The great Scottish New Year fire festival is tonight.


A laid back, scholarly discussion. Sections include "Redding the House," "First Footing," and "Setting Things on Fire." The Protestants are the bad guys. The Edinburgh fireworks are impressive.

More of a small-town approach:


So this post has two proximate causes, neither of which I had intended to have anything to do with the other, but together, they made it irresistible for me to post this.  First, back in October, in my Facebook memories there was a post where I had asked two of my veterinarian friends if cats had knees, elbows, or something else entirely.  I received back the technical answer (two knees, and two elbows, but the knees are officially called "stifles"), but for the life of me, I could not recall what in the world prompted me to ever ask such a thing.

Second, in following a link from Grim's post on the Feast of the Holy Family, I found myself reading other old posts.  In the course of doing so, I ran across a story that linked back to Cassandra's blog Villainous Company.  And from there, I started going through the archives.  In there, I found this post.  And suddenly, I remembered the whole discussion from five years in the past.

I had forgotten exactly how much I missed Cass' blog.  It wasn't that the discourse was "better" than it is in the Hall, it was just different.  The discussions there were wide ranging, mostly due to Cass' choices in topic selection, and there was a funny, friendly banter to it all.  I still miss it.

Maybe I'm getting maudlin in my age.  I don't know.  But if you're still lurking Cass, I think the world could use more of your wit and wisdom.  Anyhow... back to getting all misty eyed in the archives.

Elliptical orbits

Salena Zito is generally worth reading, though I'll warn you that if (like my husband) you dislike the "pithy comments from the man on the street" style of political analysis, you should skip the first half-dozen paragraphs.

Zito sees the political landscape as undergoing a tectonic shift.  First there is a long build-up of tension, as voters increasingly conclude they are being lied to by unserious people, then there is a catastrophic realignment.  The 2020 outcome perhaps depends on the resolution of a deep ambivalence in the suburbs.  Right-centrist voters long for dependability and civility, without always troubling themselves much about pure policy, but at some point they rebel against outright socialism even in its more pastel tones.

In the meantime, populist voters from both the left and right are an unpredictable disruptive force:
Democratic populists seek to copy Trump's success but not to win back the same populist voters who flipped margins by 32 points from 2012 to 2016 in places like Ashtabula, Ohio, or 18 points in Erie, Pennsylvania, both of which we profiled in "The Great Revolt." Democrats such as Warren and Sanders have given up on winning those places--and those Obama voters.
Instead, Sanders and Warren hope to emulate Trump's success with their party's version of the voters we called Perotistas, those whose participation in elections is irregular, even elliptical, and who pass into voting booths every decade or so like comets crashing into an otherwise orderly solar system, only to disappear just as abruptly.

Brilliant idea

We're starting to believe we have the last kitchen built since about 1990 that isn't an integral part of a great room, separated at most by an island.  As usual, however, we're finding that our fuddy-duddy ways will put us on the cutting edge with enough patience.  If ever we sell this house (instead of being carried out feet-first, my current ambition), we will market it as featuring the newest trend, a "discrete kitchen."
Rather than combining living, dining and kitchen in one open space, Beckford’s more traditional floor plans have created a new amenity, in addition to the development’s rooftop terrace, yoga rooms and private piano bar and lounge—the discrete kitchen. 
“People like that you’re not looking at your kitchens from other rooms,” Ms. Russo said. “So many of these open kitchens, I think people are tiring of them and they are going back to the old school, the old architecture.”
It goes along with another hot trend we saw developing a few years back: "away rooms" for people who originally thought they needed unobstructed sightlines from one end of the house to the other, so that their young children could be under constant surveillance. One of the few things I'd do differently if I were building this house again is pay more attention to the need for soundproofing at least one room. Either that or I need to develop some control over my dogs' barking when I'm trying to talk on the phone.

Anything I don't like is cruel and unusual

This is only a county court, so I'm not going to get too excited about it, but that doesn't mean I'll miss a chance to make fun of the mindset.  A Denver local court struck down the city's ban on "urban camping" on the ground that it violates the 8th Amendment, because it would be cruel (and maybe unusual?) to criminalize camping on the street by people who have "nowhere else to go."

There's no limit to this approach, which focuses not on the particular punishment enacted by a callous public, but instead on the whole question whether it's a good idea to criminalize something.

Denver and San Francisco are providing a valuable public service as petri dishes.

Feast of the Holy Family

Do all these continual feasts seem, er, 'problematic'? The early Medieval church thought so as well.

Sure, If You Work in Sherwood Forest

Question:  Why not wear leggings (meaning yoga pants, I suppose) to work?
I don’t remember what specific combo of frustration and busyness led me to wear leggings to the office one day recently, but I do remember it felt magical. With nothing but a stretchy band and Nulu(™) fabric holding me in, I felt freer, like I was dancing through my duties, rather than trudging through them encased in polyester and wool. My computer seemed to run more quickly; my sources were more responsive; the PR people were less angry....

Most everyone at my office is nicely dressed, from the occasional TV-ready suit-wearer to our fashion-conscious female editors. Occasionally, some mayor or other VIP stops by. Leggings are not part of this world. In fact, when I told my colleagues I was working on this article, several of them came to my desk, in their traditional slacks, and registered their complaints. “Tights are not pants,” people told me....

The other place where leggings are deemed unacceptable today: church.
Why not? It's appropriately gender-neutral, right?

Everything's A Problem, Ph.D.

For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow

“Liberal miserablism is a turn-off.”

Scary Scary Less Likely

But you should still be scared, says The Atlantic.
“It might not happen,” Fricker said. “But if there’s a chance that it could happen, then shouldn’t you involve that in your planning? If you’re hosting a picnic and it might rain, you don’t necessarily move the whole event, but you probably do make a Plan B. If you’re planning a city … you might as well keep this in the back of your mind.”
OK. I'll pencil in a contingency plan for massive sea-level rise, like moving to a mountaintop in western North Carolina.

A Church Shooting in White Settlement, Texas

Attacks on religious celebrations continue to be in the news.  After yesterday's stabbing spree at an Orthodox Jewish Hanukkah celebration (during a week in NYC that featured near-daily attacks on Orthodox Jews), today the attack was on a Church of Christ celebration.
A witness told CBS 11 News the gunman walked up to a server during communion with a shotgun and then opened fire. According to the witness, another church member shot the suspect....

During the incident, two men died from their injuries and another man was critically injured. Authorities believe the gunman is among the three but it’s unknown if he was killed or is injured.
It is better, all the way around, for a religious community to be able to defend itself from these attacks. The attacks may not stop; hatred for the religion or simply for the religious may be too broad and too deep in our culture today. This is not new. Raymond Lull wrote about it in the Middle Ages.
Then if a knight use not his office, he is contrary to his order and to the beginning of chivalry. *** The office of a knight is to maintain and defend the holy catholic faith by which God the Father sent his Son into the world to take human flesh in the glorious Virgin, our Lady Saint Mary; and for to honor and multiply the faith, suffered in this world many travails, despites, and anguishous death. Then in like wise as our Lord God hath chosen the clerks for to maintain the holy catholic faith with scripture and reasons against the miscreaunts and unbelievers, in like wise God of glory hath chosen knights because that by force of arms they vanquish the miscreaunts, which daily labor for to destroy holy church, and such knights God holdeth them for his friends honored in the world and in that other when they keep and maintain the faith by the which we intend to be saved....
There are some for whom such service is the most meaningful and proper way of expressing their faith. To deny them the right to do it is to deny them the expression of faith for which they are best fit, and which their soul finds its deepest and most worthy calling. Both the first and the second amendments should apply to the defenders of the faith, then; no government should stand between them and their sacred duty.

