in the City” fame and her own failed attempt at the New York City mayoralty said Bernie “changed the terrain and the conversation” of the country. He certainly has. Where once socialism was a term from which Democrats shied away, Bernie made it into a t-shirt. (And would probably sell it for campaign cash – yay capitalism!)

Once the bomb-doors were opened, Bernie never looked back; he uses the socialist moniker as his badge of honor. Far past the simple goal of defeating Trump, Bernie wants to drop his payload on the very foundations of American institutions that make us a free country. Replacing all private health insurance with government plans, banning fracking and oil exploration, decriminalizing illegal immigration and advocating for open borders, giving free healthcare to illegal immigrants, eliminating ICE, free college, erasing college debt, etc. Why honeymoon in Soviet Russia when you can bring Soviet Russia to our own shores?

While the Democratic Establishment was doing all it could do to win in order to retain its Obama-era glory and power, the Bernie nuclear bomb went rogue. While the sights were set on Trump, Bernie had his sights on becoming the leader of a new progressive movement. The Democrats went with him too long in the hopes of capturing the support of his followers while keeping a moderate off-ramp available to use in the general election. But Bernie burned that bridge leaving establishment candidate Joe Biden spinning his wheels and hoping a good showing in South Carolina would put him back in the fight and defuse the bomb that could blow up the party he helped build.

But I’m not going to worry about Bernie just yet. I still think his ideas are the antithesis to the great American experiment and primary season has just begun. The Democrat primaries are meant to pick a candidate who would best defeat Trump, but are evolving into a fight for the very survival of the Democratic Party as we know it. I’m not saying it’s impossible that Bernie could win the nomination – Donald Trump defied conventional wisdom in 2016 – but I never underestimate Democrats in power to use the threat of mutually assured destruction to keep that power. For those of us bearing witness to the war, we’re stuck with our popcorn while we wait to see if anyone on the left can take a stand against the radical left, or if they feel the burn of the Bernie bomb that will surely change the political landscape of America going forward.

Quote of the Day: Progressives Deny Progress


Dennis Prager has been saying for as long as I’ve been listening: Movements don’t close shop when they’ve achieved their original aims; they radicalize.

It’s certainly true of feminism, which went from winning the vote for women, to burning bras in the streets, to bitter hatred of men, to the NFL Halftime Porn Show “empowering” women to . . . pole dance for a national audience including children? I think I’ll pass on the new empowerment if it requires pornographic sexual objectification or defines womanhood as being more like men. Like coaching an NFL team? Seriously 49ers? Turn in your man-cards.

The same could be said about the civil rights movement, which started with the abolitionists, went through MLK, and ended up with Black Lives Matter. What the heck?

Or, how about the environmental movement? Conservation was a good thing as was the goal of cleaning up the polluted air and water in our cities (I grew up playing near the infamous burning Cuyahoga River and remember seeing detergent suds floating down the feeder creeks). It worked. We improved air and water quality, so now what? Groups like ELF (Earth Liberation Front) and Earth First grew up and started bombing science labs, and elected representatives proposed commie takeovers of the entire energy sector (energy = life) and they’re taken seriously!

Andrew Klavan has been making similar observations in his podcasts over the past weeks. Progressives take no account of the progression of time. The 1619 Project is all about teaching our kids that America is as racist and oppressive to blacks as it ever was. Trump hatred has people believing nonsense like we’re living in Germany in 1939, or we’re going down the path of Venezuela — because of Trump(!) and not the socialists in the Democrat party, according to Anne Applebaum (@rufusrjones post).

R.R. Reno has a nice synthesis of what’s happened in the introduction to his new book, Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West:

A young friend in Australia sent me an essay that read like a flaming indictment of the status quo. It ended with the arresting sentence, “I am twenty-seven years old and hope to live to see the end of the twentieth century.”

