Prager U Declared a "Hate Group"

What a strange conclusion. Having watched a few Prager U videos, I've no idea what they could be talking about. I don't remember ever hearing them say anything hateful; frequently, they're not even irritable.

But maybe I missed their greatest hits. Here are 21 videos that YouTube is censoring. Let's watch a few and judge for ourselves.

Western Fiction Recommendations

For those who prefer a good Western, here is a similar list to the Viking fiction list proffered below.

The Defeat of Reason

A pair of book reviews, tied together by a common argument.
People are gullible. Humans can be duped by liars and conned by frauds; manipulated by rhetoric and beguiled by self-regard; browbeaten, cajoled, seduced, intimidated, flattered, wheedled, inveigled, and ensnared. In this respect, humans are unique in the animal kingdom.

Aristotle emphasizes another characteristic. Humans alone, he tells us, have logos: reason. Man, according to the Stoics, is zoön logikon, the reasoning animal. But on reflection, the first set of characteristics arises from the second. It is only because we reason and think and use language that we can be hoodwinked.

Not only can people be led astray, most people are. If the devout Christian is right, then committed Hindus and Jews and Buddhists and atheists are wrong. When so many groups disagree, the majority must be mistaken. And if the majority is misguided on just this one topic, then almost everyone must be mistaken on some issues of great importance. This is a hard lesson to learn, because it is paradoxical to accept one’s own folly. You cannot at the same time believe something and recognize that you are a mug to believe it.
The review goes on to treat high matters of physics and philosophy.

Viking Fiction Recommendations

Of course readers of the Hall know about Lars Walker's works, some of which we have read together. Once you have read all his books, and The Long Ships, and those Fafhrd stories that turn on sailing, you may still be wanting more. Here is another list, which embraces Viking-themed fantasy.

Recommendations from readers are encouraged.

DOJ Watchdog Report Looks Bad for Jim Comey

"Insubordinate" is not the same thing as "illegal," but it does seem to confirm the recommendation (by Rosenstein) that Comey deserved to be fired. If it was right to fire him, then it can't have been improper to fire him, not even if he was working on something really important. It'll be interesting to see what else this report contains. That the Clinton investigation was improperly political is clear to all observers, but we will learn a lot about whether or not the FBI is capable of correcting itself through the Inspector General process.

This is the second of three highly awaited reports on the FBI lately. The third one will deal with the investigation into the Trump campaign, and whether it was done for political purposes.


You can talk to the animals, although it isn't always clear which of them understand what you're saying. But they certainly seem to talk with each other. In principle, then, it's just a translation gap that keeps us from effective interspecies communication.

Of course, just as with any conversation, we may learn that we don't like certain animals very much. And vice-versa.

Outlaw Country

NRO worries about 'the conservative disposition.'
Yet the more important story may be how Trump and his loudest supporters are redefining the conservative disposition — the mood or motive that makes people self-identify as conservative in the first place — into an attitude of alienation, suspicion, and defiance....

[According to one such who gave an interview] “I’ve always been a nonconformist,” he says in the article. “In today’s culture, the nonconformists are conservatives.”

It’s an implication commonly heard on the right these days, especially among its youthful, online faction. Progressives, this faction argues, control so much of mainstream society that any true revolt against power necessitates identifying with the Right. Yet different people can interpret this mantra in different ways, and it’s here where the new conservative disposition begins to cause problems for those who value ideological coherence....

[I]f one possesses a less discriminating hostility to power, then the logic of conservatism-through-rebellion can easily solidify into a cruder disposition of cynical nihilism in service of nothing in particular.
Conservatives in America have always been divided between those who believed that human nature needed to be filtered through wise institutions, and those who thought they were upholding the American heritage of freedom in a way that liberated us from institutions as much as anything else. For a while it was a close debate, as both sides had good arguments. Institutions do shape character, and character does matter. On the other hand, if one isn't free to choose which institutions to allow to shape one's life, one isn't really free.

Well, the debate is over, ladies and gentlemen. The institutions have been infiltrated and killed, one by one. It's not just the colleges, or the left-leaning churches. It's the Boy Scouts; it's the mainstream churches. There are holdouts, but they're holding out against tremendous pressure. The NRA is a holdout; the Marine Corps is holding out against its own leadership. The Army has elements that are holding out. But would you trust the FBI, after what we've seen these last few years? The IRS? The Department of Justice? The Bureau of Land Management? Maybe the Forest Service, just because they're mostly not thinking about managing or controlling people.

