Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Chapter 7: Oh, the Conspiracies!

I've been posting (for free!) chapters of Polemical Judo, in hope that at least a few of the ideas may percolate through some of you to where they'll do some good.  (Or start fresh with Chapter 1. Or else... actually buy a copy?)

Last time we offered Chapter Six where we discussed some basics of mature conservatism that would be welcome at the negotiating table... if there were any mature conservatives to talk to. Mostly, I listed a vast and depressing rundown of times and issues when they were wrong, wrong and proved utterly wrong by the course of facts.

 Here in Chapter Seven we offer ways to deal with conspiracy theories!. And yes, I wrote this before the Kremlin anf KGB inflicted the madness of QAnon upon us, in hope of converting a bilious Phase 8 ot the American Civil War into a hot and murderous phase nine.

But first a bit of news!  Ranked Choice Voting is on the ballot in Massachusetts and Alaska this year! We’ve used it in science fiction communities to vote for Hugo and Nebula Awards for decades and while not mathematically perfect, it is a huge, huge leap forward from current plurality-voted politics. Anyone you know in those states should be encouraged to support the move. Especially anyone remotely tempted by third parties, since this would at least give them a chance, while still preventing the worst from winning. (The way Nader and Stein supporters screwed us all in 2000 and 2016.)  

And now... from a posting in June 2019 – if you can believe that.[1]

 ===========

 

Chapter 7 of Polemical Judo

 

Oh, the Conspiracies!

  

 Travel anywhere in the world, visit a bar, pub, barbecue or someone’s house or hut – you’ll find one topic easy to spark: conspiracy. No matter the nation, tribe or ethnicity, folks will quickly rail about some group grudge and how “people like me” are being put upon by conniving adversaries who are simultaneously evil and almost super-naturally clever. The world may be filled with fools who believe the cover story. But my brave and savvy folk see the truth!  

 

Naturally, those foes flatter themselves in exactly the same way, both sides muttering fill-in-the-blanks tales, as if from a giant book of Mad-Libs. Texts from olden times reveal the same pattern. Ah, should humans be known as Homo credens, the credulous ape? 


No wonder the age of science seems threatening to many, whose favorite fantasies might shrivel under the light of evidence. I wrote The Transparent Society about how open and reciprocal accountability often reveals what’s true, rather than what feels so satisfying to believe.

 

Alas, there truly are conspirators in this world, flourishing wherever light doesn’t shine. Moreover, they developed a great technique to distract from their own plots – they help spread a stinging miasma of paranoid ravings that genuine schemes can hide behind! (See it illustrated in this stand-alone scene from Existence.[2]) Indeed, the last thing you will contemplate is that your favorite conspiracy might be part of that distraction fog.

 

(LATE 2020 note: This isn’t just me, waving counter-incantations. Researchers have sifted online links and paths taken by a variety of conspiracy theories. Visual representations of those story frameworks showed them how false conspiracy theory narratives are held together by threads that connect multiple characters, places and things. But they found that if even one of those threads is cut, the other elements often can’t form a coherent story without it.)

 


METHODS TO SIFT WHICH PLOTS SEEM PLAUSIBLE

 

Dip your toe. Any conspiracy theory will suck you into a vortex of evidence and “evidence” along with persuasive rants and incantations. Who has the time? Even for ones that appeal to my ego, my prejudices, or my “side” in contemporary tiffs. Hence, I cope via a set of questions to ask, whenever some folks – especially those who are “like me” – foist their favorite Evil Plot That Only We Can See. Let’s start with an example that may infuriate many of you.

 

Question number one: Have trustworthy experts already worked the case? Are they accountable, transparent, and themselves scrutinized by a variety of interests? Are they answerable to multiple, separate structures? This is, after all, one reason we set up civil service with a diversity of agencies and chains of command – then augmented that setup with a free and diverse press – then augmented that with a wide range of member-supported NGOs, from Greenpeace to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

(And if you aren't a dues paying member of a dozen NGOs, each fighting for a future you believe in, then take another look at the hypocrite in the mirror. That method is a lazy person's cheap route to bragging rights: “I’m at least doing something.” Here's how.[3])

 

Of course, this network of accountability systems is exactly what conspiracy believers claim has failed. Indeed, they hold that such a thing – accountability through competitive openness – is impossible. Certainly Hollywood portrays accountable professionalism to be nonexistent in government. Writers and directors do this often not to promote SoA, but for reasons of lazy plotting that I describe elsewhere.[4] And in so doing, they spread a poison.

 

To be clear, betrayal by governmental powers belongs way up there on our list of things to watch for! Take the way one man – J. Edgar Hoover – for decades dominated the top layers of U.S. federal criminal investigation, often deciding to pursue or quash cases at whim. Still, we have inarguably the least corrupt institutions in the history of humanity. (If you doubt that, do try slipping a fifty to that cop giving you a ticket.) So, while Mr. Transparency, here extols “sousveillance” and looking-back at power, I am also skeptical toward raving paranoia.

 

Which is not entirely a symptom of the mad right! Take the lefty "Loose Change" conspiracy theory, about the 9/11 calamity - that the World Trade Center towers were deliberately demolished by explosives planted over the course of months, to distract from the intended target, WTC building #7. Among dozens of ways that theory is loony, explosives leave chemical residues, and the wreckage was sampled not by one agency, but scores of them plus news organizations, NGOs and private citizens. Moreover, there was no lack of available debris to analyze.[5]

 

Question number one allows you to deal with some, not all, of the most ridiculous purported plots – those presuming there are no competent people in the world. Which brings us to –

 

Test #2: How many conspirators are needed by this scheme? How perfect a plan and execution? Loose Change is an extremum test case for these questions. It would take dozens, even scores of the most skilled experts in building demolition to plant the required explosives, and others skilled at hiding charges behind walls and in stand pipes, plus dozens more providing security.[6] The entire WTC security staff must be suborned or replaced, but there’s no record of such replacements. (Most died in the disaster.) That’s at least a hundred henchmen, performing a task never done before amid vacuum-tight secrecy and executed with perfection never seen in any government project. Oh, plus another several hundred to perform the bizarre other half of this theory, faking the aircraft hijackings!

 

Now, you might answer: “I don't believe in the Loose Change conspiracy! Whereas MY favorite one…” Hm, well, show me even one popular conspiracy theory cult that has analyzed points number one and two? Then of course there’s right wing dizziness such as the mania that swarms over the death of ex-DNC staffer Seth Rich. But we deal with Clinton-Obama tirades in due course.

 

In Chapter 5 we discussed ravings of a “Deep State” conspiracy among civil servants, FBI agents, the entire intelligence community and much of the senior military officer corps, in cahoots with nearly all the scientists, journalists, teachers and so on… another case where tests #1 and #2 are devastating. Which brings us to –

 

#3: Why would the conspirators choose to do it? What would convince each and all of them to betray his or her oaths, profession, conscience and country? I’m not saying it doesn't happen! The Watergate break-ins and cover-ups involved a fair number of moderately (not very) skilled people who did it all for combinations of money, hatred, loyalty-to-a-faction and potential advancement to power. 

 

Let me repeat: I know there are conspiracies! Indeed, it’s laughable to ignore the most blatant one called Fox News, which openly works for a mélange of foreign billionaires, from the Saudis to Russian mafiosi, from Macao casino lords to an Australian deceit mogul. We’ll get to their motives and methods in several chapters. And lest we forget, the left was rife with secret foreign agents and nasty plots, at times in the last century… and may go down that path, yet again.

 

Still test #3 is a potent one. In our extreme example, none of the “Loose Change” zealots offer a plausible reason why even one skilled person would be remotely tempted to devote immense energy and dedication to performing such a heinous act on behalf of some currency speculators, let along several hundred of our most capable public servants or officers. 

 

Money? Please. That you would assume so speaks more about your inherent corruptibility, than theirs. Which brings us to a really big one –

 

#4: Why take the risk? Loose Change offers such a great example of every maniacally stupid conspiracy theory trait. And so, ponder a thought that would go through the mind of every skilled conspirator:

 

These fellows working on this evil plot next to me… any one of them could have recorded our activities and conversations. An hour from now, that fellow over there may spill it all to the FBI and the New York Times. He'll be a hero, get rewards and speaking gigs and be on talk shows forever, while the rest of us get arrested, tried and then parceled out to prisons where both the inmates and guards will make life hell for traitors and attempted mass murderers.

 

At which point he'd think: “Maybe… I better be the guy who blabs first.”

 

Seriously, how do you stop defections? Communists were dedicated, yet we pulled in defectors all the time. ISIS and Al Qaeda are zealous, yet they leaked like sieves. Yes, you can both inspire and terrify your henchmen into mass-uniformity if you run a powerful state like China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia or a narco-kleptocracy, where their families can be crushed at will. But show me how that would work in a Loose Change scenario.

 

Seth Rich? Seriously? Show me a Democrat who can keep his or her damn mouth shut! Now show me the dozens who would have to be complicit, from local law enforcement to the nearby FBI bureau office, to the victim’s family.

 

Again, I’m not saying conspiracies don't happen. But consider, the first thing any conspirator with an IQ above slime-mold does is to establish murder insurance. You do this by setting up delay-drops containing everything you know, to be released in the event anything happens to you. Don’t these people ever watch movies?

 

Question #4 – is the biggie. As a society we should be making it our top transparency priority to reinforce it, by encouraging, not punishing whistle blowers. Elsewhere (Chapter 5) I describe ways to do this that could be entirely consistent with running a healthy and effective civil service. We should do this via both law and via private foundations that offer what I’ve called “Henchman’s Prizes.”[7] 

 

One urgent example? It has long been blatantly clear that several of the manufacturers of voting machines in the U.S. have suspicious connections to both Russia and the Republican Party. Is it coincidence that in most “blue” states, the voting machines are augmented by paper ballots or receipts that can be hand counted and audited, while most red states have refused that simple confidence and security backup? As of this writing, nothing has been revealed that is prosecutable - just a stench of the sort that propels so many conspiracy theories. 

 

But the stink got overwhelming in August 2019, when voting machines in Texas and Mississippi were caught blatantly switching votes before the voter's eyes. (See videos of it happening! [8] But don't worry. They'll remedy the "blatantly" part and hide it from the voter in the booth.)


Dig this about plausible conspiracies and Question #4. One rich dude might possibly fixvoting machine treason, by offering a $5 million whistleblower prize - plus guaranteed protection and hero status - for the employee of any company who brings forth proof of cheating. If proof doesn't appear, you don't pay! (But nevertheless instill fear in those bastards.) If you do wind up paying, you become a hero for saving the nation. How can that not be a win-win?

 

The easier we make it for henchmen to defect, the fewer of them Blofeld, Dr. Evil and their ilk will be able to hire and trust.[9] And so, we come to – 

 

#5: Who benefits? Oliver Stone slandered LBJ as the obvious beneficiary of JFK's murder. It sounds movie-plausible, till you realize how desperately Johnson slaved and strived (and aged), aiming to make all of Kennedy's hopes and plans come true. Alas, that included JFK's horrific-macho ambitions in Vietnam, but also - on the brighter side - civil rights, the vastly-if-still-partially-successful War on Appalachian Poverty, achievements in space and so on. Is that utter loyalty to every goal consistent with spite and conspiracy to murder? (See Bryan Cranston's film, All the Way.)

