In TRUMP v. UNITED STATES, the United States loses

In the suit, TRUMP v. UNITED STATES, the Supreme Court decided against the United States. The decision (HERE) is a calamity.

Though it does not actually say the president cannot be charged with a crime, it sets a ridiculously high bar for doing so: "The President must therefore be immune from prosecution for an official act unless the Government can show that applying a criminal prohibition to that act would pose no 'dangers of intrusion on the authority and functions of the Executive Branch.'"

Since the entire purpose of a law is to 'intrude on the authority and function' of a criminal, it's almost a tautology. If the president does it, it's not a crime.

It's made worse, though, because this bunch of corrupt assholes leaves a loophole. Despite their absolute-sounding language, they say that it might be okay to interfere with a president. And they say that they will decide, based on no expressed principles, when that occurs. Would this court find a prosecution less likely to interfere with the "authority and function" of a Democratic president? Could be.

Actually, the court says that the presumption of immunity does not apply to unofficial acts. I guess that might mean that a president could, after being out of office, be charged with theft if he left a restaurant without paying. Whether that's the case, however, would also be decided by the new king-makers of the court.

And they make clear that it's very unlikely that a president is ever unofficial. They explain that talking to the public is presumed to be official. If a government official is involved, it's official. They make clear that it really would have to be theft in a restaurant and not much more.

For good measure, they also categorically exclude official acts (determined by them) as evidence of a crime. The example in the dissent is, a bribe having been received, the discussion with the government person implementing the purchased activity is official and cannot be brought into evidence.

The dissent reminds us that the Framers were explicitly clear that the president is subject to law. They saw no reason to think that the president should not do his or her job with a clear eye on what is legal or how this could reduce the effectiveness of governance.

The majority says that it is important that a president need never fear pernicious prosecution for fear of political retribution, i.e., what Trump wants to do. The dissent observes the obvious fact that every prosecution has to get past a judge and for a president, there would be grand juries, interlocutory appeals out the ass, trials, appeals, all of the structure of justice that would stand in the way of abuse.

Justice Barrett, who is showing signs of decency, concurs with the decision but disagrees with its main conclusion. She would, instead, create a premise for pretrial appeal (interlocutory judgment) to determine if charges were applicable to the president. She doesn't discuss the majority premise, "must be immune," but she disagrees with the prohibition on using evidence derived from official acts and that makes me think she might be choosing not to rock the boat in a decision where her vote is not dispositive.

Justice Sotomayor is outraged and brings us to the conclusion that I think is correct: "The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country, and possibly the world. When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority's reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution.

Orders the Navy's Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority's message today."

I dissent.

Dangers of Universal Camera Surveillance

I found this excellent analysis of The Dangers of Surveillance. 

The following AI written list of harms that could result from universal camera surveillance matches my understanding from reading the article:

  • Severe chilling effect on behavior and intellectual freedom: People would likely alter their public behavior and activities, knowing they are constantly being watched. This could stifle creativity, free expression, and the development of diverse or unconventional ideas.

  • Erosion of privacy in public spaces: Universal camera observation would effectively eliminate the concept of privacy in any public area, fundamentally changing the nature of public life and social interactions.

  • Increased potential for abuse of power: With access to comprehensive visual data on citizens' movements and activities, the government would have unprecedented power to track, profile, and potentially manipulate individuals.

  • Risk of selective enforcement and discrimination: The vast amount of visual data could be used to selectively target certain individuals or groups for law enforcement or other government actions.

  • Threat to anonymous speech and association: Universal observation would make it extremely difficult for people to engage in anonymous political or social activities, potentially undermining democratic participation.

  • Creation of a permanent, searchable record of public life: This could be used for retroactive surveillance or investigation, creating a chilling effect even for past actions.

  • Potential for data breaches or misuse: The massive database of visual information could be vulnerable to hacking, leaks, or misuse by government employees.

  • Normalization of surveillance: Ubiquitous government cameras could lead to greater acceptance of surveillance in general, potentially opening the door to even more invasive forms of monitoring.

  • Inhibition of intellectual privacy in public spaces: People might feel less free to read certain materials, have sensitive conversations, or engage in intellectual exploration in public areas.

  • Psychological impact: The constant feeling of being watched could lead to increased stress, anxiety, and self-censorship among the population.

  • Never Talk About God in Public, Part 2

    You know how I could get in trouble if I were to go up to a woman at work and start talking about how lovely her tits are? That's not because her tits aren't lovely or that I mean anything nasty. It's just that so many men have complimented women on their bodies in ways that are demeaning or threatening that most women are immediately repelled if you say something nice about their tits.

