Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. An Unexpected Argument for Electric Cars

 

Leaving all the politics of climate change and all that aside, here is something to take notice of.

An all-electric car that is faster than a Formula 1 car. In certain configurations, it produces more downforce in kilograms than it actually weighs.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How to Decide When Blowing Someone Up is the Right Thing to Do

 

It isn’t always obvious.

Of course, a priori (that’s Latin for “before we know better”), we probably want to assume that blowing someone up is not the right thing to do. This position has among its many advantages the virtue of complying with Rabbi Hillel’s famous statement of the Golden Rule: “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to another.” Most of us would consider being blown up to be “hateful” (I don’t think that’s too strong a word), so we should advocate the blowing up of others only sparingly. That just seems like good sense to me.

But what do you do with someone whose business card leads with “Terrorist Kingpin” and who once posed for one of those Most Interesting Man in the World beer commercials that reads: “I don’t always facilitate acts of mass murder, but… // Who am I kidding? Of course I do!” ? What do you do with someone like that?

Well, if you’re the list-making type (I’m not), you’ve probably got a shortlist somewhere on your desk that includes the people who you think should be blown up. So what you do is you add that guy’s name to the list. Depending on who else is on it, you might put his name near the top. (If your list only has one name on it, you’re either a charitable soul who sees the good in almost everyone, or it just says “Trump.”)

If you’re not the list-making type, just try to remember the guy’s name, Qassem Soleimani, for example, as we go through the rest of this exercise.

That’s right: we’re not done yet. It’s all well and good to say “yeah, I think this is a guy who should be blown up,” but there’s a little more intellectual heavy lifting that has to occur before you actually push the button. You have to ask yourself this question: “Is the world likely to be a better place if he’s blown up, or is it likely to be worse?” Because however satisfying it might be to blow someone up, it can’t always be about immediate gratification, about doing what feels good. We shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger goal, which is a nicer world full of happier people.

So the most important question to ask is whether or not the individual in question is directly involved in doing bad things — not just bad things, but really bad things. (Pro tip: If the answer to that is “no,” consider reevaluating your criteria for picking people whom you’d like to see blown up.) In the case of our example, that’s an easy one: yes, Qassem Soleimani is, well, was, directly involved in doing really bad things. He was kind of a rockstar at doing really bad things. (One can easily imagine that, had TIME magazine realized that the window was closing as quickly as it was, they might have chosen this terrorist rockstar as their Person of the Year. He was that big a deal. Ah well. Missed opportunity.)

So we’re good to go? Can I hit the button now?

That’s “May I hit the button now,” and the answer is “no, not quite.”

Because it’s possible that there will be ramifications to blowing this fellow up that will lead to a net negative outcome that will create a less nice world full of less happy people. We can’t selfishly go blowing up anyone we think deserves it. We have to think of others.

Unfortunately, while it’s pretty easy to perform that first-order evaluation of inherent blowupworthiness, it’s sometimes extraordinarily difficult to predict what the larger outcome will be. That’s because human behavior is a complex emergent phenomenon, particularly when multiple cultures and cruel dictators with precarious grips on their rule are involved. We can guess, but no one really knows what will happen.

So let’s guess, using our example of the late Qassem Soleimani.

Will Iran launch a ground invasion of the United States? Probably not.

Will Iran engage in increased terrorism against the United States or our allies. Maybe. Of course, Iran does terrorism anyway; remember Mr. Soleimani’s business card? One can reasonably wonder how much underutilized terrorist capacity Iran has in place in foreign countries. One can also wonder what Iran planned to do with that capacity, and if precipitating an increase in terrorism is really more about changing the timing than the events themselves. On the other hand, blowing up someone as rockstar famous as Qassem Soleimani sends a signal; doing it without even talking to Nancy Pelosi first suggests a worrisome (if you’re an Iranian dictator) nonchalance on the part of whoever pushed the button. So perhaps this will actually disincentivize Iran, vis a vis doing terrorist-y kinds of things, at least for a little while. We really don’t know.

Is this likely to make the situation less stable? Well, we don’t know. The situation wasn’t actually “stable” to begin with: people were still being blown up courtesy of Mr. Soleimani and, however cavalier I may appear to be about blowing people up, I am not under the illusion that a world in which people are unexpectedly exploded is in any rigorous sense “stable” — not, that is, unless people blowing up is the default condition. (And I took a dim view of that in the second paragraph of this rather lengthy post, and will continue to actively discourage it.)

But is this going to plunge us into large-scale war with Iran? Only if we want it to. We can send thousands of troops to Iran and fight a long and miserable, and ultimately probably unsuccessful, ground war. Or we can blow people and things up like we’re playing a Nintendo game, with about as much human cost on our side. The human cost on the other side is non-trivial, but we have a lot of control over that… and the Iranian regime itself is not gentle with its people nor with anyone else.

So what’s the answer? Will the world be a better place, or a worse place?

We can’t be sure. It could go either way. I think the more likely outcome is that this will discourage Iranian aggression, weaken the Iranian regime, and nudge us on the path to a better world. But no one really knows for sure.

What we do know, however, is that a guy who is directly responsible for policies and actions that have claimed thousands of innocent lives, and who uses terrorism and the destruction of civilians as a political tool to achieve the goals of a tyrannical and oppressive government, will be blown up.

So this is one of those cases where blowing someone up probably makes sense.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: The King’s Counsel

 

In studying various problems, one must think well.
Even adults with good behavior
Are still subjected to distraction;
A good man can become wicked;
A modest man can become grand.
Sometimes one might mistake a horse for a donkey,
Take a goose for a duck,
Think a winged bean for a liana,
Keep the lead and toss away the silver,
Mistake engraved copper for gold.
That is why it is worth thinking,
To reason, to smell the air
To identify the flavor, the fragrance
Good or bad,
Delectable and exciting.
King Sri Dharmaraja II of Cambodia (reign 1627-1631)

Sri Dharmaraja II was born in 1601 as Prince Ponhea To to King Jaya Jettha II and his third wife. The prince was privately educated at a very young age. Well versed in Sanskrit, Pali, and Khmer, Ponhea To enjoyed poetry and history. In 1620, he was elected crown prince and heir apparent and commanded his father’s military campaign to reclaim Khmer’s territory back from Siam (Thailand). He was quite successful, but to his father’s great disappointment, he could not take Ayudhya. At the same time, his father betrothed him to his step-sister, Bupphavati (the daughter of his step-mother from her previous marriage). In 1623, Ponhea To was ordained as a monk. He found he rather enjoyed his life as a monk, so much that he announced his decision to spend the rest of his life as such. He was still adamant about his decision even after his father passed away in 1625. The throne was then offered to his uncle Prince Uday (his father’s younger brother), but Uday declined the offer. Instead, Uday acted as his nephew’s regent, hoping Ponhea To would change his decision later. In 1627, Ponhea To finally disrobed and left the monkhood and assumed the throne as Sri Dharmaraja Suryavarman II. But a while back when he was still a monk, his uncle married Bupphavati, his former fiancée.

As king, Sri Dharmaraja disliked bureaucracy and administration work, and everything that had to do with ruling. So he left his uncle to carry out his duties at the palace. He then moved into residence in Koh Ghlok, a distance away from the capital Udong, where he occupied his time with writing poetry and history. Sometimes in early 1631, Uday, who never had good health to begin with, became quite ill. The king visited his uncle, and that was when he became acquainted with Bupphavati. I think y’all know where this is going. The king and Bupphavati had a torrid affair. As their affair went on, one day when Uday was visiting Angkor, Bupphavati took leave of her husband “for a few days,” when in fact she went to live with the king. Uday found out and sent a small troop of soldiers along with hired Portuguese mercenaries to pursue the two lovers. At his residence, the king was protected by an assistant and four bodyguards, so he never had a chance anyway. At the end of the pursuit, mercenaries and soldiers found the king sitting atop a palm tree, writing poetry. Sri Dharmaraja asked his pursuers to let him finish his writing before killing him, which they granted. The king’s final writing, aptly titled Works from the Top of the Palm Tree, included his letter to his uncle. The letter included a passage in which he expressed his hope to die with dignity, but because of his foolish actions, he is about to die in disgrace. The letter ended with his wish to be born as a decent human being in his next life. Bupphavati was condemned to death later.

Public opinion on that sordid affair was divided. Some sympathized with Bupphavati, a young woman married to an old and sickly man. Some blamed Uday for taking to wife a woman intended for his nephew. But most blamed Sri Dharmaraja, who as a king, should have had better virtue.

