On the Wrongness of Prosecutors

Cato has an article that, apropos of the recent dust-up between Tulsi Gabbard and Kamala Harris, explores several ways in which prosecutors can go wrong. "While these practices are legal and widespread, they are also immoral."

Students Crave Ethics

A teacher observes that his students have no moral compass -- but that they passionately want one, and are easily engaged in discussions on the subject.

Of course. As Tom was explaining to us, Aristotle teaches you to be happy. Virtue is the road. If you have no moral compass, you don't know the way to becoming happy.

Wish They'd Come Up With "Don't Mess With It" Before Their Last Attempt

Vox asks, "Should fixing healthcare be a top priority for Democrats?"
In 1993, newly elected President Bill Clinton made an ambitious overhaul of the national health care system his top priority. It ended up getting bogged down in complicated congressional negotiations over the many details of the proposal, became unpopular, and didn’t pass, and Democrats got hammered in the 1994 midterms.

Then in 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama made an ambitious overhaul of the national health care system his top priority. It ended up getting bogged down in complicated congressional negotiations over the many details of the proposal, became unpopular, did pass despite poor polling, and Democrats got hammered in the 2010 midterms.

But then in 2017, newly elected President Donald Trump made an ambitious overhaul of the national health care system his top priority.... Not coincidentally, Republicans got hammered in the 2018 midterms.
The failures were less expensive than the success. My #1 expense month-to-month is now health insurance, purchased on the Exchanges, but I haven't been to a doctor since 2014 because I now have a $13,000 deductible. At least Donald Trump didn't cost me any more. The Republicans just failed to completely repeal the mess that Obama's team put into place.

When people ask me why I don't favor this or that Democratic plan to fix some social problem using the government, they don't really like that my answer tuns on how much worse my problems got after their last attempt to fix my problems. Thanks, but no thanks.

Today in Fake News

DB: Thousands of officers with Bronze Stars suddenly concerned about President's attention to BS awards.

BB: Feminist church debuts anti-manspreading pews.

Tulsi Hits Hard

Far and away my least-favored candidate in this election is Kamala Harris, for exactly the reasons that Tulsi Gabbard brings to bear. Senator Harris is manifestly willing to abuse police powers and robustly violate the rights of American citizens. No one should be willing to entrust her with command of the vast array of police powers that would be available to her as President.

Good for Tulsi. She had a good night some of the time, but keeps tripping up on foreign policy -- her allegedly strong suit. It's a known issue that she's friendly with Assad, but last night she also made a wild claim that President Trump somehow 'supports al Qaeda.' You'd have to be reaching for a pretty metaphorical sort of 'support' for that to be true, e.g., he 'supports' them by being such a bugbear that he's useful as a recruiting tool. Even if so, we've heard that argument before from Barack "Hussein" Obama's team, and his shining example of American tolerance did not in fact serve to reduce al Qaeda or ISIS recruiting power. Obama did kill a lot of people, though; I'm not accusing him of being 'an al Qaeda supporter' either. I'm just pointing out that even the most generous reading of this argument is silly, at this point, given the empirical evidence.

But crushing Sen. Harris? Magnificent.

Wow, Talk About Toxic

Gillette lost $8 Billion following last year's ad campaign. Apparently customers don't like being told that they don't measure up to the moral vision of international mega-corporations.

Court Orders Are For Little People

Among the ways in which the 'Russia collusion' theory has collapsed is that a Federal judge recently ordered the government to stop claiming it had shown that the Russian government was behind the activities by the cyber firms that ran Facebook ads in 2016. Those firms are private, and the government didn't actually bother to establish a connection in the Mueller report -- nor did it file any indictments against Russian government officials, nor against any American citizens for working with the Russian government.
On July 1, 2019, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich issued an order (to which the government agreed) prohibiting further public statements by the government about the Concord and IRA case, particularly statements alleging that Concord and IRA worked on behalf of the Russian government. A more detailed discussion of this train wreck can be read here.