    Also, you are feeling kind of creeped out because I used the word 'tits' three times and, even though it is a perfectly fine contraction of the word 'teats', common usage has made in an uncomfortable word.

    Your Messiah (and pretty much all the religions at one time or another) is like that for a lot of people. So many people have conducted Inquisitions and witch burnings and justified taking away women's reproductive autonomy while talking about their god that it has become creepy. Even when they weren't doing violence, they were telling all of us we were going to hell, a lot.

    So, your public expressions of religion are, like the word tits, are tarred by the brush wielded by your co-religionists.

    But with religion, it has another important facet. Your assertions about the glory of God, as benign as you mean them to be, are also, intrinsically because of the very definition of 'god' an assertion that the God I worship is not real, or right, or allowable.

    You, being you, don't intend that. One reason that I don't really object to your protestations anymore is that I know you are just kind of going on about it without any real intention toward the rest of us. The problem is, just as with my perfectly kind observations about tits, that ship has sailed.

    As you said, I "already got that message from somebody else." It's been said enough that, when you bring it up, you may as well be saying it.

    Further, religious assertions are always as much an assertion that my religious assertions are wrong as they are anything else. Religious kindnesses are creepy and inappropriate because it is talking about a person's intimate feelings. Think about how you felt when I did my rap above talking about the falsity of your God. That's how everyone feels if they are paying attention when someone else proclaims a different religious belief.

    I do not want it banned, any more than I want talking about tits banned. I want it to be formally disallowed. I talk about Debbie's tits all the time, often in lurid terms (she's got great ones!). It's fine. She has given me permission. But, if I talk about some young woman's tits at work, she can sue me, not for the word, for creating a hostile workplace. In a restaurant, not for the word, but for harassment.

    I think talking about religion should be like that. I think that talking about religion should be considered to be as sensitive as talking about the virtues of a woman's body. It is my view that having to listen to religion in the workplace (I had a coworker once, don't get me started) should be grounds for hostile workplace action. I think talking to a person about religion with their active consent, should be actionable as harassment.

    I am completely enthusiastic about your desire to enjoy your religious views. I want you to go to church and, with all the people who have agreed to talk about it, go crazy. I just don't want to hear it and I think society would be much, much, much better off if we took it out of the public conversation.

    Never Talk About God in Public

    It is the nature of gods and belief in them, to assert their 'rightness'. You think your 'god' is *the* god. All the good religions assert that their god is the only one and that failing to adhere to dogma is blasphemy.

    Christians and Moslems think that having beliefs in a different god is a crime, based on the idea that expressing said different beliefs is heresy. This is premised on the idea that me claiming that I have the *only* God is exactly the same as saying that *your* god is not real. Your claim about your god reciprocates.

    Which is to say that you making the claim about the supremacy of "THE awesome G-d" is also a statement that *my* God is false. I think saying that is rude and inappropriate. That it is often couched in the former, sneakier, phrase makes no difference.

    In fact, I claim that it's worse. On the one side, you are attacking and undermining my God. On the other, you are trying to take me away from it, too.

    See it this way. When I say that my God is the opposite of your god and that it is a supernatural fantasy responsible for a huge amount of negative results in the world from the Inquisition to the abuse of gay people, you want to fight me. You think I am using the word 'god' as a cover to attack your belief.

    And you're right. It's my view that talking about one's god is *always* an attack on the beliefs of people who have a different view. Always and intrinsically. That's why I take such a harsh attitude about religiosity in public I find it deeply offensive.

    Taylor Gets the Treatment, Again

    And so, Taylor gets the treatment again. Two years after her previous one, she releases a new album, Tortured Poets Department, and, again, the poopy meta analysis begins. Too this. Too little that. So much. So soon. So so so. Couldn't she just be less?

    Here's what I think: Her fans love it. That's all that matters and, if you're not a fan just shut the hell up. The NY Times puts this on the front page. More negative click bait.

    The first time I listened to the album, it felt long. The second time, less so. Then a friend noted four tracks she liked and I listened to them several times. And here's the thing about Taylor Swift, each time I listened to them, I liked them more. I've listened more to others since.

    Previously, I wondered, are any of them going to be caught in my head on repeat like Love Store or Blank Space do? Each time I listened, I noted an interesting little hook. Felt the frisson as I recognized a moment where she had captured another subtle idea in a sweet turn of phrase.

    She will tell you herself that her most important art form is lyric. I think that's fair. I don't think she's ever going to be compared, on a strictly music level with, say, Lennon/McCartney, Irving Berlin or Brian Wilson, people who were innovators in music style and structure, per se. But, listen to the song Fortnight a couple of times and I don't believe anyone who loves music can come away with anything short of delight and a tune stuck in your head, on repeat.