If the institutions fail, then the freedom road is the only road left. Maybe that's not 'conservative,' but if so, it's only because there isn't much left to conserve. It's worth considering that the outlaws are right, and it's time to make something new.

Elegant but wrong

Advances in physics in the 1970s and 1980s led to huge improvements in our ability to predict phenomena precisely. Since then, not so much:
"All of the theoretical work that's been done since the 1970s has not produced a single successful prediction," says Neil Turok, director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada. "That's a very shocking state of affairs."
* * *
"I can't believe what this once-venerable profession has become," [writes Sabine Hossenfelder, a physicist at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies in Germany]. "Theoretical physicists used to explain what was observed. Now they try to explain why they can't explain what was not observed. And they're not even good at that."

Learning to Swim: Muir vs. Wayne

Via our friends at The Art of Manliness, a meditation on learning to swim by John Muir. It involved almost drowning.
One hot summer day father told us that we ought to learn to swim. This was one of the most interesting suggestions he had ever offered, but precious little time was allowed for trips to the lake, and he seldom tried to show us how. “Go to the frogs,” he said, “and they will give you all the lessons you need. Watch their arms and legs and see how smoothly they kick themselves along and dive and come up. When you want to dive, keep your arms by your side or over your head, and kick, and when you want to come up, let your legs drag and paddle with your hands."...

As soon as my feet touched the bottom, I slowly rose to the surface, but before I could get breath enough to call for help, sank back again and lost all control of myself. After sinking and rising I don’t know how many times, some water got into my lungs and I began to drown. Then suddenly my mind seemed to clear. I remembered that I could swim under water, and, making a desperate struggle toward the shore, I reached a point where with my toes on the bottom I got my mouth above the surface, gasped for help, and was pulled into the boat.... I was very much ashamed of myself, and at night, after calmly reviewing the affair, concluded that there had been no reasonable cause for the accident, and that I ought to punish myself for so nearly losing my life from unmanly fear. Accordingly at the very first opportunity, I stole away to the lake by myself, got into my boat, and instead of going back to the old swimming-bowl for further practice, or to try to do sanely and well what I had so ignominiously failed to do in my first adventure...

Never again from that day to this have I lost control of myself in water. If suddenly thrown overboard at sea in the dark, or even while asleep, I think I would immediately right myself in a way some would call “instinct,” rise among the waves, catch my breath, and try to plan what would better be done. Never was victory over self more complete.
Confer with John Wayne's similar lesson.

The Kingly Pardon Power

Donald Trump is wrong to say that, as President, he has 'an absolute right' to pardon himself. That is doubly wrong. First, it is a power pertaining to a government office and not a right that is being described. Second, the power is not absolute. It is limited to cases that are not matters of impeachment.

Those are technicalities, of course, though people like me think technicalities are sometimes quite important when we are describing limits on the power of government. Trump's basic point, allowing for his penchant for vague language, is correct. The President can pardon any Federal crime, even if the crime is merely an accusation or suspicion rather than a proven fact. Here's the Constitution's language:
...he [i.e. the President] shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
There is one "except," and no other limits. It doesn't say "unless it's himself accused." It doesn't say "unless it's in his self-interest." It doesn't say anything other than what it does in fact say.

This is a power that kings used to have, and it is a tremendous power, so it's reasonable to fear that the use of it threatens to establish a king rather than a President. There are nevertheless checks on this power. If the Congress doesn't think the President is acting responsibly, they can impeach him and remove him from office. He cannot pardon himself in this case because it falls under the clear exception for impeachment cases. (The same is true if they should impeach and remove his chosen officials within the Executive branch, or the Judiciary).

If Congress does not act to do this, the People of the United States may vote to replace them. Such elections are held every two years for the entire House of Representatives, so that impeachment if not removal can be effected relatively swiftly if needed. Senators might resist the popular will, but facing the specter of a massive electoral wave in the House demanding impeachment, they are likely to act on removal.

If the People do not think that the President's use of the power of the pardon justifies such a wave to force the removal of the President, well, they are in effect signing off on the action. Under our system the People really are the sovereign that the old kings used to claim to be. They are the ones who have the final authority to approve the President's actions or not. If they do not demand his ouster, and especially if they should go on to re-elect him, all of our forms have been satisfied. The true sovereign has blessed the action.

This is a quality of democracy that most philosophers dislike very much. It has rare defenders, including British Law Lord Patrick Devlin in the last century. But in general philosophers are uncomfortable the the idea that clear violations of their preferred justice principle should go unpunished simply because the violations are popular, or simply because the violator is popular. Philosophers are of course free to make this argument to the people to try to convince them of it, but that seems like a poor solution to many of them. They know better than the common rabble, after all: what otherwise was the point of all those years of study?