But Mueller Just Did It Again
This takes us to the Mueller testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees last week. On live television in front of an audience of millions, former special counsel Robert Mueller carefully skirted speculating on the guilt or innocence of Roger Stone due to his ongoing criminal prosecution. But nobody apparently reminded Mueller that Judge Friedrich had ordered Mueller’s team to stop saying Concord and IRA worked for the Russian government.

The government hasn’t alleged that, can’t prove it, and abandoned those allegations in open court. The government had only just barely escaped a criminal contempt citation because Mueller’s report and Barr’s press conference seemed to allege that the Russians (the Russians, as in the Russian government) were behind the troll farms. And that’s not true, according to the government’s own admissions.
It's amazing how weak the Russia case is, given that House Democrats continue to fulminate around impeachment over it. Carter Page, against whom the FISA warrant was issued and renewed multiple times, faces zero charges. The government will have collected all of his communications and those of those with whom he spoke, but he faces no charges -- especially not for being a Russian spy, but actually not for anything whatsoever.

No Americans were indicted, let alone convicted, for working with any Russians -- government or private citizen.

No Russians were indicted who worked for the Russian government. The Federal government has agreed to stop claiming it established any connections to the Russian government even among Russian nationals working on 2016.

The SDNY investigation into the Trump organization is done, and came up empty on Russia.

Even in the case against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is widely believed to be working for Russia, no indictments have been lain against him for anything to do with Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Some within the government, even Mueller, continue to talk as if they had something. Every time there's an acid test, though, where they might have to provide actual proof of these claims -- every time, they don't put up, and yet they also don't shut up.

Maybe it's all true, and our intelligence agencies are sitting on the proof because they don't want to expose sources and methods to discovery. That's now how our justice system works, though. You cannot use power against an American citizen without the consent of a jury of his or her peers. You've got to put up to us, or else shut up. If it's true, if any of it is true, the cards have been called.

Fairy Tales vs. the Good Witch of the West

Last night's debate featured both, apparently. Ironically the Good Witch is not the one peddling the fairy tales.

The criticism that these things are impossible is of course accurate: we can't pay for the Social Security and Medicare we have now, let alone this ever-growing raft of additional plans we keep hearing about. Adding another plan to the pile just means more taxes, more debt, and less liberty to live the way I might prefer than the way she and hers might prefer I do instead.

At least we can contest 'dark psychic forces' without a spending program.

Viral charm

A little 8-year-old girl and her musical family are having one of those YouTube explosions that happen when nearly everyone who watches a video clip feels an irresistible urge to share it. I first saw it without any explanatory comments and couldn't figure out her accent. At first it seemed it might be European Spanish, not the New World variant I'm more familiar with, but the family looked Indian. But then they were dressed so warmly, and the hint of architecture in the background was European. That made me think the mountains of South America.

It turns out the family are French, with a dad who was born in South Korea, so that explains the Asian look as well as the accent that online Spanish-speaking fans describe as "exotic." She gets going on a trilled R and just doesn't stop. They're appearing at festivals now, under the name "Isaac et Nora," and cutting a CD.

Veinte Años is a Cuban torch song from the 1930s.

What's it matter if I love you
If you don't want me any more
A love that's over
Should be forgotten

If what one wants
Could be won
You'd want me the same
As twenty years ago


 Veinte Años

¿Qué te importa que te ame
Si tú no me quieres ya?
El amor que ya ha pasado
No se debe recordar

Fui la ilusión de tu vida
Un día lejano ya
Hoy represento el pasado
No me puedo conformar

Si las cosas que uno quiere
Se pudieran alcanzar
Tú me quisieras lo mismo
Que veinte años atrás

Con qué tristeza miramos
Un amor que se nos va
Es un pedazo del alma
Que se arranca sin piedad

Good for IBM

It's not what I expect a corporation to do, but IBM just made its cancer-fighting AIs open source.

That is deeply humane, although one wonders how you fund continued future AI development without profit.

La Guerre en France

The police are losing control against the mob, by which I mean the citizenry.

See this on the news? Or just nonsense about Trump tweets?

EU: Motorcycles "Most Antisocial" Means of Transportation, Should Probably Be Banned

UPDATE: They don't like your cars, either.