Considered to be one of the best poets in Khmer literature, Sri Dharmaraja is especially admired by literary critics, past and present, for his command of the meters and language. The king left many works, including poems written to Bupphavati. His most popular work, Chbab Rajaneti (Moral Code of Conduct: The King’s Neither This Nor That), is still being read today by young students.
Some more advice from Sri Dharmaraja II:

When you are full of anger, you lose wisdom.
Though you might listen to your elders’ counsel and guidance, still, do pull yourself up and stretch your thinking.
Don’t be afraid to provoke an argument.
When you practice oppression, you lose merits.
Do not plant rice where elephants often pass through.
Friendship is the best gift one can give.
Do not trust a speaker just because he speaks movingly.
The usefulness of a gift is dependent on the need of the recipient.
The home is full of happiness if the wife is endowed with virtues.
If you want a life of ease, work hard while young.
If you want something in the distance, you have to make the journey.
The kite flies thanks to the wind; an officer is admired because of the soldiers.
Being irascible and vicious, you destroy yourself.
Express understanding, practice forgiveness, cultivate goodness, will generate richness.
Do not let yourself become consumed with women.

The king obviously did not take his own advice when it comes to women. Sri Dharmaraja II was succeeded by his younger brother.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Creative Destruction, the American Way

 

The Republicans have been “over the target” for three years, led by President Donald Trump, and that’s a great outcome. Their efforts have been hit and miss (such as not getting a healthcare bill and immigration bills passed). But it’s been clear for a while that the Democrats’ hysterical and irrational behavior is an indicator that the swamp is being drained, bit by bit.

For many of us, watching this slow, chaotic process unfold is unnerving. So much can happen while policies, traditions, and plans are being disassembled. Yet this slow-motion unfolding, when studied carefully, is encouraging for the future.

When Donald Trump was first elected, the protests were loud and unremitting. They still are, and in fact, are increasing in their intensity and confusion. The disorder is enough to drive a sane person over the edge, and I believe that the Democrats are hoping for just those outcomes. Although to a great extent, I don’t think most of them are that devious; they just don’t like what is happening to the status quo.

So for those of us who prefer that politics unfold in a sensible or at least strategic way (that we understand), we’re going to need to find an ocean of patience for the next five years. I say five years because I believe Donald Trump will be re-elected, and there is no reason to assume that the climate will improve; the weather looks unceasingly stormy from here on out.

The reality of the future is emerging out of the chaos. Trump’s disruption is actually working, as unpleasant as it can be. Some Republicans hoped for these outcomes out of anger and vengeance. Other Republicans were more aligned with Democrats, although not fully on board with them; they preferred keeping the status quo, which was not only profitable for them, but familiar and comforting.

And then there are the Republicans who do genuinely understand that the future of the Republic is at stake. You might even say that we are witnessing a period of “creative destruction.” There is no way to move forward without annihilating some of the underpinnings of the administrative state and the Progressive movement. As much as I despise disorder, I’m convinced we have no choice but to keep hacking away at the foundations of those premises and structures that have been in place for the last 100 years.

It’s frightening to contemplate. We always risk destroying the ethical with the immoral; we might go too far and wipe out tenets that benefit the country and our citizens. The prospect of watching the future unfolding is painful because we really have no way of knowing how far we must go. But we must continue to move forward; if we don’t, we risk losing everything for which this country stands.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Last night Hollywood patted itself on the back at another interminable awards show. You know, the one you didn’t watch. Me, I have been trained not to watch these things since I was a little kid and they interrupted my finely crafted schedule of targeted TV watching, probably interrupted Quincy, Hill Street Blues, or Marcus […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. One-Hit Wonders of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s

 

I don’t think we’ve had enough arguing recently on Ricochet. So here are my picks for best one-hit wonders for three decades. I’m sure you will all agree. Or not.

1960s

Talk Talk by The Music Machine. One minute and fifty-six seconds of attitude. This was a very competitive decade (see, for instance, Gloria by The Shadows of Knight, Hey Little Girl by The Syndicate of Sound, Tighten Up by Archie Bell & The Drells, Rescue Me by Fontella Bass, Dirty Water by The Standells, 96 Tears by ? & The Mysterians and, of course, I Had Too Much To Dream by The Electric Prunes).

My social life’s a dud/My name is really mud

1970s

Patti Smith has a long and successful career but only one hit single, Because The Night, and it is magnificent. She took a song originally written by Bruce Springsteen and rewrote the verse lyrics while waiting for a call from her boyfriend. Admittedly, my choice raises serious metaphysical issues – can someone be a one-hit wonder if they’ve had a long and successful career? Some may dispute whether my choice is correct but since I believe we can all self-identify with our own truth and declare our pronouns, I’m saying it is.

1980s

Jenny/867-5309 by Tommy Tutone. Perhaps the greatest one-hit wonder of them all.

I tried to call you before, but I lost my nerve/I tried my imagination, but I was disturbed

.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Resolved: Hate Crime is Not a Significant Problem in the US

 

I put forward the resolution above for debate, along the lines of an “Intelligence Squared” program. I’m going to start by taking the “For” position, meaning that I will argue in favor of the resolution.

Here are my calculations, generally following the format of an Anti-Defamation League press release issued on November 12, except that I am accurately and dispassionately reporting the actual data. As we’ll see below, the ADL chose a different approach.

In its annual Hate Crime Statistics Act report (the Hate Crime Report), the FBI found that total hate crimes decreased in 2018. The agency reported 7,120 total hate crimes in 2018, compared to 7,175 in 2017, a slight decrease of 0.7%. Anti-Semitic hate crimes decreased 10.9%, from 938 in 2017 to 835 in 2018. Total reported hate crimes motivated by religion decreased 9.2% (1,564 to 1,419), and total reported hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry decreased 2.0% (4,131 to 4,047).

To put these figures in perspective, the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR) for 2018 reported a total of 8,402,881 crimes. The Hate Crime Report includes several categories of crime that are not included in the UCR, such as simple assault, intimidation, arson, and vandalism. The UCR reports four categories of violent crime — murder/non-negligent manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery — and three categories of property crime — burglary, larceny/theft, and motor vehicle theft. All of these categories are also reported in the Hate Crime Report.

Applying the UCR categories to the 2018 Hate Crime Report results in a total of 1,204 reported violent hate crimes, and a total of 1,707 reported violent and property crimes motivated by bias, compared to 1,206,836 violent crimes and 8,402,881 total crimes reported in the UCR. Violent hate crime constituted less than 1 in 1,000 violent crimes reported by the FBI, and hate crime constituted 0.02% of total violent and property crime in the 7 categories reported in the UCR.

The FBI reported 40 total violent anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2018, representing 0.0033% of total violent crime in the US, or about 1 in 30,000 violent crimes.

Obviously, every crime is, well, a crime, and every violent crime is a very serious offense. These figures, however, indicate that hate crime in general, and violent hate crime in particular, is a tiny proportion of overall crime. If violent hate crime is less than 1 in 1,000 of the overall problem of violent crime, there is little reason to focus on it.

Hate crime, of course, should be investigated and prosecuted, just like all other crime. I simply see no reason to focus on one-tenth of one percent of the problem of violent crime.

Another important point is that overall crime rates are down, quite significantly, in the US. Thus, hate crime is an almost imperceptible proportion of a crime problem that is substantially improving. According to the 2018 UCR report, the violent crime rate (per 100,000) is down from 523.0 in 1999 to 368.9 in 2018, and the property crime rate (per 100,000) is down from 3,743.6 to 2,199.5. That’s a decline of 29.5% in the violent crime rate and a decline of 41.2% in the property crime rate.

I now turn to the ADL’s press release of November 12. I have begun by focusing (a bit) on reported anti-Semitic hate crime, because I was motivated to look into the issue by the recent claims of a serious increase in anti-Semitic crime in the aftermath of the recent, terrible attacks against a kosher grocery in Jersey City and a Hanukkah celebration outside New York City. I should emphasize that it is possible that there has been a very recent increase in anti-Semitic violent crime, particularly in the NYC area, but this claim is not yet supported by any meaningful data.

I should also emphasize that the misleading reporting of hate crime is not confined to the ADL or to the general discussion on anti-Semitic crime, but regularly extends to claims of hate crime based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other religious categories (such as anti-Muslim crime). But the ADL has just issued a dubious press release on the issue, so I’m going to pick on them as an example. The ADL stated (link here).

ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) today called on lawmakers and law enforcement authorities to take action to address the deeply disturbing climate of hate in the United States after newly released FBI data showed that Jews and Jewish institutions were the overwhelming target of religion-based hate crimes last year – as they have been every year since 1991.

In its annual Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report, the FBI found that total hate crimes decreased slightly in 2018 after three consecutive years of increases. The agency reported 7,120 total hate crimes in 2018, compared to 7,175 in 2017. While religion-based hate crimes decreased by eight percent from 2017, nearly 60 percent of hate crime attacks were targeted against Jews and Jewish institutions in 2018.

