Mueller Time

I’ve done my best to simply avoid the Mueller political operation, but comment is warranted. Sean Davis in The Federalist pretty much nails it.

If there were any doubts about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s political intentions, his unprecedented press conference on Wednesday should put them all to rest. As he made abundantly clear during his doddering reading of a prepared statement that repeatedly contradicted itself, Mueller had no interest in the equal application of the rule of law. He gave the game, and his nakedly political intentions, away repeatedly throughout his statement. […]

If it’s important for the work to speak for itself, then why did Mueller schedule a press conference in which he would speak for it weeks after it was released? The statement, given the venue in which it was provided, is self-refuting.

Let’s start with the Mueller team’s unique take on the nature of a prosecutor’s job. The standard American view of justice, affirmed and enforced by the U.S. Constitution, is that all are presumed innocent absent conviction by a jury of a specific charge of criminal wrongdoing. That is, the natural legal state of an individual in this country is innocence. It is not a state or a nature bestowed by cops or attorneys. Innocence is not granted by unelected bureaucrats or federal prosecutors. […]

The order appointing the special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation and kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of our work,” Mueller said. “After that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

According to Mueller and his team, charged Russians are presumed innocent. An American president, however, is presumed guilty unless and until Mueller’s team determines he is innocent. Such a standard is an obscene abomination against the rule of law, one that would never be committed by independent attorneys who place a fidelity to their oaths and impartial enforcement of the law ahead of their political motivations.

The contradictions and double standards didn’t stop there, though.

“It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge,” Mueller said, after all but stating that Trump committed a crime for which Mueller never charged him. Just as Mueller’s own words and actions at the Wednesday press conference prove that he didn’t want his team’s report to speak for itself, the report itself proves that Mueller and his team don’t believe it’s unfair to accuse somebody of something a court cannot resolve. […]

George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn were charged with making false statements to federal investigators, while Clinton campaign cronies Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele’s false statements to Congress and the FBI were ignored. Trump’s nonexistent Russian connections were plumbed while a dubious Clinton campaign-funded dossier sourced directly to Russian officials was used as a prosecutorial roadmap rather than rock-solid evidence of actual campaign collusion with the Kremlin.

Mueller claimed his report spoke for itself, then put together a completely unnecessary press conference more than a month after his report’s public release, in which he not just spoke for the report, but expounded on the new legal standards he created to govern its conclusions.

These are the actions not of an impartial and independent investigator, but of a scheming political operative. None of this is any surprise to anyone who has followed Mueller’s tenure in government. As FBI director, Mueller repeatedly misused and abused the authority granted to him by Congress. […]

Then, as special counsel to investigate Russian collusion during the 2016 campaign, Mueller promptly hired partisan Democrats to run his investigation. He tapped as investigators FBI personnel who openly discussed their hatred of Trump and his voters, as well as their plans to keep him out of office.

There’s no longer any doubt about who Robert Mueller is or why he conducted himself the way he did. As abominable as his press conference was, we should in many ways be thankful that Mueller so willingly displayed for all to see his disdain for basic rules of prosecutorial conduct, his total lack of self-awareness, and his naked desire to stick it to Trump.

Read the rest of what Sean wrote. I, of course, agree, although I find it nearly impossible to write about it in terms other than what I learned on construction sites, with regards to employees who through malice endangered the lives of their co-workers. There is no class of people that I find more despicable, their place in the world is alone on a 2-acre island with no further human contact. They are toxic to anything and anyone they are involved with.

It’s time for Barr to clean house with judicial consequences for all these cretins.

American Historic Moments; Then and Now

Don Troiani- “The Last Salute” HAP

Our friend, Practically Historical, reminds us that 154 years ago today General John B Gordon (seven times wounded, including 5 Minnie balls at Antietam) by order of General Robert E. Lee, surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, to General Joshua L. Chamberlain (won the Medal of Honor at Little Round Top at Gettysburg, wounded six times, nearly mortally at Petersburg, and cited 4 times for bravery) of the Army of the Potomac.

As the Army of Northern Virginia marched past the Army of the Potomac, Chamberlain ordered the Army to “Carry Arms” (the marching salute) in respect, and at Gordon’s order, the Confederates responded. Chamberlain described the scene:

At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword point to his toe in salutation.”    Gordon truly understood the significance of the gesture, “Chamberlain called his men into line and as the Confederate soldiers marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes—a token of respect from Americans to Americans.”

