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Legitimacy.

It is what a government has when it largely represents the will of the majority of its people. Not the will of a small minority. And not imposing tyranny on that small minority either, it respects and protects the rights of that small minority. But we have a word for when a small minority rules the majority — that word is *tyranny* — and tyrannies are always illegitimate.

In the case of courts in English-speaking countries, they maintain their legitimacy via what’s known as “stare decisis”. That is, they based their opinions in court cases based upon a) current law, and b) previous opinions. This is not a new principle. It is one reason, for example, why the Catholic Church moves so slow — they have 1,500 years of precedents for papal opinions, and if a papal opinion doesn’t comply with that 1,500 years of precedent it can make only a tiny move towards a new position at a time, it can’t just throw out the old position altogether.

Stare decisis was the basis for the Supreme Court’s decisions for the past 150 years. Each new decision was couched in the language of previous decisions, or in the plain language of the law itself. This has at times caused issues when the Court recognized rights that were not currently respected, such as the right of black people to attend the same schools as white people, but even there the opinion was couched in Equal Protection language from prior court decisions. The Supreme Court didn’t come roaring out of 1945 intent upon guaranteeing equal rights to black people and simply ruling that black people had equal rights, it built decision after decision upon prior decision. When it decided “separate but equal is inherently unequal” it did not pull the decision out of its butt, it relied on 50 years of data showing that “separate but equal” never was plus language from previous Equal Protection court decisions showing that if the school segregation law was not treating citizens equally, it could not be law.

In this fashion the Supreme Court has typically been an anchor preventing radical change while providing for preservation of rights. The Court has at times gone off into evil territory — Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson come to mind — but eventually through applying the Constitution to court case after court case managed via stare decisis to come back from the dark side. Stare decisis gave legitimacy to the Court’s opinions and thus legitimacy to the notion of rule of law. And rule of law is important, because without rule of law, what you have is rule of gun, and rule of gun always ends up with the most ruthless and most murderous in charge.

Which is why it’s utter disaster for the United States that last week the Supreme Court basically threw stare decisis into the toilet in favor of a radical coup that remade American law from scratch based upon the ideological notions of the judges. By throwing out stare decisis in favor of imposing their ideology upon the nation, the Supreme Court has basically killed any legitimacy that it had. The Supreme Court fundamentally committed a right wing coup of the U.S. government last week, a coup setting five authoritarians in charge of the nation, and killing any respect that the majority of Americans have for the court.

Why is that important? It’s important because the Supreme Court relies upon other branches of government to do its work. The Supreme Court did not enforce the desegregation of Little Rock High School. The 101st Airborne did, via the intervention of the executive branch. So the Supreme Court ruled that New York’s concealed weapon law was illegal. New York’s concealed weapon law is very popular in New York State. What is the Supreme Court going to do when New York says f**k you, we’re going to continue enforcing our concealed weapon law? Joe Biden isn’t going to dispatch the 101st Airborne to free people imprisoned for violating New York’s concealed weapon law.

For those of you who have been in the military, there is an important and fundamental principle taught to every officer: Never issue a command that you know is going to be disobeyed. It destroys your legitimacy as an officer and makes it more likely that future commands are going to be disobeyed. This is what last week’s Supreme Court did — they issued a command that they know is going to be disobeyed. They issued that command because they *know* that it’s going to be disobeyed. The Supreme Court knowingly destroyed its own legitimacy. Why? Simple — the Supreme Court in the past has been a major defender of rights for minorities in America. By deliberately destroying the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, the right wing is betting that they via rule of gun can then take away rights from minorities that were previously granted by the Supreme Court.

In short, last week’s Supreme Court deliberately destroyed its own legitimacy in hopes that rule of gun rather than rule of law will become the norm in the United States. The right wing believes that because they are the most ruthless and most murderous people in America, they will come out on top when rule of law collapses because the judicial system has lost all legitimacy. Last week’s Supreme Court decisions weren’t an accidental destruction of the Court’s legitimacy — they were a deliberate destruction by people who want to burn it all down. And if you are not a white male Christian with conservative beliefs, you should be very, very worried right now.