This is an astonishingly misleading report. Hate crime is down. Hate crime motivated by religion is down. Anti-Semitic hate crime is down. Further, even if hate crime were up, it is a tiny proportion of total serious crime, about 0.01% of violent crime. Yet the ADL would have us believe that there is — to quote Bethany Mandel’s post earlier this week — a “slow moving pogrom.” This is entirely unsupported by the evidence. The same applies to all other categories of reported hate crime.

I do not want to blame Bethany for her concern. I would think that, like the rest of us, she is getting her information from the media generally, influenced by misleading sources like the ADL.

I think that we are being misled. Peddled a false narrative. I should coin a phrase for it — how does “fake news” sound to you?

Back to the ADL press release. How does the ADL paint such a misleading picture? Well, they assert, somewhat accurately, that “60 percent of hate crime attacks were targeted against Jews and Jewish institutions in 2018.” This stated percentage is wrong — anti-Semitic hate crime was only 11.7% of total reported hate crime in the 2018 Hate Crime Report (835 out of 7,120), though it was about 60% (actually 58.8%) of reported hate crime motivated by religion. But hate crime motivated by religion was only 20% of total reported hate crime (1,419 out of 7,120).

As discussed at the outset, the Hate Crime Report includes many categories of crime that are not included in the overall annual UCR figures, presumably because they are much more minor crimes (simple assault, intimidation, and vandalism) or very rare (arson). Of the 7,120 hate crimes reported in the UCR, only 1,707 — 24.0% — were in categories included in the UCR.

So here’s how you go about dramatically overstating hate crime in general and, as to the ADL press release, anti-Semitic hate crime in particular. First, include a bunch of categories of crime that are, frankly, not considered important enough to be included in the typical crime statistics reported in the UCR. This increases the number of reported hate crimes by 317%. Second, report the percentage of the (rather inflated) number of hate crimes motivated by religion that are anti-Semitic, rounding up to a 60% figure.

Here are the figures for selected types of “hate crimes,” using the data in the Hate Crime Report but limiting it to the categories of serious crime included in the UCR — murder/non-negligent manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny/theft, and motor vehicle theft.

Total crimes in UCR categories: 8,420,881

Total hate crimes in UCR categories: 1,707 — 0.02% of the total, or 1 in 4,923 serious crimes

Total racial/ethnic hate crimes in UCR categories: 1,041 — 0.01% of the total, or 1 in 8,071 serious crimes

Total sexual orientation-related hate crimes in UCR categories: 352 — 0.004% of the total, or 1 in 23,871 serious crimes

Total religious hate crimes in UCR categories: 170 — 0.002% of the total, or 1 in 49,428 serious crimes

Total anti-Semitic hate crimes in UCR categories: 46 — 0.0006% of the total, or 1 in 182,671 serious crimes.

I do not think that these are the best figures to use. I report them because the total number of hate crimes in the UCR categories is the largest number reported in a way that can be compared to overall crime.

I think that it is more meaningful to evaluate violent hate crime, and put these crimes in perspective in relation to the total number of violent crimes reported in the UCR. Remember that the violent crime category consists of murder/non-negligent manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. Here are the figures for 2018:

Total violent crime: 1,206,836

Total racial/ethnic violent hate crime: 744 — 0.06% of the total, or 1 in 1,622 violent crimes

Total sexual orientation-related violent hate crime: 285 — 0.02% of the total, or 1 in 4,234 violent crimes

Total religious violent hate crime: 87 — 0.007% of the total, or 1 in 13,871 violent crimes

Total anti-Semitic violent hate crime: 40 — 0.003% of the total, or 1 in 30,170 violent crimes

Based on this data, I submit that we can conclude that there is not a significant problem of hate crime in the US.

There is one fact that I have not yet reported. Violent anti-Semitic hate crime increased substantially from 2017 to 2018 — up 233%, from 12 to 40. The number of reported anti-Semitic murders was 0 in 2015, 0 in 2016, 0 in 2017, and 11 in 2018. That tragic figure of 11 in 2018 is the result of the single, heinous attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. The attack also wounded six people (four police officers, I think), so there may have been other hate crimes such as aggravated assault charged in connection with this crime, which may (or may not) account for an additional portion of the overall increase in violent anti-Semitic hate crime in 2018.

Focusing on what is generally considered the most serious of all crime, murder, the Hate Crime Report does not indicate a significant problem, either in 2018 or other years. In this discussion, I’ll use “murder” to refer to both murder and non-negligent manslaughter reported in the FBI statistics. Of course, any murder is extremely serious, but the number of hate-motivated murders is tiny when compared to the total number of murders. From 2015 to 2018, the average number of reported murders was about 16,700 per year, a total of 66,804. Over this four-year period, the number of reported hate-crime murders was:

All hate-motivated murder: 66 (over 4 years) — 0.1% of all murders, or 1 in 1,012 murders

Race-motivated murder: 37 (over 4 years) — 0.06% of all murders, or 1 in 1,806 murders

Sexual orientation-motivated murder: 7 (over 4 years) — 0.01% of all murders, or 1 in 9,543 murders

Religion-motivated murder: 17 (over 4 years) — 0.025% of all murders, or 1 in 3,930 murders

Anti-Semitic murder: 11 (over 4 years) — 0.017% of all murders, or 1 in 6,073 murders

These figures include both the terrible 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue attack (which killed 11 Jewish worshipers) and the terrible 2015 Charleston church attack (which killed 9 black worshipers).

Other than the Tree of Life attack, there were no reported anti-Semitic murders. The other six anti-religious murders over these four years were four Muslims in 2015, one Sikh in 2017, and one “Other Religion” in 2018. Of the 37 racially motivated murders, 21 victims were black (including the 9 in Charleston), 14 were white, and one was Hispanic.

For all of the media reports of danger to LGBT individuals, there were only seven reported hate-motivated murders over four years motivated by sexual orientation (1.75 per year), and zero (yes, zero) motivated by gender identity.

According to the National Weather Service (here), lightning kills an average of 49 Americans each year. That’s about four times the number of annual hate-motivated murders detailed in the Hate Crime Report. Quite literally, you’re more likely to be killed by lightning.

This is the best available evidence, I think, but I am concerned about the reliability of the data regarding reported hate crimes. The data may be underinclusive, and therefore the figures discussed above understated, as the FBI Hate Crime Report relies on reporting by local law enforcement, which may or may not be accurate or reliable. However, there may also be false reports.

There is a fine article today at National Review by Kevin Williamson, titled “Hoax Politics” (here), addressing the issue. In addition to an incisive and pointed criticism of many specific hate-crime hoaxes, in fine Williamson style, he reports on a study by a Kentucky State professor named Wilfred Reilly, who found that fewer than a third of the hate crimes that he studied were legitimate. Jason Reilly (no relation, probably) detailed Prof. Reilly’s study in a WSJ article (reproduced here at the Manhattan Institute site), reporting that Prof. Reilly compiled a database of 346 hate-crime allegations and determined that less than a third were genuine. He also compiled a data set of over 400 confirmed cases of fake hate-crime allegations reported to authorities between 2010 and 2017.

Prof. Reilly has a book titled Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War, published earlier this year (and available on Amazon here). No, I’m not getting a cut of the royalties, but if anyone has read the book, or wants to, I’d appreciate a more detailed report.

I have two goals in writing this post. First, for anyone in a minority group who may feel unsafe, I want to provide assurance. Based on the data discussed above, I think that there is no reason for such concern. This applies whether you are Jewish, or black, or gay, or a student worried about a school shooting.

Second, I think that we are being played. I don’t think that there’s a significant problem of hate crime, but false and misleading reports on the issue are being used to divide us and, interestingly, stoke actual hatred between groups. I’m not sure who is doing the playing — perhaps the media, or the Democrats; probably certain radical groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ADL, and Black Lives Matter.

I’ll end by paraphrasing a Democrat. Perhaps the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

I know plenty of people who truly are happy alone, or perhaps with one or two other friends in the whole world. And I know lots of people who invest in everyone around them: in their marriages; in their children; in team members at work; in our collaborations. It seems so obvious that we really […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Trump Should Go Full Colonel Jessup on His Critics

 

This president’s enemies hate him so much that, no matter what action he takes, they will find a way to criticize him for it. The classic example is Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy’s tweets over the past few days. On 31 December, Murphy was bemoaning the fact that Trump’s blunders in the Middle East had emboldened Iran to attack our embassy:

Murphy Tweet

Two days later, on 2 January, he’s criticizing the president for taking action:

Murphy Tweet

As part of their justification for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the administration is citing his involvement in the planning of “an imminent” attack against American interests in the region. The president’s enemies have seized on this wording and are demanding to know what the imminent threat was. They are insisting the administration produce the evidence.