So motorcycles are small, easy to park even in urban conditions, and quite fuel-efficient which is supposedly a virtue in these carbon-sensitive times. 'What's the issue?', you might ask.

Socialism. It's socialism that means you can't ride motorcycles.
Since every European Union country has socialized medicine, it’s clear that the cost of traffic accidents is borne by society, not by individual drivers or riders. In absolute terms, cars are responsible for 10 times the accident costs of motorcycles, €210 billion for cars versus €21 billion for bikes. But, on a passenger-kilometer basis, bikes incur triple the accident costs of cars (€0.127 for motorcycles versus €0.045 for cars).
Seems easy enough to fix: don't pay out if I get hurt riding my bike, leave me to sort that via private insurance. That's what we do here in the good old USA, right?

But no: they will answer that they have a moral duty to care for me if I'm hurt, so they therefore have a corresponding moral duty to prevent me from doing things that might get me hurt. Freedom? That's just another word for not accepting my duty to the state and society.

It's worth watching this old Hells Angels documentary from the early 1980s all the way through. Read it with the post below about how the establishment has moved gangsters from anti-heroes to heroes. That's not completely true, but it's not completely wrong either. At one point their lawyers suggest that they're basically Goldwater Republicans, philosophically. At another, they themselves declare that they're quintessentially American, because America is the only place that would take them. Of course there's plenty of rough edges, which to their credit they don't try to hide.

At some point it's going to be us against the bureaucrats and technocrats who want to govern every inch of our lives. I know which side I'm on.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

I went to see the thing today. If any of you saw it too, and want to discuss it, the comments will be a good place for that.

If you didn't see it, avoid the comments. Definitely go see it, especially if Tarantino's approach has worked for you before.

Gangster Films

I referenced Robert Warshow's essay, "The Gangster as Tragic Hero," a few times in the long life of this blog.  Until today, though, I couldn't remember the author or the title.

One of the comments on cinema from 2013 stands out to me now:
It may be the reason gangster 'films' are so pervasive on the new television are the two old reasons: that it as a genre permits a genuine tragedy, and that it permits a clear-eyed critique of the American system. But it may also be that the American system isn't as healthy as it used to be, and the critique is therefore more persuasive. At some point, the tragedy will fall away, and people will simply accept these gangsters as heroes, full stop.
Someone will write a follow-up essay to that soon, I suspect: "Trump as Gangster Hero." But it's already life on YouTube.

There's been an attempt to fit other, less plausible figures into the role too. But in a way I think it explains something about the President's ongoing invulnerability to charges of illegal behavior, racist behavior, hateful behavior, awful behavior. The gangster is against the system, and for a while now we've been rooting for that.

We've been rooting for it in the land of imagination because in the real world we can see that the system is fantastically corrupt, impossible to hold to account, and that all of its pious words are false. They don't believe in the rule of law -- witness sanctuary cities. They don't believe that there's one law for all, powerful and poor: witness the difference between the Comey investigation into Clinton's violation of classification laws, and the Mueller investigation of everyone Donald Trump ever knew. These dramatic moments fit within a context of our everyday lives, when we try to make things work with city hall or the state government.

This weekend the gangster President is feuding with two giants of the Congress, the Speaker of the House and Elijah Cummings, about the run-down conditions their American cities have assumed under the leadership of their party. No one is going to fix Baltimore, and San Francisco is covered over with feces and needles. No one is accountable, and if you try to make someone accountable, they are protected by overlapping fields of power and privilege. It is racist to criticize him, they say. It is sexist to criticize her. In terms of power they hold senior positions in high office. They are deeply rich from their long lives of public service, with all the power wealth brings. Also, the city governments would do anything they ask, because those cities are run fellow Democrats who are getting rich off public service too.

There is going to be a cost, of course, to celebrating gangsters instead of genuinely virtuous men. It's worth remembering, though, that many of the noblest names in history were all but gangsters: William the Conqueror and all his line of kings, for example. Alexander the Great once arrested a pirate and asked him how he dared to molest ships at sea. The pirate is alleged to have demanded, in return, "How dare you molest the whole world?"

Alexander was taught virtue by Aristotle himself, but the pirate hit him fairly and he knew it.