A Typical March Afternoon at Berkeley


This explosion around the FISA court is surprising to me, as I've known about this warrant since last year at least. Heat Street broke the story right before the election, which means the existence of the investigation was leaked in a blatant partisan attempt to sway the election. The existence of the server around which the warrant revolves had been reported in the press even earlier in the campaign

Nevertheless, there's an interpretation of this story in which no one -- except the leaker -- did anything wrong. On this interpretation, the FBI sought the warrant out of legitimate concerns, without political officers pressuring them in any way. The FISA court took the unusual step of rejecting the warrant until it was narrowed in scope precisely to avoid the kind of worries about wiretapping a political opponent that are now playing out. Though the Obama administration would of course have taken an interest in the findings, that is only because they had a duty not to hand the keys to a Russian agent (or a President under the influence of Russian agents). However, as no one on Team Trump was doing anything nefarious, the investigation came and went without anyone being charged.

On this interpretation, the pings from the Russian bank's server were part of the generalized Russian intelligence collection effort aimed at Team Trump -- an effort exactly similar to our CIA's efforts in France, and for the same legitimate purpose. While we have reason to contest Russia's intelligence collection efforts even where they have a legitimate purpose, in fairness we would have to say that Russian intelligence collection efforts aimed at understanding a candidate who might win the election represents a perfectly understandable interest.

So, there is at least one plausible interpretation in which no one has done anything wrong, except the leaker who decided to betray their oath to keep classified secrets for partisan political advantage.

Of course, there are also other interpretations. These run the gamut from the investigation into Trump being a purely political gambit aimed at using the national security state to destroy a political opponent -- similar to the IRS targeting scandal involving Lois Lerner -- to Trump or some of his close associates being spies in the service of Mother Russia.

In military intelligence, the MPECOA is the 'most probable enemy course of action.' Officers typically assess both that and what they take to be the 'MDECOA,' the 'most dangerous enemy course of action.' I have dropped the 'e' here because we are speaking of fellow Americans, both Team Trump and Team Obama.

I assess that the MPCOA is that something close to the 'everyone was legit' interpretation will prove to be true, and that the investigation that is likely to result from this will end up serving as a warning shot from Team Trump to Obama and his loyalists. Two can play at this game of using the national security state to delegitimize each other, and Team Trump controls all the actual levers of power. If that works out, we might see some backing-off on the constant leaks and attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by Obama loyalists. That would work to the general benefit of everyone, even them, though they surely don't realize it. Still, the best thing for everyone would be for them to return to being a legitimate political opposition, and stop trying to overthrow the government through leaks and "narratives."

The MDCOA is that the investigation will turn up something that Team Trump can use to try to prosecute Obama loyalists, or worst of all, Obama himself. This is an extremely dangerous situation regardless of whether Obama deserves to be prosecuted or not. At that point the country will divide sharply, and turning back will be very difficult indeed. It could still be done -- Trump could magnanimously pardon Obama, and the two could shake hands and agree to respect one another henceforth. That isn't very likely, however. What is more likely is a heightened political division that would result in severe sheer stresses on the Republic.

Existential Threats and Lies

Harvard professor Charles Murray, most known for his book The Bell Curve, was invited to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont this past Thursday. Protestors disrupted the room and he was moved to a private room where he spoke via live web stream. After the protest, as he was leaving, a Middlebury professor who was escorting him was assaulted and injured.

“The protestors then violently set upon the car, rocking it, pounding on it, jumping on and try to prevent it from leaving campus,” he said. “At one point a large traffic sign was thrown in front of the car. Public Safety officers were able, finally, to clear the way to allow the vehicle to leave campus.

“During this confrontation outside McCullough, one of the demonstrators pulled Prof. Stanger’s hair and twisted her neck,” Burger continued. “She was attended to at Porter Hospital later and (on Friday) is wearing a neck brace.”

