Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin Leaving Patreon

 

In the video, Peterson and Rubin discuss their reasons for leaving the Patreon crowdfunding platform, which has been very beneficial for both of them. Peterson has stated in other videos that he makes approximately $80,000/month on the Patreon platform. Peterson has also stated that he makes roughly between $35,000 to $50,000 per appearance for his lectures or on-stage discussions and he additionally has a business that garners roughly $200,000/month in revenue.

Peterson and Rubin also discuss the mounting censorship control by many of the leading social media platforms and the encroachment of credit card companies who are working with these platforms to censor free speech. Their action comes in the wake of Patreon’s deplatforming of Sargon of Akkad (aka Carl Benjamin) and Sam Harris’ departure from Patreon in protest of Patreon’s move.

I don’t think there is any question that there is a need for alternative social media and crowdfunding platforms dedicated to free speech. Peterson and Rubin are exploring creating a Patreon alternative. Where are the conservative angel investors who could help jump start these alternative platforms — The Murdoch family, Peter Thiel, the Koch brothers? Anyone? Bueller?

Once an Engineer…

 

…always an engineer. When I checked into the Myrtle Beach condo last week, I found a few problems. Instead of calling Maintenance, I fixed them myself:

The toilet wouldn’t flush: I pulled off the lid and saw there was no chain connecting the handle lever to the plunger. There was a loop where the lever should have been (probably jury-rigged by a previous roomie engineer). I rotated the plunger and slipped the lever through the loop — worked ever since.

Both TVs had lousy reception: I checked the input cables and sure enough, they were loose. I tightened them and have had perfect reception ever since.

Loose saucepan handle: I forgot my Swiss army knife (forehead smack), so I took a dinner knife from the drawer and used it as a screwdriver to tighten the handle. Problem solved.

Crooked floor lamp: A floor lamp by the couch was leaning to one side. I rotated it clockwise (righty-tighty) until it stood straight up. Not loose any more.

At this point everything worked as I needed, so I didn’t go looking for anything else to fix. Now, if I was only this handy around the house…

Member Post

 

Our civilization is an engineering civilization, and the prosperous life of the large population, which our earth now supports has become possible only by the work of the engineer. Engineering, however, is the application of science to the service of man, and so to-day science is the foundation, not only of our prosperity, but of […]

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Member Post

 

This case was discussed on Ricochet a couple of months ago. This women was convicted of potentially hurting the feelings of Muslims for stating the truth about one of Mohammad’s brides.

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Quote of the Day: To His Coy Mistress

 

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

—Andrew Marvell

Time moves no less quickly now than it did then. Another year gone. Another year fresh ahead of us, as with each second and moment that flees before us and somehow passes behind us. 2019 is here, but will soon enough be in our past. Let us do what we can with it. Let us know it. Let us savor each moment. Let the dogs and cats sleep, but I shall pack all I can into my year. G-d is with us.

Another Happy New Year

 

It seems to be de rigeur on the Internet to wish 2018 “good riddance,” with the unspoken understanding that it was a terrible year of some sort. I haven’t seen anyone explain exactly why that is; we’re all just supposed to accept it as common knowledge.

For me, 2018 was not a bad year. It was actually a pretty decent year; things are going well for me in my job, and while my life is far from perfect, I have a lot to be grateful for. Yeah, sure, North Korea, government shutdown, Russian collusion, whatever. Politics will always be there. My wife is sitting next to me playing games on her phone, I just got a new subwoofer, and I’m about to open a bottle of cheap champagne from Walmart.

Why think any further than that? I like to think I’m not old, but I’m old enough to realize that any new year I get to see is a happy one.

To quote our own @jameslileks:

Today we just sit and gaze at the plate and inhale and grasp the cutlery and think: another year on the right side of the dirt. Everything else is gravy. Who cares if there’s a lump or two.

Happy New Year!

Member Post

 

As I sit here keeping an eye on the TV watching one of my favorite movies Serenity, wrapping up what could and should have been a long running show but failed due to inept scheduling, I ponder the last several weeks of my life with a smile on my face. From the end of October […]

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Why a Wall?

 

“…and I’ll make Mexico pay for it!”