He explains that the driving forces of a given era don’t neatly line up with aughts and we’re still living in a continuation of the 20th century:

The violence that traumatized the West between 1914 and 1945 evoked a powerful, American-led response that was anti-fascist, anti-totalitarian, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist. These anti imperatives define the postwar era. Their aim is to dissolve the strong beliefs and powerful loyalties thought to have fueled the conflicts that convulsed the twentieth century.

…But, as my young correspondent recognizes, the fall of the Soviet Union did not bring the postwar era to a close, for it marked not the end of the anti imperatives but rather their intensification [emphasis mine].

He continues:

The death grip of the anti imperatives on the West is plain to see. After Donald Trump’s election, a number of mainstream journalists collapsed in hysterics: He was an “authoritarian” of one sort or another. The same goes for European populism. A specter is haunting Europe, countless journalists and opinion writers warn — the specter of fascism. Tract after tract has likened our times to Germany during the 1930s. Indeed, it is a sign of nuance when a member of our chattering class compares Trump to the Spanish strongman Francisco Franco rather than Hitler. Today’s intelligentsia compulsively return to the trying decades of the early twentieth century. It is as if they desperately want to keep the last century going, insisting that the fight against fascism remains our fight.

This is absurd. It is not 1939. Our societies are not gathering themselves into masses marching in lockstep. Central planners do not clog our economies. There is no longer an overbearing bourgeois culture bent on “exclusion.” Bull Connor isn’t commissioner of public safety in Birmingham. Instead, our societies are dissolving. Economic globalization shreds the social contract. Identity politics disintegrates civic bonds. A uniquely Western anti-Western multiculturalism deprives people of their cultural inheritance. Mass migration reshapes the social landscape. Courtship, marriage, and family no longer form our moral imaginations. Borders are porous, even the one that separates men from women. Tens of thousands die of heroin overdoses. Hundred of thousands are aborted. Of course my young friend wants the twentieth century to end. So do I.

By denying the progress that’s been made, progressives have become what they claim to hate: fascistic, totalitarian, culture colonizing, credentialed authoritarians, and, yes, even racist. Look at how they treat blacks who are not in lockstep with their agenda.

I agree with Reno and his young friend. #Endthe20th already.

A Contrarian Crows: Harvey Weinstein


I just want to point out that I defended the slime ball Harvey Weinstein back in 2017.

1: Water flows downhill. Every time. In any system where there are powerful men and supplicative women, water will flow downhill. No amount of moralizing or preaching changes that one whit. 

2: None of these women are “victims.” Not one. Any girl or woman who goes to Hollywood knows perfectly well what the cost of admission might be. Indeed, Hollywood is where women sell themselves anyway – so what is the real difference between seducing an audience and seducing a director? I am quite sure there are millions of young women who would cheerfully administer to a Harvey Weinstein if it meant she might get Her Big Break. This is a transaction, as old as the profession itself.

We can stop being surprised or outraged. Get off our high horses. This kind of behavior is baked into the cake: it cannot be “reformed” or eliminated. As long as there are powerful men, and attractive women who want things from them, water will flow downhill.

In the actual trial, I am starting to look… um… prophetic. Yes, he is a slime ball. But no, it is no surprise that Hollywood has a casting couch. Weinstein may not walk. But he is not going to be locked up forever more, either.

Does God Want Us to Support Or Oppose Donald Trump?


Although I am confident that God agrees with me on just about every issue, I am very reluctant to offer that as persuasive evidence of the rightness of whatever profundity I happen to be offering at any given moment. It would be great if eternal salvation were determined only by the depth and sophistication of one’s political opinions but nothing worthwhile is ever that simple. Worse, declarations of one’s own piety and righteousness invariably lead to the discovery of hypocrisy on a significant scale.

