Judge Strips North Carolina of the Power to Amend its Constitution

A judge has just ruled that North Carolina's legislature is so gerrymandered that it may not place constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Well, actually, he only struck down two amendments on this score. The recent ballot had quite a few, but the only two he struck down were Voter ID and a constitutional limit on how high income taxes can go.
The amendments were backed by Republican lawmakers, and on Friday N.C. GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said in a written statement to The News & Observer that he thinks the ruling should be overturned.

“These amendments were placed on the ballot and passed by an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians,” Hayes said. “This unprecedented and absurd ruling by a liberal judge is the very definition of judicial activism.”

The voter ID amendment passed with 55.5 percent of the vote while the amendment to cap the state income tax received 57 percent of the vote.
This judge, by the way, is very highly rated by Ballotopedia. His "Integrity and Fairness" score is 4.67 out of 5.

This is a hell of a ruling. By an exactly similar argument, no act of the legislature can be valid. The amendments are actually the most probably legitimate expressions of the will of the people, because the people have to approve them in a direct referendum. Even if you accept that the state's legislature is too heavily gerrymandered to be valid, if an amendment gets 55-57% of the popular vote, presumably it might pass a properly constituted assembly too.

Practically, of course, the judge isn't taking away the ability of the legislature to amend the constitution in ways that judges approve. He's allowing the numerous other amendments to stand. He's not even striking down the laws, which were only passed by this presumptively-invalid assembly.

This judge should be removed from office. However high his ratings, this is an unacceptable act of judicial supremacism. We do not have the right to govern ourselves as a people 'if and only if our superiors approve of how we do it.'

Popular Votes

In all but six states, conservatives outnumber liberals. California is not one of those states: it has fewer conservatives than average, but still more conservatives than liberals.

All six states are in the north, and all of them except New York are relatively non-diverse.

Suddenly the concerns about the Senate and the Electoral College make more sense, eh?

Potential Viking Settlement Found in Canada

You can read about it here.


Having had so much success with the Green New Deal's plausibility, two of the Democratic candidates for President -- both of whom endorsed the GND -- have decided that they'd like to endorse another big program, reparations for slavery, too.

I'm not in principle opposed to the idea. In principle, in fact, I think it is plausible. This sort of payment-for-injury-suffered-by-relatives exists in several traditions, including our own: the wergild of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons, the diyya of the Arabs (still in use today in some places). The basic approach is well known and works. We would need to do two things:

1) Determine a fair price for inflicting slavery on someone;

2) Agree that, in return for the paying of that price, we would reconcile completely and never return to the issue again. Compensation is complete and the matter is settled; the agreement is that no more compensation will ever be due.

In principle we could do that here, too. Say we decided that a fit price for stealing a man's life via slavery was a million current-day US dollars. That's a non-extravagant figure that a court might award in a wrongful death lawsuit against a corporation, and it's an amount of money that a hard-working individual might earn in his or her lifetime with careful investment. So, we assign a million dollars to each and every person who was a slave in the USA; that number grew from 400,000 to 4.4 million over several decades, so we figure 4.4M + 2.2M. + 1.1M + 400,000 = 8.1 million total slaves. At a million dollars each, $8,100,000,000,000 (8.1 trillion dollars).

Heck, that's cheaper than the GND by far. So far, so good.

Of course, you've got to divide that money among all the descendants of all of those people. And if you're related to two of them -- or, across generations, to six or eight of them -- then you should get a part of the payment for each of them. My guess is that no records exist that would make that possible to calculate reliably.

Now, assuming that all black Americans have at least one slave ancestor, and that no other Americans do, the payout would come to $170,000 per person. (If you had two or more, more.) America could pay this off on a rolling basis, too, rather than as a lump sum; if we used actuarial tables to contribute life expectancy, and divided your payoffs by your expected lifespan, some people would need to be paid in 5 years but some could be paid over 50.

Again, compared to the GND, this is relatively cheap. Heck, it's cheap compared to Medicare for All, which is $3.2 Trillion every year. In three years it would cost more than this one time payout. So, in principle, it might make sense.

