Judge not that ye be Judged?

“We’ve got to remember that most of what we do in court comes from some Scripture or is backed by Scripture,” Moore said after taking the oath of office.

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“Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told The Washington Examiner. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

(I thought it was a virgin giving birth to a child after being impregnated by the Holy Ghost that was ‘maybe just a little bit unusual’, but I must have read a different New Testament at Sunday School.)

I did, however, a little later, read the medieval Coventry Pageant, though what’s termed ‘Joseph’s Doubts’ appear in most of the ‘Mystery Play’ cycles:

“Forsooth, this child, dame,

Is not mine . . .

Tell me, woman, whose is this child?”

“No-one but yours, husband so mild . . .”

“Husband i’ faith, and that a-cold. . .

All old men, example take by me,

How I am beguiled here may you see,

To wed so young a child!”

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According to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of Alabama residents identify as Christian, and 49 percent are evangelical. White evangelicals have become much more likely to say a person who commits an “immoral” act can behave ethically in a public role. In 2011, 30 percent of these evangelicals said this, but that shot up to 72 percent, according to a survey published last year by the Public Religion Research Institute.

(Well, they must be reading a version of ‘Render unto Ceasar. . .” or possibly “Let he who is without sin. . .” I didn’t get at Sunday School either.)

By the look of it, the best Republicans can do seems to be “Well, if it’s proved,  he should get lost.” But I understand that the time limit for any prosecution in Alabama is long, long gone.

Debbie Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party, attended Moore’s rally with Sarah Palin in Montgomery, in September, and has campaigned for the former Alabama Chief Justice almost constantly since he won the Republican Senate primary … “I think the allegations are bullshit,” Dooley said; “All the story has accomplished is to galvanize the support of Roy Moore, which I already see happening on Facebook.” [New Yorker]

As a would-be president said, some people could go out on Park Avenue and open fire on the passers-by, and it wouldn’t make any damn difference.

Wow. Just, wow.

Yesterday, in elections around this great nation, in races at various levels:

In Virginia, Democrats won an overwhelming victory:

  • Northam was elected Governor by 54/46, in the face of a racist campaign scripted by Bannon at the end.
  • Democrats also won the Lt. Gov. and AG races.
  • A transgender candidate beat the bigot who wrote the state’s “bathroom law”.
  • Lee Carter, a Marine and Democratic Socialist, won his race.
  • They are still counting but Democrats flipped AT LEAST 14 seats in the House of Delegates, with five races too close to call, yet. (Their former standing was just 34 to 66.)  Just three more wins, of several still being counted, and they could have a majority.

In New Jersey, Chris Christie’s legacy is total control held by Democrats, going forward.

Washington State is now run by Democrats.  The Republicans lost their last bit of control in the State Senate.

Charlotte, NC elected its first Black mayor.

A transgender Black woman won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council.

A string of mayorships were won by new faces, mostly non-white, many female, in states all over the country.  It’s a long list.  Each one, was a loss by a Republican.

Voters in Maine approved ACA’s expansion of Medicaid in their state, by a 59 percent majority.  This had been repeatedly vetoed by their mentally disturbed Trump-fanboy, Gov. LePage.

Senator Sue Collins now has a very solid affirmation of her votes against the ACA’s repeal.

**

Back in January I posted news that various women’s advocacy groups were seeing a wave of new faces appearing for candidate-training sessions, all over the country, in response to Trump’s election.  Well, this first big test is validating that movement.

Those new faces, and others to appear soon for 2018, will provide a tsunami of new leadership.

2018 is looking to be a very very bad year for the Trump Gang and their political movement, and their nasty message of Fascism and racism.  The people of this great nation are rejecting them, at every level of politics.

Here in Nevada, the establishment GOP candidate for Governor, our AG Adam Laxalt, and our gutless wonder Senator Dean Heller, are already running campaign ads on TV, as of this past weekend.  This is not a sign of strength, a year out.  It is a sign of desperate weakness.  Their private polling must be disastrous.

And one final bit of good news:  the infamous Sharron Angle (remember her?) is challenging our state’s one Republican House Member, Mark Amodei, in his primary.  The Nevada news media are ecstatic.  She’s a hoot to report on, a laugh a minute!