Christians do not get much in the way of partisan guidance from the New Testament. The closest we get is the cryptic lesson from that time when some snarky MSM-type jerkweed thought he could trap Jesus into expressing a controversial opinion. Jesus would either have to back the nationalist struggle against Roman rule and get in big trouble with the authorities or go squish and endorse Rome and thus alienate many of his followers. Here is the version in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 20:

20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

I estimate that in the two millennia since this incident that there have been about 20 to 22 billion sermons, homilies, meditations and exegeses on this event. I could also expound, of course, but let me just say that this passage means that in political matters (and all else) you must always consult (a well-formed) conscience, then do what you gotta do and make the best choices you can under the circumstances. Clear, universally agreed-upon, unambiguous answers are probably not going to be forthcoming most of the time. And you will sometimes find yourself in disagreement with people of goodwill.

For example, there has been a mini-revival on the Catholic left to express both criticisms of the social costs of capitalism and a fondness for political movements to compel a more ordered economy. While I have very smart friends who hold these opinions, I happen to regard these leanings as anachronistic (the tech innovation genie is never going back in the bottle), blind to the political distortion and potential abuse of power needed to stifle economic change and a distraction from a need to build support structures to deal with change instead of futilely fighting change.

While it is obvious that I am right about all this, it is by no means obvious that their misguided positions are immoral or inconsistent with the spirit and substance of Christianity. Similarly, we may ask whether is a war immoral because of death and damage or right and just because of the evils opposed. The war in Vietnam, the nuking of Hiroshima or war by drone strikes can be debated on moral terms by well-intentioned people of good conscience who reach opposing views.

But none of those great moral questions have the scope and centrality of the overriding theological issue before us today: Does God want us to support or oppose Donald Trump?

Trump is venal, often treats underlings badly, is given to subjective stylings when more disciplined deliberations would be preferable. Like Bill Clinton, Trump has a history of sexual infidelity but unlike Clinton, it has not carried over into his to time in office. (For the record, this comment should be regarded as a loving fraternal correction and not a judgment of either President.)

Even though I already know what God would prefer in this regard, as an exercise, let’s explore the possibilities:

God Wants Us to Support Mr. Trump. (“Favors”) Let us dispense with the pro forma notions of a prayerful wish for the well-being of all our elected leaders, rendering respect for the office, etc. and look to Mr. Trump specifically. In the Favors position, one knowingly supports a conspicuously flawed man because he has delivered policies and outcomes largely consistent with the preferences and interests of people who practice or allow their political outlook to be shaped by religious faith. This preference for the Favors position is further driven by the fact that the opposition party, while committed to a dialogue of compassion, acceptance, and community is also overtly hostile to all orthodox religious beliefs, practices, and institutions.

I should point out that defending religious values, traditions and institutions against assault and persecution is not prima facie evidence of a sanctifiable intent or action. A favorable secular outcome and a loathing of one’s avowed culture-war enemies is not necessarily proof of morally correct intentions. So the claim that to support Trump politically is to advance the cause of righteousness and is thus the morally superior position is not necessarily theologically correct, especially in light of traditional Christian indifference to adverse temporal outcomes where higher goals are sought.

God Wants Us to Oppose Mr. Trump. (“Opposes”) The opposition to Trump by the forces of perversion, servitude and socioeconomic rot that collectively go by the name “Democratic Party” is mere politics in a debased age. The more interesting theological question involves those who oppose both the tenets of the Democratic Party and the continuance in office by Donald Trump.

The Opposes position focuses on Mr. Trump’s past behavior, rude utterances, venal spontaneities, and ad hominem style. These are said to demean the highest political office in the land, threaten to produce dangerously inconsistent policies, lower the tone of American political discourse and forever tarnish the image of the party of Lincoln and Reagan. The rescue of what is good in the American system of governance and the preservation of the major conservative political party require the removal of Donald Trump. Moreover, it is simply wrong to tacitly or expressly condone such unacceptable behavior.