 

In fact, I’ve never found anyone who palpably benefited from the Kennedy assassination, though revenge is another matter. JFK had haters, ranging from Cuban communists and Cuban anti-communist exiles to the KGB, to the KKK, to the Mafia, to Marilyn Monroe fans… all the way to the armed, dangerously loony, individually motivated and perfectly situated expert marksman Lee Harvey Oswald.[10]

 

On the other hand, other conspiracies have blatant beneficiaries. Fox News has been a money machine for Rupert Murdoch and his partners (who for many years included Saudi royals). Even more important, it helped sustain the Supply Side “Voodoo” Economics (SSVE) cult[11] long after that madness was scientifically refuted, allowing Murdoch's pals to raid the US taxpayer time and again, for trillions. Above all, by fomenting culture war – also known as phase 8 of the U.S. civil war (Chapter 14) – Murdoch's shills have accomplished his top goal: the destruction of U.S. politics as a means for adults to deliberate policy and negotiate solutions across party lines. Gridlock is the goal, along with demolition of any trust between the people and the government that they own. So yes, that conspiracy passes the “who benefits” test.

 

Note that all five of these questions, so far, are simple and straightforward, and make demands upon the conspiracy ranters, not upon you. Which brings us to –

 

#6: Who is strenuously keeping things dark?  We don’t know for sure (yet) that there was direct collusion between Donald Trump and the Kremlin. But Trump’s absolute refusal to allow any look into his finances, or his behaviors in Moscow, or during half a dozen secret debriefings with foreign despots that lacked any credible U.S. witnesses, show someone who is desperate not to allow light onto those topics. 

 

Now add his obstruction of professional investigations and you have behavior that is certainly far more consistent with a conspiracy than most of the fantasies boiling around.

 

#7: Is there a devastating rebuttal/answer to the Conspiracy Theory?  Is there a short, sharp shock that would tear it to shreds?

 

We already illustrated this one with a crushing example – when yarn-pinning ravers persuaded millions that George Soros is diabolical meddler so powerful he toppled Eight Foreign Governments!  In Chapter 5, I posed a simple question that not a single audience member or Beck-critic ever asked: “Say Glenn, how about naming those foreign regimes that George Soros toppled?”


There's a reason Beck never said their names. Because doing so would devastate his entire conspiracy narrative beyond all hope of recovery. Take that example to heart. Ponder whether the next conspiracy offered to you has such an Achilles Heel.

 

#8: Am I doing due diligence by weighing critics of this thing and seeking smart/balanced arbiters?  I can almost guarantee you aren’t. Heck, I'm lazy too. Still, I offered a number of ways that our modern fact-arbitrating systems can be improved, not by ensconcing some elites to rule on Truth, but using the competitive/adversarial process we're already so good at. 

I pitched some of these ideas at Facebook headquarters in 2017, when the company was panicking over its role in 2016 election travesties. Alas, soon they were smugly back to assuring “We can handle this top-down, trust us.” 

 

How's that going for you?

#9: Why should we trust your elites? 
In Chapter 2, I spoke of the central message in most Hollywood films – Suspicion of Authority, or SoA, which has amplified the conspiracy-antennae, especially in most Americans. The basic difference between a decent, rational liberal and a decent, rational conservative is which group they worry is conspiring to become Big Brother. 

 

Of course, given human history, we ought to conclude that all elites are inherently dangerous. All will be tempted to abuse power, while rationalizing that it is for the greater good.  Ideally, we warily guard each other’s backs. Ideally. Our systems were set up by very clever people so that elites will compete with each other! In their rivalry – sometimes called separation of powers – we have found a way to prevent any one of them from becoming an Orwellian monolith.

 

So yes, examine conspiracy theories! I concoct and/or examine some, in both fiction and nonfiction. And if you’ll have a look at mine, I’ll have a gander at yours. It’s how we managed to stay free. So far. 

 

That synergy breaks down when – amid re-ignited civil war – one side has convinced all its partisans that freedom can be harmed only from one direction. I regularly make efforts to prove I do not have such a fused political spine – that I can turn my head. While I declare – based on mountains of proof – that today's American right has gone insane, in service to a rising oligarchy bent on re-starting feudalism…

 

…I often eviscerate shibboleths of a much smaller loony far-left, and urge sane liberals to be wary of those allies.  (See Chapter 12 and this: The miracle and compromise of 1947.[12])

 

THESE TESTS ARE ONLY A START

 

Are there real-life, bona fide conspiracies? Of course! Our civilization is threatened by some as we speak. It is to distract from real ones that so many false imbecilities are spewed. These questions won’t eliminate or parse them all. Again, I show some scary places this can lead in my novel Existence.

 

Over the long run, we must employ experts whose job it is to inspect possible crimes, both investing some trust in the skilled professionalism of our civil servants and striving to increase their diverse accountability, their sense that they live and work under scrutiny and light. Only with this combination of high professionalism and fierce citizen oversight do we stand a chance of navigating a bright but ever foggy era.

===



FOOTNOTES

[1] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/06/oh-conspiracies.html

 

[2] https://www.wattpad.com/5827990-the-smartest-mob-a-chapter-from-existence

 

[3] “The Power of Proxy Activism.” http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/proxyactivism.html

 

[4] “The idiot plot: why films never show competence.” http://www.davidbrin.com/idiotplot.html

 

[5] Don't get me started on the "melting temperature of steel" drivel that's fountained by fools.

 

[6] You'd also need electronic timing and ignition systems similar to those used in nuclear bombs.

 

[7] “Attention Henchmen! Voting Machines and Other Flawed Conspiracies.” http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/attention-henchmen-voting-machines-and.html

 

[8] Red state voting machines caught switching votes on camera. https://www.newsweek.com/touch-screen-voting-devices-are-automatically-changing-votes-mississippi-1456445

 

[9] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/attention-henchmen-voting-machines-and.html

 

[10] “Who benefits” can be extended to plotters who thought they would benefit, but failed. Far more plausible than Oliver Stone’s insipid scenario (based on zero real evidence) that JFK was about to pull out of Vietnam, consider the very opposite, that some U.S. officers saw we were heading into a quagmire and sought to eliminate the uber-macho leader who was plunging us into a devastating mess. Do I believe this? Of course not. But I can concoct paranoid scenarios far better than those going stale on our DVD shelves.

 

[11] The stunningly perfect record of Supply Side always being 100% wrong. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2010/02/a-primer-on-supply-side-vs-demand-side.html

 

[12] The miracle and compromise of 1947. http://www.davidbrin.com/1947.html

 


109 comments:

Acacia H. said...

Here is a question for you all to gnaw upon.

Which is better: resign in protest over the actions and/or orders of your superiors, or remain in your position while protesting publicly and refusing orders that you consider unjust until you are removed from your position?

My flatmate and friend hates that so many people has resigned in protest over Trump and his policies. They feel that these people are allowing Trump to just put his lackeys and yes-men into those positions while not protecting their subordinates, and should force Trump's hand to maximize publicity on his malfeasance. My view is that a public resignation brings notice to Trump's actions while protecting their pensions and retirement benefits which could be stripped from them by a vengeful Trump administration.

So, which is better?

Stand by your principles and force your superiors to fire you (possibly without anyone being aware of what's going on)? Or...

Resign in protest to bring awareness to the unethical and potentially illegal actions being demanded of you?

Acacia.

Alfred Differ said...

Resign and Report

Demonstrate that the orders given indicate illegal activity and possibly illegitimate government.


If you stay you'll have some difficulty avoiding the appearance of 'creating legitimacy'. The secret op-ed writer of a couple years ago is at risk of this.

Trying to fix the illegitimate lends your reputation to their cause.

Darrell E said...

Acacia H.,

I've often thought about just that question. My view is that there is no clear, definitive answer. It depends on the specific circumstances of each specific situation. And often I suspect that there would be no clear advantage to the public / nation either way, sticking it out or resigning in protest.

One aspect of this that I have a firm opinion about is that given a threat as great as Trump taking the course of action that most effectively damages Trump is worth the risk of losing the financial security of a good salary and pension. I'd say it could even be worth assuming a certain degree of risk of life and limb if the chance of dealing Trump a mortal blow were sufficiently high. The real life problem though is being able to accurately assess the risks and benefits. Discerning the future in anything but the most general terms is next to impossible given the historical record. For this and similar reasons I think people that have had to make these sorts of decisions should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Hailey said...

It depends on the situation. If there's a good chance you're about to be replaced then a public resignation is probably the best bet. Otherwise I think it's best to stay, collect whatever evidence of wrongdoing and unethical or illegal activity you can, and protect yourself as best as possible.

~Hailey

Pappenheimer said...

Resignation is the more ethical action - you are cutting your ties and obligations to the offending person/organization. I'm not sure it's particularly effective. (Hell, historically, Chinese and Roman officials committed suicide to protest Imperial actions, and I don't know how effective that was either.)
Whistleblowing is supposed to be a safe and effective way to register your protest, and some folks in this administration have tried that, too, like Suddenly Ex-Active Duty LTC Vindman. The immediate result appeared to be death threats against your family and retaliation against your serving brother. To be fair, it did result in impeachment and the scotching of a ratf*cking expedition against Biden's son initiated with the help of a corrupt foreign power.
Remaining in place seems the least likely option to retain any personal honor. Would your replacement be worse for the country? Maybe, but simply staying on gives the current Corruption Charlie Foxtrot respectability. I suppose one can say "I'm doing it as the least bad option", but I would counter, "for your pension".

Pappenheimer said...

Pappenheimer again -

I can see that reading comprehension is not my strong point this morning, but if the choice is between resignation or being fired for insubordination, resign. Because they won't fire you for insubordination. They'll find something else.

David Brin said...

Under conditions anywhere near normal, I'd agree re"resign." But given that the resignation is their goal in order to replace you with a criminal, I swing the other way. Stay and do your job for the republic. And leak.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Maybe I'm still too much of a Boy Scout in preferring resignation. That's what I do at least. 8)



If you aren't going to resign, best take measures to leave evidence of your duplicity so later investigators (and juries) can understand your intent. If you intend to gather evidence, try to do it legally. If you intend to leak, prepare to pay the social consequences even if you are never charged with a crime. Keep a damn good journal of your activity so you can defend actions AND intent later. We might not believe you if you have to make up a defense later.

reason said...

"Australian deceit mogul" - and EX Australian deceit mogul. We don't want him anymore even though he is still screwing things up in Australia.

David Brin said...

Re an earlier demand for "trashed offices" citation... just TODAY I was skimming a new PhD dissertation from
"Education for the People: The Third World Student Movement at San Francisco State College and City College of New York" by Angela Rose Ryan

"The students were not placated by Gallagher’s moderate approach. Instead, they were infuriated and emboldened. The student newspaper The Observation Post reported that within a half hour, the students had marched to the administration building and forced its occupants out. They trashed offices and posted their demands throughout the halls. "

Another passage: "The students wasted no time in implementing this stage, and they opened the following week with a series of coordinated attacks on Monday 17 February. They set small fires in buildings to activate smoke alarms and vacate the classrooms and offices. Then they vandalized the buildings by smashing glass windows and display cases, splattering paint on walls, clocks and other surfaces, and causing damage and general chaos."