Who cares if Mexico pays for it? We’re arguing over $5,000,000,000 in the budget; it’s an unimaginably huge amount in terms of my pocket book but the federal government wastes that much money on nothing every day. Yeah, I darn well would prefer if the feds didn’t waste all that money all the time. Border defense constitutes one of the fundamental duties of the government, and I’m willing to pay for it. The question then becomes what’s the best way to go about it?

Well, you’ve got other options: E-verify. Better enforcement on visa overstays. Radar and helicopters and active border patrol units, hey, that’s what we already do. Why don’t we just beef up the current operations?

The problem is, as it always is, politics. Without going into it too deep, look at Marco Rubio. In 2010 he was the Tea Party’s golden boy; he articulated conservative ideas well, he was young, good-looking, and he was actually a minority so that none of that Democrat identity politics would work on him. And then the Gang of Eight happened. The Tea Party’s golden boy was proposing amnesty.

My point isn’t to pick on Rubio in particular. Politicians lie, always have, always will. You gotta figure they’ll always look out for #1. But that usually comes in the form of pandering to your voters and your donors; makes one wonder why the GOP so consistently lurches to the left of its base on immigration. I’ve seen a number of explanations and none that seem complete. My best guess is that the politicians have read the demographic charts, they assume that the ever-growing Hispanic percent of their district will take a strong view on immigration. The votes they’d lose from a smaller portion of the electorate that holds strong views on the subject is going to be more than they’d lose by disappointing their base (who, let’s face it, are already going to vote for ’em over the Democrat).

And, to be fair, there are some perfectly reasonable ideological stances that argue in favor of immigration. More people means a bigger economy. Free trade theoretically includes the free exchange of labor across borders. A lot of people come here to pursue the American dream. Heck, I dislike e-verify simply because I don’t like people tracking my movement, especially the government. Maybe that politician is voting that way based on noble reasoning. If so he shouldn’t have sold his views as something else to the public.

For ages, we’ve had politicians who’ve superficially agreed with us, but can’t ever seem to get the job done. The best we seem to get out of them is boilerplate rhetoric, stuff that’s carefully crafted to sound tough to the base but be easy to walk back later.

And here we get back to Trump; Trump read the market and realized there was an unmet demand. Instead of offering the standard he says he’s going to build a wall, and make Mexico pay for it. People have said they’ll build a wall before, but make Mexico pay for it? You can’t walk that back to appeal to a constituency who supposedly has fond associations with Mexico. Trump wasn’t just taking a position; he was nailing himself in place. The fact that he can’t back down from that position lets his voters believe that, when they vote for immigration restrictions this time, maybe it’ll stick.

And that’s also why the wall itself is important. Take any other measure; if one administration raises the funding for the Border Patrol the next one can lower it again. Helicopters and radar and whatnot can be given and taken away. E-verify can be ignored. But a wall? It’s much harder to take a wall back. The politicians can lie all they want; if they had to spend some serious political capital to tear the wall down, brother, it ain’t gonna happen. Maybe they pull the guards off, maybe they offer amnesty. On the other hand, maybe we’ll get more politicians who realize that their voters don’t like being played for saps.

The Grave of the Year: Mississippians Look Back on 1865

 

I have been a member of Ricochet for years now, but always as a lurker; I wasn’t sure if I had anything meaningful to add to the conversation. The Member Feed has always been my favorite part of the site, reading about he experiences and expertise of so many Ricochet members has truly been a joy. Lately, though, I have felt the urge to add my voice to the conversation, and perhaps I can contribute in a meaningful way. I am a professional historian, and my personal area of interest is 19th Century American history, in particular, the Civil War era. I have been writing on the subject of the Civil War for many years now, concentrating on how the conflict affected my home state of Mississippi. The following is a short piece I wrote for my blog; I chose it as it has a New Year’s theme. I hope you like it, and I wish everyone here a very happy 2019!