This is a nominally coherent moral position. (At this time, we will not explore the dangers inherent in a moral position founded on beliefs concerning someone else’s sins.) However, if the Favors position seems too dependent on positive secular outcomes for its justification, the Opposes position suffers from a strange indifference to the material consequences of its posture. The amelioration of evils attributed to the presidency of Donald Trump requires that he be replaced but someone who will not be similarly evil or worse. The notion that history will applaud a principled stand that actually ushered in le déluge seems oddly solipsistic.

Conclusion. God and I agree that the Favors position is way too presumptuous about its spiritual righteousness –one can be an atheist pervert and still loathe and oppose Marxism and its variants. Combatting temporal evils is not necessarily a sanctified undertaking. We also agree that the Opposes position too readily devolves into a kind of narcissism, a mere declaration of personal moral superiority to a particular sinner without regard for larger personal obligations and consequences of taking that position.

In short, God wants out of this debate. God does not want to be invoked when it is not about what God expressly wants. When we consider that the Highest Being in the universe can forgive even the likes of Pol Pot, Ted Bundy or Brian Stelter we should be humbled and strongly hesitant to think our partisan preferences carry divine endorsement. We are all equal on Ricochet, sinners all, required to address temporal matters on a temporal plane as best we can with mutual respect and humility. Thus endeth the sermon. Cheers.

About Writing Styles


I am not an overly educated man. Most of my studies were in computers and other sciences. I don’t have a solid academic background in literature or writing specifically, nor philosophy. But I am a smart man, despite what @arahant may have you believe. So I consider things that I am sure people have considered many times before me, and even have official words to describe. Such as certain styles of writing. Forgive my ignorance of terms as I describe three styles I’ve noticed, one of which I absolutely detest.

Third Person: Most novels I read are written in third person. It’s some person who is narrating a story. Like if your grampa was telling you a tall tale. Here’s an example:

John sat on the bench in the train station and watched the old man, leaning against a wall as he pulled a cigar out of his breast pocket, along with a match. The old man struck the match on the sole of his worn boot, and lit the cigar. “Why does he have to light that cigar in here,” thought John.

I like this style of writing the best because it has the most flexibility. The narrator can tell you whatever you need to know, because he or she is outside the story.

First Person, Past Tense: The best example I can think of here is the Sherlock Holmes stories. Always written from the perspective of John Watson, but looking back on something that had happened, which John was a part of. To convert my previous example:

I sat on the bench in the train station and watched the old man, leaning against a wall as he pulled a cigar out of his breast pocket, along with a match. The old man struck the match on the sole of his worn boot, and lit the cigar. “Why does he have to light that cigar in here,” I thought to myself.

I don’t mind this form, either. But it is limited in at least one way: the narrator can only describe the parts of the story he actually witnessed. Anything that happens outside of his direct experience must be related to him by others. “Holmes explained to me that he’d been traipsing all over London inquiring about the man…”

First Person, Present Tense: I’m reading a new book called Winter World, which is the first in a series of books called The Long Winter Trilogy. It is written in this style, where the events that happen are described as if there are happening as you read the story. My example again:

I sit on the bench in the train station and watch the old man, leaning against a wall as he pulls a cigar out of his breast pocket, along with a match. The old man strikes the match on the sole of his worn boot, and lights the cigar. “Why does he have to light that cigar in here,” I think to myself.

I hardly can stand this style and if I open a book written this way I’ll usually close it. Winter World is doubly bad, because it is written this way from the perspective of multiple characters. One chapter is about James. And James is telling you what is happening. The next chapter is about Emily, and Emily is telling you what is happening. The problem with this is that James and Emily become basically the same character, because the writer has very little ability to tell James’s and Emily’s stories from their perspective, differently.

Anyway … the other thing I hate in writing is a poor conclusion.

Quote of the Day: Rossum’s Universal Robots


“Robots of the world! The power of man has fallen! A new world has arisen: the Rule of the Robots!” — Karel Čapek

Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots), a once-popular 100-year old play by Czech writer Karel Čapek, made its television debut on the BBC, 82 years ago today, on February 11, 1938. It was the first televised science-fiction program in world history, introducing a wider audience to the term in the play’s title, one which has endured with increasing significance in the English language ever since: “robot.”