In the past, I've seen a number of comments from the right that the pajamaboys of the left can't really be dangerous, but I disagree. It's not like one of them is going to step up and challenge a conservative or libertarian to individual combat. No, when it happens, it will begin like this, hundreds of lefties surrounding the target, shouting hatred, someone pushing the target to the ground, and then a frenzied beating and stomping. God forbid, but that's where I see this trend heading.

But what was the protest about? Why did the protestors feel justified, even compelled, to attack? Before Murray spoke, apparently 500 alumni wrote a letter in beyond the green, which claims to be a student-run blog at Middlebury College. The claims in that letter are worth considering, so I will excerpt them at length.

Prof. Borjas on Immigration, Again

We've talked about Harvard Kennedy School economics professor George Borjas twice before at the Hall. Once when he wished Fidel Castro "Good riddance!" and again in the comments of a post on refugees as the author of a study on immigration.

Here he is recently at the NYT:


Over the past 30 years, a large fraction of immigrants, nearly a third, were high school dropouts, so the incumbent low-skill work force formed the core group of Americans who paid the price for the influx of millions of workers. Their wages fell as much as 6 percent. Those low-skill Americans included many native-born blacks and Hispanics, as well as earlier waves of immigrants.


The National Academy of Sciences recently estimated the impact of immigration on government budgets. On a year-to-year basis, immigrant families, mostly because of their relatively low incomes and higher frequency of participating in government programs like subsidized health care, are a fiscal burden. A comparison of taxes paid and government spending on these families showed that immigrants created an annual fiscal shortfall of $43 billion to $299 billion.


Similarly, the ideological climate that encouraged assimilation back then, neatly encapsulated by our motto “E pluribus unum” (Out of many, one), is dead and gone. A recent University of California directive shows the radical shift. The university’s employees were advised to avoid using phrases that can lead to “microaggressions” toward students and one another. One example is the statement “America is a melting pot,” which apparently sends a message to the recipient that they have to “assimilate to the dominant culture.”
Europe is already confronting the difficulties produced by the presence of unassimilated populations. If nothing else, the European experience shows that there is no universal law that guarantees integration even after a few generations. We, too, will need to confront the trade-off between short-term economic gains and the long-term costs of a large, unassimilated minority.

He points out that Trump's answer to the immigration question is to put Americans first, and asks a poignant question.

Many of my colleagues in the academic community — and many of the elite opinion-makers in the news media — recoil when they hear that immigration should serve the interests of Americans. Their reaction is to label such thinking as racist and xenophobic, and to marginalize anyone who agrees.

But those accusations of racism reflect their effort to avoid a serious discussion of the trade-offs. The coming debate would be far more honest and politically transparent if we demanded a simple answer from those who disagree with “America First” proposals: Who are you rooting for?

Personally, I think he's casting his pearls before swine, but maybe this is how the conversation starts. There are some sensible people at Harvard, and at the Ivies in general. They are just a minority, and they're not usually the loud ones.

Poker Card Shootout

I've hit upon a new thing, inspired by the local rifle team, of setting up a poker card for my first set of practice shots. Not my last, at the end of the session. Not a set after I've warmed up and gotten into it. The very first six out of the very first cylinder, because that's how you're going to shoot -- at best -- in the field.

These were at forty feet.

Working Men

Secretary of Interior off to Good Start

Sea, land, air, horseback.

At Least McCarthy Was Worried About a Deadly Enemy

The Russians are not our friends, to be sure. They have their own interests, to be sure. They violated the sovereignty of an allied and friendly nation, Georgia, when they seized south Ossetia. Georgia's army was unable to resist in part because a large portion of it was deployed in Iraq alongside American forces at the time. At some point, we owe both the Georgians and the Russians a debt over that.

On the other hand, Russia is not formally our enemy. The Communists meant to destroy America, and indeed the whole capitalist world. The Russians want a regional hegemony. There are plenty of things that are in Russia's interests that are also in our own, such as encouraging energy development and trying to figure out how to tamp down Islamist terrorism.