Come on. While the right exaggerates these events 1000 fold that doesn't mean it didn't happen, or that these campus bullies aren't a truly nasty fringe who would be despots, if they could.

Der Oger said...

Acacia H: As I am now mutating into an expert on that matter, my clear answer is: It depends.

To resign in the perspective of serving a toxic boss or waging a lost war against your company is a sign of sanity. To be fired because you did your duty is a sign of personal integrity, that you defended your values until the last.

Choose whatever makes you feel more whole and healthy, instills self-efficacy in you.

On a second note, to successfully advance your agenda of opposition in such environments, you have to transform into a guerilla fighter. You have to conserve your energies, develop high levels of opportunism, deception and strategic thinking. It is not your goal anymore to win the war, but to have the regular army loose theirs. You must stay hidden, because once The Boss knows your name, you are done. You must learn to manipulate others, using them as shields or goading them into mistakes. You must learn to trust your instincts, as the waters around you are muddied and full of alligators and poisonous snakes, and at the same time keep your paranoid fears in check. You make awfully slow progress, and might be seen as a loyal collaborator by many (because, in essence, that is what you have to show to the world.)

In the end, it will transform you; one day, you might loathe yourself more than anyone else, including The Boss. It is not a route I advise to travel.

duncan cairncross said...

Resigning as a single guy/girl is one thing

But if you have a family and ESPECIALLY if some of your family has a medical "history" then resigning is a different thing again

Once you are wealthy then the options change

Darrell E said...

All of the responses to Acacia's question demonstrate why it can't be meaningfully answered without including lots of details about specific circumstances. Pretty much every person that answered seemed to have had a somewhat different scenario in mind. And I'd guess that all of them are valid, in the right circumstances.

David Brin said...

Der Oger... See Asimov's only story that includes actual aliens. It's about a Trantor Empire bureaucrat who does exactly that. I refer to the event in FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH. See "Blind Alley."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_Alley

Deuxglass said...

Saying you would do this or that in a certain situation is utter bullshit .What you would or would not do does not depend on the situation you are protesting. It will depend on your own situation at the time the decision must take place. For example would you do it if it throws you and your family in poverty? Would anybody back you up with just more than platitudes? Is it a common practice where you work and if you blow the whistle will it be laughed off? Will it cause physical danger to your loved ones? These are just a few things that will pass through your head while you make the decision. Your mind will rationalise just about any anything. If there is no risk and perhaps a reward either monetary or reputational then the decision is easy. If it causes considerable harm to you and your loved ones then doing the right thing will tear you apart. There is a difference between being in the Resistance in California in 2017 and being in the Resistance in France in 1942 for example .For the really big things you will never know how you would react beforehand and saying you would do this or that is just pure fantasy. You will never know until it really happens. What happened to Lord Jim can happen to anybody

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

See Asimov's only story that includes actual aliens.
...
See "Blind Alley."


I thought "The Gods Themselves" has actual aliens.

Alfred Differ said...

The reason I argue for resigning over subterfuge and then getting fired is you can look your next hiring manager in the eyes and say the following.

"I'm not here to screw you, but don't ask me to do anything unethical. I'll talk to you about your requirements BEFORE resigning so we might work out any misunderstandings, but if you persist with an unethical demand, I will resign and report you."

If that discourages them from hiring you, consider finding another employer immediately. They've done you a favor by signaling their core values earlier than later.

Where does this opportunity arise? During a job interview when the person on the other side of the table asks why you left that employer. Don't be angry or indicate that you are out to get the former employer. Just be honest and explain it. It's VERY unlikely they will try to confirm your details with your former boss, but it might help them understand why you think that former boss isn't a good reference for you. 8)

toduro said...

I, too, recall "The Gods Themselves" as having actual aliens.

David Brin wrote in the main article:

"Still, we have inarguably the least corrupt institutions in the history of humanity. (If you doubt that, do try slipping a fifty to that cop giving you a ticket.)"

Reminded me of a story a friend told me sometime in the late 1990s about a relative of his who tried a startup business in newly post-USSR Moscow. The relative, an American, was unsophisticated in the ways of corruption. As most of us would be if DB is correct.

One day the local constabulary came to the Moscow office and informed him that he had not paid his telephone bill. He knew damn well that he had.

During the ensuing discussion about the phone bill the lead policeman several times commented on the beauty of an expensive pen lying on the office desk. My friend's relative was nonplussed, wondering for quite a while what was with this cop's pen fetish.

Finally dawned on him.


A.F. Rey said...

Ruth Bader Ginsberg just died.

Mitch McConnell is going to say, "Remember the Senate tradition I made up that Supreme Court justice seats that open up just before an election should be chosen after the election? Well, GO F**K YOURSELVES, AMERICA! TRUMP GETS THIS ONE, TOO!"

We need the Senate and the White House more than ever, now. If we can ever get it again. :(

Acacia H. said...

Ruth Ginsburg has died.

I'm willing to bet within a week a new Supreme Court Justice will be put in office to cement Trump's hold over this country. We truly are in the bad timeline.

Acacia H.

duncan cairncross said...

"Still, we have inarguably the least corrupt institutions in the history of humanity. (If you doubt that, do try slipping a fifty to that cop giving you a ticket.)"

A HUGE part of that is because in the USA the law is such that "Bribery" is nearly impossible to prove
To prove that a politician has been bribed by a lobbyist you practically have to find a written and signed confession

If the Law here (NZ) was applied to the USA then you would have so many lobbyists and legislators in jail that the USA would end up at the top of the corruption list

The USA has fixed the "Corruption Problem" - by making it legal and hence not corrupt

David Brin said...

Oh boy. We all wish she'd have held out. McConnell has made it plain he doesn't care if dems "whine" about his rushing through a confirmation of a right wing monster to the Court just weeks before the 2020 election, despite his rationalizations for torpedoing Merrick Garland's nomination NINE MONTHS before the 2016 election, demanding we wait till the "People speak." The Putin-puppet giggles and chorltes every time we are infuriated, and so do most MAGAs. As for what Biden could do about it, let's look:
1) Appeal to the few remaining fairminded Republican fence sitters on the basis of fairness and justice. Fine. Do that.
2) Vague threats. It's time. "If Republicans have no compunction about using the letter of the law, while raping the spirit of the law, then well... we will still take a higher road! But maybe a bit lower than we had hoped." This would imply that we might consider nominating (packing) more than nine justices or passing a retirement age law.
3) Get 5 GOP senators to say "Enough. We will not cooperate with a confirmation vote before the election, period." In fact, we know the moderates are all cowards. But I lay out in POLEMICAL JUDO ways that five such senators can call in sick, using rules to delay a quorum while concocting covid or other excuses.
There are more tactics... and you are welcome to discuss them and more, below. And that's more productive than wallowing in depression. Still, I am wallowing. Because none of our ideas will penetrate through the layers of conventional political thinking that make Democratic pols such poor generals, in this desperate phase of civil war.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Still, I am wallowing.


Well, yes. The supreme court is already dead to me. What was once an institution that garnered almost religious respect is now just another partisan tool.

It may be time for states like yours and mine to start practicing nullification.

BTW, I believe God saved us from Scalia as a test that we went and failed.


Because none of our ideas will penetrate through the layers of conventional political thinking that make Democratic pols such poor generals, in this desperate phase of civil war.


I'll say again, we should not expect politicians to be generals. Democrats are useful soldiers in our war against fascism, but we can't leave it up to them to make the grand plans. We have to give them their marching orders.

David Brin said...

There may be hope...https://www.cnn.com/.../h_73403b4eaf42724ec9db79154591d223

And those four don't include Romney.

On the other hand, Collins and Graham are almost certainly blackmail victims and neck-deep. They'll likely obey Moscow Mitch.

TCB said...

Because none of our ideas will penetrate through the layers of conventional political thinking that make Democratic pols such poor generals, in this desperate phase of civil war.

I think I can sum up the difference like this: Republicans do not punish their criminals, only their strategic failures. Democrats usually punish their criminals, but they don't seem to punish their strategic failures. So the Republicans became a party of criminals who think strategically. The Democrats became a party of mostly law-abiding citizens who never learned strategy. Every four years the Democrats try twice as hard to follow the plan that failed last time.

...also, it seems to me that the Republicans are happy to use their right wing as attack dogs. You can't be too extreme right to be a Republican in good standing, as long as as you attack who you're told to attack.

The Democrats fear their own left almost as much as they fear the enemy right, and they could let the left be attack dogs too, but they don't want the left strong enough nor independent enough to be effective.

The far right know who they are. They embrace it. A lot of their opponents seem genuinely confused about who they are. How can you win the objective when you're not 100% sure what the objective is?

David Brin said...

Attack dogs are brainless. Their excesses offend dems and middle roaders. Attack dogs of the right are excused anything.

TCB said...

I keep mentioning how, in Angels In America, a character (a Reagan official, to be exact) says:

“They got back the Senate but we have the courts. By the nineties the Supreme Court will be block-solid Republican appointees, and the federal bench—Republican judges like land mines, everywhere, everywhere they turn. Affirmative action? Take it to court. Boom! Land mine."

Tiny Kushner wrote that thirty years ago, and obviously wasn't the only human in the country who understood that this was a GOP strategy. The Democrats had thirty years to figure out a counter strategy, and as far as I can tell, the best they could manage was "We'll muddle through somehow. Let's not panic the voters."

I think panicking the voters would have been a pretty good idea.

Andy said...

"So yes, examine conspiracy theories! I concoct and promulgate some, in both fiction and nonfiction. And if you’ll have a look at mine, I’ll have a gander at yours. It’s how we managed to stay free. So far."

W... Wait a minute. You're promulgating conspiracy theories in nonfiction? Now I'm wondering which of your common assertions you often blog about is the secret conspiracy theory :D

Lloyd Flack said...

The Republicans will try through legal challenges to delay the decision of the election for President until it is too late and there has to be a vote in the House. In that vote each state gets one vote. They could reelect Trump that way.
The death of Ginsberg makes this easier. You are in grave danger right now.

reason said...

TCB the right tolerates their attack dogs because they attack them. The far left attack everybosy, that is the difference.

But what I think should be pointed out here is that a lot of politics in the US (like topically the supreme court) comes because of the polarised two party system. Even a democratic one party system (luke Singapore or Japan) would be better, because there would be internal politcal squabbles between factions. Having a single external enemy who is regarded as evil produces the disfunction.

Larry Hart said...



...
Mitch McConnell said Friday that Trump’s nominee — hopefully not Jeanine Pirro — will get a floor vote.

“We cannot have Election Day come and go with a 4-4 court,” Cruz told Sean Hannity. Imagine a Bush v. Gore scenario with a 4-4 court.
...