UPDATE: Some analysis and advice for those who would do likewise.

The Feast of Thomas a’ Beckett

The dispute over which he was killed makes King Henry seem like the good guy, especially given our own experience with the Church protecting violators in the clergy. Assassination was the wrong remedy, but the king was on the right side.

Pronouncing Written Irish

A rough guide.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

The Good Lord sent Sam Colt, after which none of us should ever have to fear our communities being threatened in this wise.  Except for the government of the state of New York, and California, and soon Virginia, which seek to undo the blessings laid upon us.

Well, we don't have to do what we are told, do we? After all, who are they to strive against the one who sent Col. Colt?

The Feast of Holy Innocents

A somber feast amid the celebrations.

Feasting in the Great Hall on Christmas Day

Some history as the Twelve Days continue.

A Dilemma

Not really, though.


A new history of medieval Norway, via Iceland and 600 missing years.
The historical writing in Flateyarbók spans the period from when Harald Fairhair was Norway's first king in the early 900s and almost until the Black Death struck Norway around the year 1350.

But 17-year-old King Olav IV Haakonsson never received the book. The boy died in what many believed to be a mysterious manner.

Now the entire book has finally been translated and published in Norwegian by a small publishing house in Stavanger.

Flateyjarbók (its Icelandic name) is three times as extensive as Snorre Sturlason's collection of sagas about Swedish and Norwegian kings, Heimskringla.
The English translation is just getting underway, I gather.

Stalinism in Canada

Cutting Donald Trump out of holiday film “Home Alone 2,” presumably to avoid causing trauma by even having to see him. (“Stalinism” is per the link.)

Did they cut Reagan out of his old movies? Or just stop playing those movies forever? I’ve seen a lot of old movies, now that I think of it, but only one I can recall featuring Reagan.

That one I’d understand the networks not playing in any recent cultural moment. It was “Santa Fe Trail,” in which Reagan plays George Armstrong Custer — still treated as a good guy by Hollywood — against Errol Flynn’s J.E.B. Stuart, who is also treated as a good guy. Somehow the dispute over John Brown’s raid is treated as fittingly symbolized by the two officer’s competition for the hand of a lovely young Kit Carson Holliday (played by Olivia de Havilland). John Brown is even kind of the bad guy, as his anti-slavery campaign is depicted as behind the violence in Kansas the officers are sent to stop. The whole plot is at this point going to be radically offensive to many viewers, and nearly all will be bothered by at least some aspects of it.

In the current case, all that is at stake is the guy offering directions to the lobby.

The Fimbulvinter: A Real Climate Disaster

The Fenris wolf swallows the sun. The climate disaster that began the year 536 was surely the most dramatic cooling of the Earth that humans, animals and plants have experienced in the last two thousand years. It was likely due to two large volcanic explosions, which every few years sent huge amounts of fine dust high into the atmosphere. There was dust for several years. The sun disappeared.... probably half of the populations of Norway and Sweden died.
A lot is known about the event now. It seems to have passed into myth as a cyclical warning of Ragnarok. Volcanoes do pose a real risk of sudden global cooling, and there are other similar risks that are massive. Solar EMPs, asteroid strikes, these things are real problems that will come up sooner or later.


From Instapundit: The Seattle Times warns us that “a man in a dress doesn’t cut it as a punch line in 2019 — not without serious and necessary conversations.” Which do you think sounds like more fun, a performance of "Mrs. Doubtfire," or a "serious and necessary conversation" with a wøkeskøld?

Religion is the Opiate of the Masses

...so said Marx, anyway. So how do you rewrite the Bible and the Quran to avoid contradicting socialism?
China will rewrite the Bible and Quran to 'reflect socialist values' amid crackdown on the country's religious groups, a report has revealed.

New editions must not contain any content that goes against the beliefs of the Communist Party, according to a top party official. Paragraphs deemed wrong by the censors will be amended or re-translated.
Like every paragraph violates the beliefs of the Communist Party, which belief system is called "scientific atheism." There was a formal school for training people in it at the university we lived at while living in China.

Wren Song

Happy St. Stephen's Day.

The Feast of St. Thomas the Divine

I will direct your attention to this post from 2016.

The High Feast of Christmas

I am pausing for a moment from putting the finishing touches on Christmas dinner. Here to aid your own celebrations are some less-common pieces of appropriate music.

If you liked these, they're selected from this recording. I picked it up at a used record store some years ago, and it's become a favorite.

The Season's Upon Us

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone. I hope you had a worthy Advent and are ready for the holiday.

Virginia's Constitutional Right to Bear Arms

In addition to the Second Amendment at the Federal level, Virginia itself has a constitutional right to bear arms. It is even clearer and more explicit than the Federal Constitution's.
Article I. Bill of Rights
Section 13. Militia; standing armies; military subordinate to civil power

That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
There is quite a bit of scholarship on this particular clause. Even before the adoption of the Virginia constitution, colonial-era laws had mandated that each home keep arms and a stock of ammunition at all times. At the time of the adoption of the Federal constitution, the exact meaning of the term 'militia' was described by George Mason and Federalist 46. Patrick Henry said that "the great object is that every man be armed."

That is not to say that no restrictions on arms were ever considered even in the old days. Before the Civil War, Virginia did prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons -- but also the keeping or carrying of any sort of weapons by slaves. Even after the Civil War, blacks in Virginia could only carry arms with a license from the state, just because they were considered too dangerous to be allowed unfettered access to the right. Cf. George Mason's comments that to disarm a man was the best way to make it easy to enslave him; so too the actual slaveowners, and those who had but late been slaveowners, did their best to keep their slaves and former slaves disarmed.

It will be interesting to observe how much attention is paid to the constitutional limits by the legislature in the next session, or by the governor thereafter. Should the government violate its constitution, I would argue that there is a fundamental duty on the citizenry to disobey such laws, and to refuse to enforce them when called as jurors.

The marriage of love and reason

From a Gutenberg work I'm formatting this morning:
To Pollianus and Eurydice with Plutarch's best wishes.
. . . When people in olden times assigned a seat with Aphrodite to Hermes, it was because the pleasure of marriage stands in special need of reason; when to Persuasion and the Graces, it was in order that the married pair might obtain their wishes from each other by means of persuasion, and not by contention and strife.

Preach on, Doc

A candidate for Congress with a doctorate has thoughts on the Second Amendment.

Do Not Be Fishers of Men

I am beginning to suspect that, in spite of his personal courage, the Pope may be innovative beyond what scripture can support.

The Wind

The wind is moaning in the chimney tonight. It reminds me of one of Tolkien’s less-quoted poems. In the story it happens in Beorn’s hall, a source of much inspiration for my own life.

Scotland by Winter

A photo essay.


Living in Truth

Vaclav Havel's greengrocer:
Havel, who died in 2011, preached what he called “antipolitical politics,” the essence of which he described as “living in truth.” His most famous and thorough statement of this was a long 1978 essay titled “The Power of the Powerless,” which electrified the Eastern European resistance movements when it first appeared. It is a remarkable document, one that bears careful study and reflection by orthodox Christians in the West today.