The coming of a new year is a good time to reflect on the changes that the old year has brought. For Mississippians, no year ushered in more change than 1865, as the Confederacy crumbled to ash and Southerners lost not only a war but a way of life. On January 1, 1866, The Natchez Democrat ran the following article that very eloquently explained the altered world that Mississippians had to learn to live with. The original article was very long, and I have edited it down to a more manageable size:

The past is an instructive study. We love to dwell upon its joys, because their pleasure is renewed when we recall them to mind; and we love to brood over its sorrows, because there is something irresistibly attractive in the recollection of our troubles. In reflecting upon the past we often become lost in our reveries; and we seem, at times, to transport ourselves to other and far distant days. The world as it was looks better; for we view it in a mellowed light…

The year 1865 draws rapidly to its close. In its brief space what changes have been wrought? Many have grown suddenly rich, and many have seen the accumulated wealth of years vanish forever from their sight. No pestilence has swept over us with its dark and noisome wing; but the fearful scourge of war has made our country one vast charnel house for the uncoffined dead.

The opening spring saw the marshalling of defiant armies; the closing autumn saw those armies broken and dispersed. The opening year beheld a people strong and confident in the justness of their cause; the closing year discovers them powerless and disheartened, and their cherished cause mocked and condemned as unrighteous. To many it has been a year of exultant triumph; to many, a year of sadness and dejection. The year closes, and one people boasts a nation saved; while another mourns a country lost.

surrender
Furling the Flag by Richard Norris Brooke, depicting the surrender of a group of Confederates at Appomattox

It seems but a little while since the sons of the South went out to battle. They endured hardships, suffering and death. Their wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters braved all trials and shunned no dangers; but amid all the havoc and ruin of a widespread desolation stood unchanged and unchangeable in their devotion to the cause of their espousal. And today, standing as we do on the grave of the year, overcome and humiliated though we are, it is a matter of boastful pride and sorrowful satisfaction to reflect that we were not reduced to submission and subjection until the flower of our youth had been cut down in the rich harvest of death.

They went out from among us with banners full high advanced, drums beating, and all the

surrender-4
Monument to Mississippi’s War Dead at Jackson

pomp and circumstance of a holiday parade. With joyful hearts, with head erect, with elastic step, and consciences clear, they buckled on the panoply of war, and went forth to meet those whom they deemed the invaders of their country. The war had closed; but they have not returned. From the Potomac to the Rio Grande the little hillocks tell where sleep the brave

“- who sank to rest, by all their country’s wishes blest.”

They are dead; but they are not forgotten. Their memory is enshrined in the temple of our hearts. They no longer appear to our mortal vision. The melody of their voices no longer greets our mortal ear. Their hands are no longer extended for a friendly clasp. But when we turn in imagination to gaze upon the past, and the curtain is lifted from the late fearful and bloody struggle, which seems to move before us “like some high and mighty drama intermingling with its solemn scenes and acts a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies” we hear the glad shouts of our sons and brothers as they rushed on to victory, we see their proud forms as they stood erect in the fire and smoke of battle – and though we should live a thousand years, as often as memory shall waft us back over the lapse of time, and we shall recur to the days of our pride and the days of our glory, we shall see them still.

surrender-3
Close-up from the Monument to Mississippi’s War Dead at Jackson

“On fame’s eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread; and glory guards with solemn round the bivouac of the dead.”

The old year passes away. May the new year open with fairer hopes and brighter prospects!

The Natchez Democrat in which this article appeared was a good symbol of the changes that Mississippi was undergoing in 1865. The paper was founded that year by two former soldiers: Paul A. Botto, who served in the 12th Mississippi Infantry, and the curiously named Fabius Junius Mead, who was a member of the 4th Illinois Cavalry. (The Natchez Bulletin, May 21, 1869)

snap-2017-01-02-at-05-54-11
Ad for The Natchez Democrat from The New Orleans Crescent, August 30, 1866

Two former enemies were able to put aside their differences and create a newspaper that would stand the test of time- The Natchez Democrat is still being published, and still looking back at the past to help prepare for the future – writer Ben Hillyer wrote such an article on January 1, 2017, and it can be found here.

Member Post

 

Homemade pancakes sizzling on the stove. Brother-in-law hovers as husband cooks, Reminding his brother he was their mother’s favorite With a grin He’s 76, husband is 72 Joy circles around us Like a lei of fresh flowers We sit, laugh, tease Pancakes, butter, maple syrup Fresh fruit to quell the guilt of indulgence Dishes cleared, […]

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Member Post

 

2019 started out with some snow in Catalina, Arizona. Started the coffee this morning, walked across the street to my neighbor’s house to put her newspaper against her garage door. She uses a walker, and her driveway isn’t flat. Snow is not her friend. Enjoyed my coffee and when there was enough light I stepped […]

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Member Post

 

Greetings, Ricochet! It’s been a memorable year here at R>…I’m convinced the best is yet to come. I’m raising a glass to each and all: From Sydney to NYC. 