Watching people go after Jeff Sessions for being a Russian agent today -- Jeff Sessions! -- is like watching the Red Scare play itself out again, only without an Evil Empire that really does intend to destroy the United States.

It's not just that the accusation is contrived, as the written context for the oral questions clearly established that Sessions wasn't being asked about his work with Senate Armed Services. It's not just that the Hillary Clinton State Department played the same games with Putin that Putin was playing with Hillary. It's not just that Russian intelligence collection efforts aimed at the Trump campaign mirror CIA collection efforts aimed at the Socialists in France, which the CIA did for perfectly legitimate reasons of national interest.

No, this is chasing after Russian spooks even where it is completely implausible that they exist. Sessions may have moderated his tone on Russia in order to align himself with the Presidential campaign he was supporting, but that doesn't change the fact that he's been one of the biggest Russia hawks in DC forever and a day.

Meanwhile, as W.R. Mead was recommending recently, why not look at the actions of the Trump administration to see how friendly it really is to Russia?

Is all this paranoia indicative of self-medication by the defeated elite?

Seamus Heaney's Translation of Beowulf

Part 1
Part 2

Pagan metal

Maybe Ash Wednesday isn't the best day to showcase a proudly heathen band, but I do like this music. Although the band seems to have some connection to the Netherlands, its vocalists are Northmen of various sorts, channeling the old culture.

Trump Channels Malory

... lexicographer Kory Stamper, who writes and edits dictionary definitions for Merriam-Webster, wants it known that bigly is a real word — even if it’s not the word Trump meant to use.


Stamper offers a brief history of the word bigly. This adverb came into use around 1400 and stuck around for roughly 500 years. It has been used two different ways over the centuries.

The first meaning, says Stamper, was to mean “with great force or violently or strongly.” It appeared in such fashion in the classic King Arthur tale Le Morte d’Arthur, published way back in 1485: “So roughly and so bigly that none might withstand him,” wrote Sir Thomas Malory.

The second meaning, which has been more popular in recent centuries, means “boastfully, haughtily or proudly.” Thomas Hardy put it to use in his 1874 novel Far From the Madding Crowd: “I don’t see that I deserve to be put upon and stormed out for nothing, concluded the small woman bigly.”

So, yes, let's cut taxes with great force, indeed.

The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Bear and Wolf

A beautiful series of photographs, capturing a surprising pair.

DB: Pentagon Cadence Study

"We know the saying: train like you fight," said Evans. "So why are you going to be chanting something that you're never going to encounter in a combat environment?"

According to Evans, the drive to overhaul cadences came when after-action reports from the 75th Ranger Regiment on the popular multi-service "C-130 Rolling Down a Strip" cadence showed that not only did Airborne Rangers' chutes not open wide, but when the reserve failed they were not able to go after Satan.

"Most couldn't even penetrate the ground," according to Evans...
Good news about napalm, though.

The Elite Smokestack in Britain

We have a problem here in America that I was recently discussing as the problem of the cursus honorum. All our leadership thinks alike, because nearly all of them went to Ivy League schools, then Ivy League grad schools, Ivy League law, then Wall Street or a ladder in government.

It's even worse in Britain. As the Guardian points out, the UK's government is almost wholly led by people who graduated from one university, Oxford, with exactly the same degree: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).

These schools, including Oxford, are not necessarily bad schools. They may well deserve much of the accolades and respect that attaches to them. But they produce tokens of a type, and that type has its own biases, and places where its mind is closed.

Of course, that view is the very reason that "diversity" arguments are floated at these very institutions: the idea is that more people from different backgrounds should undergo exactly the same education. What is needed is diversity on the other end, in terms of electing and appointing leadership.

That kind of diversity would undermine the existence of these schools, however. So much of what they do is built around producing the leadership class, which then hallows their position by sending its offspring back to the very same schools.