Consider, says Havel, the greengrocer living under Communism, who puts a sign in his shop window saying, “Workers of the World, Unite!” He does it not because he believes it, necessarily. He simply doesn’t want trouble. And if he doesn’t really believe it, he hides the humiliation of his coercion by telling himself, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Fear allows the official ideology to retain power—and eventually changes the greengrocer’s beliefs. Those who “live within a lie,” says Havel, collaborate with the system and compromise their full humanity.

Every act that contradicts the official ideology is a denial of the system. What if the greengrocer stops putting the sign up in his window? What if he refuses to go along to get along? “His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth”— and it’s going to cost him plenty.

He will lose his job and his position in society. His kids may not be allowed to go to the college they want to, or to any college at all. People will bully him or ostracize him. But by bearing witness to the truth, he has accomplished something potentially powerful:
He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth.

Because they are public, the greengrocer’s deeds are inescapably political. He bears witness to the truth of his convictions by being willing to suffer for them. He becomes a threat to the system—but he has preserved his humanity.

Missing Stars

Curiouser and curiouser.

Government Surveillance

Sharyl Attkisson at The Hill writes that there are at least six red flags around the Federal government's misuse of surveillance.

United in Death

Thesis: Nietzsche's 'death of God' and the death of the Humanities are the same death.
It happened first in relation to religion, and second, more recently, in relation to culture and the humanities. We all understand what religious secularization has been — the process by which religion, and especially Christianity, has been marginalized, so that today in the West, as Charles Taylor has famously put it, religion has become just one option among a smorgasbord of faith/no-faith choices available to individuals.

A similar process is underway in the humanities. Faith has been lost across two different zones: first, religion; then, high culture. The process that we associate with thinkers like Friedrich Schiller, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Matthew Arnold, in which culture was consecrated in religion’s place, and that in more modest forms survived until quite recently, has finally been undone.
What's strange about this analysis is that the author locates the source of damage in "globalization intertwined with both feminism and decoloniality," which are all hard-left projects (at least for the sort of feminism under discussion, i.e. the sort that undermines the canon precisely because mostly men wrote it), but the author then goes on to conclude that defending the Humanities is itself to be done for hard-left reasons.
They are to be preserved because they are compelled to push back on the capitalist apparatuses that are dismantling them. In that pushback, what remains of them is aligned with green and radically left anti-capitalist movements.
Sounds like someone has a religion after all! The king is dead; long live the king.

Good question

The presiding FISA judge, Rosemary Collyer, recently started putting a little belated pressure on the FBI to explain what it was up to in pursuing and renewing the Crossfire Hurricane surveillance.  She then abruptly announced that she was stepping down nine weeks early for "health reasons," but the questions she posed remain interesting, and I'm glad to see that IG Horowitz also is pursuing one aspect of particular interest to me.  Given the poisonous behavior of this particular hand-picked FISA team, what lies under the rock of the many FISA warrants pursued routinely every year?  As the New York Post editorial board puts it:
Were they playing fast and loose because they were investigating a presidential candidate and then the sitting president? Or was rule breaking so routine that they didn’t even think about it?
That's the real choice underlying the determination of "bias" or "no bias."


The solstice is upon us. May your winter be a good one, warm and full of pleasant company.

When worlds collide

An asteroid will make a nearish miss with Earth on Boxing Day this year.  It's not all that close, about 4.5 million miles, and it's not all that big, either, less than 2,000 feet in diameter.  For comparison, the Tunguska strike in Siberia in 1908 was less than a tenth that big, while the dinosaur-killing object 65 million years ago probably was in the 7- to 50-mile diameter range.  The one in "Armageddon," of course, was "the size of Texas, Mr. President."  The thing that knocked loose the Moon 4.5 billion years ago is estimated to have been the size of Mars.  Things in the solar system have really quieted down since then.

Darn Russians again

The magnetic North Pole has been drifting from Ellesmere Island towards Russia, and will soon be captured by that crafty Putin.  Magnetic forces may have been behind the mysterious disappearance and/or death of Joseph Mifsud almost two years ago.

Kidding aside, I've been reading about the possibility of another pole-reversal just about all my life.  They do happen every few hundred thousand years.  We don't know what it's like when they do.  It's interesting to read this "Mother Nature Network" account, though, and compare the relatively measured "let's not panic yet" tone to a story about which they've been given their marching orders by the climate authorities.  I'm waiting for the theory that links magnetic poles to CO2 concentrations.

Scandinavian Food in Minnesota

A review of old and new options. I have only gotten up there once and won’t likely again, but some of you might.

On Cornbread

A review of the work of a scholar of cookbooks.

Happy Holidays

At first I thought this comic was doing Denis Leary, but about 2/3rds in he suddenly takes on a serious tone Leary never quite attempted. Hey, you know, people are dying in China over this. It’s not a joke. Welcome to my stand up comedy act, which isn’t funny because this stuff isn’t funny.

Speech Does or Does Not Constitute Speech?

J. K. Rowling, whose work I've never read but who was apparently extremely popular with children and young adults, has transgressed. Rowling's offense was to defend someone else who had transgressed, a woman who holds views that the British courts this week declared to be "not worthy of respect in a democratic society."

Well. I don't know what she said, but I don't have to know to know that the courts are wrong here. Human dignity is not opposed to freedom of speech, but rather, freedom of speech is essential to human dignity.
Why are human beings due a basic dignity at all? ... [One answer according to] Immanuel Kant, is that human beings have dignity because they are free. Kant did not mean politically free. He meant that, unlike a stick or a stone, you can reason for yourself and decide how you will behave. Your ability to think for yourself and come to your own decisions thus sets you above sticks, or stones, or most other objects in the universe. It is why you have dignity.

What does it mean to have dignity? It means that you are due a certain respect that is not due to sticks or stones. For example, a person is due the respect of not being harmed without good reason. Not everything has that dignity. Anyone can pick a stick up off the ground and break it without it being thought to violate the stick’s dignity. No one may similarly grab another person and break their arm without having committed an affront.

If your dignity arises from your capability of thinking for yourself, respecting your dignity requires respecting your thoughts. “Respecting your thoughts” does not mean “agreeing with your thoughts,” for requiring agreement would itself be disrespectful of everyone else’s ability to have their own thoughts. It does, however, mean respecting your right to think things through for yourself. Your free thoughts cannot be prohibited without violating your dignity as a human being – indeed, if Kant is right, such a prohibition is a violation of the most basic source of your dignity as a human being.

If I may not prohibit your thoughts, though, might I prohibit your words? Speech is only thinking out loud.
Likewise, the right to defend your beliefs in public is an essential feature of democratic society.
To tell someone that they cannot speak in public about what they take their interests to be is to tell them that they cannot organize politically in defense of those interests. This is another basic affront to the dignity of an individual. It is incompatible with any form of government by the people.

Yet you might think that some ideas are so bad that anyone who adopts them is themselves a bad person. In that case, it might seem as if preventing them from political organizing is a desirable end. After all, if bad people can organize politically they are likely to gain political power. As political philosophers since Plato have argued, it is dangerous for political power to fall into the hands of people who lack the proper virtues. For people who have instead adopted a wicked character, it is surely even worse. Thus it might seem as if speech prohibitions were a good thing.

The most pragmatic counter-argument against this practice is that allowing those in power to impose speech controls during times when good people are in office will also allow bad people to impose speech controls should they gain office. Sometimes surprising situations can cause even disorganized campaigns to win a victory. Any power that one would not trust to one’s opponents is not wisely invested in a government that the opponents will sometimes control.