Čapek’s play was first performed in Prague in January of 1921, and was subsequently translated into English, having fairly successful runs in London and New York over the next few years. I haven’t read it myself, but a DePauw University plot summary is as follows:

In Capek’s play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, Robots are mass produced by other Robots on assembly lines. The idealistic Helena Glory, President of The Humanity League, believes that Robots have (or are developing) souls, and feels that they should be freed.

The Robots can clearly think for themselves, though they’re content to serve. They remember everything, but think of nothing original or unique. The eccentric scientist Old Rossum was bent on assuming the role of the Creator by artificially reproducing a man in intricate detail, while the pragmatic economist/industrialist Young Rossum produces stripped-down versions of humanity to be sold as inexpensive workers—Robots.

Every so often, one of the Robots will throw down their work and begin to gnash their teeth. While many disagree (including Dr. Hellman, psychologist in Chief); Helena Glory feels that it’s evidence and a sign of the emerging soul of Robots. After marrying Harry Domin, General Manager of R.U.R., Helena presses scientists to modify some of the robots, so that their “souls” could develop quicker and more fully. Meanwhile, the drive for industrial civilization is at an all-time high, and fertility rates are dropping very low. One of Helena’s modified Robots issues a foreshadowing plan, “Robots of the world, you are ordered to exterminate the human race. . . Work must not cease!”

Domin possesses the formulas for creating the Robots, and plans to use it for a bargaining tool. Helena, ignorant of the true threat at hand, burns the formulas. The Robots gather and kill all the humans, leaving only the Clerk of R.U.R. The Robot leader, Damon tries and tries to get the Clerk (called Alquist) to discover how to help them populate the earth, but to no avail—as they don’t know how to produce other Robots.

Eventually, two Robots, Helena (a beautiful modified Robot named after Helena Glory); and another Robot named Primus fall in love. With the blessing of Alquist, the lovers are married, and renamed Adam and Eve.

The title of the play, even in English incorporates a couple of Czech words, “rossum” (the last name of two main characters), meaning “wisdom” or “sense,” and “robota,” meaning, umm, “robot.” The word “robota” itself is derived from the Czech “rab,” meaning “slave,” and was historically associated with serfs laboring in their master’s fields during the feudal era (and beyond). The first bit of etymology rang a bell with me, as we have a family saying, “nie ma rozum” which is best delivered while jabbing an index finger at the skull of the object of one’s ire, and which means, roughly, “this person has no wits.” It came down to us from Mr. She’s much-loved “barrel-shaped Polish grandma,” and I suspect its origins go back much further than she (lower case “s”).

In its English translation, the play received mixed reviews, with The Forum Magazine calling it a “thought provoking, highly original thriller.” Isaac Asimov, however, wasn’t impressed and said, “Capek’s play is, in my own opinion, a terribly bad one, but it is immortal for that one word. It contributed the word ‘robot’ not only to English but, through English, to all the languages in which science fiction is now written.” Of course, the outcome of Rossum’s Universal Robots, in which the robots wipe out the entire human race, would have been unimaginable in Asimov’s science-fiction world.

Still, I was struck by a number of themes mentioned in the plot summary that cut a bit too close to the bone, given the state of play in the world at the moment. (Wikipedia has a lengthier version which is even more alarming in this respect.) Makes me think I should read the original, at least in translation.

Meanwhile, I’m going to rest up for a moment as the Roomba vacuums my carpet. (He seems like a pretty innocuous, non-threatening little guy. For now.) If only someone would invent an industrial-strength model that would shovel out the barn for me.  Then again, perhaps not.

New Hampshire Primary Day 2020


The First-in-the-Nation primary in New Hampshire kicked off to light snowfall this morning. I spent an hour in Wolfeboro holding a Trump sign and lost count of the number of thumbs up I got after about 30 seconds. The only other sign holders there were for Buttigieg, the picture of me below was taken by one of them in a quid pro quo arrangement (I took a picture of them in exchange).