    This article is bullshit. The songs, one by one or in a group, are lovely. Taylor is a force of nature. I consider having discovered her from a fan perspective to be a huge gift to my life. I have another thing to enjoy and she is good.

    Joanna Newsom


    So, I dug into Joanna Newsom and am thrilled. It reminds me of when I discovered Katherine Ryan and was astonished to find this brilliant person who is a big deal just a little bit out of my sight. That I have never, ever heard of Newsom before shows how difficult it is to know what's going on even in a fully connected world.

    I listened to a bunch of her music and then some interviews and then a charming ten minute vid of her husband, Andy Samberg (as you doubtless know) talking about how much he loves her and how cool she is. All made me love her, too. She will now always be on my attention list.

    All that said, it's pretty easy to understand why she isn't extremely popular. Her music is mostly pretty weird. On the first couple of vids I watched, I couldn't understand anything about what she was doing. I couldn't understand the words (I later learned that she is often doing a sort of beat poetry and, once I learned not to interpret in sentences, it worked better for me). Her music is very spiky and unconventional. Also, and this is trivial, her facial contortions as she forms her very strange vocal style is hard to interpret.

    Fortunately, she came with your recommendation so I kept at it and learned enough to begin to understand what she is doing, to understand the semantics of her style, build enough familiarity that I could start to categorize and feel in ways that build meaning for me. I learned and conclude that she is free, innovative, expressive beyond belief. Her music is unusual but interesting as hell and, often, once I got used to it, lovely. Not only that, she's not talking about the commonplace crap that most are.

    As much as I admire Taylor Swift, she is speaking a truth that resonates with her audience, like her and the audience are matched tuning forks. Her virtue is (partly) the accuracy and cleverness with which she evokes the experiences of a young women in America.

    Joanna, of course, is not part of any kind of resonance system. She seems intensely determined to avoid the road most traveled, less Robert Frost, more Alan Ginsburg, in her lyrics. I'm not musically literate enough to to make a similar comparison for music but it's there. Her tunes are often arhythmic and melodies disjoint and surprising. I think she might be the most creative musician I know about. Hell, the most creative person.

    As I write this, I am listening to her tunes. During that last paragraph, I was especially charmed by the song. It was a little more melodic (which is good for me) and the lyric pronounced a little more clearly (most of her songs I need lyrics on to know what she says) and, as I wrote, I thought, Gotta look at the song title after I finish this paragraph. Amusingly, it was named Emily.

    Anyway, thanks for the reference. Made for a fine Saturday night and great addition to my playlist.

    Is This TMI?

    I consider my main goal to be lowering the bar to match my capability. I try to be satisfied by the things in my life that are good.

    I am old enough so that getting sick as a prelude to dying is part of the planning process. I intend to have perfected my ability to look on the bright side by being able to take full satisfaction about any tiny thing that is good.

    To the extent possible, I hope to avoid allowing negative stuff to influence my self evaluation or sense of happiness.

    RANT: Millenials deserve respect and sympathy

    I am an old, male boomer. I want to shout: I think the anti-millennial crap spewed by older people is utter bullshit. It's unfair. It's wrong. It's so horrible I categorize it as on par with full-on racism.

    Millenial people (they are not 'millenials', some mythic creature in your imagination) did, in actual fact, grow up and come of age in a remarkably shitty time. Worse than other bad times, maybe yes, maybe no, but from 9-11 on, American society has not been good. This is compounded by their vicious exploitation by the ruling classes and corporations. You needn't go any farther than the elimination of art and music from public school, to the cost of college education and then the rapacious structure of the student loan industry.

    But another thing that matured in the lives of millennial people is the technology of worker exploitation. The fucking over of young people in the job market is unconscionable. And, as with student loans, it's abetted by the government (though more on one side of the aisle than the other) supporting corporations uber alles.

    Before networked technology, it wasn't practical to manage randomized work schedules that make you work days alternating with working nights. There weren't as many jobs simple enough that firing an experience worker because they are making an extra buck an hour and you can hire a new one for less. It makes your life miserable on purpose.

    We won't talk about climate change, the unwholesomeness of food, or mass shootings every day, or etc, but they count, too. Suffice to say, I agree that things suck today and tell you that they are actual things that have been done, almost maliciously, mostly to young people.

    I also think that much of it could have been avoided. I think the older peoples' condemnation of millennial people is mostly projection. They cannot face the guilt of having wrecked the culture and the planet so they blame the victims.

    I start to say that I also apologize for my age cohort and it's bad behavior but, that doesn't capture my real feeling. I am enraged and ashamed of being part of such a rapacious, short sighted and prejudiced bunch.

