Friday, September 7, 2018

The (longed-for) 28th Amendment




There's a chunk of text making the rounds — has made the rounds, in fact, for quite some time — calling for a 28th amendment.  The (proposed, longed-for) 28th amendment would say

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to Senators and Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to Senators and Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.
or some variation thereto.

I think I may have started this a long time ago.  At least, I have a text file dated 11/11/2000 at 9:40a that reads

The 28th Amendment
Restoring Sanity to The Law

1. Congress may not exempt itself or its agents from compliance, in whole or in part, with any Federal law or regulation, nor allow regulations which do so, nor shall it encourage state or local jurisdictions to exempt it from compliance with their laws.

2. Any existing Federal law or regulation which exempts Congress from compliance with its provisions, in whole or in part, is hereby rescinded in its entirety.

There's a big difference between the two.  Did you notice?  The one I wrote 17 years ago undoes all the historical damage caused by its absence by automatically revoking all laws currently in existence that violate it.  Leaving that part out is really very 'conservative':  it freezes the current situation in place.  I suppose that makes my version 'regressive' although I personally think of it as 'progress'.

There are many now calling for a con-con, a constitutional convention, to remedy what they see as myriad ills plaguing our nation.  I truly believe most of those ills would evaporate if we were merely to prohibit past, present, and future acts of discrimination by our Congress.

What do you think?


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Print-On-Demand




In the old days, an author had to rely on traditional publishers to see their book made available to the public.  An author would submit a manuscript to several publishers in hopes that one, at least, would find it attractive enough to spend money editing, proof-reading, typesetting, and printing in order to produce the first edition.  This cost could be several thousand dollars.  The publisher would typically call for a first print run of 10,000 copies as a bare minimum, and it would be the publisher's task to get them sold as a way to recoup the initial cost that sometimes included an advance-on-royalties made to the author.  As a result, publishers were very picky about which books they would publish.  Aspiring authors from that era all had tales of 'papering their walls with rejection letters'.

Within the past half-century or so, 'vanity presses' have appeared on the scene.  These are businesses that will publish your work for a fee — sometimes an exorbitant fee.  As a rule, they care not whether your work is good or bad because you are paying the up-front costs and handling the job of selling your work.  In the early days of vanity presses, a contract might deliver 1,000 copies of the first edition — usually the only edition — and what the author did with them was the author's business — literally.

Since the computer revolution the entire face of publishing has undergone a sea change.  Word processing has made it possible for very many people who would not otherwise have gone to the effort to produce a text and to have it published by either a vanity press or a new arrival on the scene, the independent publisher.

Both 'vanities' and 'indies' are able to print-on-demand (as are the traditional publishing houses), and this has reduced the cost of getting a book to market so substantially that the number of published works has exploded due to the drastic lessening of the financial risk.  The same thing happened when Gutenberg introduced the printing press to Europe in the 1500s.

"Print-on-demand" means that a largely-computerized publisher has the ability to access the formatted text of a book along with its cover, among other things.  When a buyer orders a copy of the book, a transaction is sent electronically to the printer that causes the production of a fully-formed book.  The inside text (usually black-ink-on-white-paper) is printed on one printer, the cover (usually color and on a heavier stock) on another, and the shipping label on a third.  At the end of the production line, automated binding equipment gathers the pages, wraps them in the cover, slips the finished product into a shipping box, and affixes the shipping label.  The completed package is handed over to the local postal service or an overnight shipper and is in the hands of the buyer in a few days.

The era of having 10,000 copies of a book printed and held in storage pending the arrival of orders from retailers or wholesalers has largely ended.  Only ink, paper, and cardboard shipping boxes are kept in inventory and can be reordered as needed.  When a retailer such as Barnes & Noble decides they want 200 copies of a work in stock, the only difference in the processing is that only a single shipping label is printed.

Ingram, headquartered in La Vergne TN, is probably the world's largest printer-on-demand and can have a book printed — right now — in any of several countries on several continents.  They are not alone.