Ted Cruz apparently sees John Roberts as one of the "4" that might side with Biden if Republicans cheat. He wants to be sure the court is packed with 5 Clarence Thomases who have already announced they will "call strikes" no matter where the ball actually crosses the plate.

On the other hand, I was thinking about this last night, and RBG might have done us a favor by giving up this mortal coil this close to but before the election. If she had died after th election but before January, McConnell could have gotten Jerry Falwell Jr or Rush Limbaugh rushed through confirmation without electoral consequence. By showing the nature of their pick now, they may motivate waffling liberals or independents for whom Biden is "too centrist" or "no different from the other side" to really understand what it is they are voting for. For the other side, some anti-Trump conservatives might have been motivated to vote for Trump and Republican Senators on the single issue of the next supreme court pick. Now that that's over, and they'll already have their sufficiently-packed court, that issue is off the table. Anti-Trumpers can comfortably vote for Biden without worrying about a communist majority on the supreme court.

I see just a glint of reason to be optimistic in an otherwise very dismal time.

Atomsmith said...

IIRC, Mitch "Calvinball" McConnell already announced the exception he invented to weasel his way out of following his own precedent several months ago: the "no SCOTUS appointments during election years" rule doesn't apply when the president is a candidate.

matthew said...

BTW, in the midst of all the hand-wringing over why the Democrats did not make the courts a big issue internally before now, please remember that the Federalist Society, which does make judges a big deal, is funded through secret donations. Huge, secret donations, mostly. The funding for the Judical Action Network is even more murky.

There is no equal counter-weight simply because there is no billionaire that thinks that having liberal judges is priority.

Hm, I wonder why? Surely some of the "good" billionaires want liberalism, don't they?!?

#ThereAreNoGoodBillionaires
#TaxTheRich

David Brin said...

A FB poster Larry Kern said: "No, it will be another plug-and-play Corporatist from the Federalist Society's list - younger than those dinosaurs, maybe less white and less male than them (just to twist Senate Democrats in knots)."

matthew while I agree with much, your view of human nature as incapable of a long view or reflection or perspective is pretty well summarized by "#ThereAreNoGoodBillionaires"

Have you ever paused to contemplte what that implies? I doubt you've worked it out.

Humans have 'horizons." (look up my name and that word.) If you are capable of horizons that extend more than 3 generations into the future, then for the sake of those descendants you will do "good" out of pure genetic self-interest. Having billions does not prevent such horizons, though indeed few billionaires (few people in general) think that far ahead. In fact, there is likely a small correlation of satiable ability to do just that.

scidata said...

Re: horizons that extend more than 3 generations into the future
That's why "Foundation" should be taught in schools, not "Ender" dreck.

Boca Chica
- SN8 almost ready for 60,000ft flight
- fins & nosecone to be attached in high-bay
- 3 Raptors to be attached on launch stand
- launch, 3 minute freefall, bellyflop maneuver, powered landing
- either 1940s crater or 1950s sci-fi touchdown will be spectacular
- SN7 being pressure tested to failure (data more valuable than vehicle)
- they've put it on the cheap (ie disposable) launch stand
- it's stubbornly refusing to fail; holding things up a bit
- hopefully it will undergo a rapid disassembly on Monday
- I always enjoy the trog celebration when this happens
- ad astra per iteratio

Larry Hart said...

Lindsey Graham, who once insisted we "Use my words against me" if he went back on his promise that the Judiciary Committee would not consider a supreme court nominee in the last year of Trump's term has gone back on his promise with no sense of irony or shame.

I expect Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to follow suit if they haven't already. The only Republican Senator who might cast a nay vote is Romney, and that only because it won't change the outcome.

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

It seems to me that at least two things have to be abolished to start fixing American democracy. States have to be forced to award their electoral votes proportionally rather than "winner take all", and the Senate has to overturn the rule that the majority leader has sole control over what comes to the floor for a vote.

Ahcuah said...

Ah, I see Lindsey Graham's blackmailers got to him. C'mon Lindsey, set yourself free.

Larry Hart said...

Mitch McConnell deliberately misrepresents the way our government works when he says "The American people decide who they want to control the Senate". I don't get to vote for "who controls the Senate". I vote for my two Senators. People in other states vote for their two Senators. Though it's not Constitutionally mandated, control of the Senate devolves on whichever party wins more states, not whichever party wins more votes.

Polls show that overwhelmingly more voters prefer Democratic control, but that's as meaningless as the popular vote for president.

I can't do anything about the fact that Moscow Mitch holds the power, but he doesn't have to insult me by pissing on me and telling me it's raining.

Larry Hart said...

A bit back, someone admonished me to envision my death. I kind of envision it like this:


Leto stared across the table, wondering why he waited. The tooth would end it all quickly. Still--it had been good much of this life. He found himself remembering an antenna kite updangling in the clear-blue sky of Caladan, and Paul laughing with joy at the sight of it. And he remembered sunrise here on Arrakis--colored strata of the Shield Wall mellowed by dust haze.
...
Leto sensed memories rolling in his mind--the old toothless muttering of hags. The room, the table, the Baron, a pair of terrified eyes--blue within blue, the eyes--all compressed around him in ruined symmetry.

There was a man with a boot-toe chin, a toy man falling. The toy man had a broken nose slanted to the left: an offbeat metronome at the start of an upward stroke. Leto heard the crash of crockery--so distant--a roaring in his ears. His mind was a bin without end, catching everything. Everything that had ever been: every shout, every whisper, every...silence.

Jon S. said...

Lindsey's not being "blackmailed" - he's just solely interested in holding onto power. And at this point, I'm guessing he sees his only hope as being able to declare elections illegal, under Dear Leader President-for-Life Trump.

scidata said...

If only there was some way the House could interrupt the sleazy mechanations of the Senate for a month. Hmmm. That would be a peach.

duncan cairncross said...

Senators representing 10% of Americans can currently "filibuster" the Senate

You guys really need to ELIMINATE the Senate - its worse than King George ever was

Der Oger said...

@ duncan cairnross:
"You guys really need to ELIMINATE the Senate - its worse than King George ever was"

It is debatable if King George ever had been a tyrant as bad as many have depicted him over the years. Some of his decisions seemed rather progressive, sane and clement, compared to his contemporary rulers.


Jerry L said...

There is a growing trend in the US that threatens to nullify Polemic Judo, or really any rational strategy. Among evangelical christians it's called Prosperity doctrine and the New Age version is called the Law of Attraction. Both are variants of the stuff Norman Vincent Peale taught (and check out his connection to Trump).
While the top-level tenets sound harmless, they encourage disasterous social behavior; e.g. Being concerned about bad things is negative thinking and causes those negative things to happen.
What strikes me as odd is that people who who act out these beliefs do not name them. Case in point, Trump clearly wanted to apply Positive Thinking at a national level for handling Covid, but when called out he didn't quote Peale, but rather claimed he wanted to avoid panic. Also the facemask Karens never say that they don't wear facemasks because they cause them to think negative thoughts about catching the virus, they make up some other excuse.
I believe this thinking is more deeply imbedded in the US psyche than people realize, and must be taken into account by anyone planning a path for the future of US politics.

matthew said...

David, even if a billionaire is satiable, and willing to support a project of putting liberal justices in the Federal Courts (the reason for my OP, which you ignored in your pro-billionaire tangent above), that does not mean that the billionaire's children's children will be satiable. You have spoken about the problems of inherited wealth. Listen to your own voice.

Right now, billionaires that see inherited wealth as corrosive to their children are taking the route of setting up foundations or charities to use their money. It is common practice for the children of billionaires to serve on the board of these foundations or charities, thus keeping the power bought by the money given to the charity in the family. Inherited power instead of inherited wealth, as it were.

Meanwhile, the money that I would have taxed away into high-velocity spending that could change the realities of what government can accomplish to build a healthier planet and more robust, equal-fair society is instead moved into the same sort of rentier behavior that Smith railed against, just now on the behalf of the foundation.

None of our billionaires got their money by being good for society, not even your "good ones." They got their money by building non-competitive markets and cornering a niche. Name an exception, I'll wait.

And none of them want liberal courts. Evidence of that is the glaring exclusion of funding for the project of pushing the courts to the left.

David Brin said...

matthew, you DARE lecture me about polemical diversion tactics? I say some billionaires are satiable beings who care enough about their 4th generation descendants to work for the world they'll share with billions... and you whirl about and yell "but their SONS may not feel that way!"

Seriously, I wonder about you (and worry) fellah. You have a brain, yet are so driven by dogmatic teleological fury that you just can't use it. Resulting DIRECTLY in rendering yourself tacticalled castrated, politically. Loud and utterly ineffective.

Dig it: Andrew Carnegie gave away almost all his (somewhat ill-gotten) fortune, leaving his heirs merely safe and comfortable, saying "I'd rather leave my son a curse than the almighty dollar." Do you see Rockefellers being raved against on the left? There's a reason. Gates and Buffett and many others have made similar pledges.

I am NOT saying they are a majority! You know damned well that I deem resurgent mafia-oligarchy to be humanity's greatest threat, right now. Have YOU done as much to raise awareness of that as I did, in EARTH and in EXISTENCE? 1% as much? or 0.000001% as much?

May point is that you are TACTICALLY UNHELPFUL in your dogmatic purity. You would spit in the eye of sincere defectors from oligarchy when we need their help, desperately.

Worse, your view of human nature is utterly depressing. You are saying that if I gave YOU $1B today, by Wednesday you'd be plotting against the working class. Maybe you would, my friend. Not me.

====

Der Oger, the colonist patriots made it clear... redistrict Parliam,ent to get rid of rotten borroughs and make it representative and allocate seats to he large American population, and the taxes would cease to be a problem. Then end the TRADE monopolies that benefited King and cronies, and they'd be mostly mollified. George and his cronies rebuffed Franklin and every other delegation.

And that refusal to even negotiate was the core justification in the Declaration, for breaking sworn oaths. And the Secessionist states never sent even ONE delegation to meet Lincoln. Hence their efforts to cite the Declaration were utter hypocrisy.

Daniel Duffy said...

The threat to democratic freed and scientific fact appears to be solving itself as the source of these attacks (oil oligarchs and their oil revenues) begins to die:

https://earther.gizmodo.com/bp-says-weve-already-reached-peak-oil-1845064372?fbclid=IwAR01wdXZcFgkpQWq6nMGsz7ox5ytxkNYVi4jvdrYqPIiEyrqHG_EsrBfIo0

The report forecasts that while oil demand falls, there will be increased demand for non-fossil-based power. In 2018, fossil fuels currently made up 85% of the world’s energy demand, but by 2050, that could decline to between 20% and 70%, depending on policymakers’ choices. Renewables will make up the difference. As a result, in every scenario BP analysts mapped out, the proportion of renewable energy use will increase more quickly than any fossil-based fuel ever has.

What happens to oil oligarchs as the demand for oil dies? Can you say "stranded assets" and "carbon bubble"?

https://thenearlynow.com/trump-putin-and-the-pipelines-to-nowhere-742d745ce8fd

David Brin said...

DD one of those articles was 2016.

BP inherited ARCO which was long known as the less-evil US oil company.