— Badtux the “Time to get well armed, people” Penguin

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A few days ago I mentioned that centrally planned economies can’t work, but neither can capitalist economies unless there are rules that redistribute the tokens to the consumers and workers who generate wealth rather than allowing them to accumulate unfettered in the hands of owners of capital. At which point someone says, “well, the only way to do that is tyranny!”

What, in the 1950’s the United States was a tyranny? For real?

Then there’s the argument, “the rules will always be hijacked by the rich and powerful. How are you going to prevent that?”

My answer is democracy. The large number of young people looking at democratic socialism as the answer, which is where democracy is used to re-write the rules to favor redistributing the tokens back to the masses rather than letting them accumulate in the hands of a rentier class, shows that democracy can be self-correcting over time. Democracy is not Orwell’s boot pressing the face of man into the ground forever, it has the capacity for change, albeit sometimes the change happens depressingly slow and takes forms at times that are equally depressing. Is democratic socialism “the” answer? Not in its purest form, certainly, but it is a natural reaction to rentier capitalism and is the direction we must go if we don’t want a Mexico North with a huge impoverished class and a tiny but stupidly wealthy upper class and nothing inbetween. Mexico is not a nice place to live for the majority of people there (and the fact that they’re no longer coming to El Norte should tell us something too about where our nation currently is). If democratic socialism takes us away from that, sign me up!

– Badtux the Somewhat-socialist Penguin

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“I’m an aspirational anarchist. Society’s not ready for it, not close, but it’s the direction I’d like to see us head toward.” — a SF writer

The central problem of power is the central problem that anarchy theory correctly defines but the solution proposed — eliminate all power structures that could allow one person to impose power upon others — is nonsense if we are talking about humans. There are always humans who are more physically powerful than others, there are always humans who end up in control of scarce resources needed by others and thus are in a position of power over others, and the sociopath problem has no solution in anarchy theory, the sociopath problem being where those with the least compunction for harming human beings always rise to the top unless there is some other power structure to prevent them from doing so. I basically have not come up with any solution to this problem of power that in any way resembles traditional anarchy solutions that require consensus because they fall prey to the Liberum Veto problem where sly people use the need for consensus as a tool for obtaining power.

The only way I can see to make anarchy work is the unlimited resources and the (literal) deus ex machina of the AI “Minds” of Iain Banks’ “Culture” novels. And even there, we have seen Minds go insane and space their entire human contingent before heading off into the wilds of the galaxy to do whatever. Making anarchy dependent upon a deus ex machina in order to work properly in short isn’t a perfect solution, though I’d far prefer life in Banks’ “Culture” to life here.

So what can we do? Well. Democracy is the best solution we have thus far to the central problem of power. Unfortunately what we have seen is that democracy requires an educated, involved, and informed populace or else it is susceptible to being hijacked by rich jerks using propaganda and lies. Still, what is your alternative? Anarchy? Anarchy doesn’t work. Everywhere that it has been tried, it has turned into rule of gun as the most venal and ruthless gain followers and use concentrated force to impose their will and concentrate wealth in their own hands. In a sense the current state of Russia is a result of the anarchy that occurred after the fall of the Soviet Union. If there had been a smooth transition to a functional democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union, it is unlikely that Russia would currently be ruled by a strongman who maintains power by jailing and/or killing opponents.

Fuck anarchy, in other words. Everywhere it’s been tried, it’s ended up with strong man rule where armed thugs impose their will upon those who are less ruthless. Either it has been ineffective at fighting the armed thugs due to the liberum veto problem, or the people end up rejecting it in favor of the armed thugs because the armed thugs at least keep the common criminals in check. If you have a counter example, let me know about it. But thus far the only “anarchy” I’ve seen that actually works, works only because it’s embedded in a system that’s *not* anarchy. Which is sort of not a solution to the general problem of power, yo.