But it is also the case that self-government is itself a way of building virtue. To whatever degree people are excluded from self-government, they will not develop the qualities they need to do it well. This is because virtue is a matter of practice, as Aristotle argues. The way you gain the virtue of courage is to do things that are dangerous and frightening. Soldiers in training practice climbing across ropes stretched high over water. Then they may rappel from tall towers. Some may then go on to learn to jump from airplanes. Even if their military service never needs them to do any of these things in combat, the practice of learning to do things in spite of being scared makes them brave. In time, when they need to take actions in the face of fear, they are able to do so.

All virtues work this way. John Stuart Mill argued that the whole reason for representative government was that it encouraged people to become virtuous. Just as Aristotle spoke of the best life as the one that most completely develops the capacity to act virtuously,[1] and Kant derived a universal (if imperfect) duty to develop one’s capacities,[2] Mill also has an argument that attaining one’s capacities roots the human good. This is found in his Considerations on Representative Government, in which he offers an account of why he believes republican government is the best possible form. An early argument he fields is against what he calls a common opinion – it dates at least to Aristotle’s Politics – that a benign despot is the best possible form of government. “What sort of human beings can be formed under such a regimen?” he asks. “What developments can either their thinking or their active faculties attain under it?… Wherever the sphere of action of human beings is artificially circumscribed, their sentiments are narrowed and dwarfed in the same proportion.”[3]

The concern that people are not good enough for self-government is not then a reason to deny them the ability to speak their minds. If they are to become better people, they need to be allowed to speak their minds.
The court cannot be right, no matter what she said or what she believes. This holds for the worst ideas anyone has or could in principle have.

Burning Flags Does or Does Not Constitute Speech?

A man in Iowa is sentenced to 16 years for burning the LGBT "Rainbow" flag.

She Needs to Know the Parameters

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen to withhold her caucus' Articles of Impeachment, as some of you may have heard, until whenever.  I've suggested elsewhere that by doing so, she's exonerating Trump by confessing that her caucus has no case to present for trial.

However, Pelosi has provided a rationalization rationale:

The next thing for us will be when we see the process that is set forth in the Senate. Then, we’ll know the number of monitors that we may have to go forward.

Of course, she doesn't need that for this. She can appoint the entire Republican caucus as monitors: our Constitution doesn't specify the number, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, I suspect, doesn't care.

Eric Hines

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

An American Mass Grave

I don't generally watch television; haven't for years and years. On my last trip to DC, however, I stayed with some friends who do watch TV on a daily basis. They were watching a show called Watchmen, which I recognized from having encountered the comic book as a teenager. I couldn't remember the first thing about the plot of the story or the characters. As a consequence, the show was almost as fresh to me as if I'd never heard of it at all. (On balance I rather enjoyed the first few episodes, which was all I saw. I liked the habit of never explaining anything, but leaving it to the viewer to figure out what on earth is going on with a setting that is so similar to our own, yet so substantially different. It was intellectually engaging.)

The show begins with a dramatization of a race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Archæologists have just uncovered a mass grave associated with that riot.

The story is worth reading both because we have a duty to know and remember things like this from American history, and also as a warning about our own political moment. Racial tensions are not as high as in 1919, thank goodness, but other tensions are getting there.
“They had created the most successful Black-owned business district in the country,” Brown tells TIME. “Booker T. Washington, when he visited initially referred to it as the ‘Negro Wall Street of America,’ and it later took on the moniker ‘Black Wall Street.'”

There were several hundred businesses in Greenwood — hotels, restaurants, beauty parlors, “everything you can think of,” Brown adds. “There was a sense of self-sufficiency.”

But Greenwood wasn’t immune to the racial violence that plagued much of the era. More than two dozen race riots had broken out throughout the country In 1919 — which meant mobs of white people attacking black neighborhoods, according to Ellsworth. Oklahoma was starting to see a rise in membership to the KKK.

Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old black shoe shiner, used an elevator to go up to a segregated bathroom on May 30, 1921. In the elevator was Sarah Page, a 17-year-old white woman and elevator operator. Whether or not the two knew each other is uncertain, but it is believed that Rowland tripped entering the elevator and caught himself on Page’s arm, and she let out a scream. An onlooker who heard the scream summoned the police, believing Page had been the victim of an attempted sexual assault. No record exists that Page said anything about a sexual assault to the police, according to Ellsworth’s report, but Rowland was arrested the next day.

An angry crowd of white people began to gather in front of the court house holding Rowland, calling for him to be turned over to them. The sheriff set up a row of armed guards to protect the building. Then a group of about 25 armed black veterans of World War I showed up, ready to protect Rowland. The mob of white people had grown to an estimated thousand by that evening. Some attempted to break into a local armory for weapons.

Tensions increased through the night and the white mob continued to grow. At about 10 p.m. a group of armed black men made their way to the court house, offering help to authorities. Then one white man approached a black World War I veteran and tried to take away his gun. When the gun went off, the race riot began.

Equality and Consent

Ashe Schow is right about this proposal.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) proposed legislation on Tuesday that would close what he called a “loophole” in rape law.

Cuomo claimed that prosecutors cannot bring rape charges against an accused person if an accuser voluntarily consumes alcohol. Cuomo’s proposal would change the state’s definition of those who cannot legally consent to sexual activity to include someone who is conscious but allegedly too drunk to consent. Keen observers will notice how vague the idea of being “too drunk to consent” may be.
Formally this retains equality under the law, because it says “someone” rather than “a woman.” Pragmatically it establishes an unequal standard both because it intends to affect women differently from men, but also because alcohol itself affects women differently from men. Women get drunk on less, faster, and suffer more physically (including long term effects like liver damage).

Ultimately NY is proposing a standard that will hold that women cannot consent after a few drinks, while a man could after the same number. It’s none of the state’s business whether a woman chooses to consent after a couple of beers, as long as she did in fact consent. To say otherwise is, as Ms. Schow says, infantalizing to women. It treats their sexuality as once again a matter for a paternalistic state’s oversight.

If She Could Only Be Like This All The Time

I could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.

Anti-labor laws

Strange how often "labor laws" kills jobs, but hey, it's California.  We'd rather you had no job than a job we don't like!

Obamacare unconstitutional?

The Fifth Circuit has just ruled that the ACA individual mandate is unconstitutional, now that there's no longer a tax we can pretend to justify it with.  They remanded the case back down to the district court to take a stab at deciding whether the whole act must fall with the individual mandate, or can be severed.

Do-Onething Congress

Do you think that, now that this ridiculous political theater is finally nearly over, the House might actually get something besides impeachment done?

Oh, no, of course not. They’re going on holiday.

Yeah, Let’s Stop With This Horsesh*t

Dozens of Australian men are not giving birth.

UPDATE: This also.


Gig workers “protect” themselves by legislation, get fired in droves. 
Vox Media is laying off hundreds of freelance writers and editors due to a new California law that was sold as a way to protect the state's contingent workforce. That law, AB5, was adopted in September. To comply, New York-based Vox Media would have had to reclassify many of the freelancers it uses for sports platform SB Nation as full-time staff.

Instead, the company decided to cancel the contracts of some 200 or so freelancers....

Vox Media's flagship publication, Vox, previously called the California legislation "a victory for workers everywhere."