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Who Would Want to Become a Doctor?

 

To become a medical doctor in the coming years, a person would need to be extremely dedicated—and a glutton for punishment. I’m beginning to wonder how many people will decide that becoming a doctor is simply not worth the sacrifices.

Many of us already know about some of the costs that a student faces to go to medical school:

The median four-year cost of medical school (including expenses and books) was $278,455 for private schools and $207,866 for public schools in 2013 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. While grants and scholarships account for some of this total, lowering eventual debt to an average of $170,000-interest accrues while doctors are still completing their residencies, sometimes adding as much as 25% to the total debt load.

Since this study is from 2013, I’ll assume costs have gone up. For the record, doctors end up $416,216 in the hole.

Making their lives even more financially difficult is Medicare reimbursement . Many doctors are simply turning down new Medicare patients. Part of the reason is the onerous paperwork required by Medicare; even worse, Medicare reimbursement only pays 80% of what private insurance pays. As the aging population continues to grow with more health issues, more demands will be made on the health care community and less medical assistance will be available to patients.

But the latest difficulty that affects both doctors and patients are the hidden costs that hospitals are imposing on everyone in order to improve revenue. Doctors are now being pressured, sometimes contractually, to refer patients to services and doctors that are within the hospital system. Losing patients to competitive services is known as “leakage”; keeping patients within the system is known as “keepage”:

The efforts at “keepage” can mean higher costs for patients and the employers that insure them—health-care services are often more expensive when provided by a hospital. Such price pressure and lack of transparency are helping drive rising costs in the $3.5 trillion U.S. health-care industry, where per capita spending is higher than any other developed nation.

I have several problems with this policy:

  • Doctors are often told that they aren’t required to refer patients internally for services such as MRIs, chemotherapy, blood tests and to other doctors, but referrals are tracked, and doctors are asked for the reasons that patients were referred and not treated internally.
  • Services can be twice as costly, or more, when they are provided by the hospital.
  • Patients are often not told that services outside the hospital can be less expensive, or that they can locate a doctor on their own outside the system.
  • Physician contracts can restrict referrals except for a limited number of exceptions.
  • Doctors may be reluctant to refer patients to doctors with special expertise due to pressures from their own hospital systems.

Some organizations are taking a pro-active approach to the “leakage” problem, trying to determine the specific reasons for referring patients outside the system, and determining options that could put less pressure on doctors to increase revenues. I’m disturbed that most organizations, however, are demanding, subtly or overtly, that doctors must comply with “keepage” expectations. I think that doctors are entitled to maintain a level of independence, given that they can be dealing with life-and-death issues. The question is whether these hospital systems are ethically entitled to hold physicians accountable for helping to increase their bottom lines at the possible expense of the patient.

This paragraph sums up the dilemma:

‘We do not use our referral tracking data to put pressure on our physicians to refer to their partners within our system,’ said Suresh Lakhanpal, president of Phoebe Physicians, the medical group. ‘However, if an employed physician routinely refers patients outside of our group without good reasons to do so, then that physician is not demonstrating commitment to the best interest of the patients and may not fit well within our team of outstanding health-care professionals.’

So who gets decide what “good reasons are?” At what point is a physician “routinely” making referrals outside the system? How is keeping a patient in the system necessarily in the patient’s best interests?

Member Post

 

Dave Barry’s 2018 Year in Review is fantastic. Non-partisan insightful political humor is not dead. And what a year it was. Some highlights: The president referred to some poorer nations as “sh*tholes.” This upsets many people, especially the frowny panel persons of CNN, who find the word “sh*thole” so deeply offensive that they repeat it […]

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Ending Poverty in America

 

This article in The New Yorker, about J.D. Vance’s book, Hillbilly Elegy, revolves around the question of who or what is to blame for the poverty of “hillbillies”:

  • Society
  • The Economy
  • Culture
  • Hillbillies themselves

Its conclusion is that a good case can be made for any one of these – all are true. A question I have is: On which of these truths should we concentrate? Here are my thoughts:

If I’m a hillbilly looking to get out of poverty, I should concentrate on what I can do, rather than wait for society, the economy, or my culture to change.

