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The rise and fall of the Roman Republic: part 1 of 4: Structure and Background

The rise and fall of the Roman Republic: part 1 of 4: Structure and Background

“Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny,” by Edward J. Watts
“The Storm Before the Storm,: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic” by Mike Duncan
“Ten Emperors: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine,” by Barry Strauss

I’ve recently mentioned that lately I’ve been unable to read most American history books, with their currently unwarranted chipper optimism. Instead my recent reading has focused on other periods of crisis.

One question I’ve been considering is, just how rare, and how stable have Republics historically been? There are few antecedents for the experience of the US, because it has aspires to both be a Republic under the rule of law and simultaneously a superpower.  In fact I believe there are only four, in reverse historical order:

  1. The British Empire (yes, I know, it’s technically a monarchy, but it has been a parliamentary democracy really ever since the Glorious Revolution 400 years ago).
  2. The Dutch Republic (I’m not sure if this really qualifies, since it was more a confederation of principalities, but it was styled a Republic, and it did have global interests.)
  3. The Republic of Venice (this is a dark horse contender, but this Republic lasted almost 1200 years, from roughly 600 A.D. until it was conquered by that other “republican,” Napoleon, in 1797).
  4. The Roman Republic.

In these four posts, I’m going to summarize what I’ve learned about the Roman Republic from the three books that lead this post.

While we’re all familiar with Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and probably all had to read Shakespeare’s Tragedy of that name (but really about Brutus and Cassius) in high school, I don’t think much attention has been paid in modern education to the Roman Republic, which lasted 450 years – almost as long as the subsequent western Roman  Empire – and was avowedly the model that inspired the Framers of the American Constitution. None of the books that have come out in the past few years, to my knowledge, have discussed either the Roman Republic or other historical antecedents to the US. I believe studying the rise and demise of the Roman Republic, which during its existence was extremely – probably too – successful, is well worth the effort.

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Mike Pompeo Reminds Me of Al Capone

Mike Pompeo Reminds Me of Al Capone

How to say in Latin that our Secretary of State is pompous and dishonest as it gets? Oh yea – if one says “quid pro quo” in English, it never happened. These unbelievable stupid excuses for denying what is plainly true – that Trump extorted dirt on Democrats from Ukraine by withholding military aid – is insulting as they are treating us like “chumps” to paraphrase Leon Penatta. But even more insulting is this:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fiercely criticized the House impeachment inquiry, saying his department is being treated unfairly as Democrats seek to remove President Donald Trump from office … “They’re not letting State Department lawyers in the room … they have not let State Department lawyers be part of these hearings,” Pompeo said. “That’s unheard of … I haven’t seen you all report that.”

First of all, we do know that the brave members who served the State Department honorably have turned down Pompeo’s lawyers in lieu of bringing their own so this last sentence of his is a lie as this fact has been reported on. Secondly, Pompeo is whining that HE is being treated unfairly. Look Pompeo is clearly a mobster style criminal – hence my reference to Al Capone. Can you imagine a grand jury investigation of a mob boss where the mob boss gets to send his own lawyer into the testimony before the grand jury? Witnesses might be reluctant to appear out of fear that the mob lawyer would tell his client who to knock off. Pompeo is all about witness intimidation as he fears the truth. And yea – I bet Pompeo and his boss (Trump) would stoop to killing anyone who dares to stand up to their treasonous crimes.

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Does Bob Barr Need It in Writing?

Does Bob Barr Need It in Writing?

I think we all know AG Barr lied about the Mueller report but permit me to go back to this:

The moment Attorney General William Barr laid eyes on a letter from special counsel Robert Mueller criticizing Barr’s summary of his two-year investigation, he knew his goose was cooked. Mueller was creating a written record that wouldn’t allow Barr to bastardize his concerns the way he had mischaracterized Mueller’s report. “Bob, what’s with the letter? Why didn’t you just pick up the phone and call me?” Mueller didn’t need to tell Barr what they both knew: Mueller now considered Barr an untrustworthy adversary—a liar, in essence. Going forward, Mueller was going to memorialize his views in writing

. Fast forward to how AG Barr handled the Whistleblower complaint:

The CIA’s general counsel made a criminal referral — or at least, she thought she did — of a whistleblower’s complaint concerning President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president. According to NBC News, which cited unnamed officials familiar with the matter, Courtney Simmons Elwood, the CIA’s top lawyer, considered her Aug. 14 phone call with high-ranking DOJ officials to be a criminal referral. However, unnamed Justice Department officials told NBC News they didn’t consider the conversation to be a formal criminal referral — because it wasn’t in writing.

Bob Barr is a pathetic excuse for Attorney General. We need to remand that he resign – TODAY!