– Badtux the Anarchy Penguin

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A science fiction writer of my acquaintance claimed that he was an anarcho-capitalist. I pointed out that he was ignoring the central problem of anarchy theory. And that central problem of anarchy theory is the problem of power.

“Pure” anarchism wants to remove anything in society that could be possibly a source of power. Unfortunately people have inherent power due to their physical abilities, and thus inherent differences in power, a large man skilled in fighting has much more power than a small woman not skilled at fighting. Add in weapons and weapons skills and character traits like sociopathy and ruthlessness (a ruthless sociopath will always win a gunfight, because he’ll just shoot you in the back without a thought before you even know you’re in a gunfight), and clearly there must be power structures to regulate all of this, otherwise you have the most ruthless and vicious sociopaths ruling everything at gunpoint. Anarchists do a lot of hand-waving about voluntary self defense associations yada yada, but that’s not what has ever happened. Instead you get warlordism, rule by the most ruthless and vicious sociopaths ruling everything at gunpoint, because the ruthless sociopaths are the ones willing to shoot their way through innocents to get to the top.

Now, add in capitalism, which is yet another source of power — power grows from the barrel of a gun, as Mao put it, and capital buys lots of guns — and the need for power structures to regulate everything becomes even more dire. Now, what is that power structure going to look like? The only way to do it without rule of gun (which leads to atrocity since only the most ruthless and vicious win that leadership contest) is to get buy-in from the majority of the people, i.e., democracy. At which point you no longer have anarchism, since people then vote for things that will make more comfortable for themselves and their neighbors and relatives — as they should, since that’s sort of the whole point of a society.

All of which is just a long way of saying that pure anarcho-capitalism cannot work as a system because it would end up with warlordism, like in Somalia or Afghanistan. And since warlords get their power by being vicious sociopaths, it’s generally not a happy fun time for the population involved. Capitalism is good because it is the best way we have of creating wealth, and wealth is good for people and for a society (both Dan and I know the former from personal experience), but it is also a source of power, and like all sources of power has to be regulated. At that point the anarcho is gone, and what you have is just capitalism.

– Badtux the Capitalist Penguin

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A former ICE chief counsel is facing prison time for stealing immigrants’ identities.

ICE defends America from the Singing Children of Mass Cuteness.

ICE commits 1,600 violations of the Constitution of the United States of America.

ICE has been violating its own policy as well as a court order and the Constitution by failing to exercise individual due process and instead doing mass incarceration. Turns out that due process requires that you make individual determinations, not a blanket “all of group X will be incarcerated”. Who coulda figured?!

Am I saying that a massive paramilitary organization with almost no oversight has ended up being a huge problem, overstepped its authority wildly, and turned into a terrifying force that threatens to permanently damage our democracy by trampling on our most fundamental rights at every opportunity? No way. Surely nobody in Congress could have seen that coming. It’s so unexpected. SNRK.

It’s built into the agency’s genome, people. By creating an agency that has only a single purpose — deporting as many people as possible — the Homeland Security Act created an agency that has an incentive to trample people’s rights in a lawless rush to deport as many people as possible (like, duh?). ICE is irredeemably corrupt. The agency should be abolished and re-established as a new combined entity with USCIS as INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, with a director who is as committed to naturalizing new citizens as he is to deporting wannabe-citizens. Having an entire department that is only about deporting immigrants — and not at all about naturalizing immigrants — gives them an incentive to trample on rights in order to deport as many people as possible, whereas a more balanced agency’s incentives work differently.

But hey, as long as it’s brown people having their rights trampled on, who cares, right? Right?!

– Badtux the Sadly Snarky Penguin

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I mean, this isn’t even controversial. It’s a warning right there when you log into a government computer that anything you do there is a public record. Note that confidential information has to go onto a separate confidential network that has different protections, but if it’s not confidential information, it’s a public record, and can be retrieved via FOIA request by *anyone*.