The OSS And Modernist Design

Oh, dear.
Propaganda played a crucial role during World War II, with the O.S.S. leading efforts to demoralize the enemy and encourage resistance in Axis-controlled countries. They created a stamp bearing the face of Hitler rendered as a skull, produced radio broadcasts in German, spread pamphlets announcing a German general’s resignation and made films for new military recruits, such as the Hollywood producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s circa 1943 “Organization of the Army,” which was commissioned by General George C. Marshall. Through its manipulation of the art of information, the agency helped shape the look and philosophy of American imperialism. In doing so, the O.S.S. assembled a concentration of acumen and talent that rivaled those of the iconic schools and institutes that propagated design in the 20th century. It was the Bauhaus, but for war....

...the utopian ideas swirling around the Bauhaus in 1920s Germany positing that design should reflect a society at its most efficient and egalitarian — modern industrial design had a revolutionary mission. Design was art in everyday life. It could have universal applications.
Utopian it may have been, but the Bauhaus school fostered the ugliest sort of design anyone ever invented. I'd hope the OSS merited a better comparison than that.

Beer and Such

A glorious history.

The Hell You Say

Overwhelming evidence that Obamacare is behind skyrocketing costs, report finds.

Respect Your Elders

It’s rare for a generation gap to work like this, in which only one’s own generation and older is suspicious of you. Voter over 50 remember the Cold War, though. They remember the USSR.

It's a bad idea to infuriate a federal judge

They'll take you at your word on a lot of things if you keep your nose clean.  But you really don't want to make one think you've been lying to her.

Sad News From Savannah

The venerable and excellent Kevin Barry's Irish Pub is closing forever. I do not know if I will ever return to Savannah if Kevin Barry's isn't there to draw me. Back before we were married, and when we were newly so, my wife and I spent many wonderful evenings there listening to Harry O'Donoghue play in the music room. Upstairs, the "Hall of Heroes" is a regular hangout for 75th Rangers and 160th SOAR folks from nearby Hunter Army Airfield, and has the most moving tributes to fallen soldiers. The loss of this establishment is one of those incalculable ones; Savannah has plenty of bars, and even plenty of pubs, but there isn't another Kevin Barry's in the world.

Kevin Barry's has featured occasionally here at Grim's Hall, as here. The song named after the boy that the pub is also named after inspired my effort at writing a poem for the late Lance Corporal Ian Malone.

Grim Will Want to See This!

According to America's Paper of Record:

LOS ANGELES, CA—Classic historical drama film Braveheart is receiving a reboot by Paramount Pictures next year, this time with an all-female cast.

Lena Dunham will play the starring role of Willow Wallace, a "fierce Scottish she-warrior who don't need no man."

Co-stars include Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, and Beyonce ...
The accompanying photo ... um, won't scar you too much.

A Rhetorical Thrashing

Sen. McConnell is underlining his opposition.

Green acres


My unreasonably crafty friend, the one with the piano-playing son, is making this quilt out of scraps left over from her sister's childhood almost half a century ago.  The figured panels are t-shirts, while the background fabrics are from dresses she made her when the sister was a toddler about 10 years her junior.

My friend suggests she may have hoarding tendencies.  The devil you say, I responded.  You should see her country compound, which looks as though elves had taken over an American Picker site, stained glass windows in all the barns, handmade stepping stones everywhere.


A new militia is established in Virginia... by an official county government.
Just this past Tuesday, on December 10th, the Board of Supervisors from Tazewell County passed two different resolutions in light of controversy circling those who are pro-gun. The first resolution declared the county to be a second amendment sanctuary. This is not at all surprising to see, as 76 out of 95 counties, 9 out of 38 independent cities, and 13 towns have adopted second amendment sanctuary resolutions. 
The second item on the agenda was the proposition of establishing a militia in the county. When both of the resolutions passed, the crowd cheered loudly in support of the decisions. Also, the resolutions didn’t exactly pass by a small margin; the votes were unanimous, with more than 200 citizens standing by in support.
The militia will serve as a law enforcement and public safety body if the state legislature figures out a way to defund the sheriff’s department. Ironically the destruction of effective systems of governance in Virginia may improve civic health. What could be better than an engaged community stepping up to provide volunteers to look out for the common good, in defiance of tyranny and defense of their rights? I would much prefer that to an effective state.

To give a little context

Below is the map of counties and independent cities that have elected to declare that they will enforce no law that is in contradiction with the 2nd Amendment of the United States of America.  That's a lot of blue (not blue for Democrats in this case).  To add even more context, that's 93 of the 133 counties and independent cities that make up the Commonwealth of Virginia.  That's 70% of the State, so far.  And of the remaining 40, only five have said "we fear guns more than we love our rights".

Ditto, Mr. Comey

Chris Wallace is on a roll, hosting James ("I preserved deniability") Comey as well as Adam Schiff on their FBI FISA scandal apology tours.  Like Schiff, Comey claims he was simply unaware of the FISA abuse at the time.  Really, how was he to know?  Schiff's excuse, in comparison, is almost straightforward:  at least Schiff doesn't labor under the difficulty of having been the duped supervisor of the abusive agents.  Comey is left having to argue, basically, "Hey, I've done worse" and "we still haven't entirely ruled out the possibility that there's a shred of truth hiding somewhere in the Steele dossier."

It's almost as if Comey had come to understand why he should have been fired:
"He's right, I was wrong," Comey said about how the FBI used the FISA process, adding, "I was overconfident as director in our procedures," and that what happened "was not acceptable."
The Ace commenters are having a field day with the "I was overconfident in our procedures" defense, applying it to General Custer, the captain of the Titanic, the director of the Metropolitan Correction Center, General Pickett.  I'm left wondering whether there's a witness out there who can demonstrate that Comey might just possibly have insisted on a little investigation into the most momentous warrant of his career before signing it (even if, as the Ace guys say, he didn't "sign"-sign it), and who might be considering singing like a bird sometime soon.

Sure you would have, Mr. Schiff

At least Adam Schiff no longer is (as so many still are) arguing that the Horowitz report isn't a scathing rebuke of the FBI's FISA abuses.  He is, however, asserting to fellow-traveler Chris Wallace that he's shocked, shocked to discover the abuses at this late date:
“I’m certainly willing to admit the inspector general found serious abuses of FISA that I was unaware of,” he said to host Chris Wallace. “Had I known of them, Chris, yes I would have called out the FBI at the same time.“
Not that I take this protestation of retroactive good faith at face value, but it does lay the ground for serious difficulty as soon as someone can establish that obviously he was on notice of the FISA abuses two years ago.  Schiff's reputation for honesty being roughly on a par with his reputation for painstaking avoidance of leaving an incriminating paper trail ("I never met with the whistleblower and don't even know who he is!"), this shouldn't even pose a minor hurdle for the sleuths.

Cocaine Mitch Says “No Chance”

I remember during the Kavanaugh hearings, despite all the drama, Mitch McConnell declared early on that approval was certain. It looked like it came down to the wire, but I had heard from a friend who works for another Senator that McConnell had the votes early. The rest was just drama.

Today he says there is “no chance the President will be removed.”


The name means “Yule Cat,” more or less, but it is not at all nice — perhaps Trollish.

Title IX

A major ruling from the 6th Circuit has made some unhappy.
“What judges should keep in mind is that it’s a choice,” Dunn said. “There’s an ability to interpret the law and you have to decide what perspective you’re coming from. A lot of conservative ones think, ‘We’re going to be close to the law.’ I really suggest you think about the effect on social issues.”

La Tène Grave Find

A Celtic warrior, buried with chariot, horses, and shield.

A Forest in Romania

If I ever get out there, I’ll want to visit this place.