I think there are practical details that would make a program like this very difficult to get everyone to agree to, however. Many Americans' ancestors weren't even here when slavery was a thing; they will object to paying the taxes to fund this reparations payment for something their ancestors had no part of. No living Americans own slaves, and they might object to being forced to pay for someone else's wrongdoing. And on the other side, too, even a large payment may not allow people to accept that the debt is really settled. Plus, there's another issue: Say that you've got five people in your family, but the week after the payments begin to go out, one of them gets pregnant. Each of you gets $170,000, but the child gets nothing just by virtue of being born a little too late. Over time, that's going to create a bulge of resentful young people who got left out of the payments by accident of fate.

Also, it won't turn out to be the case that -- per assumption -- no non-black Americans have slave ancestors (nor that all black Americans do -- look at Barack Obama). There's no way of resolving that without causing problems.

Very often the practicalities are what kill things, and I don't think this one is going anywhere. But I can see a case for it. Maybe somebody else will come up with a model that might work.

UPDATE: Warren complicates the plan substantially when she says it should cover Native Americans, too. That's much harder to do on a wergild basis because the issue isn't the deaths per se, it's the elimination of whole civilizations and ways of life.

Another Act of Political Violence

I'm writing this less to draw attention to the activist getting punched, than to make a point about language and the culture of risk aversion.
Another conservative student was assaulted on @UCBerkeley's campus. I just spoke to the survivor of the attack who is a dear friend of mine. He is in good spirits and plans on continuing to fight for conservative values on campus once his black eye is gone! What a bad a**!
"Survivor"? C'mon. He got punched in the face. If he gets knifed and doesn't die, OK, sure, his life was in danger and he survived. You'd have to be extremely unlucky in how you fell, though, for a punch to be a thing you 'survive' rather than just a thing that happened.

The occasional scuffle used to be an ordinary feature of life; when I was a boy, "Dagwood" and his neighbors got in brawls almost every week. I'm not saying that we should all start beating people up, but I am saying that you should toughen your heart a little here.

We've got a whole society full of people going to "therapy" to heal their "trauma," by which they mean life. Now you've got even conservatives talking about being a "survivor" for taking a punch.

Harden up, people. Show a little self-respect.


We've discussed the huge problem of the national debt here many times. The issue is that, right now, there is no alternative.
President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans gave Americans a sizable tax break, a perfectly appropriate means of jolting the economy — if it came with offsetting spending cuts. But spending increased. So in the most prosperous stretch we've enjoyed in decades, revenues still lag expenditures by $1 trillion a year.

That fiscal recklessness should buy the GOP a ticket out of Washington. But those who would replace Trump are campaigning on even more gluttony.

Nearly every Democrat has signed on to the Medicare for All plan.... a promise of universal child care... putting free college on the table....

And then there's the Green New Deal, which would blow the gates to socialism wide open. Implementation would require a doubling to quadrupling of federal expenditures.
I'd be surprised if it were as small a figure as quadruple. As we discussed recently, just two of the items -- refitting or replacing every building in America, and building a giant new high speed railroad network -- would require running the factories and lumber mills and diesel fuel refineries day and night all decade just to get the materials to do the jobs. If, indeed, it could be done even then.

"No Reasonable Prosecutor"

And by "reasonable" we mean "someone we can reason out of it."

Why Should That Be True?

Feminists in Sweden want a ban on sex robots, although the language they're using suggests to me that it would be a much bigger ban than that practically.
They're demanding legislation targeting technology that "reproduces ideas about exploiting women's bodies".

Three Swedish feminist organisations, Sweden's Women's Lobby, the National Organisation for Women's Shelters and Young Women's Shelters (Roks) as well as the empowerment organisation Unizon have published a joint appeal in the newspaper Expressen, in which they demand a state ban on "dangerous" sex robots for men.

The debaters noted that today's sex robots often have the "appearances and attributes typical of the objectifying, sexualised and degrading attitude to women found in today's mainstream pornography".

"Why are men willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a robot that obeys their smallest command?" the feminists asked rhetorically. "A female robot cannot say no to something that the man wants, if she is not programmed to do so", the feminists complained.
"Technology that reproduces ideas" is not just "robots." That's properly speaking a ban on the printing press, for example; the internet, especially given its role in forwarding pornography; television, movies, etc.

However, what strikes me immediately is that the thing might go the other way. They seem to think that people (well, "men") won't be able or willing to make a distinction between women and robots that look like women. It may very well be that people do make the distinction, though, just as they make the distinction between reality and make-believe. In learning what you can do to a robot that you can't do to a real person, the distinction that women are real people who can't be mistreated is reinforced.