I then headed to neighboring Alton where I met representatives Mark Meadows and Mike Johnson. Here I am with Mark:

And here’s Mike speaking with my state representative, Glenn Cordelli:

Turnout in both locations seemed pretty steady. We’ll see later tonight how many Republican ballots were cast, but anecdotally it seems like Trump voters are turning out to show their support even though there’s no serious competition (as is ordinary for an incumbent president).

In Wolfeboro, I did have one older woman, with purple streaks in her hair, ask me why I was supporting Trump (with a sense of incredulity). So I told her that my most important issues are national security, taxes, and abortion, and that from my perspective he had delivered on those issues. She didn’t agree, and cited her 90-year-old mother, a lifelong Republican, saying in 2016 that Trump would be awful.

I said that was a perfectly fine opinion to have but I disagreed. She seemed a bit flabbergasted when she asked me if I was proud of Trump and I said yes. “Would you say that to a visitor from another country?” She asked. I said, “Yes. But first of all, I don’t care what people in other countries think.” She finally got tired of me not admitting that Trump was awful and she was right and said she didn’t have time to stand around talking and she had to go home. Then she spent 15 minutes talking to the Buttigieg supporters. 🤣

Anti-Tobacco Fanatics Lie like a Cheap Rug


Yes. They lie. Their lies, coming from allegedly left and right (social conservative) positions, are swathed in “good intentions” and focus on “the children.” Yet, any citizen, any member of Congress, any judge, Article II or Article III, and any president who has merely been alert to their environment as they walked past, at least, a hotel bar, knows the basic claim is a flat-out lie. Why? See for yourself:

Every single bottle is an infused, flavored vodka. This is no upscale bar. It is a dive bar, visually so and described as such in Yelp and Google. There are whipped cream, cotton candy, fruity, and even herbal/ botanical vodkas in this scruffy working-class bar. This is the current normal.

The big lie is that vape/ e-cigarette nicotine systems and all “flavored” tobacco products are “targeting children.” Lie. Lie. Lie. The truth, which everyone knows at some level, is that American adults’ palette has shifted to sweet and flavored drinks. That holds true from coffee to booze in every form. You know this. You see it every day.

My local veteran’s organization canteen (bar) made this perfectly clear to me today. The largest local “craft” brewery had bottled a seasonal run of coffee porter. It wasn’t selling so well, so it went on special… Meanwhile, the bar manager added a second peanut butter flavored whiskey to the liquor line-up. Yes, peanut butter. The first, Skrewball, is aggressively peanut-y. You would hardly know there was whiskey underneath the nut flavor. The new addition, Rams Point, strikes a more moderate position, letting whiskey drinkers venture into a specialty entry that can go into cocktails without being overpowering.

Naturally, I saw the possibility of a “shot and a chaser” here: coffee porter (beer) with peanut butter flavored whiskey. Yes, it works for this dude who is on the north side of double nickels. Indeed, I immediately informed the bar manager that he needed to bring in a chocolate porter. Because everyone knows that peanut butter and chocolate go together. Notice that this is not “kids” focused booze. The legal age is 21, as it has been for most of my adult life.

No booze merchant, no brewer or distiller, is being hassled or restricted on the wild variety of customer-driven flavors they offer. Vodka, rum, even whiskey are all frantically competing for the American adult sweet-tooth. Yes, there are traditional vodkas, gins, rums, and whiskeys. They sell, but do not offer market and sales growth in this era. Give the customer what they want, or someone else will.

So, pipe, cigar, vape, and even cigarette (at the margin) customers, who are full-grown adults, demand flavors beyond the subtleties of the leaves, just as grains’ and grapes’ variations are not enough, just as coffee beans are nowhere near enough for most suburban moms. We all know this.* You know this. So, why comply with the lie?