Worst Putin stooge ever

Don Surber tries to understand the received wisdom:
Having endured 3 years of this conspiracy theory by the tinfoil-hatted mainstream pundits, I am left with 10 questions.
Why did Putin want to Make America Great Again?
Why did Putin want America to rollback unnecessary regulations?
Why did Putin want Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and 50 new conservative judges on America's appellate courts?
Why did Putin want our personal income and corporate tax rates cut?
Why did Putin want our unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%?
Why did Putin want us to become a net exporter of oil for the first time in 70 years?
Why did Putin want us to replace our broken fences with a 30-foot wall along the Mexican border?
Why did Putin want us to renegotiate trade deals, and to walk away from TPP and the Paris Climate Thingamabob?
Why did Putin want us to move our embassy to Jerusalem?
And lastly, why did Putin want us to impose more economic sanctions on Russia?
I am beginning to think that President Trump is as big a failure at being a puppet as he is a failure at being Hitler.

Don't call my bluff

I didn't see this tactic coming:
Senate Democrats are quietly talking about asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to hold articles of impeachment in the House until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agrees to a fair rules package for a Senate trial.
Senate Democrats explained that this is their only chance to exert leverage over Mitch McConnell, who has his caucus completely lined up and won't need to get the consent of any intransigent Dems to whatever trial procedure he chooses to jam through on short notice.

Senate Dems to McConnell:  "Why, if you don't promise to make the Senate impeachment trial procedure less of a kangaroo court than we just inflicted on the country in the House, we'll . . . we'll . . . we'll get our House Dem colleagues to refuse to approve the articles of impeachment in the full House vote, that's what we'll do. Then where will you be?"

Situations like this make me think of the old joke about the missionaries being fattened up for the cannibal pot.  Told that their skins will be used to make canoes, one of them grabs a fork, pierces his arms and legs repeatedly, and yells "I'll fix your darn canoe!"

On the other hand, if Pelosi were looking for an excuse for a mercy killing for the articles of impeachment . . . .  But nah.  For all the talk about not whipping the vote, she must know what a disaster a down-vote in the full House would be.  They'd be lining up to use that new 988 number.  At least if this absurd business goes to trial, they can blame their loss on the Republican trial procedure, and in that light, the more rushed and unfair the better.  After all, the Dems' holding the initial investigation in a darkened dungeon did immeasurable good for the President.


Common Military Terminology Explained

Language warning.

House Judiciary Committee Approves 2 Articles of Impeachment

According to USA Today:

WASHINGTON – For the third time U.S. history, the House of Representatives will vote on the impeachment of a president after the House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday.

The committee voted along party lines to approve both impeachment articles following a marathon hearing that went late into Thursday evening.

The articles – one on President Donald Trump's alleged abuse of power and the other on obstruction of Congress during the impeachment inquiry -- were both approved in separate votes by a 23-17 margin with Democrats for and Republicans against.

What are your predictions? I think the House Democrats will make the vote on the best day for their primaries to make the best political use of something they know will fail in the Senate, and they will impeach on a party-line vote. But I'm sleep-deprived at the moment, so you shouldn't listen to me.

How about you? What do you think will happen next?

Witness protection

Now it's not enough to leave California, you have to change your identity and avoid ever doing business with anyone there again.


One of the most fun parts of a blowout conservative election is the editorial scrambling and the losers' bitter explanations for their failure.  Yesterday brought us the priceless "We won the argument, if not the election," which has to be up there with "I can't imagine how he got elected, no one I know voted for him."

There's also the 2016 Krugman Pronouncement:  this unexpected trouncing of my allies spells doom for the economy.  We may never recover.  Last week's UK editorials had largely given up on Labor's victory, so they spent a lot of time worrying that the Conservatives wouldn't command a convincing majority.  Maybe they would try and fail to cobble together a coalition.

CNBC worried earlier this week that the pound wouldn't fully recover from damaged inflicted by the recent parliamentary stalemate.  Ink was lavished over the danger that businesses wouldn't invest in an atmosphere of uncertainty over their beloved EU.  Interested readers of that CNBC analysis may glance at the bottom of the page and find today's update:  sterling surges on historic BoJo win.  The author can't help speculating, though, on how this stunning turn of events might still give a little hope that the Brexit stalemate could still drag itself along by its fingernails:
The analyst added that if a big majority over all other parties is realized then Johnson may now have the scope to “ignore the Brexiteers in his party and provide businesses with some certainty by quickly extending the transition period.”
I'm sure that's what the surging sterling tells us about what business investors--and voters--want to see: a further extended "transition" period.  The whole thing has simply been too rushed and abrupt.  On the other hand, from Johnson's victory speech this morning:
"And with this mandate and this majority we will at last be able to do what?" (Crowd shouts "Get Brexit done".)
By the way, all 18 Brexit defectors lost their seats. There's a convincing mandate for delay for you.

Meanwhile, the execrable anti-semite Communist Corbyn says he will resign, but not right away.  Certainly before the next election, but he's taking some time for "reflection."  Not to be outdone, everyone's favorite spybuster, Christopher Steele, announces that BoJo is a Russian asset.  As Sarah Hoyt says, in the future we'll all be Russian spies for 15 minutes.


The voters have reinforced the government’s clarity over in the UK. Good for them — the chaos will be over, at least. The Resistance was firmly defeated.

Scotland may go independent, and Ireland may unify at long last. A general victory for many good causes.

Just for Fun: A British Vocal Coach Reacts to the Hu

It has the Hu, Tolkein comparisons, and a bubbly young London voice coach reacting to hearing Mongolian throat singing for the first time. Enjoy!

Or, you know, skip it if you're not in to bubbly.

Update: I think English translations have been added to all of the Hu's official videos. Interesting stuff.

A Lot Hangs

Virginia’s New Democratic government will be a lesson to the nation. Which lesson they choose to teach will be one of the major determinants of how 2020 breaks in purple states.


Andy McCarthy on the unwillingness to draw obvious conclusions:  We may never know the motive of those people in the FBI.

A followup from another Powerline post:
Consider one example of the misconduct Horowitz identified. An FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, obtained information that Carter Page, the subject of a FISA order, had gathered intelligence about Russia for that agency and was reliable — a fact that would cut against the notion that Page was working for the Russians. Clinesmith doctored the email conveying this information. He inserted the words “not a source,” even though he had been told that Page was a source.
Clinesmith then passed the doctored email on to the FBI agent who was assigned to affirm under oath the FBI’s allegations to the FISA court. That agent had told Clinesmith that he wanted “a definitive answer to whether Page had ever been a source for another U.S. government agency before he signed the final renewal application.” By doctoring the email, Clinesmith definitively gave the agent an answer he knew was wrong.
We know from direct evidence that Clinesmith was aligned with the resistance to Trump. However, even without that direct evidence, one should conclude, absent a satisfactory explanation for the doctoring, that Clinesmith doctored it intentionally and for a bad motive. Even without direct evidence of bias, one should conclude that Clinesmith was out to get Trump.
These are good points, highlighting the problem of how to address the shocking failures in the FBI and DOJ in the FISA warrant abuse uncovered in Crossfire Hurricane. Were the failures incompetent, or corrupt? That determination makes a difference in how you might craft reform measures.