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

England was in the midst of a revolution that lasted decades. In it they liberalized without managing to fall into another civil war. It was quite an accomplishment for which they should pat themselves on the back. If not for how the UK got built at the same time, I'd give it a rosier position in our history.

What American colonists wanted was more of that applied here. Unfortunately…
1. We weren't represented in Parliament.
2. Colonies were set up for financial backers much like corporations. They were meant to be exploited for income. That's the point of most colonies… not the 'Freeing ourselves from persecution' rationalizations like in Mass. They are owned.

Since the financial backers were generally all aristocrats and the grants were given by The Crown, well…
Getting anything changed required a Magna Carta level event.

It's possible we could have forced a more peaceful solution, but they throttled the number of people allowed over here. Not surprising since large numbers over here would have provided for the exact method that would cause that change. Look at one of the complaints on the Declaration and you'll see this spelled out with precision.

So… revolution. Parliament could have prevented it, but it was also run mostly by aristocrats. Not likely in any alternative universe.

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

None of our billionaires got their money by being good for society, not even your "good ones." They got their money by building non-competitive markets and cornering a niche.

Aren't we in danger of swallowing a tautology if you define what's "good for society"?

For example, what happens to the parsing of the list if I get to define it?

David Brin said...

"None of our billionaires got their money by being good for society, not even your "good ones.""

1. Karl Marx lauded such industrial capitalists as absolutely necessary to build the capital or means of production, which fair associations of worker owners could not be relied upon to do, and which LATER generations of advanced workers would seize via revolution. So... is that "good for society"? Marx prefers Andrew Carnegie over you, sir.

2. I am not a Marxist... though I understand the range of areas where he was 0% all the way to maybe 60% right. I do NOT deem Carnegie's strikebreaking tactics as a younger mogul to be "acceptable" even in Marxian terms. Another SOB... Henry Ford... did the opposite and got spectacular results by paying his workers well.

3. Steve Wozniak and (with a few blemishes) Steve Jobs became billionaires by pioneering tools YOU would hate to live without and buy with open eyes. TylerPerry just reached a billion after decades of Madea movies and creating a black centered studio. I could go on.

Sir, you have a brain and the general direction of your complaints is apropos. But you geld yourself (look up the term) tactically by taking stances that are unsupportable by facts and that undercut your credibility, all for the sake of a masturbatory righteousness purity high. Snap out of it and try a little nuance. It will help you be effective in the world.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I may perhaps have found the source of one current conspiracy theory making the rounds: that Antifa, for not particularly self-evident reasons, set all the fires in Oregon over the past few weeks. People heard over scanners that some of the fires originated and/or were burning in "BLM areas", and in the minds if the conspiracy theories, BLM is an integral part of Antifa. The problem is that Black Lives Matter doesn't have any significant tracts of land in Oregon, but the Bureau of Land Management does.
Yes, most of the fires in Oregon were caused by human activity; carelessness, mishap or negligence were the main causes, and a few were deliberate, but it's a safe bet that none stemmed from political malice.
Also, if I was determined to burn out fascists, I would not set a fire directly upwind from Ashland, a most charming and liberal community.

Larry Hart said...

Things that keep me up at night...

Mitch McConnell advocates a particularly cynical and immediate-term self-serving view of the way democracy works--that the American people have voted that they want Republicans "in control" of the Senate rather than Democrats being so. This is as bad if not worse than Mitt Romney's declaration that his job is simply go get 50% + 1 votes rather than to persuade voters in general that his positions are desriable.

Democracy functions best when individual voters or individual congresspeople vote their conscience's (or their constituency's wishes) on individual issues. That is, a majority wins on each bill, but it is not always the same bloc of individuals who constitute each majority. My Senator may vote no on abortion, but yes on impeachment, for example.

OTOH, when the same bloc of people who always get to win on every piece of legislation, every executive order, every judicial decision on the grounds that they constitute "the majority", that's not democracy. There's a different word for that--fascism. I exaggerate not. The original meaning of "fascism" involves the symbolism of a bound collection of sticks, because an individual stick can be broken, but the bound collection stands up to everything.

So it's no wonder the modern Republican Party can't abide anti-fascism. They are openly and unashamedly the party of fascism.

Larry Hart said...

Another way in which democracy ceases to function:

In a functioning democracy, the various factions have to compromise with each other in order to govern. But when one side's explicit agenda is not governing, the system fails. And rules designed to give a minority protection against being run over roughshod allow outsize influence to the obstructionists. 41 Senators can filibuster anything, and one Senator can stop any bill with an anonymous hold.

Think on that last bit when you ask why the Democrats didn't ram through a better version of the ACA during the five minutes when they had 60 votes, rather than wondering at the miracle that they passed anything at all.

Larry Hart said...

Especially if the Republicans wait until the lame duck session when they have already lost to ram through a supreme court nominee, I like the idea I saw floated last night by which the House could force the Senate to take up other business by impeaching Trump again.

Especially if the election is over, I think they should do exactly that. One article of impeachment at a time. Force the Senate to vote on it, and then send another one. Run out the clock.

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin, it should not matter if the article is from four years ago. It accurately describes what happens to oil and fossil fuel oligarchs (and their investors) when oil demand peaks and they are left with $100s of billions of now worthless stranded assets.

And with their loss of wealth comes loss of power. Russia, for example, will become a true economic wasteland devoid of anything worth selling on the world economy. Same for the Koch Bros empire.

Breaking the power of the source of the treat to democracy and science is reason enough to support renewables.

Larry Hart said...


https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Sep21.html#item-1

Whatever happens, the Supreme Court will lose: After a huge partisan battle, faith in the blind justice and the Supreme Court will nosedive. If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rams through a confirmation, and it starts deciding controversial public policy issues—which are really up to Congress—by 6-3 votes, people will start seeing the Supreme Court as an unelected mini-legislature responsible to no one. Its prestige and authority will wane. Sooner or later, some president will say: "Justice Roberts has made his decision. Now let him enforce it." And probably sooner.


I'd say this has already happened.

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Also, if I was determined to burn out fascists, I would not set a fire directly upwind from Ashland, a most charming and liberal community.


Just as a point of order, I don't think even the rabid right-wingers are suggesting that Antifa set fires designed specifically to kill fascists. The assertion would be more like Antifa set fires because they are terrorists who hate America, and that's what terrorists who hate America do.

Tangentially, I'm trying to settle on the best way to make clear to listeners that being anti-Antifa makes Republicans pro fascism. I've thought of referring to them as "profa", but I think that's too subtle and confusing for the intended audience. Better ideas?

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Drive-by post from the House of the Kittenfish:

The FinCen Files -- a major, MAJOR leak out of Treasury. Whoever did this will lose their job and possibly their freedom, but it just might be worth that to have such a thorough accounting.

As Our Esteemed Host predicted: Open the books. All of them. NOW!

gregory byshenk said...

Larry Hart wrote...
Democracy functions best when individual voters or individual congresspeople vote their conscience's (or their constituency's wishes) on individual issues. That is, a majority wins on each bill, but it is not always the same bloc of individuals who constitute each majority. My Senator may vote no on abortion, but yes on impeachment, for example.

This is a nostalgic idea that was already showing its cracks before President Washington finished his second term.

Yes, it is a fine idea that a legislature should be a deliberative body, where the voters choose the "best" people and those people deliberate and vote, but it doesn't actually work very well - and doesn't work at all in a state of 325 million people. Yes, people like to say the "vote for the person" based on the person's "character" - but the number of voters who actually know the 'person' or their 'character' is tiny. For the vast majority of voters, they can vote only for the image of the person or the second- (or third-, or fourth-...) hand report of such character.

And this leads to the show of "maverick" legislators who make a great show of independence - yet vote with their party the ovewhelming majority of the time, particularly when it matters.

Acacia H. said...

@Larry Hart, it has. In the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson refused to accept the Supreme Court rulings on the Cherokee Nation and is claimed to have said the Supreme Court could try and enforce its own ruling. The Cherokee were stripped of their lands and rights and forced on the Trail of Tears.

This is one of quite a few examples of the United States government ignoring treaties with foreign nations when it feels violating treaties is in the interests of those in power.

Acacia H.

Larry Hart said...

@Acacia H,

Yes, I should have been more clear that I meant that the supreme court is already losing its veneer of respectability now.

I was well aware of the allusion to Jackson in the comment about "...has made his ruling, now let him enforce it."

Larry Hart said...

The president is supposed to make nominations to the supreme court "with the advice and consent of the Senate." In practice, until McConnell, that meant that when the Senate and the president were of opposite parties, the president had to pick one that the majority party (or with the filibuster, even the minority party) could live with.

It never meant that the Senate, by refusing to do their job at all, could hold the position open until their own guy was in the White House. Even when nominees (cough Bork cough) were rejected by the party opposite, it was more "He's too far out there--pick someone else" than "Don't bother. We're waiting you out." I mean, at this point, the Constitution might as well state explicitly that supreme court nominees need only apply when the president and the Senate majority leader are of the same party.

If I were advising President Obama during the Merrick Garland nomination, I'd have told him to assert, "Since the Senate doesn't feel the need to hold hearings, I presume they have no problem with the nominee. I'll take silence as consent," and named Garland to the court unilaterally. When McConnell then would try to bring the disagreement over what "advise and consent" means to the supreme court, the court could then weigh in, with Merrick Garland one of the seated justices voting. In times of more comity, I would have said that Garland would obviously have to recuse himself from the decision, but playing the game by Republican rules, I would not give that inch.

Robert said...

This is one of quite a few examples of the United States government ignoring treaties with foreign nations when it feels violating treaties is in the interests of those in power.

Acacia, this is one of the founding grievances of the US — that the nasty British didn't let the colonists ignore treaties with indigenous nations and take their lands.

A.F. Rey said...

Especially if the Republicans wait until the lame duck session when they have already lost to ram through a supreme court nominee, I like the idea I saw floated last night by which the House could force the Senate to take up other business by impeaching Trump again.

Especially if the election is over, I think they should do exactly that. One article of impeachment at a time. Force the Senate to vote on it, and then send another one. Run out the clock.


Pelosi would have to keep up a steady stream for that to work. Because you know the confirmation hearing will be like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAOpzB3QYLg

Larry Hart said...

This is what we're dealing with...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Sep21.html#item-11

The Constitution calls for a census every 10 years. There is no dispute about that. But on Friday, the Trump administration's lawyers said that while there has to be a census, the Constitution doesn't require the resulting count to be accurate. Alexander Sverdlov, the Justice Department lawyer arguing the case in court on Friday, maintained that stopping the count in September would miss some hard-to-count people, but that was fine since all the Constitution demands is a census, not a correct census.


That's an argument?!

Not sure how they square that with the "actual enumeration" called for in the Constitution, but as my brother noted twenty years ago, "They're not even pretending to try".


Originally the counting was to conclude at the end of October, but Donald Trump wants to stop it in September. This would have the de facto result of missing many minority residents who tend to avoid the government, as well as undocumented immigrants, who definitely try to avoid the government but who count for census purposes. The uncounted are mostly in blue states.

The lawyer for the groups suing to have a complete count, Melissa Sherry, said that if you accept that an inaccurate count is fine, you could also argue that having one enumerator walk across the country for a week counting everyone he saw would also qualify as a census.