Let’s not forget how Wikileaks got Hillary Clinton’s emails: A FOIA request by a VICE reporter. Not by hacking her server. Nope. Just by scraping the emails off the State Department’s servers as they publically released them in response to Jason Leopold’s FOIA request. Jason Leopold isn’t law enforcement. Jason Leopold is just an ordinary citizen who files requests for public documents. And gets them, albeit sometimes having to sue to get them.

If you are a law enforcement officer, getting access to public documents is even easier. You show up with your badge and say you need them for law enforcement purposes. They hand you what you ask for. That’s it. Because they’re public documents. There isn’t a need to get a warrant to get access to information already owned by the public, especially information that could be FOIA’ed. About the only thing that requires additional paperwork is if there are privacy rights involved — e.g., if you’re requesting records that have been deemed “private” under various privacy acts, you’ll need to file paperwork saying that you need the information for law enforcement purposes. You still don’t need a warrant, because it’s still information the government already has — you only need a warrant for information the government *doesn’t* have. None of that privacy stuff even applies to emails sent to or from government computers. You explicitly waive all privacy rights when you log on to a government computer. It’s right there in the notice that you’re forced to sit through. Anybody can file a FOIA request and get those emails. Anybody. Doesn’t require a badge, or anything, just two working brain cells and a fax machine (yeah, most departments require FOIA requests to be faxed. Hilarious, huh?).

None of which is brain surgery, and anybody who has ever been a government employee knows all of this. Well, except the Trump administration. Which claims that Mueller’s request of emails sent by Trump administration officials on government computers was “improper”. Because they’re fucking morons. Duh. Look, it’s been over twenty years since I was last a government employee, and even *I* remember that anything I generate using government equipment is a public record! Fuck, now that Mueller has these emails, it’s time to get Jason Leopold on the case again, because I’m curious to see what’s in them. The only real question is whether Wikileaks (which appears to be an arm of the Russian government) will throw off their reputation as Russian stooges and publish the emails…

– Badtux the Not-moron Penguin

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Did the economy do better under Ronald Reagan than under Jimmy Carter? There’s lefties who argue that Republicans are *always* worse than Democrats, but then Republicans shout, “Jimmy Carter!”. Was it true?

Technically yes. According to the St. Louis Fed, GDP in chained billions of dollars was 5732.462 in on 1/1/1977, and 6635.726 on 1/1/1981 when Reagan took office, for an average increase of 3.9% per year. GDP in chained billions was 8831.544 when Reagan left office, for average increase of 4.1% per year. So yeah, technically, you’re right, Reagan’s economy performed better than Jimmy Carter’s, but it’s like claiming that your guy will give us 11 cents rather than the other guy’s 10 cents. Nobody’s going to get too excited about the minimal difference there.

When you look at wages, on the other hand, things look different. In inflation adjusted dollars (taking Bureau of Employment Statistics numbers and feeding them into the official inflation calculator), average hourly wage for non-supervisory workers fell from $21.82 in January 1977 to $20.07 in January 1981, or an average of 2% per year. From there they then fell to $19.35 in January 1989. So: average hourly wages for non-supervisory workers fell by 0.45% per year under Reagan, as versus 2% per year under Carter.

In both cases the working class was fucked. But they were fucked less under Reagan than under Carter.

So I call foul on the notion that Republicans are *always* worse for the economy (and for wages) than Democrats. It is true that Clinton and Obama did better than any Republican president back to Eisenhower, but Jimmy Carter is the counter-example that proves that the rule really isn’t a rule.

On the other hand, Reagan’s policies decidedly set up today’s situation where wages are in free-fall for everybody who’s not one of us technology elites, so this isn’t saying that Reagan was a great President or anything. I mean, real wages fell during his Presidency. You can’t say a President is great if real wages fall during his presidency. On the other hand, he was not the Worst president of the past fifty years. That honor falls on Jimmy Carter, a nice man who tried (and tries) to do right, but a lousy President.