 

An Alt Reading of the 2nd Amendment

You guys may recall my attempt some time ago to push -via Tomasky- a constitutionally permissable way for the federal government to give such states that wanted one an incentive to enact stricter gun laws. An attempt that at the time Tomasky put in one of his columns, but which, not surprisingly, gained no traction whatever.  Not least because it would have required an increase in government spending. Well here’s another attempt to change the conversation about the 2nd, one that requires no new expenditure, just a different and more perceptive reading of the law. I expect it will come to the same fate as the last attempt, but hear me out.

For reference, this is the text of the amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

We all know that, until relatively recently, SCOTUS backed the view that nothing in that text suggested the insane idea that every citizen had an inviolable right to buy and own any weapon, or any number of weapons, that he or she wanted. But then the politics of the of a majority of the Justice’s changed, and then view of the 2nd changed, and now citizens are free to arm themselves as heavily as their budgets and bunker-space allows.

What if we read the 2nd another way?  Consider this: as far as firearms go, the best muskets available in 1789 might, when used by a very skilled operator, who was left unhindered to reload between rounds, could in ideal conditions, fire maybe 3 rounds in one minute, and more likely only two.  Which is why, in military terms, the musket was not at all an effective weapon against, say, a group of opposing soldiers, especially one attacking over even ground, unless weilded by at least a platoon or more of men who had been highly drilled and maintained discipline under fire, so that as one third of them fired, the second third prepared to fire and the last third re-loaded.  To obtain the kind of continuous fire necessary to counter an infantry charge, only a group of soldiers, drilled and disciplined, were an effective rapid-fire weapon.

If we read the 2nd in this light, then what it seems to be saying is that citizens must be allowed to keep and train with their muskets, to then be drilled together (“well regulated”) so that in times of threat the states will have available an effective rapid-fire “weapon”, one which could never be provided by one man with one musket, alone.

Now, of course, any of us can purchase this afternoon the equivalent firepower, in one handy portable device, of a large and highly trained platoon of soldiers in 1789.  But the 2nd amendment does not, and was never intended to, grant to individual citizens the right to control private militias. The 2nd clearly only grants to citizens a right to be one cog (of a necessary many cogs) in a well regulated state militia.

In Texas that shitbag who burst into that church, and in a very short time [update: apparently he shot for about 7 minutes] killed 26 and wounded another 20, was able to fire at a bare minimm 46 rounds; but many of the dead and wounded were hit more than once and some more than three times and it’s highly unlikely that every bullet he fired hit a body. Which means he must have fired at least a hundred rounds, or likely even more.  [Update: apparently he fired around 450 rounds, so about 60 -65 rounds a minute] To fire that many rounds in such a short time in 1789 he would have required a large platoon, or two, of highly trained and strongly disciplined shooters. To kill so many in shuch a short time that shitbag would have needed, in other words, a private militia.

Any society, anywhere, at any time, is far more threatened by large groups of highly trained killers working together than ever it is from lone wolf shitbags. Because large groups of highly trained killers are very hard to organize, and fund, and move around, and even harder to conceal. The men who wrote the constitution in 1789 were intelligent enough to know that highly trained and disciplined groups of citizens with a common malignant intentions would be far more dangerous than any lone citizen however malign.

The reading I am suggesting, therefore, is that shotguns, hunting rifles and even small mag handguns all could conceivably fit with an understanding of firearms consistent with conditions in 1789. Those types of weapons still make sense for the kind of shooting that any individual citizen might want or need legitimately to do (i.e. hunting game or self defense against another person).  But for such weapons to be at all militarily effective, even now, they would require to be wielded by a group of highly trained and strongly diciplined shooters working together. In other words they would have to be wielded by a ‘well regualated militia”.  On the other hand, semi-automatic rifles with huge mags, and even high mag automatic pistols, now can place the firepower of an entire 1789 militia platoon into the hands of a single citizen, and allowing individual citizens to command their own private militias is an outcome which was never contemplated by the authors of the 2nd Amendment. Indeed, if such and outcome had been presented to them, would have been rejected out of hand, as being a far greater threat to domestic peace and the inalienable rights of citizens than any kind of safeguard of same.