Really? Soleimani was a high-value terrorist target with the blood of thousands on his hands including the blood of hundreds of Americans. His past deeds alone make his killing justifiable. Are the Trump detractors really suggesting that the action was not warranted if they can catch the president in a lie regarding the relative imminence of Soleimani’s next atrocity? I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care very much whether the timing of the next act of terror was hours away, days away, or a complete mystery to Trump when he decided to take the shot.

This imminence test seems to have something to do with the niceties of International Law. Maybe the president’s critics should take their case to The Hague and spare the rest of us all this nonsense. The president should respond to his critics with something akin to Col. Jessup’s response to Lt. Kaffee in A Few Good Men:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it!

I wonder if the International Court of Justice will have a verdict by the time Trump leaves the Oval Office in January 2025.

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I had a chance to get to know what real English people are like, through work. Not to stereotype, of course! [email protected], they tend to say what they think about idiots. When drinking in a Paris cafe, they may say what they think about the French. To the waiter. The more protected the class to […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Comic Relief: A Modicum of Snuff Answers the Me Too Movement

 

Director Terry Gilliam: I’m Tired of White Men Being Blamed for Everything Wrong with the World

In an interview that breaks every rule of the Hollywood PR handbook, iconoclastic filmmaker Terry Gilliam said that white men are unfairly blamed for everything that is wrong in the world and that the #MeToo movement has become a witch hunt as well as an excuse for some women to avoid taking responsibility for poor decisions.

What will become of the Baron? I suspect that he’s going to be just fine and finally, a modicum of sanity may return to this culture.

Thank you, Mr. Gilliam.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. What Are the Central Principles of the American Founding?

 

I’ve been developing a hypothesis about the central founding principles of America. I was inspired by a recent National Review Institute discussion on nationalism between Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg, moderated by Jim Geraghty. (It’s a good discussion, about 30 minutes long, here.) At around 5:10, Goldberg said:

Now, I heard Tucker [Carlson] earlier, or at least bits and pieces of him, love Tucker, been friends with him for 25 years I think he is completely wrong when he said that bit about how “all I’m asking for is a goal, what we want as a nation is a goal, what’s our goal. You can’t solve a problem unless you have a goal.” The goal of the American experiment is frickin’ liberty. [Applause.] And my idea of, the pursuit of happiness is an individual right. Nationalism tends to trample that and define the pursuit of happiness as a collective thing. That’s dangerous.

I found myself in significant disagreement with Goldberg, particularly with his assertion that “the goal of the American experiment is frickin’ liberty.” I think that this is clearly one goal, but not the only one.

Notice that Goldberg based his argument immediately on the Declaration of Independence. This does seem to be sensible, but liberty is not the only thing mentioned in the Declaration, and the Declaration it is not the only relevant document. Perhaps we should look to the Constitution, too.

This was the inspiration for my thought. I’ve identified 11 Founding principles, from the Declaration and the Preamble to the Constitution. I rely on parts that I have memorized — and that I expect most of you have memorized, as well:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We can extract eleven principles from these statements:

  1. Faith in God.
  2. Representative government.
  3. Promotion of morality under a system of justice.
  4. Equal application of the law to all people.
  5. Patriotic or nationalist commitment to the country.
  6. Strong law enforcement to secure the peace.
  7. Strong national defense.
  8. Promotion of the general welfare.
  9. An individual right to life.
  10. An individual right to liberty.
  11. An individual right to the pursuit of happiness.

Most of these are obvious in the text. Faith in God is implied by the assertion that our “Creator” is the source of our rights, and that securing such rights is the purpose of the creation of government. Representative government is implied by the assertion that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Nationalistic or patriotic commitment to the country is implied by the purpose of securing a more perfect Union. Law enforcement is implied by the assertion that the government must ensure domestic tranquility. I think that all of these are quite clear.

“Morality” isn’t specifically mentioned, and is probably the most debatable of my points. I think that it is implicit both in the establishment of justice and the promotion of the general welfare. Justice is essentially about enforcing moral behavior, and the “general welfare” is about more than postal roads, in my view.

I think that this is a pretty good list, derived from the most inspirational portions of our two founding texts.

The objection that I have to libertarian-leaning friends like Goldberg is the elevation of liberty above the other ten Founding values. I have no objection to the inclusion of liberty among these values, and I agree that it is an important one. However, liberty is not the only value, and it sometimes conflicts with others. This is not unique to liberty, as other values are sometimes in conflict. It does seem to me, though, that liberty and the pursuit of happiness are more often in conflict with certain other values.

Increasingly, I’ve been inclined to think that the overemphasis on this single value of liberty, to the exclusion of the ten others, is the cause of many of our current problems.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Ave Atque Vale, Thou Bleak Midwinter of My Discontent!

 

As most of you know, I’m British. And as such, I generally try to keep a pretty stiff upper lip about things. Not to whine unduly. And when I do whine, I try to whine at the person or people who are at the root of my dissatisfaction or unhappiness, or in the case of “things” that unsettle me, at the person or people who can actually do something about them. Thus my recent encounter with Highmark Insurance, who abruptly cancelled Mr. She’s Medicare Advantage plan because of “your failure to pay your bill for several months.” Big mistake. By the time I’d finished “whining” at them, I’d gotten matters corrected, his coverage reinstated and backdated, and an abject and fulsome apology from the Assistant to the CEO. The next day, I cancelled Mr. She’s Highmark Insurance, and signed him up with UPMC. A petty revenge, perhaps, but sweet nonetheless.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that I’m not very good at passive-aggression, as (for better or worse) my behavior generally tends towards the denominator, rather than the numerator, of the fractional representation of the whole number that is my life. Passive-aggression, has just never been my style. Usually, if you’ve ticked me off, or (in my estimation) treated me poorly, you’ll hear about it from me directly. Doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to, though. If there’s a real point of contention at the center of our disagreement, hopefully we can sort it out between ourselves, without outside meddling. Hopefully. Because I was brought up to believe that’s how it’s done.

Today, though, I’m going to dispense with that habit of a lifetime. I’m going to engage in a bit of pointless whining, and expatiate on something that neither you, nor I, nor even that saucy little minx Greta Thunberg, can do anything about in real terms. I know that nothing will come of it. I know it will appear on this web page, and then just drift off into the ether like the unparliamentary expostulations of that great boiler-stoker, Ralphie’s dad. I know I won’t get an acknowledgement, let alone an apology from the Great Perpetrator of my misery. And I don’t care. I just want to get this off my chest, once and for all.

Naturally (I think I did mention that I’m British), this means that I am going to talk about the weather.

This is the start of a miserable time of year, weather-wise, in Southwest Pennsylvania. It’s alternately temperate and frigid, and no matter the reading on the thermometer, it’s wet and slippery (either due to ice or mud), and just generally revolting outside. The Brits may have written the book on foggy, damp, nasty, windy, biting, foul weather at any time of year, but late November through April in my neck of the woods will give them (us?) a run for the money, any day of the week. So, I call upon one of my favorite childhood musical revue acts to explain how I feel about it (the summer months in this area are somewhat more pleasant than those described in the song, but the rest of it is pretty much spot on):

Of course, this is a parody of a sweet little nursery rhyme that many moms use, when they’re trying to teach their progeny the months of the year, in the correct order, and with some context.

Flanders and Swann take it to a new level, though. And anyone can tell you that the situation around here at this time of year does seem to lend itself to some swearing. On this side of the pond, the bit of cultural debris that best expresses my opinion of this time of year was penned by Ezra Pound (1885-1972, and someone I don’t generally cotton to), and is his riposte to that charming medieval (14th Century) musical round, Sumer is Icumen In, which begins:

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!

(Summer is coming, loudly sing cuckoo! The seed grows and the fields bloom, and the woods spring new, sing cuckoo!)

Pound’s brilliant parody begins:

Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing G-ddamm!

No translation needed. And I won’t go further, because he does rather overdo the exclamatory portion, but his references to “raineth drop and staineth slop,” “how the wind doth ramm,” and “an ague hath my ham [leg]” certainly do ring very true to me.

(Actually, it’s difficult to discuss either of these poems without getting into some touchy subjects, as even the first lovely little pastoral contains the phrase “Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,” translated as “the bull stirs, the buck (male deer, or male goat) farts,” and is generally recorded as the first use of the verb “to fart” in the English language. Some find that a distasteful topic, and bowdlerize it, or pretend that the line says something other than what it does. Such is life.)

Still. Ugh. It’s just horrible outside today. As it was yesterday. As it will be tomorrow. Ugh. Dear Lord, please. No more of this. (ICYMI, this is the pointless whining part I described earlier. Wah. Wah. Waaaaaaaaaah.) He’s not listening. No-one is listening. No-one is going to fix it for me. Look in the <Ezra Pound’s favorite expletive> mirror, She. Gosh, it’s dreary.