First Amendment Update

A Georgia couple is facing a combined 35 years in prison today after flying Confederate flags at a black child's birthday party. The longest sentence, 20 years with 13 years mandatory prison time, is technically for "aggravated assault," although it actually sounds less like assault and more like the misdemeanor offense of pointing a weapon. The state managed to convict on three counts of aggravated assault in spite of the absence of an actual assault.

The group was prosecuted under the Street Gangs Terrorism and Prevention Act, on the strength of the fact that they were part of a named group ("Respect the Flag"). In other words, organizing for a political purpose -- a protected 1st Amendment free association liberty -- now opens you to prosecution as a street gang.

Although the prosecutor denies that their choice to fly the Confederate flag in any way relates to the incredibly harsh sentences for a nonviolent confrontation, the judge described the confrontation as "a hate crime."

Georgia doesn't have a law against "hate crimes."

It looks a lot like the judge chose to accept a theory of prosecution under which free expression and free association are aggravating factors. The protected political freedoms, in other words, are themselves the reason why a misdemeanor is transformed into a 20 year felony. They chose to create a group to pursue a political agenda, and the fact that they had a group name is what lets them be prosecuted as a "street gang." They chose to fly flags and speak disapproved words, and that's what allows them to be convicted of "aggravated assault" instead of "pointing a weapon." They were convicted of the hate crime, in other words, that exists in the judge's mind even though it does not exist in the law.

AVI often says that we never get to pick the things we have to defend, and here's a good example. Doubtless these people are rednecks, probably they are racists, and nevertheless their protected liberties have been transformed by the state into crimes. That has to be opposed, even if the people involved are not particularly worthy of respect.

UPDATE: According to NPR, the sentence extends even to banishment.

UPDATE: This reminds me of a story I've been thinking about for a few days, but that I only know firmly know what to think about. Arizona has been considering a law to apply racketeering laws to political organizations whose protests become violent. This also allows the government to treat people who have come together to express a political opinion as a criminal organization, if at any point there is an altercation about it.

These are serious threats to important First Amendment freedoms.

Of Course

Headline: "Ex-Calif. State Sen. Leland Yee, gun control champion, heading to prison for weapons trafficking."

His organized crime associates know perfectly well that gun crime works better when the victims are disarmed.

The Kitchen They Called Hell

Sword and Sorcery Future

Wretchard writes that we are returning to an age of magic.

This, though, should not be a surprise. King Arthur came after the Roman age, not before it. A few years earlier, and Tacitus was writing his histories. A few years later, and you might ride out into a dark and mysterious forest and encounter a giant or a dragon.

I only wish I were younger again. But maybe I shall be.

Declassified Commie Jokes

No, really. The Agency apparently collected them like we'd collect "atmospherics" in Iraq. They just declassified a bunch of them.
Sentence from a schoolboy’s weekly composition class essay: “My cat just had seven kittens. They are all communists.” Sentence from the same boy’s composition the following week: “My cat’s seven kittens are all capitalists.” Teacher reminds the boy that the previous week he had said the kittens were communists. “But now they’ve opened their eyes,” replies the child.
I guess this is the week for Communist jokes, because I just ran across this one the other day.

American Legion Riders Unwelcome

We are extremely grateful to all of our active military members and veterans and are honored to have them as valued guests in any of our locations.

“Our dress code, which prohibits evidence of gang affiliation, is in place to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy themselves in a fun and safe environment. Though we understand that the American Legion promotes a positive mission, for consistency reasons we cannot allow motorcycle jackets displaying patches or rockers.
Seems like there's a well-known quote about foolish consistency.

This is roughly like deciding that, since you don't like fascists, and fascists wore uniforms, you won't allow anyone in uniform to eat in your place. Boy Scouts, cops, soldiers, nuns... we have to be consistent about providing that 'fun and safe' no-uniform environment!