As a result, any aspiring author who wishes to put in the effort can become a published author for what would have been considered 'peanuts' in an earlier age.  Amazon, for instance, will convert your Microsoft Word document or Adobe PDF to a Kindle-formatted version free.  You just have to agree to sell it via Amazon.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Sippenhaftung




In old Germanic law (pre-Roman) there was a concept known as "Sippenhaftung", 'kin responsibility'.  Certain crimes were serious enough that the criminal's family or clan was considered to be as responsible for the crime as was the actual criminal.  It even survives today in (especially) classrooms where, as one example, one student's misbehavior can cause the class outing to be cancelled.  In operation, it effectively outsources law enforcement by giving people an incentive to enforce proper behavior among their family.

We generally shy away from such collective punishment because it offends our modern sense of justice, but there may be situations where Sippenhaftung is actually the only way to prevent certain crimes.  I refer, of course, to 'terrorism'.  Terrorists often commit their acts of terror fully expecting that they themselves will not survive to be arrested, tried, convicted, and punished.  Especially if their families applaud their deaths as some act of religious faith or political protest, the terrorists know that they will be honored in their deaths.  Our reaction to such things is to shake our heads in disbelief.  What if our reaction were something else?

What if our reaction to a terrorist incident is to immediately deport the parents, siblings, spouse and offspring of an identfied terrorist, whether those deportees were citizens or not?  What if our reaction is to order them gone in 10 days or 'wanted dead or alive'?

I have the feeling families would be much more likely to report a relative as soon as they are suspected of plotting terror rather than face the possibility of having to uproot the entire family and flee for their lives.  Terrorists themselves might become less enthralled with the whole notion because a family they (presumably) love would be put in danger — would, in fact, become the lawful targets of terrorism-in-return.

Further, it may be that some deportees may not be able to find a country that will take them in at all.  A mere one or two such families could spell the end of terrorist acts in our lifetime as potential terrorists contemplate making their families homeless, stateless refugees.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Kriegspiel




Reflecting on something I heard about Hillsborough County (Tampa, FL, mostly) diverting kids from after-school mischief via a chess club, I remembered a chess variation from my own youth called 'Kriegspiel'.  Kriegspiel is a German word meaning "war games", and it's unlike any other form of chess you've ever seen.

Whereas ordinary chess (and even Wizard's chess) is played by two players, one board, and one set of pieces, Kriegspiel needs three boards, two sets of pieces, and a referee.

The players sit with their backs to the center board (which has a full set of pieces), each with a board containing only the pieces of their own color.  As each player makes a move, the referee replicates that move on the center board.  Usually the referee merely announces "white/black has moved".  Occasionally, this is followed by "capturing" or "giving check".  Sometimes the referee announces "illegal move" because that move cannot be made on the center board, as when an attempted move passes through an occupied square or moving the piece exposes a check.

When a player captures an opposing piece, that piece is removed from the opponent's board.  "White has moved, capturing."  White knows that a capture has taken place but not which piece.  Black knows which piece was captured, but not which piece did the deed or where it came from.  Should I recapture?  Is it worth risking that Knight since it might also be immediately recaptured?

As with standard chess, the game ends when checkmate or stalemate occurs, but with Kriegspiel the game also ends when any player leaves their board or sees the center board.  Of course, the audience, if there is one, must be silent for fairness.  No groans or laughs may be allowed to give away bad moves or good.

Some referees will be more specific with their comments, e.g.: "Black has moved giving check on the long diagonal".  Such announcements may be made for a lower-ranked player but not her higher-ranked opponent.  That's local custom and agreed before the match.

While it sounds terribly odd, most games of Kriegspiel are hilarious to watch, and it's a real chore for the audience not to give away valuable information.  The games are also fairly educational because we often do not understand how much value information has until we don't have it.  Because of this, it's a good idea to have someone transcribing the game so that it can be re-played for the essentially-in-the-dark participants after the game concludes.

Try it; you'll like it.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Israel




I'm not expounding; I'm just 'noodling'...

There's a lot of talk about how Jewish Democrats are going to deal with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who just won the Dem primary in NY's 14th CD.  The problem with AO-C is that she's anti-Israel and Jewish Dems are now faced with a dilemma: support the Dem nominee or support Israel.  It got me to thinking.