    Alena Kate Petit ur Trad Wife

    I ran into this article on my daily tour of Wonkette, one of my favorite link aggregating blogs. It was, as is its wont, characterized cynically. The main character, who is arguably the first woman to have a social media presence as an anachronistic, stay at home mother, ie, trad wife, was said to have "the sads" about the cultural consequences of the people who followed her lead.

    Alena Kate Pettit, trad wife in the New Yorker, sounds nice. She had a rough childhood that formed her. That resulted in the desire for a nice family and a relationship with a man who would reciprocate her commitment by taking care of her and her kids.

    Unless the interviewer is being specifically manipulative (and it's the New Yorker where I'd expect the opposite if anything), Alena is not a conservative monster. She takes her religion like I take mine, lots of songs and bake sales (my inference). Without seeing her online history, I can't prove it but she sure doesn't sound like she's pounding any kind of conservative drumbeat.

    In this article, a skeptical tv interviewer is surprised by Alena's assertion that she would have to talk to her husband about buying a couch. I thought, "WTF? Who would buy furniture without talking to their spouse?"

    I've often disdained the notion of 'head of household' and the supposed submission that entails. In my life, I often joke that I have turned "Happy wife. Happy life." into a religion. I don't go with submission but, if she has a preference, that's what I do in just about everything.

    Reading about Alena, since the article left me feeling friendly toward her, I realized that her acceptance of her husband as the head of the household does not sound so much different, practically speaking, to my concern for my wife's happiness.

    You can safely read the article about Alena. If the article is fair, she is a person who found a way of life that she liked, not a politico determined to push women into the past. As I say, she sounds nice.

    Quotation: Bertrand Russell Deconstructs Christianity

    Bertrand Russell says,

    “The Christian religion, as it was handed over by the late Roman Empire to the barbarians, consisted of three elements: first, certain philosophical beliefs, derived mainly from Plato and the Neoplatonists, but also in part from the Stoics; second, a conception of morals and history derived from the Jews; and third, certain theories, more especially as to salvation, which were on the whole new in Christianity, though in part traceable to Orphism*, and to kindred cults of the Near East.

    The most important Jewish elements in Christianity appear to me to be the following:

    • I. A sacred history, beginning with the creation, leading to a consummation in the future, and justifying the ways of God to man.

    • II. The existence of a small section of mankind whom God specially loves. For Jews, this section was the Chosen People; for

    Christians, the elect.

    • III. A new conception of ‘righteousness’. The virtue of almsgiving, for example, was taken over by Christianity from later Judaism. The importance attached to baptism might be derived from Orphism or from oriental pagan mystery religions, but practical philanthropy, as an element in the Christian conception of virtue, seems to have come from the Jews.

    • IV. The Law. Christians kept part of the Hebrew Law, for instance the decalogue, while they rejected its ceremonial and ritual parts. But in practice they attached to the Creed much the same feelings that the Jews attached to the Law. This involved the doctrine that correct belief is at least as important as virtuous action, a doctrine which is essentially Hellenic. What is Jewish in origin is the exclusiveness of the elect. 

    • V. The Messiah. The Jews believed that the Messiah would bring them temporal prosperity, and victory over their enemies here on earth; moreover, he remained in the future. For Christians, the Messiah was the historical Jesus, who was also identified with the Logos of Greek philosophy; and it was not on earth, but in heaven, that the Messiah was to enable his followers to triumph over their enemies.

    • VI. The Kingdom of Heaven. Other-worldliness is a conception which Jews and Christians, in a sense, share with later Platonism, but it takes, with them, a much more concrete form than with Greek philosophers. The Greek doctrine — which is to be found in much Christian philosophy, but not in popular Christianity — was that the sensible world, in space and time, is an illusion, and that, by intellectual and moral discipline, a man can learn to live in the eternal world, which alone is real. The Jewish and Christian doctrine, on the other hand, conceived the Other World as not metaphysically different from this world, but as in the future, when the virtuous would enjoy everlasting bliss and the wicked would suffer everlasting torment. This belief embodied revenge psychology, and was intelligible to all and sundry, as the doctrines of Greek philosophers were not. 

    To understand the origin of these beliefs, we must take account of certain facts in Jewish history, to which we will now turn our attention ...“

    — Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (1945), Book Two. Catholic Philosophy, Part. I. The Fathers, Ch. I: The Religious Development of the Jews, pp. 307-09


    * Orphism (more rarely Orphicism; Ancient Greek: Ὀρφικά, romanized: Orphiká) is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices originating in the ancient Greek and Hellenistic world, associated with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who descended into the Greek underworld and returned.