There is a lesson there for those who would destroy the heritage of the Confederacy. At least 300,000  Americans died upon those fields to (amongst their reasons) to destroy chattel slavery in America. At the end of it, they respected their opponents enough to salute them in honor, and the Confederates enough to return the salute. Without a worthy enemy, there is no honor, and so far no more worthy enemy for American arms has ever appeared than American arms. Both sides fighting for freedom, even if their definitions differed. When you denigrate the Confederates, you also denigrate the forces that fought them and freed the slaves.

And so with salutes and honors, and with terms that meant no proscription lists and no hangings, America’s hardest war ended.


Then there is this:

That is the first ever photograph of a Black Hole, something so dense that even light cannot escape. So how can we take its picture? It’s complicated. Here’s part of the explanation.

And this:

Both of those are some seriously good explaining of a subject that is quite hard to understand.

But how did this happen? A badass stem professor, of course. In fact, a Cal Tech professor with a doctorate from MIT, who graduated from West Lafayette High School. And back in the day when she was in high school used to work with her dad’s colleagues, professors at Purdue. Professor Dr. Katie Bouman. Her dad is Charles Bouman, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Purdue. Wonder what dinner conversation was like in their house.

She explained in a TED talk what she was trying to do a couple years ago as well.

And it worked, as the picture above indicates. Pretty cool, essentially turning the entire Earth into a camera.

This is a very big deal, confirming relativity amongst other things, and another major major accomplishment for American science. I’m not a huge fan of government subsidizing stuff, but I’m not sure that any corporation would really see the point of this research, although I’ll bet there will be commercial benefits derived from it. Most corporations these days are insanely short-sighted about research. Hammer and Rails reminds us:

The combined budgets of NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Health (NIH) are just over $63 billion for FY 2019. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that the US’s 2019 federal budget is $4.746 trillion, the three major scientific foundations and government institutions that allow for such ground breaking scientific research account for just under 1.5% of the federal budget.

For just 1.5% of our budget, we’re able to fund the great work of Dr. Bouman, along with other great scientists at Purdue, the Big Ten, and beyond. While Dr. Bouman didn’t go to Purdue (I guess I can’t blame her for going to MIT instead), her connections to the university allowed her to cultivate her passion in the STEM fields, and it shows that the impact of Purdue continue into interstellar space.

Congrats to Dr. Bouman, former President Córdova, and all the researchers involved in the Event Horizon Telescope.

Yep, and MIT had a couple things to say, as well. First, they noted how important women in Stem are to our success in space.

As noted in the comments to the Tweet above, all these women, and all of us men, as well, follow in the footsteps of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron who wrote the first algorithm. And this:

Debunking Education

Over at Chicago Boyz, the Assistant Village Idiot (How I admire that nom de Internet!) Has some thoughts about education, and they do not involve much handwringing at all. I approve.

I don’t think we argue quite enough around here. Perhaps there have been good arguments in the posts I don’t read the comments of, but it seems too much of “Yeah, and let me tell you another thing about that!” lately. So I will go after a conservative favorite, of how much better education was in the Good Old Days, which I think is bosh. I don’t defend much of what I read about education today, but neither do I think it was any better then. Since 2011, I have increasngly concluded that schools don’t matter quite as much anyway. The worst 20%, where it is dangerous to even go and hard to concentrate – that’s bad. The rest, it doesn’t make much difference. Never did. It’s all right to disagree with me about that, it won’t hurt me. I have seen lots of schools, old days and new; I know lots of teachers, old and new. I have read some of the real research, not the media-driven crap where they still can’t tell causation from correlation, and I have discussed this widely for decades. I know what the disagreements are (though I do get an occasional surprise). Have fun with it.

I am leading with this as a teaser, for its entertainment value, and because it introduces some concepts I’ll be bringing in later. I have edited it only a little from 2011. With the recent elite school admission scandals, parts of this are wryly humorous now.

THAT 1869 HARVARD ENTRANCE EXAM

An anonymous commenter linked to the 1869 Harvard entrance exam that was dug up by a NYTimes writer and made the rounds last year.  It looks pretty intimidating at first glance, and the commenter used it as evidence that Billy Sidis’s entrance into Harvard in 1909 was a pretty solid accomplishment in itself.  Interestingly, the boy’s getting in was probably even better than the exam would indicate.  Harvard was no great shakes in 1869, but had improved considerably by 1909, and was one of the world’s best by then.  I will note that it was still not what we think of today.  Competitive university admission is mostly a post WWII, or even post 1960 phenomenon.  Many of the brightest did indeed go to the Ivies, the Little Ivies, or the Seven Sisters,* but you simply couldn’t count on it.  The rich and the alums got their kids in, and nationally, people stayed closer to home and many of the brightest went to other schools, far more than, say, in 1990.