The case is playing out before Lucy Koh, a district judge in Northern California. She has already issued an order preventing the government from terminating the census while the case is playing out in court, and has expressed irritation with the President's legal team.


Well, I would hope so.

Tim H. said...

@Larryhart, the term I use relating to GOP/fascists is "Soft on NAZIs", feel free to use it if it seems suitable.

TCB said...

@ Larry Hart, just tell them how excited you are about seeing the greatest antifascist movie ever made. In it, a bar owner murders a top police officer in order to help an antifa fugitive make his escape.

It even has a great these song.

Larry Hart said...

gregory byshenk:

"Democracy functions best when individual voters or individual congresspeople vote their conscience's (or their constituency's wishes) on individual issues. That is, a majority wins on each bill, but it is not always the same bloc of individuals who constitute each majority. My Senator may vote no on abortion, but yes on impeachment, for example."

This is a nostalgic idea that was already showing its cracks before President Washington finished his second term.
...


Ok, but I'm not just talking about whether or not voters vote for the party rather than the individual. Well into my lifetme, both parties covered a wider spectrum of opinions than they do now, and bills were not repeatedly passed or not on a partly-line vote. I keep hearing that more Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act, and even if that is exaggeration, it is the case that Republican votes helped it to pass.

As specifically to supreme court nominations, even when a nominee like Robert Bork was turned down, it was for specific reasons (in his case, his involvement in the Saturday Night Massacre). Bush II's appointment of Harriet Meiers was (correctly) scuttled by his own party. But, until McConnell, no Senate has ever taken the position that its role can be used to keep open a seat until a more favorable president is inaugurated. Jesse Jackson suggested such a thing once in the 80s when he acknowledged that he would object to any Bush nominee on the grounds that Bush nominated him. While I agreed in sentiment, I also understood that such a position was untenable. Back in the 80s, it seemed as if a Republican president and a Democratic Congress was simply the way God intended the world to be, so there was no point "holding out" for a different outcome. And again, to my previous point, the party majority on the Supreme Court didn't determine every outcome 5-4.

And remember, McConnell was already threatening to block any nominee of President Hillary's for four years. Under what I call the McConnell Corollary, no nominee can get past the Senate at any time that the presidency and the Senate are controlled by different parties. We wouldn't have Clarence Thomas any more than we have Merrick Garland under such a rule. It is nonsense to defend such a gridlock as McConnell's words imply that by electing Barack Obama and a Republican Senate at the same time, The American People were expressing their will that any seat on the court remain empty.

I guess the bottom line is that I am not mourning some lost Shangri-La in which legislatures acted independently of party interests. I'm mournful over the fact that "not doing their job" has become a winning strategy for Republicans, which reaps them huge benefits without negative consequence. That cannot be as God or the Founders intended.

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman tells it like it is:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/21/opinion/trump-supreme-court-health-care.html

...
And yes, adding seats to the court will have to be on the table. Spare me talk about norms. Between Trump’s lawlessness and Mitch McConnell’s naked power plays, Republicans have forfeited any right to complain if Democrats legally act to protect the well-being of millions of Americans.

CP said...

What the democrats should do is pass an overwhelmingly popular series of bills: a "2nd new deal." Then, wait for the court to overrule them and use that to build popular support for structural reform.

As for abortion, let the court return the issue to the states. That should cost the Republicans many a local and state election... Then, pass a bill (expanding on the Colorado experiment) making contraception readily available to everyone on a confidential and cost-free basis--the stated rational being to "render most abortions unnecessary". The right will either accept it (unlikely) or make it very clear that their true motives are to impose their sexual morality on everyone...

As for what should be done structurally...

Replace lifetime terms with a fixed term of 18 years phased in (starting with the longest serving justice) so that retirements happen in odd-numbered years. Maintain independence by providing a guarantee of lifetime economic security for ex-justices. For example, automatically pay the difference between their gross income and their final, inflation adjusted salary. Alternatively, allow justices to remain on the court and participate in deliberations for life but mandate that they assume an emeritus, non-voting status after 18 years with the number of voting judges held at nine. An "unscheduled" replacement due to death/resignation would serve only for the unexpired term.

Eliminate the position of chief justice as a distinct office. Rather, allow each justice to assume the additional duties of chief justice for the final two years of his/her term. In the case of an "unscheduled" replacement due to death/resignation the replacement justice would serve as chief justice during the scheduled rotation of the justice he/she replaces.

Allow congress to nullify a 5 to 4 ruling by a 2/3 vote of both houses taken within 90 days. Allow congress to nullify a 6 to 3 ruling by a 3/4 vote of both houses taken within 90 days. Rulings by 7 to 2 or higher could not be nullified. By nullify, I mean it would be as if the case had never been taken by the court. Lower court rulings would remain in force in their jurisdictions and the supreme court would retain jurisdiction and could revisit the issue in the future. This would address the charge that the court is undemocratic by creating a "buy in" by congress for controversial rulings.

CP said...

part 2:


For example, if a comprehensive reform bill along these lines was passed in early 2021, the "phase in" would provide a mechanism to de-escalate without court packing since both sides would get part of what they want: conservatives would get a short-term majority but it would flip in a few years rather than decades. Schedule:

2020: Ginsberg replaced by a conservative providing a 6-3 conservative majority.

2021: Clarence Thomas switched to emeritus status and replaced by a liberal restoring a 5-4 conservative majority. John Roberts remains "grandfathered" as chief justice.

2023: Stephen Breyer switched to emeritus status and replaced by a liberal retaining the 5-4 conservative majority. John Roberts remains "grandfathered" as chief justice.

2025: John Roberts switched to emeritus status and replaced by a liberal (assuming democrats retain presidency/senate) yielding a 5-4 liberal majority. Samuel Alito becomes chief justice.

2027: Samuel Alito switched to emeritus status and replaced by a liberal yielding a 6-3 liberal majority. Sonia Sotomayor becomes chief justice.

2029: Sonia Sotomayor switched to emeritus status and replaced. Elena Kagan becomes chief justice.

2031: Elena Kagan switched to emeritus status and replaced. Neil Gorsuch becomes chief justice.

2033: Neil Gorsuch switched to emeritus status and replaced. Brett Kavanaugh becomes chief justice.

2035: Brett Kavanaugh switched to emeritus status and replaced.

If something like this isn't done, it goes back to: Add two justices to restore a one seat conservative majority... Add four justices to restore a one seat liberal majority... Replace the current court with a rotating panel of appeals court justices...

David Brin said...

Interesting proposals.

Robert said...

the "phase in" would provide a mechanism to de-escalate without court packing since both sides would get part of what they want: conservatives would get a short-term majority but it would flip in a few years rather than decades.

From the outside, I think you're misreading what your neocons want — which is a self-perpetuating majority.

I also think that if this was passed it would be changed the next time the Republicans had power, because they have already declared (by actions if not words) that power is what counts, not laws or precedents.

ObSF reference: Joe Steele by Harry Turtledove.

Larry Hart said...

CP:

Replace lifetime terms with a fixed term of 18 years phased in (starting with the longest serving justice) so that retirements happen in odd-numbered years. Maintain independence by providing a guarantee of lifetime economic security for ex-justices.


I was going to say that that would require a Constitutional amendment which the Republicans would never pass. But now, I'm not so sure. I had thought that the USSC lifetime appointment was in the Constitution, but the closest I can find is this in Article III:


The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.


I'm not sure if your idea of continuing their pay in retirement is sufficient to overcome that requirement, but it might be.

It might also reverse the conservative movement toward putting youngsters on the bench. They might switch to older judges who are not likely to cost as much in retirement years as Brett Kavanaugh will. :)

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: Yeah, they tend to avoid admitting that "Antifa" is actually short for "Anti-Fascist". I see the head of the FBI came right out and said, "Antifa isn't an organization. It's an ideology." It's kind of unusual to get a fair appraisal of an anti-authoritarian group out of the FBI, but then, these are unusual times.

I thing the GOP have dropped all pretense of being anything other than fascists, looking for an authoritarian regime with military and religious fetishist trimmings, a veritable police state.

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle is back with a vengeance.

And he agrees with me here. Even though certain people who used to post here would point out the hypocrisy of being intolerant of intolerance.

https://www.stonekettle.com/2020/09/put-away-childish-things.html

...
What I really want is a better nation, a better world, dedicated to a better future for all and not just a privileged few.

THOSE are my interests.

So, yes indeed, if you stand against those interests, if you're one of those selfish sons of bitches who get "screwed" under a new administration that seeks to make those interests a reality? Why, yes, then I'll gleefully mock your impotent fury every single day without pause.
...

Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/21/opinion/mitt-romney-supreme-court-nominee.html

Lest you think I don’t get the argument, let me rehearse it. There used to be a bipartisan tradition of confirming well-qualified nominees for the court. Democrats trashed it with their trashing of Robert Bork. There used to be a bipartisan tradition of approving well-qualified nominees for lower courts. Democrats trashed it by filibustering George W. Bush’s appellate court nominees. There used to be a bipartisan tradition of respecting the filibuster. Democrats trashed it by blowing up the filibuster in 2013. There used to be a tradition of the Judiciary Committee treating nominees with a sense of fairness. Democrats trashed it when they used uncorroborated allegations to try to block and besmirch Brett Kavanaugh.


Wow! This guy is wrong on almost all counts.

Democrats refused confirmation of Bork because he was a particularly egregious choice. He participated in Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, and as I have just been reminded, he argued that he didn't believe contraception should be legal or that the Civil Rights Act should be upheld. They rejected him, not "any Republican nominee until a Democrat is in office."

Democrats filibustered (I believe) a whole four out of tens or hundreds of W's lower court nominees. Republicans in turn filibustered all of President Obama's nominees so that the positions would remain unfilled.

It is disingenuous to the point of absurd to suggest that Democrats "trashed" respect for the filibuster after McConnell turned the procedure from a kind of last resort in particularly troublesome cases into "A bill needs 60 votes to pass the Senate."

He might be on a bit of solid ground with Kavanaugh, although I will point out even there that Nancy Pelosi had sat on the letter from Christine DeBlasey Ford without making it public until someone else outed the whole thing and forced it into the public eye. They didn't make the accusations up or bring them up on their own. As the DA in "Hill St Blues" once said of a case everyone wanted him to drop--"It's a citizen complaint, Your Honor. I can't drop it."

And if the Democrats' sin in Kavanaugh's case was overzealous pursuit of the salacious, well, I'm old enough to remember the Clinton impeachment hearings, and how overzealous pursuit of the salacious was affirmatively encouraged...by Brett Kavanaugh as it turns out.

David Brin said...

If you parse his needs, you can grasp and even predict Mitt Romney’s self-serving interests. He had to become a rebel against Trumpism because (1) Trumpism had no place for him and (2) his base was already hostile to Trumpism. And YOU need to understand why! Utah is the one red state that can legitimately finger-wag Blue America over matters of clean or wholesome behavior. Almost all other red states score much higher on almost every metric of moral turpitude, from domestic violence and STDs to gambling, teen sex and abortion… and are thus utter hypocrites to lecture. But Utah has earned some wholesomeness respect... and Utahns are also deeply repulsed by Trump. Which means DEMOCRATS SHOULD REACH OUT TO THEM! (I waste my breath; no idea calling for political agility will ever be tried, by any Democratic politician, ever.)