If I’m in the government, I can do things to help turn the economy around: Remove barriers to employment such as, licensing and minimum wage laws; remove barriers to mobility such as zoning restrictions; remove trade barriers.

And there are things that government can do to change society such as: Stop giving special privileges to businesses, special interest groups, and individuals.

If I’m a teacher or a pastor, I can concentrate on changing the culture.

What I should never do is encourage hillbillies to lay the blame on others, because doing so reduces their “agency” – that is their perceived ability to make their lives, and the lives of their children, better.

Great Video On The Value Proposition Of Higher Education

 

The video below is just devastating. Higher education is extremely overpriced for no good reason. It is a vehicle to steal from the taxpayer and the students, too.

When is this stupid cartel going to be broken up?

How Did You Spend the Last Quiet Sunday of 2018?

 

On occasion I have shared my love of flying with the Ricochet community, and this morning on my way from Annapolis MD to New Garden PA involved a lazy flight over Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This is over a rural stretch of farm land that is situated between two of the East Coast’s largest metros. Baltimore/Washington and Philadelphia. Yet for all of this “relatively” recent manmade developments, it has not erased one of nature’s time-spanning rites. The Eastern Shore has been the winter nesting region for one of the most ancient rituals of some remaining legacy dinosaurs. In this case it is the southern most point for the migration of those Canadian Geese. (Insert Canadian jokes and misplaced passports here)

My flying buddy & I were in no hurry, and we witnessed several huge flocks of these bird doing their mid-morning foraging, which typically involve a group launch, scouting around for a less picked over field for their “elevensies“, flying en mass, then dropping it for more eating, squawking, and eating. We started to follow some of these group conflagrations. This is a group we were able to capture, I hope you all enjoy this as much a Stad morning review from Myrtle Beach, which inspired me to share this little video clip.

Technical particulars: We were flying around at 2000′, the birds typically pop up to 800 to 1000 feet to see where the next meal lies. Our air speed was about 98 knots. The air was a smooth as a pond on a late summer sunset. Perfect.

Member Post

 

Happy New Year to all of Ricochet. I am in the hospital in Phoenix and fortunate to be here, I think. Here’s how it happened. I had all my family for Christmas except my son, who lives in Virginia, and one grand child, who just finished college and started a new job in Utah. So […]

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Dr. StrangeTrump: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Character Questions (As Much)

 

If you had access to my Facebook account and went back far enough in my history, you would find out that I neither voted for Trump nor supported him at any point before his election. As time has gone by, I find myself spending more and more time defending him from critics; more accurately, I have spent time attacking his critics, not because I love Trump but because I have come to be confounded by some of them. Would I defend a similarly situated Democrat? No, in part because I wouldn’t like their policies (I also don’t agree with Trump on trade and immigration, but leave that aside). Does this mean I have gone over to a completely transactional view of politics or that I have given in to my cynicism about the federal government and the people that people it? Probably, but a fuller explanation is interesting (at least to me).

The Problem of Corruption and Lack of Character

Aside from the moral problems (I’ll come to that later), it’s helpful to consider why a lack of character in leadership and the attendant corruption is a problem from a practical perspective. Our system is based on certain ideals; when corruption creeps in, people become cynical and start to look for alternatives. If a system purports to idealize the free market but really delivers crony capitalism more often than not, people will start to experiment with alternatives that seem (from a certain point of view at least) fairer even though time and again they produce worse outcomes. Some people will always be looking for a “better” way regardless of how good things are, but corruption exacerbates the problem and makes people more receptive to alternatives.

Interestingly, corruption works the same way in bad ideological systems (such as totalitarian systems like Fascism, Nazism, and Socialism), with occasionally good results. Upon viewing of Schindler’s List, I noticed how integral petty corruption was to the salvation of his workers. If any of the soldiers, SS men, or guards decide to put their Nazi “ideals” above their desire for black-market cigarettes, watches, or liquor, everyone dies.

