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Will Smith and the Will to Succeed

 

As the summer reaches peak heat and humidity, my overheated brain turned to the interaction of Will and will. Will Smith’s greatest artistic work was about the will to succeed. It blew apart the dominant cultural narratives, of black men as economic losers, and of American capitalism as a rigged system. At the same time, Will did not sugarcoat reality, faithfully conveying Chris Gardner’s autobiographical story about the pursuit of happiness.

Will Smith leveraged a middle-class safe-rapper persona into the starring role in a situation comedy, from which he launched into Hollywood stardom. In the late 1980s, he performed as The Fresh Prince with DJ Jazzy Jeff, achieving enough success to attract the attention of television studios. “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” was a play on the old Beverly Hillbillies, updated with a streetwise kid from Philadelphia being sent to live with relatives in Bel Air.

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By Request: This Time, We’ll Win, Honest, We Will!

 

A rather enthralling bit of reading suggested by my muse, facilitated by another friend, (who graciously lent the print book) and augmented by several conversations here, here, and here led me to these ruminations. Peter Hopkirk’s masterful survey of “the struggle for Central Asia” The Great Game, takes us from inter-tribal raids [ca. 711] to a conference table in St. Petersburg [in August, 1907] where representatives of a nearly-toppled Czarist regime and a cash-strapped England sign the “Anglo-Russian Convention” to bring this phase of “the Great Game” to a close.

The book’s cast of larger-than-life rulers, adventurers, diplomats, and military men (sometimes rolled into one) has a sweep from perpendicular sand dunes to uncharted (until then) mountain passes blanketed in snow, to lavish palaces paid for by raids – and tribute exacted from conquered peoples. It has a cinematic feel. David Lean and Maurice Jarre might well have done it justice. To put the scope in perspective, when the contest began in earnest – early in the 19th century – the frontiers of the two imperial powers lay two thousand miles apart. They wound their way across vast deserts and almost-impenetrable mountain ranges. As the Game anticlimactically ended – early in the 20th century – a mere 20 miles separated the two rivals. As I read, Hopkirk’s vivid word-crafting brought me along. Sometimes in ways that made reading at bedtime inadvisable.

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Republican Campaigning in the Age of Trump

 

Salena Zito’s latest column, “Trump’s not the reason the GOP sputtered in Ohio,” points to continued failure by Republican operatives to accept the message sent by the voters that they must get to the polls in November. Listen to the candidates and the independent PAC ads in your state. How are they doing? It is a mixed bag here in Arizona, so far, but both serious Republican contenders for the US Senate are proclaiming alignment with President Trump.

Salena Zito points to the importance of demonstrating awareness and concern for local issues. Waving around a few national talking points is not a recipe for success.

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Define “Historic”

 
Vermont gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist.

Tuesday’s primary results were hailed as “historic” by a number of media outlets. “Vermont Democrats made history Tuesday” declared the Burlington Free Press. NPR framed the matter with the same word, “historic,” as did the New York Times, ABC, and others. Most were pealing the bells for Vermont’s first “openly transgender” candidate for governor, Christine Hallquist. Hallquist was born male but now prefers to dress as a woman. Her success in the Democratic primary is being celebrated as comparable to the breakthroughs of African-American candidates (here is the New York Times video trumpeting a “night of firsts”).

The words “history” or “historic” in the mouths of progressives are always laudatory. They are honorifics, not descriptions. After all, lots of things are firsts – a Holocaust-denying, Nazi sympathizer made it onto the ballot on the Republican ticket in Illinois’s 3rd congressional district. That doesn’t get described as historic. Donald Trump is the first person to be elected without any previous governmental service at all. That’s not historic. No, progressives have a proprietary feeling about history. They are convinced that it “bends toward justice” as Barack Obama was fond of quoting, and that it will inevitably trend their way.

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The Grocery Robots Are Coming!

 

It’s not that I’m lazy; I’ve merely chosen the contemplative life. One of the annoyances I most dread is peeling my fat derriere off the couch to buy a few more palettes of Funyuns and Coke Zero. Thankfully, Silicon Valley is working on a solution.

Kroger has joined the robotics company Nuro to launch a self-driving grocery delivery pilot program in Scottsdale, AZ. The service debuts today, serving the zip code around one Kroger store (known in Arizona as Fry’s Food Stores). A customer simply orders their groceries online via the Fry’s website or smartphone app and a Nuro robot drops off the food at their home. The delivery charge is $5.95.

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Your Daily Reminder That the Death Penalty Is Both Moral and Necessary

 

Noted moral philosopher Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis) issued a statement last week regarding the Catholic Church’s updated position on the Death Penalty:

Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme means of safeguarding the common good, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes; Consequently, the church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

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Why Asian-American Academic Success Is a Problem for the Narrative

 

These questions may need to become the norm for college-level exams in the near future to eradicate the problematic nature of STEM education:

  1. If you could be a molecular bond would you be covalent, polar covalent, or ionic and please share why?
  2. How does the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle make you feel? [If you are offended by the overt eerie whiteness of the term “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle,” discuss your feelings about that instead.]
  3. If humans stopped dictating what plants grow where and let natural forces take back the fields and forests, how would your favorite plant species fare?
  4. How does the impact of whiteness on the environment make you feel?

It turns out that white supremacists have been pretending to laud the performance of Asian-Americans students in STEM fields as a sneaky way to justify white power through the neoliberal racial project. I confess to often being surprised by the sheer malevolent genius of white people.

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Falling Through the Cracks

 

He was a Vietnam War veteran and was awarded a Purple Heart. He became friends with Emily Cornelius and her mother, Karen, five years ago. Emily was in the 8th grade at the time. Years later in April 2018, she accompanied him on an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. He was 70 years old.