So, we’ve seen that Romney had to rebel… till now. Only now, it looks as if Trumpism might (perhaps) self-destruct shortly. If so, there will be frantic efforts to resurrect the Republican Party, so he must calibrate! Romney must have recent cred as a team player. (MAGAs have very short memories and the most recent shiny thing is what they will remember.) Hence, Romney will suddenly be a good gopper, if he helps betray the nation by sucking up to McConnell on the Supreme Court appointment. Got it?

Larry Hart said...

He gives all the reasons why his proposal is a good idea, but forgets the elephant in the room. Republicans don't want a depoliticized court. They want one permanently politicized in their favor. And after working so hard to get it, they have no interest in fixing what everyone else sees as a problem.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/22/opinion/ginsburg-supreme-court-confirmation.html

...
I propose a constitutional amendment that would permanently reform a broken selection process for Supreme Court justices: a single 18-year term for each of the court’s members.
...
This approach would end what has become a poisonous process of picking a Supreme Court justice. It will depoliticize the court and judicial selection, and thus promote the rule of law.

Larry Hart said...

The word chutzpah doesn't do Lindsey Graham justice.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/21/us/politics/lindsey-graham-supreme-court-reversal.html

Mr. Graham has sought to justify his reversal as a direct response to Democrats’ attempts to weaponize the judicial confirmation process, first by doing away with the filibuster that allowed a minority to block lower-court judicial nominees, and then by stridently opposing Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination in 2018 during a heated confirmation battle.


True, Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster for lower court nominees, but purposely left it in place for the supreme court at a time when that filibuster would have been used by a Republican minority against a Democratic president. The filibuster for supreme court nominees itself was eliminated by the Republicans.

The Kavanaugh battle came after the Republicans had already "stridently opposed" Merrick Garland, and not because any Senators objected to Garland himself, but because they wanted to hold the seat open for themselves.

So this meme they're pushing now that Democrats did all the bad stuff and Republicans finally couldn't take it any more is absurd. Everything they accuse Democrats of is actually a failing of their own.

But it has really ever been thus.

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

Larry Hart said...

I'm somewhat gratified to see that, even though I'm not on Twitter, there is an actual hashtag over there of #ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

Larry Hart said...

Presented without comment, and to all, a good night.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/22/opinion/trump-supreme-court-appointment.html

...
As Ashley Parker of The Washington Post reported this week, Trump gloated to Bob Woodward about how many judges he and McConnell had put on the federal bench and how much of that bench bore Trump’s imprint. “The only one that has a better percentage is George Washington, because he appointed 100 percent,” Trump told Woodward. “But my percentage is, you know, like, ridiculous.”

“Maybe they’ll put a statue of you outside the Supreme Court,” Woodward responded, joking.

“Oh, what a good idea,” Trump said. “I think I’ll have it erected tomorrow.”

TCB said...

Biden won't take your guns. Trump will. Here's how.

I think I just figured this out. As you may have heard, Republicans are starting to roll out a strategy to charge liberal protesters with felony charges, usually something ginned up. First it's riot or assaulting a police officer, later it might be sedition for something you wrote on the internet. Whatever Bill Barr and his cronies can think of.

Now, it doesn't even matter if the charges are b.s. People get convicted on b.s. charges every day. Once they have a felony conviction on your record, that's it. You can no longer legally own a firearm. That's a felony too.

In Hong Kong, it's now a crime even to possess a pro-democracy banner. Give them a few years, and the GOP will be just as overbearing as the Chinese Communist Party.

Over time, with b.s. felony charges, with prosecutions aimed selectively at liberals and leftists, the Republicans can reduce guns to something only their supporters can own. And expect them to gloat about it, too. "I thought liberals didn't want guns, har har har!"

EDIT: And the can start messing around with the FBI background check database and start denying new applications if you've been a registered, voting Democrat or otherwise on their naughty list. Technically, that's trivial. And what can you do if they deny you? Nothing.

gregory byshenk said...

Larry Hart said...
"Democracy functions best when individual voters or individual congresspeople vote their conscience's (or their constituency's wishes) on individual issues. That is, a majority wins on each bill, but it is not always the same bloc of individuals who constitute each majority. My Senator may vote no on abortion, but yes on impeachment, for example."

gregory byshenk:

This is a nostalgic idea that was already showing its cracks before President Washington finished his second term.
...

Larry Hart

Ok, but I'm not just talking about whether or not voters vote for the party rather than the individual. [...]

I guess the bottom line is that I am not mourning some lost Shangri-La in which legislatures acted independently of party interests. I'm mournful over the fact that "not doing their job" has become a winning strategy for Republicans, which reaps them huge benefits without negative consequence. That cannot be as God or the Founders intended.


But the concluding paragraph here seems (at least to me) to be saying something very different than the original.

One of the problems with the structure of US politics is that "divided government" means that no one is responsible for governing. Which means that - yes - it can be a winning strategy for one party to refuse to do their jobs - while blaming the others for failing to accomplish anything.

But this doesn't really have much to do with "voting one's conscience" (whatever that might mean). After all, the current Republican party is voting its conscience.

Larry Hart said...

The Chicago Tribune this morning has multiple opinion columns urging the Democrats to go as low as they have to when the Republicans go low.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/eric-zorn/ct-column-trump-supreme-court-ginsburg-calvinball-zorn-20200922-7545yz7i7radvotefgjpc3aio4-story.html

...
Here’s one example of how that game [Calvinball, from "Calvin and Hobbes"] went:

“You just ran into a vortex spot!” yells Calvin, the boy, at Hobbes, the tiger, in the heat of the contest. “You have to spin around until you fall down.”

Hobbes turns. “Sorry,” he says. “This vortex spot is in the boomerang zone. So the vortex returns to whoever calls it! You spin.”

Calvin protests that the result isn’t fair, but concedes that Calvinball rules are “anything we make up.” As he begins spinning around he mutters, “this game lends itself to certain abuses."

Calvinball politics lends itself to “certain abuses” as well, along with lots of dizzying pirouettes.
...


https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/dahleen-glanton/ct-democrats-go-high-republicans-go-low-glanton-20200923-mmsxo2vlmne2jmnqmcy33vsksq-story.html

...
It’s time for Democrats to start thinking like Republicans. That means almost everything should be on the table, including impeaching Donald Trump a second time or going after Attorney General William Barr.
...
Republicans have challenged Democrats to a street fight. Democrats can’t act like they’re going to an afternoon tea party. Protecting Ginsburg’s legacy is worthy of every bit of energy they have in them.

That means dropping the ridiculous mantra, “When they go low, we go high.” The only way to force Republicans to play by the rules is to get rid of that Pollyanna attitude and declare, “When they go low, we go lower.”
...


And of course, the inevitable Republican who accuses Democrats of being the ones trashing norms for mere partisan gain, and interpreting every aspect of this fight in Bizarro-world terms:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/john-kass/ct-rbg-politics-rule-of-law-kass-20200923-4ynxe324vna4nfwkbdotrzdnyy-story.html

...
For decades, Republicans have been campaigning to install constitutional originalists on the High Court. And Democrats wanted to install liberal justices, to bend the original intent of the framers, to carry legislation they couldn’t get through Congress otherwise.
...

Larry Hart said...

The idea that the Democrats nominate lefty activists who say the law is whatever they want it to be shouldn't have survived the nomination of Merrick Garland, a judge so admired on both sides of the aisle that McConnell had to refuse a vote because no Republican could have credibly voted "nay" on the merits.

The idea that Republicans nominate "Constitutionalist" judges shouldn't have survived "Citizens United". Liberal judicial activism might have been a think in the 70s with Roe v Wade, just as electoral fraud in Chicago was a thing in the 50s and 60s. But just as electoral fraud is now a standard practice of Republicans everywhere, judicial activism and making shit up out of whole cloth is now a Republican practice. It is not "Constitutionalist" to interpret religious freedom as the freedom of religious institutions to enforce their will on the country. It is not "Constitutionalist" to assert that corporations have all of the benefits but none of the responsibilities of actual personhood. It is not "Constitutionalist" to assert that an "actual enumeration" of the "whole number of persons" means anything but just that.

Larry Hart said...

As to originalism and Constitutionalism, I think it's safe to say that the Founding Fathers, both liberal and conservative, are rolling over in their graves at the thought of a 6-3 majority of "devout conservative Catholics" whose decisions are informed by religion on the supreme court.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Sep23.html#item-2

Apparently, the list is already pared down to five (current age and undergrad school/law school in parentheses):

Amy Coney Barrett (48; Rhodes College/Notre Dame): The odds-on favorite, she's a devout conservative Catholic and something of an Antonin Scalia clone, which makes sense because she clerked for him and considered him to be her mentor. Her judicial career commenced in November 2017, when she was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by Trump.
...

Larry Hart said...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Sep23.html#item-2


Explaining his decision, the Senator [Romney] said:

"My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that's not written in the stars [It is] appropriate for a nation that is ... center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view."

Romney squeezed so much intellectual dishonesty into a few dozen words here that he might as well be Trump. To start, the Supreme Court has not has a liberal slant since Earl Warren stepped down in 1969. That's 51 years ago; there is no liberal under the age of 85 today that could plausibly be "very used" to a liberal Supreme Court. Beyond that, the fact that the Republicans have won the popular vote in one of the last seven presidential elections makes clear that the U.S. is not a center-right nation (or a right-leaning nation of any stripe, unless we're speaking in comparison to Canada/Europe). Indeed, neither of 2016's presidential candidates were center-right, since one was center/center-left and the other was far-right/populist. That actually suggests that the center-right is a decided minority in the United States, not a majority. And finally, arguing for a Court that reflects a certain political outlook runs entirely contrary to Republican rhetoric—often echoed by Romney—that judges should call balls and strikes, and should not "legislate from the bench."


Interesting conclusion, though:

Of course, Schumer and Pelosi know there is nothing they can do to stop the train and it may be to their advantage to just stay quiet. If the Democrats win all the marbles and in January start doing things the Republicans really don't like, such as packing the Court, killing the filibuster, enacting a tough new voting rights act, or even passing a law restricting what the Supreme Court can do, the Republicans will scream. Then Schumer and Pelosi will say: "Your appointment to the Court was legal and we didn't scream. Our new actions are legal, so please sit down and be quiet like we were."

Larry Hart said...

gregory byshenk:

But this doesn't really have much to do with "voting one's conscience" (whatever that might mean). After all, the current Republican party is voting its conscience.


Depends what you mean by "conscience".

But even so, the Merrick Garland thing was a travesty. They didn't vote against him. Most Republican Senators agreed they would have voted for him on the merits had the vote come up. McConnell simply didn't call a vote. In a rational democracy, he shouldn't get to a "win" by not calling a vote.

Pachydermis2 said...