And I feel, in myself, like nothing so much as “greasy She” on the farm (but without the extensive staff delineated by the Bard):

WHEN icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;
When blood is nipt, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all around the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw;
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl—
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.–William Shakespeare

My nose is red, raw and dripping at the moment. I’ve just chucked some hay into the feeders for the sheep. And broken the ice on their water trough because the electric heating element seems to have failed (again). I can’t feel my fingers, and in spite of my best efforts with scarves and hoods, wet sleet has somehow got inside my jacket, and run down the back of my neck. My galoshes have developed their usual “year two” leak, and my feet are numb. The birds aren’t “brooding” at all, they’re screeching because the feeders are empty, so I need to do something about that. I do love the owls though (I listen for them every night), and the idea of “roasted crabs hiss[ing] in the bowl” is appealing. All I’ve got in the pot I’m keeling is boring chicken noodle soup. I wish it was colder, and perhaps snowing; then at least it would be pretty outside instead of dank and dreary:

St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death
Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.–John Keats

But. No-one is listening. No-one is helping. No-one cares.

And yet. And yet . . .

Just now, one of my favorite carols, from my still-active Christmas playlist, has rung sweetly through the house. And, perhaps, I am healed, or at least put, temporarily, into a better and more productive frame of mind:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

. . .

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

It’s a musical arrangement of a poem by a favorite author of my childhood, Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), and it is better known in the more lush orchestral arrangement by Gustav Holst, although I prefer the one above, by Harold Darke, which took Holst’s melody in an instrumentally sparser, and vocally more complex direction.

The original poem and the musical arrangement of it are a reminder for me that, no matter how trying external circumstances, no matter the bitter north wind that rushes in, together with a complement of dead and wet leaves, and an occasional shivering and dripping black cat, whenever I dare open the back door, no matter how cold and miserable, and sad and awful, things sometimes seem, it doesn’t have to be perpetual winter inside me. I can escape it any time I decide to!

And so I start by thinking about that “bleak midwinter . . . long, long ago.” And, of course, I disappear down a couple of rabbit holes that involve why some countries measure seasons using the equinoxes and solstices as midpoints and some don’t; thus does the birth of the Christ Child occur in the “bleak midwinter” in the song, and yet only four days after the “start” of winter where I live. Fascinating. But a deflection, rather than the point. So, regroup, She. Try again.

And I come to the last stanza, and the last line, and I realize something I’ve always known, but which, in occasional bouts of self-absorption and misery, even just about things like the weather, I frequently forget: that the only thing that matters is what’s in my heart. That no matter how much or how little, in real terms I have or don’t, or how cold, or how miserable I feel, I am in charge of a heart. My heart. That I am free to give it, or withhold it, at will. And that if I fall on the side of “give,” if there is warmth and love and kindness there, it doesn’t really matter what the little weather station on top of my bookcase reports about the dire and ugly situation outside. Nor does my success or failure rate in living up to, or living down, the expectations of others matter all that much, either. Inside my heart, there is love, there is gratitude, there is warmth, there is kindness, and there is truth. And through them, with them, and in them, I find I can vanquish the “bleak midwinter,” after all.

Because in my heart, it’s always summer.

Thank you, Lord.

Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.–J.R.R. Tolkien

Photo credit: Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Dülmen, Hausdülmen, Sonnenaufgang — 2015 — 4952” / CC BY-SA 4.0.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

I’ve been reading about the death of Soleimani and quietly thinking that this is a good thing, especially when I read that he was the source of the IEDs that have been such a curse over in that part of the world. I’m also aware of how despotic the whole Iranian regime is, and that […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Why Do Those Wanting to Transform an Institution Almost Always Claim the Institution…

 

. . .and the people who want to preserve what the institution has stood for must leave and create a new institution to preserve the values of the old institution?

The United Methodist Church, which I recently joined in the hopes of avoiding just such a fracturing, has before it a proposal to split over whether to adhere to traditional church teaching. Although the triggering issue is listed as human sexuality, sexuality is merely the surface issue for a much deeper conflict over many aspects of traditional church doctrine, the authority of scripture, the value of traditions, and questions of how God has related to His people throughout history. But this is not the thread in which to discuss the specifics of the Methodist controversy. For better details on the Methodist proposal, go to the thread entitled, “This Week in the UMC” by @philo and scroll down to Comment #79 by @jimchase.

The proposal in the UMC is just another example that (according to the proposal) the faction that seeks to retain the existing values of the institution is required to leave the existing institution and to establish a new institution, while the faction that seeks to fundamentally upend the values of the existing institution gets to claim the shell of the existing institution (the name, most of the physical property, and any people who don’t actively transfer to the new institution).

This dynamic (those who seek change get to claim the shell of the institution while those who seek to preserve what the institution has always been must leave the institution) has played out many places, most prominently universities and other churches, but also sometimes in business corporations.

Why is this? It seems to me that those who disagree with an institution’s existing principles so much that they are willing to split the institution to achieve their fundamentally different vision should be the ones forming a new institution. They aren’t really interested in the existing institution. They want a different institution. So why are they so intent on claiming an existing institution in order to transform it, rather than seeking to build a new institution?

I don’t think it’s that transforming an institution is easier than starting a new one. Fundamental transformation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) took about 40 years from first formal transformation proposal in 1978 to complete takeover in 2016. And there probably was background work going on before the first formal proposal. Some of the largest companies in the world have been built in less time than that.

One of my cynical views is that those who want a different institution understand that there is not enough public support for their desired vision on which to build a new institution. So their only hope is to take over an existing institution and remake it. My other cynical view is that they want the public “goodwill” that comes with the name of the existing institution. Although they want to change the institution to be something very different from what the name of the existing institution means, they know it will take a while before the public realizes that the name no longer means what it used to mean.

Is the value of physical property really enough to justify the effort? So, why does this dynamic keep happening?

Why don’t people who want something that does not currently exist not start a new institution, and instead take over an existing institution in order to remake the institution into something different from what the institution has always been?

Are there approaches people in existing institutions might take to reduce the possibility that the institution will be captured by those who seek to fundamentally change it?

This is not the thread to discuss the details of the proposal for splitting the United Methodist Church. For that, go to the thread by @philo.

Also, my intention is not to discuss here the correctness or incorrectness of traditionalists vs. transformation seekers. Here I am curious about why the transformation seekers keep taking over institutions rather than starting new institutions.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘I’m Not Mourning’: A Short Study of Moral Relativism

 

An anonymous Chicago cop expresses my sentiments to perfection when it comes to the purveyors of intended, and unintended mayhem. I’ve seen my share of both, and I’ve seen the anguish that both bring. That doesn’t make me a hero, but I’m fairly discerning when it comes to nonsense. I know it when I hear it, whether it is the preening of the political class, or the chattering from the academic class.

“So what? We can’t get felony approval for anything without finding twenty witnesses, a dozen surveillance cameras, a victim interview, the offender’s mother’s statement AND a confession on video…..and even then, it’s probably going to be a C.I. [Continuing Investigation] until such time as God himself descends from Heaven to declare ‘This [redacted] is GUILTY and has forfeited his eternal reward.’” – Anonymous Chicago Police Officer

There are some mixed reactions in Iran to the US drone strike. An article published by Radio Free Europe has some social media remarks from some Iranians that are not mourning the death of General Qasem Soleimani.

“How many days of national mourning do we need for the deaths of the young people who were massacred in [November]?” Najafi wrote, referring to Iranian authorities’ brutal crackdown on antigovernment protesters that reportedly resulted in hundreds being killed.
Amnesty International has said that at least 304 people were killed by Iran’s security forces during the unrest across Iran after the government announced steep hikes in gas prices.

“I don’t think the [Iranian] establishment will last till February 11 [the 41th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution]…” Twitter user Night_Watch0, who used the hashtag #TnxPOTUS4Soleimani, opined.

A user named Behnam Ghalam wrote that Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of “thousands of Syrians and hundreds of Iraqis” and “causing economic misery” in Iran.

Ghalam wrote that Soleimani “went to Iraq to tell the militia there to learn from Iran on how to suppress protesters. I’m happy, I’m happy for Iran and for the Middle East!”

The remark refers to massive anti-government demonstrations in Iraq that began on October 1, when people went onto the streets of Baghdad and several southern cities to protest corruption, unemployment, and foreign interference.

Numbers impress people, so let’s look at some numbers: 3,574 deaths. Unfortunately, these are not General Soleimani’s statistics. These are the number of homicides in the City of Chicago from the year 2014 to the end of 2019. General Soleimani had his road to Damascus moment from a drone strike, the epiphany was intended for the rulers of Iran.