Five years earlier when he met Emily, he was homeless. He passed away last Saturday, August 11 and left behind a sister and a son.

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Group Writing: Shaping the Political Will: Abortion

 
23 Jan 1995, Washington, DC, USA — Young Pro-Life Supporters at March for Life Rally — Image by © Mark Peterson/CORBIS

I stumbled across the home of the Teen Wire Drama Club but sheer providence. The Teen Wire Drama Clubs are sponsored by Planned Parenthood to put on skits and shows about the joys of abortion, the glories of protected pre-marital sex and to promote all the good that Planned Parenthood does in the world.

I felt like I found buried treasure. I had been a Christian for a little over a year and became very active in my local pro-life movement. I became Republican when I was eight but I had only become pro-life when I was 15. I went to school and in the government class, and two female teachers had given us the abortion argument with both barrels. Their main line of argument was that it was a woman’s body and a woman need to control her own body and it was not the government’s business to tell a woman what to do with it. Their argument was a libertarian argument: that government was bad, and I thought the government was bad. I was sure I needed to be pro-choice. My pro-choice phase lasted about five hours. Once both my parents were home they began talking about the news and I volunteered that I was pro-choice now. My Dad put down his paper in shock. My mother’s jaw dropped and she asked me in a pained, anxious voice, “Brian come here for a little while we need to talk with you.”

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NFL Kneeling Advice

 

View original artwork here.

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Thank Me? No, Thank You!

 

photo of wildland firefighter with drip torchA fellow of a certain age stopped me in a parking lot. He was built like a fire plug, and had a white-haired buzz cut. He, having seen my car window stickers, asked about my military service. I gave the 30-second answer, and got a “thank you for your service.” Then, I asked him about his service.

“Oh, no,” he said, “I just did 12 years of federal service as a wildland firefighter.”

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Thursday’s Coordinated Editorials Are Profoundly Misguided

 

On Thursday, in newspapers across the country, a coordinated message is being sent about the hostility of the Trump administration against the press. CNN’s Brian Stelter has been talking on the story for days, and reported,

About 350 newspapers will all have one thing in common on Thursday: A statement supporting the free press and decrying President Trump’s attacks against the media.

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The Russian Georgia War My Experience Ten Years On…

 
Russian Looters in Georgia 2008

It was August and it was hot. I had just got a short-term missions team sent home and so I finally returned to my village in Eastern Georgia. We were getting ready to celebrate my son’s birthday on August 8th. The Olympics were about to be on and we were anxious to watch them. We heard some disturbing rumors even back on August 5th when one of the Georgians with us had his leave canceled and was recalled to his unit. The rumors were about serious threats on the border of South Ossetia and a breakaway region of Georgia, but that happened every summer. We were sorry for our soldier friend but weren’t really worried. The tensions had been growing for days and several members of the Georgian government were gone on vacation and many military personal were on leave and 2,000 of Georgia’s best soldiers were away fighting in Iraq for the United States. I didn’t seem like war was about to break out.

Background to the War

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Quote of the Day: Socialism

 

“Socialism is the Axe Body Spray of political ideologies: It never does what it claims to do, but people too young to know better keep buying it anyway.” – Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit)

Yes, I am hitting socialism again. It needs to be hit after that odious meme about the difference between fascism (one flavor of socialism) and communism (another flavor of socialism – and indeed what socialism was called before the communists demonstrated by example socialism’s shortcomings, and communism had to be renamed socialism) hit the interwebs recently.

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Ask the Founders: Summer Edition

 

A couple of times a year, we forgo the guests and open the floor up to you, our faithful Ricochet members. have a question for Peter or Rob? Post it in the comments and they’ll answer as many as they can get to in this week’s show (we’re recording on Thursday at 4PM PT). Ask whatever you like, but please: no math.

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Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Again

 

Having recently been set in its place by the Supreme Court, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (spoken wrong-think punishment authority) is after baker Jack Philips again. According to this story in the Daily Caller, the commission has issued a probable cause determination that Phillips has discriminated against an individual by not making a cake celebrating a gender transition. The Alliance Defending Freedom is again representing Phillips and has filed a suit against the commission “accusing the panel of violating his constitutional free exercise, free speech, due process, and equal protection rights.”

Even though the baker won at the Supreme Court the decision was narrowly tailored and opened Phillips up to further action from the state provided the commission applies the state’s law in an unbiased manner. Having passed on the opportunity to confirm the first amendment protection for the free exercise of religion, the court opened the door for religious persons to face harassment from the left should they attempt to run their businesses according to their deeply held religious beliefs.

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Dateline DC

 

I just got back from a short trip to our nation’s capital. This was a sight-seeing, pleasure trip with my son who will be off to college (Gig ’em, Aggies!) in a week. Anywho, I thought I’d share a few observations from my perspective as a red-stater from a small city.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with the street message shown here. A passenger on the subway from the airport to our hotel was wearing a t-shirt with a nude Melania Trump who was using her hand to cover only her southern regions. The t-shirt contained a profane message about Trump.

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Quote of the Day: The Devil and Daniel Webster

 

“The Devil and Daniel Webster” is a wonderful short story by Stephen Vincent Benét which was made into an excellent film with Walter Huston as Mr. Scratch. It starts out:

It’s a story they tell in the border country, where Massachusetts joins Vermont and New Hampshire.

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Colorado Continues to Harass Cake Artist; He’s Fighting Back

 

Two months ago, the US Supreme Court ruled that Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop didn’t have to participate in a same-sex wedding by creating a custom cake for the occasion. In the process, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was smacked down for their deep hostility to Phillips’ religious beliefs.

It seems the commission was just getting started in their harassment of Phillips.

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