The Clintons, Hotelling’s Law, and its disastrous distortion and misuse by the consultant class

I don’t remember exactly when I arrived at 9000’ – I mean, I remember the circumstances but not the date – but I know that soon after I got here I delivered my opinion that the greatest long-term political threat to the country was the rightward drift (or sprint, at times) of the national Democratic party.

Which I ascribed (and still do) to control of the national party being captured by a relatively new predatory class of political consultants, of whom Mark Penn was and still is the exemplar. This band of deeply subversive wretches had one product to sell: immediate short-term success – success in the next election, no matter what the longer-term cost.  Whether they delivered this success is by the by – in fact their performance has been mixed at best. What is anything but by the by is their unquestionable success in capturing the Democratic side of national elections, presidential and senatorial. The moment of their final and complete capture occurred in the early nineties when the Clintons bought into their methodology lock, stock, and barrel. In fact, they more than bought into it: they extended it to the problem of appearing to govern successfully, of staying popular while in office. The technique they developed has become known as triangulation. This isn’t a terrible name for it, but its basis is more than obsessive compromise, obsessively seeking the mean in every political controversy. Its true basis, which was consciously-advanced consultant dogma, is a strange distortion of Hotelling’s Law, a distortion brought about by the by-now-analyzed-to-death rightward plunge of the Republicans.

Harold Hotelling, who was active from roughly the late twenties to the late sixties, was a titan in the history of statistics. He also more than dabbled in economics, where he provided sound statistical underpinnings for Georgism (aka “Market Socialism”), a late-19th century school of economics that can be thought of as a rigorous theoretical defense of the Commons. One of his contributions to economics goes by the name of Hotelling’s Law and is very well known for a peculiar reason: its conclusions can be accurately conveyed by easily understandable visual analogies, the most famous of which is “the two ice cream sellers at the beach” parable.

If you don’t know it, the two ice cream sellers at the beach parable goes like this. We’ve got maybe a mile-long stretch of beach packed with hot, hungry, thirsty bathers, and two competing ice cream sellers approach it from the landward side. Where will they set up their carts and start selling? They will naturally, instinctively cut the beach into thirds and each will take a position halfway between one of the outer segments and the center segment – like this:

Fig 1: (a)———X———Y———(b)

where X and Y represent the ice cream sellers and (a) and (b), the left and right boundaries of the beach.  In terms of the market, X owns the segment on the left and Y owns the segment on the right, but toward the middle of the center segment they compete, because the bathers there are more or less equidistant from both of them. This is therefore an unstable configuration because, X and Y being competitors, each will naturally attempt to encroach on the other’s sales by moving closer to the center. Eventually they will wind up in this stable configuration:

Fig 2: (a)————-XY————-(b)

As one popular explanation puts it, “Ever noticed how refrigerators in the same price range look almost identical from brand to brand? Or why car dealerships all tend to pop up along the same stretch of road? Or even why the menus at McDonalds and Burger King are hard to tell apart?”

This is also a pretty good picture of the American electoral landscape circa, say, 1960. Both parties are relentlessly centrist, but marginally, the Democratic X is still the party of the left and vice versa. If there is to be movement, it will seem easiest for voters at (a) to drag X leftward and for voters at (b) to drag Y rightward. As disappointing as their distance from X is to the (a)-people, X is still closer to them than is Y, and more importantly, the voters between (a) and X are far more congenial to the (a)-dwellers than are the voters between Y and (b).

There’s some sound math at work behind Figures 1 and 2. I mention it because we’re going to leave it behind us very soon, since now comes the great distortion. Independently of the apparent market forces, the (b)-dwellers are able to pull Y rightward – while at the same time, the (a)-dwellers’ faint grip on X grows ever weaker. Suddenly we go from Figure 2 to

Fig 3: (a)————-X—Y———-(b)

and then very quickly to

Fig 4: (a)—————X-Y———-(b)

as X moves to gobble up some of the ideological territory that Y has abandoned. This sequence repeats itself until the end of the Reagan era, when we’re approximately at

Fig 5: (a)——————-X—-Y—(b)

as Y continues its rightward march and market forces push X into the territory Y has vacated.