Final 2014 Totals (Update: 10/31/17)
Shot & Killed: 391
Shot & Wounded: 2230
Total Shot: 2621
Total Homicides: 464

Final 2015 Totals
Shot & Killed: 449
Shot & Wounded: 2547
Total Shot: 2996
Total Homicides: 512

Final 2016 Totals
Shot & Killed: 722
Shot & Wounded: 3658
Total Shot: 4380
Total Homicides: 808

Final 2017 Totals
Shot & Killed: 626
Shot & Wounded: 2935
Total Shot: 3561
Total Homicides: 685

Final 2018 Totals
Shot & Killed: 496
Shot & Wounded: 2466
Total Shot: 2962
Total Homicides: 591

Preliminary 2019 Totals (vs 2018)
Shot & Killed: 461 (-7%)
Shot & Wounded: 2293
Total Shot: 2754 (-7%)
Total Homicides: 514 (-13%)

A drone strike has generated a lot of interest. The statistics from Chicago not so much. I can hear the crickets, can you?

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. What I Love About Ricochet: No $exting

 

@blueyeti promised us in Ricochet’s recent Focus Group that “We also do not sell your email addresses or anything else to third parties even though we get asked about it on a regular basis.” As testimony to how good Yeti’s promise is, let me share what happened right after I subscribed to some other well-known right-wing outlet (which shall remain nameless) just this fall. I’ve been a Ricochet member for years. And for years, the partisan demands on my money have been negligible. Few emails, no texts. Life was good. Then, I signed up at that other right-wing outlet:

Now random politicians won’t stop $exting me. You know what I’m talking about. $exting. Those endless texts demanding money, burning up your phone faster than you can block them. Various personas claiming to be “Newt” or “Mitch” or “Scalise” take credit for sending them, though it’s hard to imagine the sender as anyone other than some pitiable peon of a staffer or intern, unhappily grinding out the wheedling that’s below everyone else’s pay grade.

Is it the end of the year? Then that’s as good an excuse as any to demand your money:

(SLF) URGENT: The LAST major fundraising deadline of the year is approaching & Mitch McConnell NEEDS your help TODAY. EXPRESS DONATE HERE:

Beginning of the year? Same dang thing:

(SLF) OFFICIAL: It’s 2020 & Mitch McConnel needs YOU to help him start the year strong! GIVE NOW to help Mitch fight radical Democrats:

You’ll get $ext after $ext reminding you each time that now is positively your last chance:

Jim Jordan, Newt, Stefanik & Scalise all asked. Your LAST AND FINAL CHANCE to defend Trump from impeachment with a 5X-MATCH ends in 3 HOURS

Spoiler: It wasn’t my last and final chance. It never is.

At some point, all this official urgency is bound to escalate into ransom demands:

(SLF ABC XYZ LBGTQWERTY) URGENTEST OFFICIAL EMERGENCY URGENT!!!: Real Americans DESPISE all WASHED UP, WEENIE DEMS like ANTHONY WEINER. NOW is your last chance to STOP FUTURE WEINERS IN THEIR TRACKS. DONATE TODAY or we will text you ALL Weiner’s HOTTEST D**K PICS. DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED.

Fortunately, the $exts promising something in return are usually more enticing than that. More, ah, carrot than stick (ugh!). T-shirts. Mugs. Hats. Wrapping paper.

Yes, wrapping paper. To the $exters’ credit, the Trump wrapping paper offered to me dozens of times throughout the pre-Christmas season was pretty classy — I suppose as classy as any wrapping consisting of one name repeated over and over again can be. Its graphic design was well-balanced, the color selection, tasteful. I still don’t know what regular Americans would use the wrapping for, but just like Chinese characters look stylish enough for gweilos to use them as decoration without really knowing what they mean, someone who didn’t read Roman characters might find the wrapping paper equally pleasing.

That said, the offers of $exting $wag seem a bit unimaginative overall. How many hats, mugs, and shirts could one ordinary donor need? They should mix it up a little. Of all the $exts I got during the House impeachment vote, I’m a bit miffed I didn’t get this one:

URGENT ALERT: House DEMONRATS voted to impeach today. This is an OUTRAGEOUS outrage. Our databanks show you haven’t expressed your outrage in COLD HARD CA$H yet. But it’s not too late! Show you STAND WITH TRUMP with this CLASSY outrage tiki mask:

My parents were hardly slouches when it came to right-wing partisanship. Thanks to them, I got all my talk-radio-listening out of my system while I was still growing up. Still, they detested partisan demands for money as exploitative and crass. Who do these pols think voters are, they wondered, cash cows to be milked at every opportunity? The growling consignment of Republican fundraising demands to File 13 became a family ritual. Who am I to mess with family tradition?

So, dear Republican operatives, if you really want me to donate someday, would you please for the love of all that is holy stop $exting me? Every $ext curdles the milk of my partisan kindness just that little bit more. And thanks, Ricochet: I know the $exts aren’t your fault.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

But do they understand that the effects of their policy are due to the operation of a (relatively) free market? Here is a quote from an article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Tesla says China output hits target.” “…in China, electric-vehicle sales in the country have been cooling rapidly since the government reduced most […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

  Hate, that is. And we ought to resist its use in all but those circumstances in which it names an operative motive for human action with something like precision.  Because actual hatred is unusual. Not rare, exactly, but not commonplace either, not now and not in most of the historical epochs traditionally cited when […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. What Part of ‘Loyal’ Opposition Do You Not Understand?

 

The leaders of each of the two parties from both the Senate and House of Representatives, and the chairs and ranking minority members of both the Senate Committee and House Committee for intelligence, form the “Gang of Eight.” They often are informed by the Executive of developing matters that may result in US actions abroad. Speaker Pelosi has complained that Trump did not consult her in advance of the assassination of Soleimani. But what of her actions in the past few years suggest that she would not use advance information to frustrate Executive action?

You might believe that disrupting an Executive action is the right thing to do for the country. But the most important “right thing to do for the country” is to respect the constitutional authority granted by the people to the President. This Pelosi does not, and will not do. Thus, the justified suspicion that providing the Speaker with any advanced information could result in an action of partisan advantage even to the detriment of national interests.

No doubt Nancy, in her private moment on her knees in prayer to G-d, observes a hierarchy of interests that place nation above the Democrat Party. Right.

The notion of a loyal opposition is that we may disagree regarding the best way to make our nation strong and hale, but we put that objective ahead of partisan advantage. When Democrats and their allies are calling for an economic recession (and the resultant harm to millions of Americans should that happen) as a means to levering Trump out of the White House, in what way can that be seen as a loyal opposition?

#TheResistance is fundamentally anti-American at this point: (1) Trump has done nothing demonstrably criminal or unusual in the conduct of his office, and (2) Trump’s policies have led to demonstrable improvements in the lives of average Americans. There is nothing loyal about #TheResistance. It would be foolish of Trump, and arguably malfeasance, to consult the Speaker on anything in which he has constitutional authority to act. That is Nancy’s fault, not Trump’s.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Lebanon? Wasn’t This About Iraq? A Brief Note to the Perplexed.

 

I thought it noteworthy that an unnamed Pentagon source claims that “an Army brigade” has been put on alert for Lebanon:

Around 5,200 American troops are based in Iraq to train Iraqi forces and help in the fight against Islamic State group militants. Defense officials who discussed the new troop movements spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision not yet announced by the Pentagon. A Pentagon official who was not authorized to be identified said the U.S. also had placed an Army brigade on alert to fly into Lebanon to protect the American Embassy. U.S. embassies also issued a security alert for Americans in Bahrain, Kuwait and Nigeria.

That would be a garbled way of saying that the 82nd Airborne has a “be prepared” order to respond to Iran’s oldest and most effective proxy, the original Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah actually runs the government and the military, such as it is, in Lebanon. They blew up a hotel/barracks full of Marines during President Reagan’s tenure. Naturally, the American embassy in Lebanon would be of particular concern now.

A Reuters story fleshes out the threat a bit, including a very revealing passage I highlighted:

In mid-October, Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani met with his Iraqi Shi’ite militia allies at a villa on the banks of the Tigris River, looking across at the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad.

The Revolutionary Guards commander instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran, two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters.

The strategy session, which has not been previously reported, came as mass protests against Iran’s growing influence in Iraq were gaining momentum, putting the Islamic Republic in an unwelcome spotlight. Soleimani’s plans to attack U.S. forces aimed to provoke a military response that would redirect that rising anger toward the United States, according to the sources briefed on the gathering, Iraqi Shi’ite politicians and government officials close to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

…Before the attacks, the U.S. intelligence community had reason to believe that Soleimani was involved in “late stage” planning to strike Americans in multiple countries, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, U.S. officials told Reuters Friday on condition of anonymity. One senior U.S. official said Soleimani had supplied advanced weaponry to Kataib Hezbollah.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters on Friday that Soleimani had just come from Damascus, “where he was planning attacks on American soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and against our diplomats.”