Before the 20th century, the part of the world we now call 'Israel' was dominated by the Ottoman Empire.  In WW-I, the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, lost, and had all their territory seized by the victors.  Had the Ottomans sided with Britain and France, there probably wouldn't be an 'Israel' and I wouldn't be noodling about it, but that's not how it played out.  For a long time, 'Palestine' was Britain's to govern if not own, and after WW-II, displaced Jewish populations demanded and got a 'homeland' carved out of the British Mandate.

Lest there be any confusion, 'Palestine' is derived from 'Philistine', but it has never been a nation with a distinct government, a distinct culture, or a distinct language, at least since the Philistines got overrun.  It has been, at most, an administrative district, a convenient shorthand to designate a particular geographic region.

The first Jewish settlers arrived while the Ottomans were still in charge.  When they got there, the area was barely fit for raising goats, and had been in that condition for millennia.  Today, Israel is a productive greenspace that is in stark contrast to the millions of square miles of wasteland that surround it.  Having seen what the Jews did with their patch of desert, the envious 'Palestinians' want it back.  They didn't do anything but raise goats on it for 2,000 years, but now it's their homeland.

Don't get me wrong: I don't support the U.S. giving Israel millions of dollars per day, but I think the Israelis have established ownership via sweat-equity.  What the Israelis did the Palestinians could have done... but didn't.  There are vast uninhabited tracts of land indistinguishable from pre-Israeli Palestine within a day's journey from Israel.  Any nearby country could acquire a huge population of formerly-Palestinian homesteaders for free and have them improve that country's economy.  That is not an acceptable solution, because Israel would still exist.  The only acceptable solution is one that eliminates Israel.  Besides, those formerly-Palestinian homesteaders would likely be as useless on their new land as they were on the old.

The fact that other nearby nations could (for almost no cost) solve 'the Palestinian problem' -- and don't -- invites speculation that they don't actually want that problem solved.

Yes, there should be a two-state solution for Palestine.  The other 'state' should be east of Jordan.  Any nation in the local group that isn't interested in having Palestinian settlers on their desert needs to STFU -- permanently.

Jewish Dems still have a problem in AO-C, and they're going to have a come-to-Jesus (sorry...) moment in the very near future.

Okay, I was expounding.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Justice Anthony Kennedy




Once upon a time, the New York Daily News was a reliably conservative outlet, the NY Daily Mirror was considered 'liberal', and the NY Post was a daily version of The Enquirer.  Somewhere along the way, the Mirror folded, the Daily News went hard left, and the Post became conservative.  I wasn't living there at the time so I didn't pay attention and can't tell you 'when' or 'why'.

The Post yesterday printed a story, "The real meaning of Democrats’ Supreme Court panic", about the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy noting:

This is why Democrats celebrate obviously superlegal decisions like Roe v. Wade: There is no right to abortion in the Constitution, but they would prefer not to battle that issue out at the electoral level.  The Supreme Court allows them to hand down their policy from the mountaintop without having to subject those policies to public scrutiny...  And that means that any reversal of such policy by a Supreme Court that actually reads the Constitution as it was written is a threat to Democratic hegemony.

(They're correct, but for the wrong reason.)

Also once upon a time, Justice Antonin Scalia remarked (possibly in commentary on Roe v Wade) that he couldn't find a right to privacy in the Constitution.  It appears that Scalia hadn't read the Constitution as far as the Ninth Amendment.  It's possible Scalia wouldn't have said that had he a better appreciation for the 9th.  If he also appreciated the 10th, he might have voted to kick Roe back to the state where it originated.

For the benefit of those who aren't able to recite the Constitution verbatim, I quote it here for you (commatosis in the original):

AMENDMENT IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

In modern American English, this means "just because we only listed a few rights here doesn't mean that's an exhaustive list. We just didn't want to waste the ink and parchment on something any idiot could figure out."  That is: there is a right to privacy in the Constitution, right there in the 9th; there is a right to travel freely, a right to smoke marijuana, a right to marry whomsoever you please, right there in the 9th; there are all sorts of rights in the Constitution, right there in the 9th.

And the 10th:

AMENDMENT X:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

In modern English:  "if we didn't give some particular power to Congress, Congress doesn't have that power; it's a 'state thing' or a 'person thing', but it's not a 'Congress thing'".