Japan seems to do something like this with its manga cartoons, which are hideously violent. Japan's real life, however, is not hideously violent at all. It's stressful and competitive, and these intense violent fantasies manifestly do arise in that context. But they put them in the make believe space, and the society remains mostly peaceful (though suicide is an issue).

I'm not advocating the reading of manga, and I suspect many people will reject the idea of sexbots as disgusting (as, frankly, is the manga). However, I do think that pushing the bad stuff into the world of make believe can be a stopgap measure during times when whatever is producing 'the bad stuff' can't be fixed. Japan also has Buddhist monasteries where you can go and leave the stressful society behind you, but if you aren't ready to do that -- if you feel compelled by the pressures of family and society to keep up the rat race -- pushing the anger and such into the make believe space may be better for everyone than acting it out on real people.

Of course, I don't know that it would work that way -- but neither do these Swedish women know it'd work out the other way. The idea that we should ban something in the absence of any demonstrated actual harm should be rejected, even if we find the conduct disgusting. Let people be free, even if they do things you may not like.

There remain other ethical issues, of course; obviously unless these things are made to be able to reproduce, they'd be indefensible according to Catholic theology (and likely even then, though I haven't worked that argument out in my head).


Locating your violent fantasies in make believe isn't just for men! From FB:

Why the long face?

A Quillette article examines why technological and other progress is so often seen as stalling. My first thought was "risk"--we've developed a bizarre approach to it.  We're doing everything we can to uncouple risk from reward, and we're increasingly willing to accept paralysis rather than suffer risk.  A few paragraphs down, I found this:
The last 200 years have seen a shift from what moral sociologists have described as the ‘honour’ or warrior culture pre-dating the 19th-century—to the ‘dignity’ culture of the 20th-century—to the emergence of a ‘victimhood’ culture in the 21st.
Part of this shift includes the increasing adversity to risk.

Turning a Corner?

A few weeks ago we discussed a Houston police raid in which the police killed two fellow citizens, with five police officers shot. The description of the event suggested, even then, that the police had shot each other while killing the citizens. Now, it turns out, the alleged 'drug buy informant' lied, the investigating officer lied, and there was no reason to run the raid at all.

The police seem to be responding to this better than previous suspect events. First, they've declared an end to no-knock raids.

Second, they're preparing charges against 'one or more officers.'

Good. Discipline is the soul of the army, and while police are not properly an army, they're increasingly trained and acting as if they were.

The Devil Hates a Sleeping Bag

Willie Nelson this time.

I always think of The Quiet Man when sleeping bags come up.

Negative, AZ, FBI

Arizona would like its citizens to be forced to give up their DNA for a massive state database, and pay $250 for the privilege.

American governments have gotten to big for their britches. Especially the law-enforcement branches, to include (as that essay does) the FBI and DOJ.

We need to break them to saddle.

You can't fire me!

It's a cry you hear from union workers, civil servants, and people with ironclad employment contracts.  Usually not so much from restaurant workers.  New York is out there on the cutting edge, considering laws to prevent restaurant operators from firing a worker when they conclude they can't stay in business if they have to pay him the new minimum wage.  Will New York force the restaurants out of business?  Will we then learn that the market has failed, so the government has to step in and supply this essential service?  At least that way the worker can get civil service protection.  Of course, the restaurants may be about as good as the DMV and siphon off a lot of New York tax dollars, which will spur Cuomo to complain even more bitterly that Florida is stealing his citizens.

MAGA Hat Threatens Armed Man

It's perfectly understandable self-defense given such a provocation.
Police in Bowling Green, Kentucky, say James Phillips was arrested after witnesses said he pulled a gun inside a Sam’s Club outlet because the victim was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.... Police reported that store surveillance video substantiates Phillips’ story and that he never laid a hand on the Trump-hating assailant.

Officials said that when he was arrested, Phillips had a .40 caliber Glock handgun with a bullet in the chamber sitting in his pocket . He also had two extra loaded magazines on his person.
I have seen people wearing MAGA hats on rare occasion around here, but they're not common. I suspect the sense that you might get shot for wearing one -- or beaten, or robbed, or become the subject of a nationwide Three Minutes' Hate -- is one reason they are not all that popular even in the rural South.