At this point the pseudo-statistically-adept Democratic consulting class emerges (from more or less thin air) to quickly convince the party elders (and especially Mr. and Mrs. Clinton) that the optimal configuration for them is now

Fig 6: (a)———————XY—(b)

In no time at all, the Democrats adopt this consultant-authored rule: whenever Y moves ever so slightly to the right, X must immediately follow step for step. Because X’s rightward creep will be risk-free: X will lose no one on its left but will keep picking up voters to its right.

Now if this theory were in fact true, Al Gore would have beaten George Bush in an historically unprecedented landslide. But he won by only a very small and, it turned out, insufficient margin. It didn’t matter: the consultants were by now so firmly embedded that not even a kick in the balls from reality itself could dislodge them. By 2016 the consultants believed they were facing this enticing prospect

Fig 7: (a)————————XY(b)

as, first, the Koch-class and their tea-head shock troops kept booting the GOP ever rightward and, second, Hillary followed mercilessly and triumphantly in their wake. But in fact what happened was something, that if we hold onto the by-now-ought-to-be-thoroughly-discredited beach model, is not only very different but close to impossible:

Fig 8: (a)————————XY………………….………(b)

In other words (or in words, period) a wholly unexpected mass of voters, the dot (“…”) people, swarmed onto the beach and crowded in to the right of Y and somehow occupied a stretch of beach that no ice cream seller had ever noticed before. Consultant-world, which is still synonymous with Clinton-world, is struggling to explain Figure 8. Who are these mystery voters? Where did they come from? What do they want? And most of all, how do we make them ours?

This is horseshit. It’s been horseshit since before Figure 3, which is where the pretty pictures began to jettison the sound mathematical foundations of Figures 1 and 2. But until now it’s been saleable horseshit. The question remains, have we yet reached the point where it stinks enough that the horseshit buyers will decide to kick the horseshit sellers back to their hedge funds and real estate development deals?

Let’s try to answer that question.

***

In my next installment, which will arrive in this very place somewhere between a day and a month from now, I will look at this from the triple context of the famous Overton Window, Bernie Sanders’ stump-delivered agenda, and the Democrats’ theoretically promising but pathetically weak and casual Better Deal. I will argue that a much fleshed-out Better Deal (call it what you like) based on a much fleshed-out and small-d democratically debated agenda like Sanders’ would have a realistic chance of moving the Overton Window back to where it was circa 1946. I will argue (or just note that I’m taking it for granted) that when the program is ready, the candidates will appear.

***

In my third installment (to be delivered whenever), I will discuss how the mechanisms of the gigantic but rarely analyzed state-capitalist sector of the US economy (which I’ve worked around for thirty years and which paid me directly for twenty) can be applied to three items that will inevitably appear on that hypothetical, Sanders-like national agenda: jobs (i.e., good jobs, and where they’re needed), climate change and other environmental catastrophes, and infrastructure restoration and replacement. I will argue that a single prescription (and only a single prescription) can address all three of those problems far more successfully than the usually-proposed-and-hardly-ever-enacted timorous and piecemeal proposals that we’ve become used to hearing about – and used to seeing fail time and again (usually in congress, well before they’re actually attempted). I will argue that in the seventy-five years since 1942, the Department of Defense has slowly and clumsily evolved downright magnificent techniques of planning, management, and control that can fairly easily be adapted to socially useful projects of the scale of missile, aircraft, and submarine acquisitions – projects that, when combined, really can begin to address those problems effectively.

First Charges Filed in Russia Probe Led by Special Counsel

Things are warming up.

From MSN via the WSJ

At least one person was charged Friday in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter.

That person could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, these people said. The number and identity of the defendants, and the charges, couldn’t be determined.