The gap exactly covers the period of Charles William Eliot’s presidency of Harvard, if you want more background than I will give here.

Read the headings over each section. See how few questions were required.

Also – it doesn’t say what a passing score was, does it?

185 out of 215 applicants got into Harvard that year.

But the test.  That Latin and Greek look awfully impressive right out of the gate. If you are older, and/or a reader of history, and/or a traditionalist, you may still have Latin Envy, believing that a “proper” education must include it, and Greek!  Why, that just seals it.  A different alphabet and everything.  Weren’t they smart, then?

No, not especially. They had had six years of Latin and four of Greek by then, whether by tutor or at academy.  If you took any languages at all in late 20th C, and make the mental comparison of what, exactly, they were being asked to do after six years, it looks much less impressive.  Note also, there was a standard set of works studied in those languages, which these questions are drawn from. There was frequent drill in grammar. Even if you had Latin yourself, you should note that the primary authors studied now are not quite the same as studied then, nor in quite the same way. These exam questions are essentially “Did you have proper teachers, are you reasonably bright, and did you make a moderate effort these last few years?” Nothing more.

Before I get into the math, let me note a major difference, then and now, in the test as a whole.  Look at what is missing in this exam.  There is no biology, no chemistry, no physics, and certainly no other sciences such as geology or economics.  There are no questions on English Literature – no Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton – and certainly no American literature (Horrors!  To even imagine such a thing!).

A lot of what is being said here is, in my opinion, is that teaching to the test is what happened then and happens now, and will happen in 2230. Teachers’, and schools’. reputation is based on how students do on tests, so not teaching to the test is professional suicide, and that ain’t gonna happen.

Could schools be better? Of course, they could. That’s true now, that was true in the ’60s when I went, a hundred years ago when my parents went, a hundred years before that when Abe Lincoln did his semester, and when Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great. It just is. Schools run on a logarithmic curve like anything else. Some few are amazingly good, some few are terribly bad. Most cluster around average (because that is what defines average). School improvement is based on raising the average infinitesimally.

Always remember half of the kids in school, like half of the teachers, and half of the schools themselves, are below average.

You know what makes the most difference in education? The kid’s parents’ attitude. If a kid is taught to be curious, to attempt to learn, instead of to shut up and do what he’s told, he’ll learn, in school, or not. Vice versa is true too.

Almost all the rest, the theories, the books, the lecturers, the bureaucrats, are a scam, to make a living, often a good living, off of the fact that half of everything is below average. Some may help, many will probably hurt, all will cost you (or you as the taxpayer) money. Caveat emptor.

Long ago it was declared that education was the parents’ responsibility. It still is. Schools are a tool, but only a tool, whether it is Oxbridge, or an Ivy, or Podunk Central Junior High. You get out what you put in.

Nothing more and nothing less.

Assaulting the Golden Goose

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

Hunt Lawrence and Daniel J. Flynn, writing in The American Spectator make some interesting points on how they think Big Business gaming the Tax Code parallels Hollywood stars bribing their kids into elite colleges. Let’s take a look.

In the wake of Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, and other parents allegedly using the foul means of their considerable means to gain admittance for their children to elite schools, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wants to end deductions for parents who donate to schools their children attend. Wyden cites deductions for the naming of campus buildings and scholarships, and for sports tickets, as of particular concern.

This is, apparently, not Ted Kennedy’s Democratic Party.

“[H]eadlines about the wealthiest Americans buying access to our elite colleges and universities is just a new version of an old story,” he explained after the scandal broke. “While the prosecutor attempted to distinguish these crimes from payoffs in the form of buildings or stadiums to secure access for the undeserving, it is all part of the same corrupt system.”

Is it? I’m not sure. Bribing your kids into a school is certainly wrong, no question at all, and it hurts the kids that might otherwise have been admitted, they are the victim here.

But giving scholarships and or donating building is quite a lot different, I think. Yes, a few kids might not be admitted for a (possibly) unqualified offspring of the donor to be. But data suggests that legacy admittees are well above average, so it is questionable.

What is not questionable is that the building or the scholarship, or for that matter the golf course, will benefit many other students and the local population than the donor’s descendants. I don’t think it is the same thing at all. It is an (at least) quasi-public benefit.

Remember my Alma Mater, Purdue got its starts because John Purdue a wealthy local businessman contributed $150,000 plus a hundred acres of land to another $400,000 in contributions. That gave Purdue a good start to becoming an exceptional University and greatly benefitted the Lafayette area as well. Not the same at all as buying admittance for your kid, is it? But yes, he got his name on the whole joint. Most universities have similar stories.

The authors go on to compare this with Amazon paying not taxes again this year.