So, corruption damages systems, whether that system is good or bad. Is our present system worth protecting from corruption? I find myself increasingly horrified to learn that the answer is something on the order of “not really” or more accurately “not completely.” This isn’t a call to a “burn it all down” revolution, but it is a call to rethink what we should and shouldn’t preserve if we find ourselves with an opportunity to renegotiate our present norms and assumptions. In this, Trump’s presidency has been clarifying in that everyone is revealing what their real beliefs and goals are.

What is exasperating about Never Trump conservatives is that they seem to be willing to abandon what I thought were fairly orthodox conservative viewpoints in order get Trump. Max Boot is the most cartoonish, self-defeating example, but the problem is more general than that. We used to talk about public choice theory and the problem of agencies taking on a life of their own with their own agenda; now we lionize career bureaucrats and demand everyone assume that they are just doing their job in good faith. (Side Note: I’ve never bought into the “Obama corrupted this agency or that agency” argument. The FBI is what it always was: J. Edgar Hoover’s political intelligence and intimidation outfit) We used to worry about the scope of the administrative state; now we get upset when Trump exercises his pardon power (which the Constitution vests in him alone) without running it by someone in a basement office at DOJ. I’d rather see Sheriff Joe in jail, but it was revealing that people seemed to think the pardon power effectively belongs to someone else.

If we had the system of government laid down in the Constitution, Trump’s character would be more problematic. Alas, we haven’t had that system here since 1929 (or earlier). As it stands, it’s number 103 on the list things that concern me.

Good Government as Anti-Constitutional Government or Threats: Existential and Otherwise

“So what does concern you?” asked no one at all. Primarily that so many have taken such an anti-Constitutional pose, either because they hate or fear Trump so much or because they really were ok with rule by the administrative state all along. In part, it comes down to which threats you believe are existential and which are not.

Trump is problematic, but our system has remedies for that, the most prominent being impeachment and defunding. Congress has conceded plenty of its prerogatives over the last hundred years to the executive, but in a system like ours that does not assume that good people will always be in charge and depends on checking ambition with ambition, it is hard to fault the executive (any of them really) for taking advantage of what has been freely given by another branch. Absent dropping a nuclear bomb (which seems less and less likely as time goes by), what Trump does can be checked if only Congress was willing.

But Congress doesn’t want to do that because its hard; instead, we are treated to the anti-Constitution spectacle of the executive branch investigating itself, with some wanting to make it so that Trump can’t fire is own subordinate. Let’s be clear why: so that when the inherently political act of impeachment is discussed, Congress can avoid responsibility by pretending to defer to the supposedly apolitical experts. Some see this as necessary because of the unique threat Trump represents, but I see them as modern-day Ropers, willing to cut down all of the laws in order to get at the Devil. Morrison v. Olsen provides no cover here, as that case dealt with a lapsed statute that created an officer controlled by the judicial branch rather than the executive.

We could discuss here that much of what we think of as good, honest government is really an invention of early nineteenth century progressive activists (an ethos most conservatives have bought into, wittingly or not), but that is a topic of another day. What matters here is that the Constitution is not some guarantor of good government; it merely dictates with whom the final word on certain matters is vested. When the question is whether or not to have a criminal investigation, or fire an executive officer, or the like comes up, the only person who gets to have the final word on such matters is Trump, for good or ill. People got upset when Eric Holder said he was Obama’s wingman, but that is actually closer to the original understanding of what the Attorney General’s role was than the current view of the DOJ as some kind of independent agency. People want to purge politics from government, but I’m sorry, politics is how we make decisions in this country. If you want to live somewhere where decisions are made by people unaccountable to public pressure, then go live in a dictatorship. That isn’t to say that I would vote for a president who said he would only prosecute Democrats during his term or something similar, but if people elect someone who makes that promise then that’s what we will have. Again, there are ways of handling that scenario if it ever happens (resignations and refusals to serve, defunding, impeachment, etc.). But to have unelected officials put themselves, their opinions, and their agendas above those of the elected president represents a rejection of the Constitutional order. The Rule of Law, whatever it means, has to at least begin with the word long written down: “[t]he executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” Trump abusing the pardon power, for example, may be a violation of the Rule of Law in the abstract, but there are concrete, set in stone ways of dealing with him: impeachment, electoral defeat, etc. If we don’t have the collective political will to do either, then we deserve what we get. It would be the final abandonment of what is left of our Constitutional order (and itself a violation of the Rule of Law) to invent new ways of dispensing with Trump or curtailing his power.