Read the rest of the Reuters article for detailed preparations, deliberations, and movements revealed. The Americans in Syria would be the small number of US military and intelligence forces, who already operate with an abundance of situational awareness. The revived threat to the American embassy and personnel in Lebanon surely prompted a bit of contingency plan updating and a preparatory/planning order for the relevant strategic lift and armed response forces.

Yes, the Marines have pride of place in embassy security. It is their mission, not the Army’s, as we all know from a lifetime of stories and images. Beyond that, the Marine Corps has history with Lebanon; you could say it was personal. However, the Marines do not have unlimited units prepositioned at all times to respond to threats to all embassies. So, the Army’s airborne brigade with alert duty is the global 911 answer. It is right there in the 82nd Airborne Division’s mission statement:

Mission

The mission of the 82nd Airborne Division is to, within 18 hours of notification, strategically deploy, conduct forcible entry parachute assault and secure key objectives for follow-on military operations in support of U.S. national interests.

The 82nd Airborne Division is an active airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in joint forcible entry operations. Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 82nd Airborne Division is the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The 82nd Division was constituted in the National Army on August 5th, 1917, and was organized on August 25th, 1917, at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Since its initial members came from all 48 states, the unit acquired the nickname “All American,” which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch.

They have the loads of all the stuff they need to take, besides the soldiers, preconfigured to load on the Air Force cargo planes already tasked to support that contingency. I would not be surprised to read of ships suddenly floating within Osprey flight off the coast of Lebanon, with plenty of pictures of Marines in their distinct battle uniforms. Sure enough, the USS Bataan, already headed into the Mediterranean Sea, is reportedly moving towards the east end, rather than stopping at Morocco for planned joint exercises.

“USS Bataan and embarked [26th] Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are underway conducting routine operations, demonstrating the inherent flexibility of our naval forces,” Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Comer, a U.S. 6th Fleet spokesman told USNI News. “For operational security reasons, we do not discuss future operations. ARGMEUs operate continuously across the globe to provide commanders with a forward-deployed, flexible and responsive sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”

All of this was true. This is well within the range of normal, even routine, for the Navy, Marines, the 82nd Airborne, and the Air Force cargo transport units that get the All American paratroopers there. That is something no other nation on the face of the earth can say.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Limping to Victory

 

He was the only man in the Continental Army who served as a general throughout the whole Revolutionary War, except for George Washington. He never won a major battle. One of his early decisions cost Washington almost half his army. A good part of the war, he was a “desk soldier,” champing at the bit to be allowed another battle command. Outside of Washington, there is no one more responsible for the army’s success.

On the surface, it would have seemed that Nathanael Greene had little chance to become a great military leader. He was born into a Quaker sect that not only opposed war but discouraged “literary accomplishments.” From childhood, he walked with a decided limp. His father was a successful farmer and smith with a large foundry.

The young Nathanael found ways around his faith’s boundaries. He became self-taught in the classics, mathematics, law, and yes, military science. Shortly before his father’s death, he was given charge of the family business.

He was thirty when his father died and it proved a liberating moment for him. Between 1770 and 1775, he helped establish a school, was elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly, married, helped to organize a local militia, and managed to get both himself and his cousin expelled from the Quaker faith. He was on a committee appointed by the assembly to revise militia laws. At one point, he offered to resign from the militia he had helped to form and train because of its members saw his limp as a problem on the parade field.

In May of 1775, he was promoted (perhaps because of political connections) from private in the militia to major general in command of the militia when it was sent to help respond to the siege of Boston. Forty-four days later, he was made a brigadier general in the new regular Continental Army.

By October of 1776, Greene was a major general and considered perhaps Washington’s most trusted officer. He was in command of the last American stronghold in New York City. His decision to defend Fort Washington against overwhelming odds resulted in not only the loss of the fort and New York City but also what constituted almost half of the Continental Army at the time. More than half of the prisoners would die in the prison ships of the British. It would be more than four years before the Continental Army suffered a defeat to match the loss at Fort Washington.

It would be 1780 before Greene would again be the overall commander of troops in the field but, for the present, he was responsible for important command moments under Washington at the battles of Trenton, Brandywine, and Germantown. He was re-proving his ability to lead men and make important command decisions in the heat of battle. But it would be in the misery of Valley Forge where he would make his greatest contribution to that point.

Washington knew he needed both organizational skills and administrative ability in a Quarter Master General if the army was to survive the winter. Greene became that man. It would fall to him to feed and supply an army with almost nothing. Food was not the only issue. Supplies of all sorts were badly needed. Clothes for the soldiers, forage for the animals, firewood, and gun powder were only a few of the items which Greene’s skills brought in.

He was so successful that Washington called upon him to take the position of Quarter Master General of the entire army. His abilities probably saved the army at that point.

He had moved from behind the cannons to being behind the “spreadsheet” and he hated it. He was very good at it and the passion with which he performed this duty spoke well of both his devotion to the cause and to Washington’s ability to persuade.

He hated dealing with Congress. Perhaps this we can forgive him! He fought with them constantly and asked to resign more than once.

When Cornwallis was tearing through the southern colonies to divide the Revolution, Congress refused to appoint Greene as the commander as Washington asked for and instead sent Horatio Gates. In short order, the Americans were handed an embarrassing loss at Camden.

This time, Congress relented and allowed Greene to take command of what was left of the southern command. It was not much. It consisted of less than one thousand men who had just suffered two terrible defeats.

With the addition of Daniel Morgan’s men, the southern forces were barely over one thousand men while Cornwallis commanded over forty-five hundred battle-tested troops. Undersupplied and outmanned, Greene did the last thing most would advise. He divided his command. Morgan would take the “light troops” and head into the backcountry and draw part of the British after him while Greene headed south to find supplies and train.

After Morgan’s classic victory at Cowpens, both Morgan and Greene began a chase across North Carolina to rejoin each other. Morgan was carrying over 800 British prisoners as well. Angered and embarrassed by losses at King’s Mountain and Cowpens, Cornwallis was determined to catch the smaller Continental force and crush it. Together, Morgan and Greene began a race to the Dan River to cross over into Virginia.

In a desperate move to catch the fleeing rebels, Cornwallis burned his supply wagons and anything he thought would slow him down. The great general was beginning to make frustrated mistakes. This one would not be his last.

The Continentals beat Cornwallis to the Dan by mere hours and were able to cross ahead of the British because of Greene’s planning and organization. He had made sure that the route to the Dan was well scouted and planned and that boats were made in advance and waiting.

Cornwallis turned back into North Carolina and declared it cleared of rebels. Across the Dan, Greene supplied and trained for the return trip.

Within a week, with more supplies and additional troops, Greene crossed back into North Carolina to pick his ground for a fight. It was a defensive position near Guilford Court House. His battle plan would be much like Morgan’s at Cowpens. There would be two lines of militia to fire and fall back to be supported by a line of regulars.

The plan worked again. When the British reached the third line, the regulars fired a volley and crossed bayonets with the Redcoats. Greene gave the command and the right flank began to close on the British.

Cornwallis saw that the day was lost if he did not act quickly. He had his cannon turn to the right flank and fire grapeshot (think large, really large, buckshot) into the masses of soldiers. At least half or more of the troops who would be hit were to be British but it was the only chance Cornwallis had to halt the flanking movement.

This time, Greene made the right move in a moment of decision. He had taken a terrible toll on Cornwallis. The ground was of no value to him. He stopped the bloodbath and ordered a retreat.

By the standards of the day, Cornwallis could call it a victory. He controlled the field. But he had taken a much heavier toll than Greene. He was without supplies in a hostile country. Many of his best troops were gone. Even across an entire ocean in Parliament it was noted that another such victory would “spell the ruin of the entire army.”

Disgusted with the Carolinas, Cornwallis crossed into Virginia and began a trek to the coast in hopes of getting supplies and reinforcements. The trek would take him to the port city of Yorktown and the end of the war. His fate had been sealed by a self-trained colonial general with a stiff knee, a bookkeeper’s mind, and a warrior’s heart who finished the war without a battlefield victory to his name.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Peace and Evil

 

“If peace cannot be maintained with honor, it is no longer peace.” – Lord John Russell

“The left doesn’t fight evil; it fights those who do.” – Dennis Prager

On Thursday, Qassim Soleimani, one of the evilest men on Earth was killed. Immediately, the American left, including virtually every Democrat running for President, and numerous Democrats in the House and Senate condemned the action. At first, the condemnations were prefaced with the acknowledgment Soleimani was a bad actor. By Friday evening, many of those prefaces had been walked back.