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“Trump’s Call With the Ukrainian President”

The White House released this document on Wednesday, September 25, 2019. It details a July call between President Trump and President Zelensky of the Ukraine. About midway through it, there is a warning of the contents not being a “verbatim transcript.” I have taken some time to include the notes (red) which are found at the end of the post and have notated the particular passages to which the notes are detailing. If you need direction other than the notation at the end of the sentences, I can do so. I did not want to alter this more than what I did in adding the word “note.”

It is a surprising transcript showing Trump’s boldness.

The President: Congratulations on a great victory. We all watched from the United States and you did a terrific job. The way you came from behind, somebody who wasn’t given much of a chance, and you ended up winning easily. It’s a fantastic achievement. Congratulations.

President Zelenskyy: You are absolutely right Mr. President. We did win big and we worked hard for this. We worked a lot but I would like to confess to you that I had an opportunity to learn from you. We used quite a few of your skills and knowledge and were able to use it as an example for our elections and yes it is true that these were unique elections. We were in a unique situation that we were able to achieve a unique success. I’m able to tell you the following; the first time, you called me to congratulate me when I won my presidential election, and the second time you are now calling me when my party won the parliamentary election. I think I should run more often so you can call me more often and we can talk over the phone more often.

The President: [laughter] That’s a very good idea. I think your country is very happy about that.

President Zelenskyy: Well yes, to tell you the truth, we are trying to work hard because we wanted to drain the swamp here in our country. We brought in many many new people. Not the old politicians, not the typical politicians, because we want to have a new format and a new type of government. You are a great teacher for us and in that.

More of the transcript after the leap plus the notes concerning intent and meaning.

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Free Market Government

This post will be especially confused. I am thinking about cash bail and how it is unacceptable that richer people have more liberty than poorer people. For some reason my thoughts turned to Jeffrey Epstein currently held without bail, because of course. Now he hasn’t been convicted yet, and I do support the 5th and 6th amendments, so I have a problem. I will try to solve the problem.

I’m going to start with Hobbes, Locke, Mill and Nozick (which one here is not like the others ?). I don’t believe that the moral law contains an article about private property — I think private property is a very useful even necessary social institution, but not a transcription of objective moral truth (this is following Michael Walzer sometimes colleague of Robert Nozick). But for this post, I will assume there are natural rights to private property (following Locke). And, like the listed guys, I will pretend that there is an actual social contract and that people are bound only by contracts they accept. I will go for 3 out of 4 and say they can’t be accepted under the threat of force. The guy who’s not like the other is Hobbes who was an absolutist and claimed that signatures extracted by force counted (his example not mine was armed robbery).

I conclude two things. One is that the maximum morally acceptable tax rate is roughly 100%. The other is that I can set bail for Epstein. Granting Locke, Mill, Nozick and von Hayek all they can imagine demanding, I end up concluding that they have (almost) nothing. I will discuss this after the jump.

But here I will try to focus on financial bail. The problem isn’t that people can buy temporary liberty with private property. The problem is the cash part, which favors the non liquidity constrained, and also the incorrect application of equality under the law. People must be treated equally. Dollars must not be treated equally. It’s one or the other. Bail should be set as a fraction of the defendant’s wealth (including human wealth that is future labor earnings). Currently, the idea is that bail is a number of dollars possibly adjusted for wealth. There is no way to get to justice starting with the idea that all dollars are, more or less to first approximation, equal.

Also high bail. With no liquidity constraint problem, there is no reason to have bail proportional to anything. I think the rule is simple, show up or any correct spelling of your name is a legally valid signature. You don’t play by our rules (showing up for your trial) and there will no longer be any concept of forging your signature. Everyone has the right to sign for you (especially including the Bailiff who will write checks to the state worth the balance of every known account in your name). Any future claim that you have exclusive ownership of anything will not be enforced. And by exclusive that means your claim that you own something any more than I do.

Epstein might still run away, but he would be running barefoot (someone would have taken his private jets, automobiles, and shoes). Natural rights do not include a natural right to have the state prosecute someone for forging your signature.

Now the dollar value of everything you own bail would be greater the richer the defendant. This is fair and equal. It implies discrimination against some dollars, which is no problem.

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Enforcing the Constitution

I have met this man on several occasions. He is one of the most unimposing and quiet people I have ever run across. You would never know he is one of the most knowledgeable and capable constitutional attorneys in the nation having testified to Congress on SCOTUS appointments.

Erwin Chemerinsky: In Marbury vs. Madison, in 1803, the Supreme Court declared that it is “the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”Quoting Chief Justice John Marshall from Marbury vs. Madison (1803) footnote 742, the Court declared:

“It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.”

Justice Elena Kagan in minority dissent:

Justice Elena Kagan wrote: “For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities. And not just any constitutional violation. The partisan gerrymanders in these cases deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights: the rights to participate equally in the political process, to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives. In so doing, the partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people.”