– Badtux the Numbers Penguin

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People with Type 1 diabetes are having to turn to the black market for the insulin they need to stay alive. This is especially true if they’re allergic to the particular bacterium genetically engineered to produce the specific brand of insulin that their insurer covers. The new genetically-engineered insulin was supposed to solve the allergy problem that faced some users of the pig or cow insulin because it’s people insulin, not pig insulin or cow insulin. Instead it created its own allergy problems because some of the proteins of the bacteria that produced the insulin end up in the insulin, and allergies happen due to those proteins, too.

And to top it all off, because these are genetically engineered insulins, the vendors raised the price to outrageous sums. Meanwhile, the cheap animal insulins are no longer available on the U.S. market — the only way to get cheap insulin now is to import it illegally on the black market from Canada.

The core problem here is that insurers and drug makers are quite willing to kill Americans suffering from Type 1 diabetes in order to increase their profits. If you suffer from Type 1 diabetes and don’t get your insulin when you need it, you *die*. But insurers and drug makers don’t care. They don’t have to. It’s not as if there was some entity called “government” that had the power to regulate them and force them to bring cheap animal insulin back on the market again, after all. This “government” thing? It must be imaginary, right?

Say hello to Libertopia, folks, where drug makers are quite happy to kill people for profit because they don’t care and they don’t have to.

– Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

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3 month old baby labeled a terrorist because a box was checked wrong on the visa form.

Now, one question: What good is a box on a visa form that basically asks, “Are you a terrorist”? A real terrorist isn’t going to check that box “Yes”. The only people who are going to check that box are going to be people who get confused and think they’re checking “No” rather than “Yes”, like an elderly grandmother filling in a visa form for her grandchild.

But hey, this is America, and bureaucratic stupidity is sort of, well, how things are done here. So…

– Badtux the Baffled Penguin

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So, Rep. John Lewis. You know why he’s bald? It’s because he has a steel plate in his head from having his skull smashed in by racist KKK-affiliated cops for the crime of marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. He was one of the original “Big Six” civil rights leaders who organized the March on Washington where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

And for his work towards freedom, he was called a terrorist by the KKK-affiliated bigots of the South, and beaten, gassed, jailed, and is lucky to be alive today. There were several instances where the KKK almost got him. But by luck of the draw he made it out alive. Not everybody did.

But you know who else just called Rep. John Lewis a terrorist? The NRA. Putting themselves firmly on the side of the KKK. They’re not even pretending anymore. They’re an organization of white people whose main reason for wanting guns is because them darkies is gettin’ uppity. Gotta keep’em in their place, y’know. The tree of freedom needing the blood of dark-skinned people and all that.

I find it interesting that the Rep. John Lewis finds it necessary at this late stage of his life to resort to the non-violent tactics that he used in the 1960’s, but those non-violent tactics were not terrorism then, and are not terrorism now. In both cases he protested for the right to vote, in today’s protests for the right to vote on laws regulating gun sales, and of course in the 1960’s for the right to vote, period.

What I do know is that if House speaker Rep. Paul Ryan calls out the police to forcibly remove him and his supporters from the House chambers, you are going to see a shitstorm like you haven’t seen since the aftermath of Bloody Sunday. You will see footage of Lewis being attacked by police in the House chambers interposed with footage of Lewis being beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge non-stop for the next four months in the campaign ads of every single Democrat running for office outside the Deep South as a reason for why they must be elected and Republicans voted out. Hell, even for some Democrats *within* the Deep South, if they’re in majority-minority districts and want to get their voters really riled up so that they vote for Democratic Senators and a Democratic President in disproportionate numbers. It would, in short, be the biggest mistake that Rep. Ryan has made in his life, other than perhaps the mistake of running for Speaker of the House, where it’s clear that he’s way over his head. Which is why he’ll probably do it.

Pass the popcorn, already… sounds like we’re on a ride on the WayBack Machine. Next stop, Selma, Alabama!

– Badtux the Wayback Machine Penguin

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