Apologies for long absence from ConBrin. I look in from time to time. It seems to be more of a support group than a discussion forum these days, but that's not an unworthy thing.

Regards the SC nomination.

I think the Dem's position could have been much stronger had they not turned the Kavanaugh confirmation into a tawdry circus. I'm an amiable fellow politically, and as a genuine Persuadable Voter in a swing state you'd think the sensibilities of people of my ilk would be a concern. I was appalled and disgusted.

But I could have still advocated for a delay in a nomination post election if:

- Biden released a list of potential nominees
- Harris agreed to abide by it should she become President
- a reasonable time horizon would be fair, say in the first two years of their administration.
- and an agreement that there would be no support for an expanded SC if the nomination was delayed and left to the next President.

Biden has indicated that he will under no circumstances release a list before election day. I think he said that people might be critical of, even mean to, people on his list. But I rather doubt anyone would accuse them of leading rape gangs on yachts.

For his myriad faults Trump has, imho, political instincts that Biden lacks. If the SC is going to be an animating issue in an election (see 2016) then the electorate has every right to demand to know what they would be getting. Saying "Trust me", has never been a plausible claim from politicians. And in the case of Mr. Biden, where there are legitimate concerns regards who will actually be making the decisions in his administration we are being asked to accept unknown choices made by unknown parties.

Now having said that I think the Judicial branch has assumed way too much power vis a vis the two co-equal branches. Most of this has come at the expense of the Legislative branch which is all too inclined to be supine and bland, so long as Members can get re-elected and then move over to K Street.

The executive branch has also gained in power but that's a question for another day.

Buckle your seat belts it's going to be a bumpy ride. And don't forget..Trump was elected not because of who he is but in spite of it. The disgust at our political class as a whole is far deeper than polls are showing.

Pac2

Acacia H. said...

So. Trump is going to bypass the election and use State Republican governments to select the Electoral College, stack it with Republicans, and ignore the will of the people. And Constitutionally? He can do it. We may end up with four more years of Trump because he is the most evil and vile of people. I'm just hoping that if enough people vote for Biden that the State governments won't dare follow through with Trump's vile little plan.

And Forbes is also reporting the same, mentioning the article in the Atlantic.

Acacia

Larry Hart said...

A truism from Acacia's "Atlantic" link:

This is not a “both sides” phenomenon. In present-day politics, we have one party that consistently seeks advantage in depriving the other party’s adherents of the right to vote.

Smurphs said...

LH quoted:

"Of course, Schumer and Pelosi know there is nothing they can do to stop the train and it may be to their advantage to just stay quiet. If the Democrats win all the marbles and in January start doing things the Republicans really don't like, such as packing the Court, killing the filibuster, enacting a tough new voting rights act, or even passing a law restricting what the Supreme Court can do, the Republicans will scream. Then Schumer and Pelosi will say: "Your appointment to the Court was legal and we didn't scream. Our new actions are legal, so please sit down and be quiet like we were."

I don't know if LH was supporting this idea or not, but the writer is an idiot. Playing nice is a losing strategy for Dems. It has been since the mid-Nineties. The GOP will laugh and do whatever they want. Honesty and integrity be damned, there's winner and losers. That's it. Have we learned nothing?


I like this quote better, as the enemy is the same:

"whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Smurphs said...

This actually my biggest fear:

Biden/Harris wins in a landslide. The Senate flips to a clear Democratic majority. A peaceful transfer of power.

Immediately, the some Dems break ranks, because they need to assert their independence (or whatever), and we are right back trying to compromise with Republicans to get anything passed in Congress.

I don't trust the Democrats, as a Party, to govern effectively and not screw up again.

Go ahead, prove me wrong!

Please.

David Brin said...

Smurphs: "Prove me wrong!"

Well... only every single blue state where dems have actual power. Especially California, where Brown & Newsom had to ride herd on very very activist DP legislatures. And where every year phenomenal amounts get done. Do you know anything at all about the 111th Congress?

Try being informed (here) before spouting such nonsense:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/08/five-devastating-rebuttals-to-use-with.html

Now let me swerve and admit that Obama and Clinton tried WAY too hard to reach across the aisle. There is no aisle. There is a line of trenches and barbed wire and my book (pretty much ignored) is about how to get out of trench warfare.

Larry Hart said...

Smurphs:

I don't trust the Democrats, as a Party, to govern effectively and not screw up again.


Well, you vote for the party you have, not the party you wish you had.

TCB said...

Pachydermis2 wrote: I think the Dem's position could have been much stronger had they not turned the Kavanaugh confirmation into a tawdry circus.

Tawdry circus? My arse?

Turned THIS scumbag's job interview into a tawdry circus???

I couldn't get a job at the supermarket acting like that. You hold Democrats to a farcical standard, and that officially disgusts me.

Smurphs said...

Yes, Doc. Some states seem to have a clue. Nationally, not so much.

And,yes, the 111th Congress was good. Not great. Still gave too much away, or didn’t try harder. We Played by the rules. But we already had the GOP example from Harsert on. There are no rules, only winning. I’m afraid we’ll do it again.

Der Oger said...

Just a science fiction idea:

What if the candidates in elections had not just to face debates and rallies, but also a battery of openly and transparently conducted tests by a third neutral organization* (if that is actually still imaginable in the US?)

Imagine the candidates, after having their physical and mental health results (and not to forget their tax data) being published, having to display their leadership abilities in a simulated crisis (like, a nuclear meltdown, a hurricane disaster, a war on foreign soil?) or political struggles multiple times? All in prime time TV?

*Perhaps a fourth branch of the government solely dedicated to scoring and ranking prospective candidates for any branch of the government. Everyone can test for the ranking, and his results are placed on a public website. Everyone can still try to run for an office ... even if he ranks far lower than other, more suitable candidates. But the public would know, or at least could know, that there are candidates better suited than them. Or that a specific candidate would make a fine judge, but not so much a good head of a department or lawmaker, and another would have clear signs of a toxic leadership style and thus would receive a poor rating.

Just an idea ... what would change?

(I came to this by wondering how a far future democracy would look like. So many neofeudal empires or manipulative totalitarian-benign ruler castes out there in traditional sci fi... and very few examples of democracy who actually improve. Yes, Star Trek has one - but ... I still don't get how they avoid partisanship and political corruption, and if there are actual voting blocs or political philosophies opposing each other in the almighty Federation.

Plus, I was fascinated by the Taiwanese idea of splitting up power to five different branches, or the moderative power of the Brazilian Emperor in the 19th century. Something that is sorely needed these days.

So I came up with the idea of an interstellar society who allows all citizens to test their aptitude for higher positions, and an organization - half-shrouded in secrecy but sternly devoted to detect candidates, who would, if elected, could become dangerous to society as a whole.)

TCB said...

I just saw this:

10 Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup

Here are the bullet points.
1. Don’t expect results Election night.
2. Do call it a coup.
3. Know that coups have been stopped by regular folks.
4. Be ready to act quickly — and not alone.
5. Focus on widely shared democratic values, not on individuals.
6. Convince people not to freeze or just go along.
7. Commit to actions that represent rule of law, stability, and nonviolence.
8. Yes, a coup can happen in the United States.
9. Center in calm, not fear.
10. Prepare to deter a coup before the election.

Details at link.

David Brin said...

"Perhaps a fourth branch of the government solely dedicated to scoring and ranking prospective candidates for any branch of the government."

Sun Yat Sen called it the Inspectorate and I call for the establishment of the Inspector General of the United States -- IGUS.

duncan cairncross said...

As a starter to the "fourth branch" how about a well funded INVESTIGATORY organization that is REQUIRED to investigate ALL Senators and congress critters every four years and that has to make the results public

Bit like the investigation for gaining security clearance

A "dob in" line that anybody can report on would be helpful as well

Smurphs said...

LH said:

"Well, you vote for the party you have, not the party you wish you had."

True, but not very useful. Many republicans would say the same thing.

But don't worry, I am still doing my part. The Dems have received my money and my time, and I will be working the polls on Nov. 3rd, even though I am in an at-risk category.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

a third neutral organization* (if that is actually still imaginable in the US?)


My sense is no, it is not possible. Because the very idea of neutrality is anathema to the Republicans. If the game isn't rigged for them, that counts in their eyes as being rigged against them. Look at them openly planning every cheat in the book to steal an election they cannot win fairly, while claiming that the only way we can win is by cheating.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

and very few examples of democracy who actually improve. Yes, Star Trek has one - but ... I still don't get how they avoid partisanship and political corruption, and if there are actual voting blocs or political philosophies opposing each other in the almighty Federation.


Star Trek worked best when it didn't try to address such mundanities as how the government back on earth operated. We put too much on the show's shoulders by expecting it to be not just a thought-provoking and exciting adventure drama, but a realistic blueprint of how we get from the 20th century it aired in to the 23rd century it posited. That's never what it was supposed to be.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Smurphs: I've no doubt that The Dems will eventually have to work out the differences between the left and the centre. But that will not happen right away. For one thing, if we successfully repel the fascist coup the Republicans are preparing, we are going to go through a period of removing the toxic influences left behind. Second, we have a pandemic and a great depression to deal with, and a lot of the delineations between the sides will dissolve in the face of two more common enemies. A story barely noted in the American press is the flat out theft of two trillion dollars by capitalists seeking to exploit the twin catastrophes; that's over an above the trillions the Trump regime shovelled to the banks and corporations in recent years. We still have COVID-19 to deal with. We have a catastrophe brewing from the tens of millions who are simply going to 'fall through the cracks' as the economy continues to collapse from Republican corruption and theft. This will blur and for at least four years eliminate the differences amongst Democrats for at least two years and in all likelihood four.
An Inspectorate sounds like a good idea, Doctor. I would begin with reasonably simple test: the citizenship all applicants for citizenship must take, and perhaps a dozen questions about the Constitution directly.

Larry Hart said...

Smurphs:

I don't know if LH was supporting this idea or not, but the writer is an idiot. Playing nice is a losing strategy for Dems. It has been since the mid-Nineties. The GOP will laugh and do whatever they want. Honesty and integrity be damned, there's winner and losers. That's it. Have we learned nothing?


I wasn't so much supporting the idea as wondering what other arrows the Democrats have in their quiver. We can't prevent Republicans from ramming through a nominee, nor can we little-i impeach her character in a way that will matter to the decision makers. All we can really do (assuming a win in November) is to prepare the audience for some radical action on our part and make clear why that is necessary and justified.

One thing we have learned is that it goes beyond "winning is the only thing." By the current rules of the game, winning and then consolidating power is something only Republicans are allowed to do.


This actually my biggest fear:

Biden/Harris wins in a landslide. The Senate flips to a clear Democratic majority. A peaceful transfer of power.

Immediately, the some Dems break ranks, because they need to assert their independence (or whatever), and we are right back trying to compromise with Republicans to get anything passed in Congress.


Your biggest fear is a breath of optimism for me. It means we're not facing the machinations of a victorious Republican party using their power to cement their rule for 1000 years. My biggest fear is that Biden wins fair and square and Trump claims victory anyway and the powers that be support him or else stay neutral and go, "What are you gonna do?"

David Brin said...

Sorry guys.

onward

onward