Incompetence is something fairly easily addressed in performance reviews involving a record of success and a record of violations of policies that have been demonstrated to result in success without injustice or scandal in past investigations. Corruption might instead entail discovering whether someone's otherwise inexplicable mix of failures and successes in achieving law enforcement goals that held up on appeal corresponded with a pattern of various illicit motives. Was the agent taking bribes? Was he a victim of extortion? Was he a political operative? Was he an agent of a foreign power?  Was he merely ambitious, unprincipled, and willing to do whatever his superiors wanted?--in which case the inquiry shifts to the motives of the superiors.  Right up the chain of command.

We can't always roll our eyes and say we can never look into another person's soul and determine a motives with certainty.  A glaring pattern of failures may be exactly what points us to criminal violations.

They've never heard of it either

The Bee:  Trump's popularity surges as nation discovers he obstructed Congress.

The Interdependence of Nature and Nurture

This topic comes up regularly at the Hall, so I've been looking into it. As far as I can tell, the common view among geneticists, psychologists, evolutionary biologists, etc., seems to be that nature and nurture are interdependent.

In fact, what you do or what happens to you can change your genes or change how they influence you. Smoking damages your genes, for example. Children who grow up in isolation, denied any socialization, will effectively have very low IQs, for another.

The following "Lost Lectures" discussion by Emeritus Professor of Human Genetics Steve Jones explains this reasonably well, I think.

We also know that which groups of genes become active can depend entirely on the environment the organism exists in, including the social environment.

Here's a TED Talk by neuroscientist Gene Robinson about his research on bees, genetics, and social environment that discusses this.

My current hypothesis is that the free will vs. determinism debate will play out the same way. To paraphrase Forrest Gump's conclusion on this matter, maybe it's both, happening at the same time. But, I would shape that a little by saying, maybe it's both, interacting with each other continuously.

If you're interested, here's another TED Talk by human evolutionary biologist Irene Gallego Romero. She has further interesting examples, but this is mostly a reiteration of the two above.

A Small Matter

Rep. Mark Meadows -- my Congressman, as it happens -- notes an interesting exchange in the Horowitz hearing:
Cruz: “A lawyer at the FBI creates fraudulent evidence, alters an email that is in turn used as the basis for a sworn statement to the court that the court relies on. Am I stating that accurately?"

Horowitz: "That's correct. That's what occurred"
That's kind of a problem.

NAS Pilots: Arm Us

You're planning to trust them with F-18s, why not a 9mm?

Realization dawns

I'm starting to conclude that Adam Schiff has been lying about, well, everything, all along.  As in practically every word out of his mouth, for years now.  Not just judgment calls, but bright-line facts.

Not Everyone Has Classification Authority

As PJ Media helpfully points out -- Schiff is claiming to have classified some House Intelligence memoranda. Under what authority would he be doing that? There's a complete list of people with original classification authority here. They're all Executive Branch. Who delegated authority to a Congressman?

Did anyone?

A Reason(able) Assumption

On the Horowitz findings:
The FBI investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia was not politically motivated, but agents involved in the probe made significant and appalling mistakes.

These mistakes should terrify all Americans....

The IG report is a wakeup call: for Republicans who foolishly claimed the FBI's secretive spying process was necessary and unthreatening, for anti-Trump media pundits who uncritically parroted the talking points of top officials, and for any Americans who still think it is worth trading away their liberties. If government agents were this sloppy during a politically charged investigation that they knew would put their entire apparatus under the spotlight, it's safe to assume their normal conduct is even worse.
"Mistakes" is a bit generous, I think. We may see the actions otherwise characterized when the criminal investigation into them comes due.

Fatal Eruption Without Warning in NZ

Five are confirmed dead and several more are missing after a sudden volcanic eruption at a tourist destination on White Island, New Zealand.

Tell Me Another One

Headline: “ Judge Discovers Gun Safety Groups Don’t Offer Gun Safety Classes.”

It’s the “War Games” school of gun safety: the only winning move is not to play.

The stuff I predicted just hasn't happened yet

Hey, it works for climatistas.  The Manhattan Contrarian, noting with dismay the Democrat assumption that government spending is economically expansionary, takes on an economist whose career was marked by nothing more strongly than the failure of every prediction he ever made.  But his equations were great.
"When this war [World War II] comes to an end, more than one out of every two workers will depend directly or indirectly upon military orders. We shall have some 10 million service men to throw on the labor market. We shall have to face a difficult reconversion period during which current goods cannot be produced and layoffs may be great. Nor will the technical necessity for reconversion necessarily generate much investment outlay in the critical period under discussion whatever its later potentialities. The final conclusion to be drawn from our experience at the end of the last war is inescapable--were the war to end suddenly within the next 6 months, were we again planning to wind up our war effort in the greatest haste, to demobilize our armed forces, to liquidate price controls, to shift from astronomical deficits to even the large deficits of the thirties--then there would be ushered in the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced.”
In fact, after the war, government spending fell 61%, and the result was an economic boom. Economist David Henderson calls Samuelson’s prediction of a post-war depression the single most disastrously wrong economic prediction ever.

FISA Courts and Judicial Deference

I'm far from the only one who objects to these Star Chamber FISA Courts. So does Angelo Codevilla, of whom some of you have heard.  His piece also provides an interesting bit of history regarding FISA.

Repealing FISA will not fix the problems it has caused, but it would stop making them worse.

Certainly, but it also doesn't go far enough.

Repealing FISA needs to repeal, explicitly, and in its own section of the Act of Repeal, the FISA Courts, if only for the sake of public psychology and assurance.

But that's not enough, either; there needs to be a precedential correction, and that will require a cultural change in the society of personnel populating our Article III judicial system.

Judicial deference--that system wherein judges meekly surrender their Constitutional position as a coequal branch of our Federal government and explicitly subordinate themselves to another coequal branch, and worse, to the several subordinate formations of that coequal branch--must come to an end.  (Judicial deference, by that abrogation of coequality, is itself unconstitutional, but that's for a separate writing.)  Travesties like Chevron Deference and all of its several variations--every single one of them--need to be reversed. Not tweaked, like Brown did with Plessy, but reversed. Done away with. Bluntly and pithily; only a sentence or two would be necessary.  Reversal of those precedents are the beginnings of the necessary precedential correction.  The act of reversal, with the necessary plain language, would be the beginning of the necessary cultural change.  This may be beginning in other matters regarding other liberties, but the move needs to broaden and the pace quicken.

Pre-authorize surveillance by the Executive Branch? We already have that mechanism: the 4th Amendment. Within that, our Article III courts already have mechanisms for keeping Warrants and subpoenas secret until the police powers are ready to execute them--right down to no-knock warrants (of some practical utility but questionable constitutionality). Our Article III courts already have mechanisms for conducting secret hearings and sealing records so long, and for as long, as all parties to a case agree to the secrecy.

Eric Hines

The news we hear

Can you remember the stories that most caught your attention throughout 2019?  Looking at this list, I'm drawing some blanks.  I had to Google it to remind myself how upset everyone got over Trump's suggestion that the Squad might want to consider living in some other country they don't hate as much as this one.

Progressives and conservatives both reliably paid attention to Dorian's devastating landfall in the Bahamas, and (to my surprise) they both put the "national emergency at the Mexican border" in second place in their remembered attention.  I couldn't even remember which national emergency that was.

After that, the Jussie Smollett "fake news" story captured a lot of attention on both sides of the aisle, as did the somewhat related "you can't believe anything the powers-that-be tell you" story of Epstein's death.

Right-leaning Americans remember a lot about a state-of-the-union address that left-leaners tuned out completely, focussing instead on various shootings and Trump's attacks on John McCain.  The right noticed the shootings, but less urgently, and tuned out the McCain furor completely.