A Christian Perspective

I mentioned we would discuss morality later and here it is: If you were to say that it was important to have men of strong character lead this nation, I would have agreed with you in the past and I still have a preference for such men; now, as I grow in my faith I have become less and less interested in politics. Conservativism has a strain of “American as God’s Chosen Instrument/New Israel” that I have increasingly come to reject, to the extent that I prefer to skip church on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July so I can miss the calls to rededicate myself to America (and maybe also God). I mean, is the Church universal or its is something that history books 500 years from now will describe as part of an American civic culture that failed? In any event, the need to associate American government with Christian leadership has led many Christians into one of two methods of dealing with politics:

  1. Effective Disenfranchisement: Refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils. (the David French Method)
  2. Witness Gambling: Willingness to gamble your otherwise effective witness by either (1.) pretending your candidate is a Christian even if you don’t believe they are, or (2.) hoping that they really are a Christian now and that past performance won’t predict future results. (the Franklin Graham shuffle)

I chose the first method last election, but I am not convinced that it is necessary anymore. If I am right that American is not God’s chosen instrument (at least in the way some think of it), my choice of president has much less gravity. Conceptually, I should be able to vote for someone whose policies are best for the Church in America (for example, by not requiring religious agencies to place children with homosexuals for adoption) even if they personally are not some Christian exemplar. I may be wrong in this and am open to arguments in the comments.

Well, there is my Magnum Opus on why Trump doesn’t both me as much as he otherwise would. There was a discussion in another post about how writers like Mona Charen and Jonah Goldberg don’t necessarily reveal a preference for the established order over Trump simply because they constantly challenge him; that is fair enough as far as it goes, but what you choose to rehash reveals what your priorities actually are. This is related to why I feel that otherwise effective charges of “Whataboutism” ring hollow: the fact that Obama or someone else might have done the same thing is not a complete defense of Trump, but it does make clear that a lot of what he does isn’t new and serves as a call to focus on the fresh or more important outrages of the day (which may very well be caused by Trump but are more often than not the work of his opponents) before doubling back to take care of things that, while wrong, have been accepted in the past.

The Khmer Holy Trinity: the Mother, the Father, and Lord Shiva

 

“Venerate the Gods in your home before the one in the vatt (Buddhist monastery).” — Khmer Proverb

Buddhism is the state religion of Cambodia, where 96% of the population consider themselves practitioners of Theravada Buddhism. But when it comes to veneration, the mother and father always come first; veneration of the Buddha is relegated to the very back of the line. To us, our mother and father are what we refer to as the Gods in our home.

Most Khmer people may have forgotten, but the self-realized creation of Cambodia as a Buddhist nation is a mid-19th-century occurrence. It was created in reaction to the potential spreading of Catholicism in the country. Peel off that Buddhist label and what you’ll find is that an amalgamation of Hinduism and ancestor veneration are still entrenched in our collective mindset; it permeates our daily life, tradition, and culture.

The tradition of ancestor veneration is a deeply ingrained belief in Khmer culture. The tradition did not start from a belief that our ancestors were somehow elevated to godhood. Rather it was a way to honor, respect, and look after our ancestors in their afterlives.

This belief, however, was slightly adjusted when Hinduism reached Cambodia around the 5th century BC. Shaivism, one of the major traditions within Hinduism, which reveres Lord Shiva as the Supreme Being, found a strong affinity with the majority of Khmer people. Lord Shiva is worshiped in the form of a lingam, a column-like mark of the God himself. It is a symbol of the energy and potential of Lord Shiva. In every Shaivite temple, the linga is a smooth cylindrical mass and is found at the center of the temple, often presented as resting on a base called yoni (vulva, womb), a personification of the divine feminine creative power. The union of the two represents the eternal process of creation and regeneration, the union of male and female principles. In Khmer, that union is called mea ba (mother and father).