Amazon, certainly as famous as Lori Loughlin, manipulated the tax code in such a way as to pay zero in corporate income taxes for the last two years.

“Amazon, the ubiquitous purveyor of two-day delivery of just about everything, nearly doubled its profits to $11.2 billion in 2018 from $5.6 billion the previous year and, once again, didn’t pay a single cent of federal income taxes,” the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy points out. The online behemoth, in fact, reported a tax rebate of $129 million for 2018. Just as YouTube celebrity Olivia Jade took a deserving kid’s spot at USC, Amazon took a tax rebate better used to fix a road, pay a soldier, or reduce the debt.

Amazon, like parents who time donations to colleges in anticipation of a child seeking admittance, does not break the law. But to most it seems like they take advantage of the existing law, which begs for reform.

Amazon, like Laughlin and Huffman, did not alone transgress decency here. They merely acted as the most famous of those who did. They used shortcuts. But they did not create these shortcuts.

In the case of Amazon, the same government deprived of revenue created the shortcuts. And despite political rhetoric decrying the Trump cut of the corporate rate, the rates do not represent the problem. The labyrinthian loopholes do.

This is simply poppycock. The politics of raw envy in action. Nobody is insinuating that Amazon even lobbied for these loopholes. They exist. I’m no great fan of Bezos but, there is no shame in paying the lowest tax that one can legally. In fact, it is immoral for a company to deprive its shareholders, whether one or millions of them, of the profits of the company, derived legally. Judge Learned Hand* said it best:

Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes. public duty to pay more than the law demands.

The only time that would change is if Amazon (or its stockholders) bribed Congress or the President, or for that matter the IRS to put in the loopholes. That many of them are unfair is pretty much a given, but they exist, and they exist for all taxpayers that they apply to equally.

Would a very low flat tax without deductions and only on individuals be more fair? Yes, Yes, it would. But to essentially accuse Amazon of tax evasion for doing what is not only legal but their fiduciary duty is well beyond the pale.

*Judge Hand was, in fact, a Progressive, although also believed in judicial restraint to a point, although he did indulge in legislating from the bench. What many conservatives today would call a “Hack-in-Black”.

Once more into the breach, dear friends

And so, we made it to another one. 2018 was decidedly different, and likely 2019 will be too, but hey, it sure beats the alternative, doesn’t it?

For the blog, it was by quite a lot, the best year we’ve ever had, up some 4000 views over the next largest year. That was 2012 when we had both the reelection of the Reign of Error to write about and our partner, Jessica, to help. So I’m pleased, and I’m convinced that a large measure of the credit goes to those who comment here.

As it always seems to, politics dominated here, I always want to write about other things, especially history, but politics always seems to suck me back in. Well, it seems it does you guys as well, and that is what is important. We will continue to write about it, I reckon, but we will also continue to try to contain the spin and give a historical slant on the news of the day. Something you won’t get on TV.

As always the great preponderance of our readers come from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

One of the guys at PowerLine commented yesterday, that a lot of blogging has moved to Facebook and such. I think he’s right, but I think this is a better medium, offering us better tools and more freedom of expression. There are some blogs that I’d love to see come back, yeah, I’m looking at you Gilia!

But that we are growing again makes me happy, not only because of the work, but because it seems that you find something here that makes it worth your time, and that greatly pleases me.

If, like me, you realize that there are customs and traditions that should be honored, well, here is one of them:

Dave Barry’s Retrospective of 2018. Always worth your time.



Some stories just break your heart. This one does mine. That is Bre Payton of The Federalist, dead of swine flu at 26. It always hurts to see bad things happen to beautiful people, especially girls, and especially to incomparably talented ones. And her writing is how I encountered Bre, because her writing was quite wonderful, notably so for someone so young. Ben Domenech, the founder of The Federalist says this:

I hired Bre Payton right out of college. She was green. She was unknown. She had never done TV. But she had worked through her last year of college, and I respected that. I interviewed a half-dozen people for the position. We met in the coffee shop I liked that had no seats, so we were by ourselves in crappy plastic chairs in the back.

From the moment we started talking I realized she was a potential star. She was raw, yes, but that could be honed. She was eager to learn, to write, and to go places—not because of ambition, but because she wanted to change the world. She was confident. She was sarcastic. She was cutting. But she was also sweet.

High praise indeed. He adds.

We don’t seek to hire women—we seek to hire who’s best for the job. That turned out to be a number of women with great pens and humor and wit. I didn’t hire Bre to become another token woman. I hired her to eventually take jobs like mine, because she earned it.