Selective taboos

At Powerline, a refreshing look at when the concept of personal responsibility is allowed to intrude on policy discussions, and when it can be dismissed as cruel.
In the case of “Detroit,” we must decide how far to go in order to improve, in the short term, the material condition of the population. How much should we spend on welfare? How lenient should we be with criminals? Should there be monetary reparations? Should there be forced integration?
In the case of rural America, the policy questions prompted by Carlson are different. How much trade protection should certain American industries receive? To what extent should we limit legal immigration?
The answer in both cases depends in part on how much weight we place on the concept of personal responsibility. Those who take the concept seriously will be less inclined to transfer vast amounts of money, or to tolerate high risk associated with the early release of criminals, than those who don’t.
They will also be less inclined to think Americans should pay more for consumer goods as a result of trade barriers and restrictions on the number of people who can work in the U.S. They may ask how much more they should pay for cars because males in rural America are making irresponsible personal choices.
The best answer might well be “somewhat more.” Even for conservatives, the concept of personal responsibility isn’t absolute. We are willing to spend a considerable amount of money on welfare even though we know that if recipients made better choices, we would be able to spend considerably less.

Storm memento

A too-infrequent guest from Houston arrived this year with a bowl turned from a downed oak trunk that he took home with him last year.  I'd forgotten he took it, so the gift was a delightful surprise.

Citizenship Tests

Perhaps we should consider stripping voting rights from anyone who can't pass the test? I am saddened to see that the South does particularly badly here, although only Vermont has a majority with a passing score (and that barely).

Seizing and pouncing

Or is it pouncing and then seizing?  Let's go to the video:

Whatever it is, I'm sure it's very unfair to tasty Democrats.

Get To Work, Fellow Oppressors

Apparently we're really letting some people down by not being out there beating and harassing our opponents. I blame myself; I haven't threatened anybody in at least a week or two.

Well, not intentionally. Some people seem to be threatened by our very existence, but apparently that's not enough.

UPDATE: And then there were two.

Small Victories

The border fight we've been having has faced stiff opposition from both Democrats and some Republicans, a few because they fear convincing Latinos that they are racists but most because they are interested in helping their donors depress the price of labor. Nevertheless, all the news isn't bad; there have been some compromises.
Trump and GOP negotiators led by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and his team blocked several moves by Pelosi and other Democrats to fill the deal with anti-wall moves like lowering spending for ICE and slashing the number of “detention beds” to hold criminal illegal immigrants.

“Pelosi lost. She knew her position on detentions beds was unsustainable and only playing to her fringe. She also said no new miles for the wall,” said the source. “She had to step back from all positions.”

Compared to a simple continuing resolution, or CR, with nothing extra beyond current spending levels set in fiscal 2018, Trump gained extra funding for the wall.... “nearly three times as much as would have been available under a CR,” said the source.

On detention beds, the number increased 13 percent over fiscal 2018. And when another $750 million in transfer and reprogramming authority is added in, it represents a 44 percent increase, said the source.

What’s more, the bill provides historic funding levels for ICE and Customs and Border Protection, a rejection of liberal efforts to kill the agencies. It was a 7 percent budget increase for a combined $21.5 billion.
In addition, the NYT reports, the tough border policies are causing some people to give up and go home -- or to choose life in Mexico, which offered them asylum.
[T]housands of caravan members who had been waiting to seek asylum in the United States appear to have given up, Mexican officials said, dealing President Trump an apparent win after a humbling week for his immigration agenda.

About 6,000 asylum seekers who had traveled en masse, many of them in defiance of Mr. Trump’s demands that they turn around, arrived in Northern Mexico in late November as part of a caravan that originated in Honduras. Since then, more than 1,000 have accepted an offer to be returned home by the Mexican government, the officials said. Another 1,000 have decided to stay in Mexico, accepting work permits that were offered to them last fall, at the height of international consternation over how to deal with the growing presence of migrant caravans.
There's reason to be annoyed that the Republican Congress never ponied up money for a wall, and there's reason to be annoyed about the use of unconstitutional emergency powers that no president should really have. If you believe that a nation has to control its borders to remain stable, however, there is some good news too.

Rye Whiskey

Gringo raises the similarity between two different folk songs in the comments below. In fact there's a fair number of folk songs who have similar lines. I like this one because it pieces very many of them together.

"Jack of diamonds, Jack of Daniels.."

They know a lot of the old songs.

Dwarves and Elves

Doc Crawford on Norse Mythology.