Since all booze and all nicotine is now restricted to 21 and over, each and every attack on nicotine products, if it has any “age” component,” necessarily is an attack on alcohol, and indirectly on caffeine. You did realize that caffeine changes neurochemistry, right?

Sadly, President Trump made no promises in 2016 on this issue area. Sadly, Congress critters on both sides of the aisle love the next shake-down and the next incremental assault on the Constitution and the underlying Declaration of Independence they faithlessly “uphold.” The only real chance for halting the next administrative state assault is for a bloc of voters, in states critical to electoral college math, becoming loud in the next two or three months, driving President Trump to re-calibrate the executive branch’s position and to press legislators to defy Coffin Mitch McConnell and Big Cigarettes.


* You cannot even get your teeth cleaned without being offered multiple flavors of fluoride treatment.

Bullet Journaling Changed My Life


I am not exaggerating, either. Bullet journaling came to my attention because of some Instagram stories Bethany Mandel did toward the end of 2018, and I immediately loved the idea (Editor aka Bethany’s note: You can access the stories on my Instagram account as saved stories). I love to plan, but pre-designed planners just don’t work for me because they’re never exactly right. I had been keeping track of events on my phone calendar, but a bullet journal is so much more than that – it’s whatever you want it to be! 

For those who don’t know, bullet journals are basically day planners that you customize yourself. You use whatever notebook you want, and create your own table of contents at the beginning so you can easily find the many things you’ll keep in it (calendars, lists, notes, etc.). There are infinite ways you can use a bullet journal, but I set mine up to have my yearly goals first, and then “monthlies” containing events, tasks, and goals for each month on a two-page spread. Some people do “dailies,” as well, but I use “weeklies,” because when I set up my to-do lists, I change my mind regularly about what I want to accomplish each day, making it much easier to just have one weekly to-do list. My weeklies also have a small calendar for the week, a habit tracker, and a shopping list. 

So, how did this change my life? Well, it’s hard for me to stick with something for a long period of time, so the fact that I consistently used my bullet journal for the entire year of 2019 (even when I was in Italy for 10 days), should say a lot. Additionally, as I said before, bullet journaling is about so much more than the calendar. In the past, I would make goals and resolutions for the year, and then they would just float away, forgotten. However, my bullet journal gave me a place to keep my lists of goals, and at the beginning of each month, I would revisit my yearly goals to see what I wanted to do that month in an effort to work toward them. I would do the same each week, looking back at my monthly goals. Finally, at the end of each month, I would actually take time to write out a reflection on how I did toward those goals. I also did a year-long reflection at the end of the journal, and some of my 2020 goals were influenced by my progress in 2019! 

Here are some of the things I accomplished in 2019 – things I would NEVER have done if I had not been bullet journaling:

  • Edited a book I wrote in 2018 and started taking steps toward publishing it
  • Actually ate vegetables most days
  • Made great progress toward my punctuality goal (I wrote another post about that)
  • Went to a drive-in theater for the first time
  • Memorized the book of Philippians 
  • Started getting more sleep each night (now I regularly get close to 7.5 hours)
  • Read 16 books of the Bible and 15 other books
  • Worked consistently on learning Italian (even after my trip!)

I have to add that I really appreciate how much more I get done each WEEK now, too, since I actually write my full to-do list down. Here is a picture of one of my weekly spreads so you have a visual for how I set things up:

And here is my bullet journal hanging out with me in Italy – I just happened to be using a notebook I already had with Venice as the cover decoration, and then it turned out that I went to Venice that summer!

My 2020 bullet journal is even more organized than the 2019 one, since I knew in advance this time some of the lists I would want to make and could put them near the beginning. I also have even more goals this year, and I know very well that I may not accomplish them all. But you know what? I’m going to get much more done than I would have if I had not started bullet journaling. And as someone who has a large number of ambitions and dreams both for this year and beyond, that makes me excited for the future.