I was a mentor for Bre as best as I could be, driving her to strive to achieve the things she hadn’t done yet. But she had that gene, too. She recruited our interns and managed them like a pro. She always made time for the aspiring younger journalists who looked up to her. She reached out with a genuine heart to those she thought needed it.

That’s always been my criterion, and it is one I admire greatly, as I do those who succeed using it. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, not the color or shape of the skin, however pleasing or not, but the content of the character. That Bre’s was exceptional showed in everything she wrote. She’ll be missed badly.

My condolences (as if they matter, really) to her family, and the people she worked with at one of my favorite websites, and to her friends, as well.

God rest her soul.

Mandarins and Admirals

I seem to be a bit under the weather, not really sick, but instead of my normal 4-5 hours of sleep, all of a sudden, I’m sleeping 7 to 8. No bad thing, really, but my schedule doesn’t allow for it. So my posts tend to be late. So sue me. Enjoy.

We’ve talked about the ruling class fairly often, sometimes in passing, sometimes deliberately. Here some more, from Chris Bray at The Federalist. Well thought through.

In the first days of July, 1940, the American diplomat Robert Murphy took up his duties as the chargé d’affaires at the new U.S. embassy in Vichy, France. Coming from his recent post in Paris, he was as impressed as he expected to be by the quality of the Vichy mandarinate, a highly credentialed class of sophisticated officials who were “products of the most rigorous education and curricula in any public administration in the world.”

As the historian Robert Paxton would write, French officials were “the elite of the elite, selected through a daunting series of relentless examinations for which one prepared at expensive private schools.” In July 1940, the elite of the elite governed the remains of their broken nation, a few days after Adolf Hitler toured Paris as its conqueror. Credentials were the key to holding public office, but not the key to success at the country’s business.

DeGaulle, both a Catholic and an army officer, was the ultimate outsider. Well, you know that story.

In any society, the right to authority is derived from some origin everyone understands: education, bloodlines, swords in lakes. What gives the people who run the place the right to run it? Why are the leaders the leaders?

More importantly, how well does the gatekeeping work? Do the steps for choosing leaders in a society put it on a path to peace, power, and prosperity? If everyone who runs Freedonia gets to hold a position of authority because she found a magic dingleberry on the hidden path, does finding a magic dingleberry on the hidden path demonstrate that a person has consistent and effective forms of practical knowledge?[…]

Historical shifts, changes in technology and the structure of global power, undermine old knowledge and credentials. An elite status group highly gifted at X may turn out, in a new day, to lack gifts for managing Not X. Yesterday’s talent may not matter today.

Today a well-entrenched class of professional thinkers largely understands expertise as the product of formal education and relationships to elite universities: You become an expert, or start to, by acquiring academic credentials. Extra points for grad school, and more points still for being a professor like Paul Krugman or Jonathan Gruber. Like the administrative class in Vichy France, or the scholar-officials of imperial China, you’re smart if you go to school a lot and excel on your exams, so you get to be in charge of some piece of the political or cultural mechanism.

But is it working? Are our credentialing instruments producing people who are capable of practical action? To borrow a question from firefighters, can our credential-holders put the wet stuff on the red stuff?

Nearly a decade ago, Angelo Codevilla noticed the calcification of the American ruling class, a thing we sometimes pretend not to have. Our elites, he wrote, are “formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits.” Thoroughly enculturated, the American elite gathers itself around a “social canon” that one does not question. Speaking of societal controversy with the wrong words puts a person outside the circle, out there in flyover country with the deplorables.

It’s even more true in Britain, as near as I can tell, and more stifling as well. This is, of course, one of the causes of ‘politically correct’.

For 40 years, with gathering uniformity of purpose, our credentialing institutions have taught postures rather than skills, attitudes rather than knowledge. This isn’t invariably true, and many fine scholars have taught many excellent practitioners, especially outside of the humanities and social sciences. But the overarching trend is toward training in intellectual and psychological uniformity, toward the world of excellent sheep. […]

Staffing up a new administration, Barack Obama hired Power, professor Cass Sunstein, professor Steven Chu, professor Christina Romer, and so on. Donald Trump hired generals, CEOs, and governors, people who were credentialed by lives of action and management. This isn’t disagreement; this is a difference of foundational premises.

In short: Trump declines the authority of the cultural sectors that most assertively claim it. That’s the conflict, and that’s why it’s being played in a relentless tone of hysteria. There are credentialing authorities — and credential-holding elites — who can see the path to their own obsolescence. Like the empress dowager, they will not go quietly.

But if we are to remain America qua America, go they must.

There’s much more, all of it very good at Our Culture War Is Between People Who Get Results And Empty Suits With Pristine Credentials

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