Fix the Divisions with Equal Opportunity Dying

‘Reviving the draft, abandoned in 1973, would mean that most American families have skin in the game when their political leaders embroil the country in a war of choice. It doesn’t take much of an intuitive leap to guess that the last 16 years of war would have unfolded differently if more than a tiny cadre of America’s sons and daughters had to fight

 Requiring everyone to serve in some fashion, other than those too physically or psychically impaired, would be a profoundly democratizing action. In time, it might even encourage more civilized political discourse in this atomized land, by putting young people in proximity to those with roots in different ways of life and thinking. It’s harder to sneer at the “other” after you’ve both shared a life-transforming experience.
Bringing back the draft could restore a healthier sense of the military’s proper place in our national life. It deserves Americans’ full support but not quite the saintlike status that Mr. Kelly assigned it and that the absence of compulsory national service encourages.’
[Op-Ed NYT  25th October]
 
As Dr Johnson said about hanging, the prospect of being shot concentrates the mind wonderfully. I’m sure there was a lot of joyous camaraderie, fellow-feeling and mutual love on the gallows at Tyburn on hanging day.

how far?

How far have we drifted out into the crazy weeds? It’s a real easy thing to lose sight of, now that we have a president whose vindictiveness and mendacity has blown through every political tradition of decency and integrity we once thought to be inviolable, and with—so far at least— seeming impunity.

That question, how far out in the weeds we have journeyed, brings me to a place which is odd indeed for a Wobbly envirowhacko like me; writing praise for a speech from Chimpy McStagger, more formally known as George W. Bush.

It’s no secret that I think this republic is in grave danger of descending into tyranny.

And now, as I think these excerpts from his speech make clear, so does Dubya.

“In recent decades public confidence in our institutions has declined, our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs, the American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach to some who feel left behind in a changing economy, discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts, our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication, there are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned — especially among the young.”

Dubya at Trump’s inauguration, sheltering from the rain that Trump said God prevented from falling when he was sworn in. No, really, he said that, and shit has been going downhill ever since.

“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity, disagreement escalates into dehumanization,”

“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism immigration has always brought to America, the fading value of trade, we’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge. In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity.”

“America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to exploit our country’s divisions and feed them. According to intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other,”

“Our identity as a nation, unlike many other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood,”

“Being American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence, we become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. constitution, we become a heirs of Martin Luther King Jr. by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. This means that people of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American.”

There’s a video of the entire 20 minute speech floating around on Facebook somewhere, but I don’t go there so can’t be of much help in finding it.

One more little snippet, relating to the tyranny thing;

“No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies”

Credit where credit is due, this was pretty good.

We need all the help we can get.

now, about that independent judiciary…

… here’s a story from Kevin’s neck of the woods about a Las Vegas judge telling convicted felons if they’re attentive to completing their probation properly, they can have their voting rights restored “in time to vote for President Donald Trump.”

A Clark County District Court judge told at least two felons during sentencing proceedings in July that if they follow through on all the terms of their probation they may have their voting rights restored in time to vote for President Donald Trump in 2020.

Clark County District Court Judge Susan Johnson

According to two transcripts obtained by The Nevada Independent, District Court Judge Susan Johnson told two defendants pleading guilty to felony charges that if they follow through on all of the terms on their plea agreements they might be able to vote in the next election, specifically for Trump’s re-election. Multiple criminal defense attorneys said in interviews that either they or their colleagues have heard similar remarks during recent sentencing hearings, including one who said the reports made him “uncomfortable.”

Let’s pause here to fully absorb the magnificence of this. This is a judge telling felons at their sentencing that if they straighten up and fly right they’ll be able to vote for Trump.

It’s unclear presently how many times this has happened, that’s an ongoing inquiry, but an attorney with the public defenders’ office says she can recall at least four occasions. Meanwhile here’s a couple lifted straight from the Court transcripts, from two entirely separate trials;

“That way your civil rights would be restored and you would have plenty of time to vote for Mr. Trump on the next election, okay?”

“But if you do everything I tell you to do you’ve got an opportunity to do some great things and possibly depending on the time you might be able to vote for Trump in the next presidential election,”

As is often the case when bobbleheads like this are busted for their bobbleheadedness, they claim it was a joke;

Susan Johnson told The Nevada Independent on Wednesday that she meant for the comments to put probationers “at ease”, and that she hadn’t heard anyone complain or express concerns.

“It was just an off comment,” she said at a meeting of Hispanics in Politics. “Looking back on it, I should have just said, ‘You can vote for the president.’ Instead, I was just trying to invoke some humor and using the name of the current president.”

Yeah, har de fucking har har.

You’re such a hoot. I’m in stitches.