In a way, our mother and father represent the earthly manifestations of Lord Shiva and the Mother Goddess Shakti themselves.

Morning in Myrtle Beach

 

I’m currently in Myrtle Beach with an old friend from Raleigh. We rented a resort condo for a week of watching the bowl games. I’ve been sleeping on a Murphy bed in the living room, so I catch the morning sun as it rises. I got up and walked out on the balcony to this:

Nothing like a breath of fresh, chilly air along with a beautiful view to get your blood pumping . . .

Member Post

 

turns out to be no different than the average, unethical rambo litigator you can find in private practice. https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2018/12/muellers-cone-of-silence.php. He’s fairly typical of the careerist trash that tends to people the Justice Department.

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Russian Collusion?

 

So … “journalist” Jamal Khashoggi, who got whacked by the Saudis, is revealed to have had a relationship with the Qatari government than seems to have gone beyond showing up at the Embassy’s lamb-kabob blowouts. From the Washington Post:

Text messages between Khashoggi and an executive at Qatar Foundation International show that the executive, Maggie Mitchell Salem, at times shaped the columns he submitted to the Washington Post, proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government. Khashoggi also appears to have relied on a researcher and translator affiliated with the organization, which promotes Arabic-language education in the United States.

Qatar is allied with Iran and Syria. Iran and Syria are allied with the Russians. Does this mean that the Washington Post (publisher of Khashoggi’s columns) is colluding with the Russians?

Has E. J. Dionne ever been to Prague?

Do we need a special prosecutor? Can we get one anyway, seeing as how they are so much fun?

A Multipurpose Post

 

First, it’s my sixth anniversary as a Ricochet Member (December 29, 2012). Second, it’s my 350th post. It has been a pretty fine six years, for both me and Ray. We have met numerous other Members in person, at various Ricochet meetups, and we have enjoyed every single one (meetup and member). We participated in “Vegas, Baby” in 2013, and Montana in 2017. We met Members in Phoenix in 2014, Philadelphia in 2015, and Tahoe in 2015; Seattle in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. It’s been a great ride, and we are looking forward to meeting more members in 2019.

One important thing about being a Ricochet Member is that, wherever you travel, you need never be alone in a strange city. We have learned from experience that there are Ricochetti virtually everywhere! Another important benefit of membership is that you are never alone in your hurt or despair. If life keeps giving you bumps, your Ricochet friends will help you through and over them. You need never go through trials and tribulations alone. Being a Ricochet Member means you gain a whole, big, new family.

Thanks to all our Ricochet Friends for all the good times and great conversations. Onward to the New Year!

Grinding Love

 

Whatever it is that ends a life prematurely, however that person might have distanced loved ones, those left behind inevitably wonder what more might have been done to help. We feel keenly the broken bond and desperately imagine how it could have been mended.

Sometimes I recall my time looking after my grandmother in her final years and regret how little attention I paid her in exhaustion or want of time for selfish pursuits. Then I realize how similarly I limit time with my parents, friends, and others to return to separate affairs.

The courage of soldiers defending their brothers or of mothers protecting their children is often breathtaking. Yet it can seem so easy, so simple, to give one’s life totally in a brief dramatic moment when compared to the day-in, day-out sacrifices needed for years in more regular situations. One’s elders or children need constant attention. People with health maladies or disabilities require special, endless care. Difficult personalities make personal investment laborious and draining.

“All you need is love” is among the silliest lines ever written. Love is difficult … even when we can certainly recognize it, which we often don’t.

Love isn’t just a dramatic embrace or bold choice in the heat of danger. It can be a monotonous grind of mundane but vital acts of service. It can be painful endurance of obstinance, stupidity, failures, and cruelty. It can be discernment of best options in impossible situations and unavoidable divisions.

Love can be easy, sometimes. But even the kindest and brightest people fail at it, again and again. Good people try to love. They study, train, and practice at loving well. They mess it up. Then they try again.

One can never do enough to preclude all those cumbersome “What if…?” reflections on lost opportunities or fond reimaginings. We can’t know how things would have turned out differently. And all the good will in the world won’t afford you enough time to totally devote yourself to every relationship. But one can always do better. You can always recommit yourself to love… whatever it is.