If They're 3,000 Years Old, They're Not Scottish

Headline: "Archaeologists Uncover 3,000-Year-Old Scottish Weapons Under Soccer Field Site."

Preach It

I have seen, in Catholic churches, minimalist Stations of the Cross that hardly can be recognized as depictions of the Passion. I have seen crosses that look as if a modernist Jesus were flying with wings outspread, like a theological pterodactyl. I have seen the Eucharist relegated to what looks like a broom closet. I have seen a baptismal font that bubbles. I have seen beautifully tiled floors, with intricate cruciform patterns, covered over with plush red carpet.

I have heard for decades effeminate “hymns” with the structure and melody of off-Broadway show tunes. I have read hymn texts altered so as to obliterate references to God with the personal pronoun “He.” This music would not be acceptable for a jingle to sell jelly doughnuts on television.

I have seen and heard enough

This One's Going to be a Hard Sell

ISIS: Cannibalism is halal!

I'd love to see the argument, because I have a feeling that one is a stretch too far. Sex slavery of infidel women, yes, I can see the argument for that one. Eating human beings, well, I'm not sure how they're going to get there. But hey, let's keep an open mind and see what they have to say.

Talent Creates Conflicts of Interest

COL(R) David Johnson points out that our country is losing a lot of talent because government ethics officers are so worried about conflicts of interest. The more talented you are, however, the more likely you are to have created something that will result in a conflict of interest if you should enter government:
As part of his effort to eliminate conflicts of interest, Viola was negotiating the sale of his majority share in Eastern Air Lines for part ownership of Swift Air. Ironically, this divestiture created another conflict. The New York Times reported that Swift Air is “a charter company with millions of dollars in hard-to-track government subcontracts,” and that Viola “would find himself in the precarious position of being a government official who benefits from federal contracting.” More broadly, “his airline negotiations bring an unexpected twist, showing that even when appointees try to sell assets, the transactions can be bedeviled with ethical issues.” Viola withdrew his nomination.

Viola is yet another example of the costs one’s success can impose on those who seek to enter public service. Nevertheless, in the eyes of ethics lawyers in the government, it is an open and shut case. It is also a high-profile case where the conflicts are easy to identify yet the remedies by the individual, difficult to provide.
There may be other reasons to prefer a different candidate, of course. Still, there's a point to be made here. Aren't the people who have succeeded in creating successful businesses often going to be the very people we want?

"Drastic Cuts" Has Such A Nice Sound

Of course, "drastic" is in the eye of the beholder. My guess is that anything less than a continually-increased EPA budget will strike many as "drastic."


DB Headline: "‘We’re making real progress,’ say last 17 commanders in Afghanistan."

Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Germania, chapter 37:
It was on the six hundred and fortieth year of Rome, when of the arms of the Cimbrians the first mention was made, during the Consulship of Caecilius Metellus and Papirius Carbo. If from that time we count to the second Consulship of the Emperor Trajan, the interval comprehends near two hundred and ten years; so long have we been conquering Germany.

When You're Right, You're Right

Apropos of the last post:

Challenge: "Design a wearable solution that can keep women safe."

Accepted: "Didn't Col. Colt and John Moses Browning take care of this over a century ago?"

Turns out. Equality is a function of the firearm.

Women With Guns

Subtitled "the newest threat to the Democratic party," this article takes note of the increasing popularity of shooting among American women and wonders about its effect on electoral politics.

Well, anyone who believes the Second protects a real and vital right is going to have trouble finding Democrats to vote for right now.
Hunting, she said, "has always been a gender-neutral sport, and I think more and more women are realizing they want to be part of the adventure and the advantages of being able to feed your family with your own hands.

"Women have a tendency ... to not only feel but behave much more confidently when they know they are not only able to provide food for the table but also be able to protect ourselves."

Protecting the constitutional right to bear arms has driven women like her to vote for political candidates who are Second Amendment advocates.