An originalist Justice who "actually reads the Constitution as it was written" is exactly what we need.  In fact, we need eight of them since only Clarence Thomas currently fits the description.  More originalists?  Yes, please, and hurry!  A mere half-dozen originalists would already have struck down the National Firearms Act, NAFTA, NDAA, the War Powers Act, and hundreds of similar Congressional and Executive usurpations.

As to Roe v Wade, this clearly is a topic within the purview of the 10th amendment.  It should never have been heard at the Supreme Court.  Alas, Robert Bork said exactly that in his confirmation hearings and paid a dear price for having too much knowledge of the Constitution, too much honesty, and too much naïveté.

As to Kennedy being a 'swing vote', Democrat angst over his imminent departure is misplaced.  Kennedy voted with the majority in Janus, NIFLA v Becerra, Trump v Hawaii, Ohio v AMEX, and dozens of other cases that cause Democratic wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Why are they so upset at him retiring?  Do they think his replacement will be worse?  No, they fear his replacement will be an originalist.





Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Are We Headed For Another Civil War?




Some years back, I wrote a book, 'Tipping Point', that laid out a possible scenario in which The United States suffered a second civil war.  I deliberately made it very 'not pretty' with atrocities being committed by both sides, because civil wars are like that — recall Sherman's March To The Sea that needlessly destroyed civilian croplands and, in the fullness of time, the civilians who relied upon them.  'Tipping Point' hypothesized an assault on the Second Amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, as the casus belli, but near the end of the book I had one of the characters recall that "...guns were merely a convenient symbol...".  That is, I think, important to keep in mind going forward.  If we are lurching toward a second civil war, it may not be 'guns' that gets us there.

Little more than a year ago, a group of Republican congressmen was ambushed while playing softball — by a disgruntled supporter of Bernie Sanders.  Many of the comments attached to news reports of the incident expressed disappointment that so few deaths resulted.  Within the month, two officials of the Trump administration have been the targets of mobs demanding they not be served at public restaurants.  Within the week, a Democrat congresswoman, Maxine Waters, has publicly issued a call for more of the same.  Whether you call them 'Democrats' or 'the left' or 'progressives' (all of which are marginally inaccurate), there is one segment of society that seems to be actively soliciting our next civil war, and their targets, whether you call them 'Republicans' or 'the right' or 'conservatives' (all of which are marginally inaccurate), are meekly suffering the slings and arrows.

Meanwhile, it's becoming increasingly clear that the FBI and the Department of Justice have, together, badly perverted what's left of our system of justice, and Congress seems reluctant to actually throw somebody into prison, perhaps because they fear turnabout should the next election place them in an exposed position.  This is not a good situation to be in.  This is not a safe place from which to watch somebody else get involved in a civil war.

One hundred million (maybe 120 million) Americans own 350 million (or more) guns and 200 billion rounds of ammunition.  If you look at the map showing electoral districts won by Trump and Clinton in the last Presidential election, it's a startling sight: the blue (Clinton) districts are all relatively tiny (high population density; big cities and metro areas; serious electoral clout) while the red (Trump) districts define the vast bulk of the country's land area (low population density; rural areas; thin electoral power).  It goes without saying, I suppose, that almost all of those guns and gun-owners are in red districts.  What in heaven's name are those Democrats thinking?  They're deliberately trying to anger a population that's better-armed than any WW-II maquis unit, possibly under the assumption that they're so law-abiding they would never turn violent.  What if they're wrong?

If there is another civil war, this one between the Reds and the Blues, the outcome is easy to predict:

  1. the Reds are going win.  It's not even theoretically possible for small enclaved cities to overwhelm the heartland, but it is possible for the heartland to cut the cities off from food, water, and electricity.  Game over.
  2. the heartland is going to want to secede.  They'll cut the blue districts loose because conquering them is counter-productive.
  3. Blue America will turn into a third-world country.  Red America will strictly control its border with Blue America.  There will not be an 'illegal immigrant problem'.
  4. Within a few years at most, those blue areas will bid to be annexed simply because the government model they use is unsustainable without inexpensive supplies coming in from red areas.  The blue model requires the red model far more than the red requires the blue.

In short, what the Democrats are doing is so severely against their self-interest it's fair to wonder whether they have thought this problem through to its logical conclusion.  This might be an opportune time for them to correct that lest they accidentally turn 'Tipping Point' from 'fiction' to 'documentary'.