Why? Because Orange Man Bad.

The action even got support – sometimes grudging and sometimes wholehearted – from many anti-Trumpers. They recognized evil. But the left? Not them. Was there ever a better illustration of Prager’s statement?

Even now, there are some who provide a “yes, but” for their approval. They say it was the right thing to do, but it might lead to war with Iran. That is where Lord John Russell’s statement comes into play. What type of “peace” is it if Iran is allowed to attack us with impunity, without severe consequences? What type of peace did we buy with $1.7 billion in cash sent to Iran? What type of peace did we achieve by ignoring Iran’s involvement in Benghazi? What type of peace would we achieve by ignoring Iranian attempts to reprise Benghazi in Baghdad?

This might lead to war. I rather doubt it, because the Iranian regime has a lot more to lose than the US does if they go from covert to overt belligerency. The world does not need Iranian oil. Iran is incapable of projecting conventional military power much beyond the borders of Iran. In a period of open belligerency their ability to project unconventional military power is more constrained than it is now.

Any war with Iran will not be a reprise of the Gulf War, Iraq, or Afghanistan. The United States can impose crippling punishment upon Iran without risking a single soldier’s boot on Iranian soil. We can take out 80 percent of Iran’s electrical power generation, most of its oil production, and all of its ability to ship oil by sea, with unmanned missiles, stealth bombers, and a sea blockade. Using conventional weapons. In a country experiencing significant domestic unrest.

Iran’s best hope is the mobilization of its fifth column in the United States – the mainstream media and the Democrats. And those two entities have shot themselves dry in three years of fake Trump scandals. All they would do is complete their self-destruction by further discrediting themselves.

Two-and-one-millennia ago, Persia gave the Spartans a list of atrocities they would visit upon Sparta if the Persians enter Lacedaemonia should Sparta refuse to yield to Persian demands. The Spartan king replied with one word, “if.”

That seems an apt response today. If.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The DC Bubble and the FBI

 

I’ve just finished making my way through “Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” the 480-page report issued by the Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Justice in December 2019. While it will take a while to pull together my complete thoughts on the report, there is one issue I wanted to mention now because it is so striking throughout the document.

During Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI often relied upon “open source” materials to assist in its investigation. These materials usually consisted of articles published in newspapers and magazines. It turns out most of the materials in those open sources came from information planted by representatives of the Clinton campaign, particularly Glenn Simpson of Fusion/GPS, and Christopher Steele who was hired by Fusion/GPS and produced the “Steele Dossier.”

What came through was the FBI confirming, in part, its theory of Trump campaign collusion with Russia, using news articles based upon claims, which we now know to be false, originating with the Clinton campaign, information which, in part, purports to come from sources in Russian intelligence! Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Particularly where, as the IG report concludes, the FISA Warrants against Carter Page would not have been sought without the Steele Dossier. In effect, the FBI confirmed Steele Dossier allegations by reference to newspaper articles whose source was the Steele Dossier!

Let’s take one example that really struck me; the sections in the Republican Party Platform regarding Ukraine. The IG report states that all four FISA applications relied upon information from the Report 95 of the Steele Dossier, including:

[A]ccording to [the sub-Source], Candidate #1’s [Trump’s] team, which the FBI assesses includes at least Page, agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise U.S./NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine.

The IG report goes on to state:

In further support of this allegation from Report 95, the FISA application described two news articles from July and August 2016 reporting that the Trump campaign had worked behind the scenes to change the Republican Party’s platform on providing weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces and that candidate Trump appeared to have adopted a “milder” tone on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The application further claims that Carter Page was involved in changing the platform language in his role as an alleged intermediary between Russia and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (Page has repeatedly denied ever even meeting Manafort and the FBI never found any evidence to the contrary).

But there is a problem with the popular media narrative, widely reported at the time, about the arguments over the platform – one that I fell for in 2016 as did the FBI. (There is a bigger problem with the fact that the FBI was never able to find any confirmation that Carter Page had anything to do with the platform, an allegation he has repeatedly denied, yet continually asserted by the agency in its renewal FISA applications, but that’s a story for another post.)

The draft Republican Party platform already contained tough language on Russia, in part as a reaction to what was seen as the Obama Administration’s too-soft approach to Putin’s regime. When the platform committee met at the convention a Texas delegate, Diana Denman, originally a Cruz supporter who ended up supporting Trump, proposed an amendment to the draft language:

We therefore support maintaining (and, if warranted, increasing) sanctions against Russia until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces and greater coordination with NATO on defense planning. Simultaneously, we call for increased financial aid for Ukraine, as well as greater assistance in the economic and humanitarian spheres, including government reform and anti-corruption.

A Trump national security aide, JD Gordon, recommended edits to the amendment and after consulting with New York HQ asked to have the language regarding lethal defensive weapons deleted (these were the same weapons the Obama Administration had steadfastly refused to provide to Ukraine).

The final platform language contained some of Denman’s amendment. Here is the final language and you can judge how tough it is on Russia:

Also neglected are our strategic forces, especially the development and deployment of ballistic missile defenses. The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system has been delayed and underfunded. To curry favor with Russia, defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic have been neutralized and the number of planned interceptors in Alaska has been reduced. A New START agreement (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), so weak in verification and definitions that it is virtually impossible to prove a violation, has allow Russia to build up its nuclear arsenal while reducing ours. Meanwhile Moscow has repeatedly violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (a treaty agreeing to the elimination of land-based mid-range nuclear missiles) with impunity, covertly testing missiles banned under that agreement.

In the international arena, a weak Administration has invited aggression. The results of the Administration’s unilateral approach to disarmament are already clear: An emboldened China in the South China Sea, a resurgent Russia occupying parts of Ukraine and threatening neighbors from the Baltic to the Caucasus, and an aggressive Islamist terror network in the Middle East.

We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are full restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning.

And here, for comparison, is the 2016 Democratic Party Platform language:

Russia is engaging in destabilizing actions along its borders, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and attempting to recreate spheres of influence that undermine America interests. It is also propping up the Assad regime in Syria, which is brutally attacking its own citizens. Donald Trump would overturn more than 50 years of American foreign policy by abandoning NATO partners – countries who help us fight terrorism every day – and embracing Russia President Vladimir Putin instead. We believe in strong alliances and will deter Russian aggression, build European resilience, and protect our NATO allies. We will make it clear to Putin that we are prepared to cooperate with him when it is in our interest – as we did on reducing nuclear stockpiles, ensuring Iran could not obtain a nuclear weapon, sanctioning North Korea, and resupplying our troops in Afghanistan – but we will not hesitate to stand up to Russian aggression. We will also continue to stand by the Russian people and push the government to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

Note the contrasts here – while the Denman amendment language on explicitly providing “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine was dropped, her language committing the Republican Party to “maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored” has been added; the Democratic platform does not mention sanctions, nor commit the party to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty. Nor did I notice the Democrats promising to provide “lethal defensive weapons.” In fact, if you look at the language carefully the Democrat platform makes no concrete promises regarding Ukraine, unlike the Republicans.

One would think the nation’s premier law enforcement and counter-intelligence agency would do something as elementary as trying to confirm the story peddled by the news media regarding the Republican platform, and then comparing the language regarding Ukraine in the respective platforms. I’m betting the Crossfire Hurricane team never looked at the full section on Russia and Ukraine in the Republican platform because between the Steele Dossier and the slanted reports from the Clinton supporting media they had what they needed.

The blind faith of the FBI in the liberal news media exists (1) because they’ve grown up in a world where the New York Times and Washington Post have biblical authority and (2) those publications constantly and reassuringly reinforce their existing world view. For me, the Times and Post have the same credibility as Breitbart and Gateway Pundit, but seemingly the question of credibility did not arise for the FBI so it fell for Fake News propagated by the Clinton campaign and trumpeted through its house media organs in New York and DC. Glad to know we had our “best people” working on this.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Best Decade Ever

 

Saw this courtesy of WSJ’s Best of the Web Today column:

Efficiencies in agriculture mean the world is now approaching ‘peak farmland’ — despite the growing number of people and their demand for more and better food, the productivity of agriculture is rising so fast that human needs can be supplied by a shrinking amount of land. In 2012, Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University and his colleagues argued that, thanks to modern technology, we use 65 per cent less land to produce a given quantity of food compared with 50 years ago. By 2050, it’s estimated that an area the size of India will have been released from the plough and the cow.

Land-sparing is the reason that forests are expanding, especially in rich countries. In 2006 Ausubel worked out that no reasonably wealthy country had a falling stock of forest, in terms of both tree density and acreage. Large animals are returning in abundance in rich countries; populations of wolves, deer, beavers, lynx, seals, sea eagles and bald eagles are all increasing; and now even tiger numbers are slowly climbing.