Both sides noticed the Varsity Blues controversy; I remembered it, too, but had forgotten that the college-admission fraud cases were popularly called that after a TV show of the same name, which I had never heard of before this happened.

Below all these stories in the attention cascade on both sides came the scintillating impeachment story. Kind of amazing, considering it's not even over yet, and already a yawner.  Yeah, yeah, you're finally impeaching him, let us know when Nancy Pelosi puts on an orange robe and lights herself on fire on the capital steps.

There was a government shutdown in there somewhere. I'd already forgotten about it, but partisans on both sides noticed it about equally, more or less at the same rate that they noticed state abortion restrictions, which I did remember.

After that, on the left, people noticed that Biden was in the race, while people on the right noticed that Biden was always sniffing women and children's hair. There were some Mexican tariff threats. Michael Cohen testified before someone or other and said something.

Somewhere in this middle-lower tier, people on the right noticed that Mueller issued a report, but it fell off the radar on the left.  For comparison, in my husband's and my life, the Mueller report probably tops the list, followed by the attempted use of the Ukraine phone call to defibrillate the clinically dead Russia hoax story, perhaps followed by the outstanding economic news.

When you've lost Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone has demonstrated its willingness to print nearly anything, but even Matt Taibbi can't swallow this week's raft of relieved MSM pronouncements that the IG report validated their worldviews:
No matter what people think the political meaning of the Horowitz report might be, reporters who read it will know: Anybody who touched this [Russia hoax] nonsense in print should be embarrassed.

The wrong kind of why

Don't get me wrong, I like scientists to go around asking "why."  But if they're to be successful scientists, they have to development an instinct for the most productive why-questions.  This isn't one:
To provide an example of the role that white empiricism plays in physics, I discuss the current debate in string theory about postempiricism, motivated in part by a question: why are string theorists calling for an end to empiricism rather than an end to racial hegemony?
As Powerline says, it's hard to see this as anything but an embarrassing excuse for an unsuccessful career.

Is This a Blow to Determinism?

This is a story that's interesting enough in itself, but the ramifications philosophically are quite profound. A man who had a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia now carries *only* the DNA of his donor within his sperm cells.  Recent decades since the discovery of DNA has seen an understanding of it grow up that it contains the plans for making us who we are- a pretty deterministic model if taken at face value.  But how much of us is determined (or at least influenced) by DNA and how much goes beyond that- either as 'nurture' or something metaphysical?  It would have really gotten interesting if he'd had children after treatment, but that's no longer possible as he's had a vasectomy after his second child.  This case will certainly create more questions than it answers.

A Gun Measure I Might Be Able to Get Behind

In light of some recent posts, I thought I'd share this idea I ran across on Twitter.  It has merits.

The Wanderer's Hávamál: A Brief Review

My copy of Dr. Jackson Crawford's Hávamál arrived recently. Here he is introducing the work and giving an argument for why you should read it.

Crawford accepts that the Hávamál can be fairly critiqued as 'cynical.' Instead of 'cynical,' I would describe it as 'pragmatic.' Pragmatism is a highly defensible philosophical position. Formally, it's also a characteristically American one; the frame of it was only spelled out in the late 19th century.
Rather, this points to a current of American thought that, in the years just after the Civil War, blossomed into a formal school of philosophy. This school is called Pragmatism, and it has always been a characteristically American school of thought. Pragmatism is what the American founding showed that the French one did not. Pragmatism holds to the the maxim that all ideas should be tested against their practical consequences. Ideas that do not work out should be abandoned. Ideas that reliably produce bad consequences are bad ideas; in formal applications of the philosophy, they can even be said to be false ideas.

This current of thought explains why the American project succeeded while the French one fell into tyranny. Even when dealing with direct challenges to America’s founding principles, American thinkers responded to those challenges with a careful eye to the real-world consequences of their decisions. The American principles were realized, slowly: slavery was in fact banished, its replacements in Jim Crow and lynching eventually defeated. For those who favor a more principled response to evils like slavery, note that this insistence on considering the practical consequence is one of the principles of Pragmatism. The question How can this work? has to be considered, and the consequences weighed.

But what about the rights that come from the Creator? It might seem that Pragmatism is a challenge to religion, as it looks to the world instead of to God for the test of its ideas. It is certainly compatible with secular philosophy, but what about the Declaration of Independence? I would argue that Pragmatism makes room for religion as well: if God made the world, then to learn the rules of the world is to learn something about the world’s maker. (This approach to religion is called ‘natural theology.’) The only sort of religion that is ruled out by Pragmatism is the sort whose dogma reliably leads to practical disasters. The same is true of ideas in politics, economics, or other fields. Americans are characteristically interested in what works.
I have argued that Aristotle is already pragmatic, in a way that is rarely recognized. In the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle points out that the lessons of ethics are not certain truths like one finds in the proofs of strict logic. A rich man may be destroyed by his wealth; a brave man may be destroyed just because his courage drives him into places where danger is highest. Nevertheless, for the most part, wealth helps you attain your ends; courage helps you excel in whatever you are trying to do. These things are virtues, in other words, because they work. They work in the world.

It is interesting to find a god who is interested in pragmatics. That's an issue for another day, but it is characteristic of Odin in a way that it is not of almost any other god in any of the many stories that the many nations have told about gods. Zeus or Athena has a role to play in a greater order; the various Hindu gods are just actors in a great script playing out in the dream of the one great God. Odin cares a lot about what works. He has some very good advice to offer.

Ultimately I am not well-fitted to critique Dr. Crawford's translation. My Old Norse is entirely self-taught, as is my Old English and Middle English. His scholarship on this matter passes mine. However, I do have many previous translations of this work to compare against him. In the places where I feared he might give a soft translation in order to appeal to current tastes, he does not. That suggests he is being honest, as I was prepared to believe from having appreciated his scholarship on other questions heretofore.

So if you are interested in some Yule readings, as opposed to specifically Christmas ones, here is one you might consider. Jólnir is one of the names of Odin, with 'Yule' being derived from the antecedent syllable.

You might of course consider it unhealthy to look into the pagan ancestry, but I do not. Tolkien did; and the One who made all things made these things too. That point to the side, I recommend the book to those who are interested in such matters.

Dersh Weighs In

Professor Alan Dershowitz is negatively impressed.
Neither of these proposed articles satisfy the express constitutional criteria for an impeachment, which are limited to “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Neither are high or low crimes or misdemeanors. Neither are mentioned within the Constitution.

Both are so vague and open ended that they could be applied in partisan fashion by a majority of the House against almost any president from the opposing party. Both are precisely what the Framers had rejected at their Constitutional Convention. Both raise the “greatest danger,” in the words of Alexander Hamilton, that the decision to impeach will be based on the “comparative strength of parties,” rather than on “innocence or guilt.”

That danger is now coming to pass, as House Democrats seek for the first time in American history to impeach a president without having at least some bipartisan support in Congress. Nor can they find any support in the words of the Constitution, or in the history of its adoption....

In doing this, they follow the view of Representative Maxine Waters who infamously declared that, when it comes to impeachment, “there is no law.”
Ironically, "rule of law" has been one of the biggest talking points by Democrats supporting impeachment. It is correct to say that there is a basic American principle that "no one is above the law." They apparently forget the principle that no one is beneath it, either.

UPDATE: In fairness, the Progs aren't satisfied either. Then again, when are they ever?