The Supreme Court just abdicated its most important role: enforcing the Constitution

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Rep Liu got Mueller to say it

https://twitter.com/pbump/status/1154042744702029824?s=20

Also the MSM noticed. Bump is a Washington Post reporter.

The point is that this implies that Mueller thinks Trump was guilty and that he would have a reasonable chance of convincing a jury that there is proof beyond reasonable doubt of Trump’s guilt.

The other answer was “that was a sufficient reason to not indict Trump which doesn’t imply that it was a necessary condition. As written in the report I don’t think it is fair to discuss the question of

update: in the afternoon, Mueller took it back

When he appeared before the Intelligence Committee in the afternoon, Mueller clarified this exchange, noting that it was not solely because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion that he did not charge Trump with a crime. Instead, he said, “we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”

This is inconsistent with his exchange with Liu. The key word is “the” in “the reason”. Liu asserted that there was only one reason and Mueller agreed. But in any case, the bottom line is that he took it back.

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How today’s Democratic ‘Squad’ is a direct ideological descendant of the original 1850s Republicans

How today’s Democratic ‘Squad’ is a direct ideological descendant of the original 1850s Republicans

Nothing is ever really “new.” Today’s ‘Squad’ of young Democrats is the direct ideological descendant of the original 1850s Congressional Republicans. That is one of the important lessons of Joanne Freeman’s “The Fields of Blood,” about the increasing threats of, and actual incidents of, violence in the US Congress between the 1830s and the Civil War.

Just as today, there were differing economic and social divides in America. Economically there was a struggle for power between the merchant class and farmers. Socially the increasingly contentious issue was that of slavery. At least beginning with Andrew Jackson’s 1828 Presidential election victory, the Democratic Party was the voice of farmers. The ex-Federalists and the nascent Whig party became that of commerce.

But there were northern and southern branches of each party, defined in how they stood on slavery. The story of the 1830s through 1850s is how that moral issue moved to the forefront, splitting both parties, and ultimately giving rise to the Republicans. This is very much the same paradigm as the “great sort” that took place between the Democratic Party and the GOP between 1980 and 2016 (if not 2008).

Not only is that, but reminiscent of polls over the past 10 years, in the 1830s and 1840s  northerners, especially northern Whigs, wanted to settle disputes civilly, while especially southern Democrats were willing to threaten, and even use, physical force to get their way.

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Bill Black says what if…

(Dan here… Via Real News Network, Bill Black discusses the what-ifs of President Trump’s policies in a spectacular contrast to current expectations…providing. a jumping off point from what we expect from the way it is framed now. I assume the complex interalationships of the wealthy elites (let us see how the Epstein case unwinds for another aspect) plays an important but not so well known role in this drama.  I find his thought his conclusions dismaying if even somewhat accurate.)

BILL BLACK: Sure. The question I ask in the article is why did Trump choose to be so spectacularly unpopular? Because had he done what he promised and had a true middle class tax cut that gave, for example, $5,000 a year to the typical middle class household, he would be spectacularly popular. And almost certainly they would have–the Republicans would have retained control of the House, and quite possibly they would have gained seats in the House. And of course they would have gained seats in the Senate. And Trump would be well positioned for re-election. He would have greatly expanded his base, and he would have paid off to his base, as well. And you know, convinced them that backing him was exactly the right thing.

And that’s the biggest thing. But also, if Trump had done what he promised and had a true infrastructure bill, where he spent $2 trillion on infrastructure, he would have divided the Democratic Party.

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On Gerrymandering: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”

On Gerrymandering: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”

Previously I have written that the Fourteenth Amendment specifically provides for a reduction in representation for any state that engages in voter suppression.

Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment provides in part:

“[W]hen the right to vote at any election … is denied to any … citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion [thereto]….”

In view of the GOP Supreme Court majority deciding that partisan gerrymandering is a “political question” beyond the purview of the courts, I want to take this matter further. Because if the Congress is willing to play hardball, it has a remedy.

Article 4, Section 4 of the US Constitution provides:

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

Importantly, In Luther v. Borden (1849), the Supreme Court established the doctrine that questions arising under this section are political, not judicial, in character and that “it rests with Congress to decide what government is the established one in a State . . . as well as its republican character.”

In other words, it has already been established that what the guarantee of a “republican form of government is” is not for the Federal Courts, but for the Congress and the President to determine.

Do States have a “republican form of government” if a minority of the people are able to entrench themselves as a permanent legislative majority based on the outcome of just one election? Now that the Supreme Court has said that the Courts may not act, I think Congress has every right to declare that this is the case, both at the state and federal election levels, and to refuse to seat anybody winning such elections.

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