The counterargument is pragmatic, and indeed the same kind of counterargument that capitalism raises in its defense against charges of injustice or of promoting inequality. Perhaps so, says the capitalist, but look how much better off we all are under this system! The alternative systems likewise claim to be organized by those who understand better, but they lead inevitably to poverty and frequently to ruin. Capitalism is wiser even when it violates justice principles, because it makes the trade based on local information about what is most needed right there by the people who really need it. It may sometimes make trades that violate principles, but the overall effect is a rising tide that lifts all boats. (And indeed, as much as capitalist globalization has done to disrupt America, it has raised boats around the world: global poverty is at an all time low.)

Similarly, here, the small-d democrat is inclined to accept the right (not power, but right) of the people to make their own decisions about what to support politically. They may sometimes make trades that the philosopher would not like and would not support, but they do it for reasons of their own that are obvious to them locally and opaque to those further away. These reasons are said to be 'racism' or 'bigotry' or 'hate,' but in fact they are simply opaque: you don't know because you aren't there, enmeshed in the life of the person making the choice. The accusation is an act of imagination, not a grasping of knowledge. That it is an act of imagination that suits one's own political interests, because it empowers elites like one's self instead of small men and women in the countryside, is reason for a true philosopher to be suspicious of it.

So it turns out that this kingly power is rooted in the plainest democracy, at least here in America. The President certainly does have the power to pardon any Federal crime with only one class of exceptions. If he does this badly and for wrong reasons, first our representatives and then we ourselves must punish it. Or, if we do not, then we must accept the responsibility for the choice. The king, after all, is ourselves.


Andy McCarthy makes an allied argument.
More significantly, as I argued in Faithless Execution, we’ve become such a litigious society we fail to recognize that the Constitution mainly relies on political checks, not judicial ones. The idea is to promote liberty by putting the most important decisions in the hands of representatives who answer to the voters, not in the hands of judges who are not accountable to the public.
He goes on to criticize talk of self-pardon on other grounds.


Apparently Nixon-era Federal lawyers came to the opposite conclusion, on the grounds that 'no one can be a judge in his own case.' But I think the above shows that such reasoning isn't adequate; no President does get to be the judge, finally, in these matters. By nature it appeals to the People, who are rightly sovereign.

"Traditional" Wife = "White Supremacy"

I am struck by the insistence on creating a new word to describe someone who does something that wives have traditionally, i.e. always, done. Calling them "tradwives" rather than "wives" is of a piece with the 1984 tendency to describe English Socialism as "Ingsoc," or for that matter the move to describe men as "cishet males." What we would have simply called a "wife" when I was a boy now must be described as a "cishet female tradwife," if you believe this nonsense.

Of course it is also the case that these women are white supremacists, because naturally that is the narrative to forward for the NYT. I'm sure there are white supremacist wives out there, although I imagine they are far fewer in number than the NYT imagines them to be. For every one you can find with a YouTube show that has troubling undertones, I'll bet that a fair-minded study would find ten thousand that are just really traditional wives.

Indeed, 'traditional wife' isn't an unhealthy role, and the argument that it is sort-of only for whites is not going to help other communities. Stable marriages are of great value in developing wealth across generations, as should be expected given the virtues that are needed in order to be successful at a stable marriage; and increasing wealth across generations is how you finally end the cycles of poverty and dysfunction. If anything we should be pushing people to develop the right virtues and to nurture their marriages, not trying to stigmatize a model that works for at least some subset of married couples.

UPDATE: A better invocation, although with the same social justice goals: using the Catholic act of contrition as a model for apologies.

A Victory of Sorts

Religious freedom is, and was, one of the basic liberties that America was founded to protect. Today the Supreme Court handed down a decision in the infamous "bake the cake" case, one that reasserts that religious liberty is a freedom that the government must take steps to respect.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the court did not rule on what that means. Many people think that religious liberty is just code for bigotry, and want it subordinated in every case in which religious liberty comes into conflict with things like baking cakes for gay weddings. Others think that religious liberty is a basic freedom, codified in the first amendment, and should always come out on top. The court didn't set any standard either for which should predominate, or how to adjudicate.

But that may be for the best. It leaves states free to make 50 different decisions, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all standard on our diverse nation. I have often argued that SCOTUS's propensity for one-size solutions has been destabilizing to our nation. For that reason, I'm pleased with this decision.

Rampant Lion

The band's name is a variation of the famous formation that Robert the Bruce used at Bannockburn.