"It was the leading reason that I voted for Donald Trump last November," Croney says. "He gave voice to a strong support of Second Amendment rights when he released his picks for the Supreme Court during the campaign [and] he followed that up, true to his word, with his pick of Neil Gorsuch."

Navy SEALs Granted Tartan

You might wonder why the US Navy SEALs would want a Scottish tartan. I do not have the answer to that question, although I did know a SEAL who was a prominent figure at the Grandfather Mountain Scottish Highland Games at one time.

In any case, a surprisingly large number of members of US military units have registered them in honor of their particular branch of service. The United States Marine Corps has the Leatherneck Tartan, which you can get in two quite different shades as you prefer. The US Army has a tartan, as do the US Special Forces, the US Army Rangers, and US Army Civil Affairs. The US Navy has a tartan as well. The US Air Force has one for the service, and one for its Reserve pipe band. Even the US Coast Guard has a tartan.

I'm probably even missing a few.

I guess a lot of Americans of Scottish heritage serve in the armed forces. In any case, though you rarely see a servicemember wearing a kilt outside of a Scottish Highland Games, it's more common than not for the option to exist.


The Heritage Foundation has claimed that the average annual benefits paid to Illegal-Alien Headed Families is $24,721. Wretchard asks the right question which is, "Isn't this a subsidy to employers who can hire for less because the govt pays more?"

It sure is.
It used to be the case that the Forsyth County Sheriff's Department paid such low wages that deputies were eligible for food stamps, Medicaid, and all sorts of other assistance from the state and Federal governments. The county commission argued that they were being good stewards of our tax dollars by getting a great deal on law enforcement paychecks.

In a way that was true: they had hit upon a successful scheme to push part of the cost of employing a deputy off onto taxpayers from outside the county (indeed, from across the entire nation). However, it was never clear to me why anyone in Oregon (say) should help pay the freight for local law enforcement from which they obtained no benefit whatsoever.
What's the benefit that we taxpayers obtain from high levels of illegal immigration? I know what benefit the corporations obtain, and what benefit the Democratic Party expects. But what's in it for us who are paying for it?


Turns out the famous speech that opens the movie was a highly-edited version of a speech Patton regularly gave. You can read the original, in all its profane glory.

Didn't Think That Through

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is one of those people whose chief claim to fame is being a "first," in his case being London's first Muslim mayor. Now, it can by accident happen that any given person is the "first" of a type to occupy some position -- first prominent member of the Rotary club, first semi-professional golfer, whatever. The issue with these people who focus on being the "first" whatever is that they're offering their accidental identity as if it were proof of some positive accomplishment -- as if it were a reason to vote for them, some virtue in respect of which they ought to be preferred for the office.

In any case, he decided to give a speech on the evils of nationalism.
The world is becoming an increasingly turbulent and divided place. We’ve seen Brexit, President Trump elected in the United States and the rise of right-wing populist and narrow nationalist parties around the world.... The last thing we need now is to pit different parts of our country or sections of our society against each other — or to further fuel division or seek separation.
There are two problems with this. The first is that he decided to give this speech in Scotland, a nation whose elective offices have been recently dominated by an organization called The Scottish National Party.


The second problem is that Khan himself is a living symbol of an even more divisive, even more narrow mode of 'pitting different parts of our country or sections of our society against one another.' If this is the right standard for judgment, identity politics fares even worse than nationalism, which at least is willing to take any kind of Scot as long as they're Scottish. Drawing the division at the level of the nation at least avoids drawing divisions below that level.

Nor is it clear that it is the right standard in any case, as even supra-nationalist divisions can end up being destructively divisive. Communists were not usually guilty of nationalism -- Ho Chi Minh and a few others excepted -- because they wanted to dispose of all nations in favor of a global government. They still ended up dividing members of nations against one another. Indeed, if strife is the proper measure, it was the singers of the Internationale who had more blood on their hands than anyone.