Aaron Hernandez

Several posts I have seen suggest that Aaron Hernandez did away with himself in an esoteric legal maneuver to ensure that his daughter inherits money. This not legally correct. And it’s a huge DISTRACTION from what is really important here.

The theories hinge on a legal doctrine called ‘abatement ab initiatio’ which destroys the conviction of someone who dies while on an appeal. While this doctrine might come into play in this case it has no real relevance to the final outcome.

The first version of the theory has Hernandez reinstated in his NFL contract. This won’t happen, he wasn’t sent down because of his conviction, but because of his arrest. In fact, even if he was found not-guilty he still wouldn’t have been reinstated. Is this unfair? Yes. Is this legal? Unfortunately. Also, it can happen to you.

The other version of the theory has Hernandez seeking to protect his estate from the victims’ lawyers. This is just inaccurate. One of the most important legal rules in—not just the Constitution—but also Common law in general is the rule against ‘double jeopardy’ which means that you cannot be tried twice on the same case, except in cases of mistrial.

As with many fundamental civil and legal rights this has been eroded to the point of meaninglessness by cupidity and electioneering. Even if you are outright acquitted, expect to find yourself in civil court for the same thing. The legal standard is very low in civil court, so there is a greater likelihood of the complainant succeeding. (Particularly if you have a sizable bank account, but yes this can happen to you too.)

Even though Hernandez is dead, it is possible to bring civil claims against an Estate for ‘wrongful death.’

The reason I am writing this is not to pick picayune legal disputes but to point to two things:

  • SUICIDE DOES NOT FIX PROBLEMS! Call 1-800-273-8255 for confidential help that does.
  • The American prison system is evil, it does not serve justice, but compounds injustice by creating more wrongs.

Most analyses of the American prison-industrial complex focus on mass overincarceration, especially of blacks. And that’s true, many people in prison are innocent, ‘guilty’ of offences which shouldn’t be offences or guilty of trivial offenses which shouldn’t EVER result in incarceration but there is another problem: American prisons and jails are charnel houses. Physical, psychological and sexual abuse is widespread. Gangs and other criminal enterprises operate openly. Foreign embassies warn their citizens who intend to visit the U.S. against them. Prison reform, both in the administration of prisons and in who is sent to them is desperately needed.

Remember that society is judged by how it treats the least among its ranks. And who could be lesser than those we have chosen to keep under lock and key?

This is enabled by the greatest cancer of American social thinking: If someone slips at the stop of the stairs, we don’t grab their hand to steady them: we shove—hard—and then mozy down to the bottom and spit on them, hating them for falling. This is true not just in criminal ‘justice’ but in the economy. Oh, you fell and broke your spine? Well, you shouldn’t have done that. Just stop being poor already. I digress, but not much.

Now, the point here is not whether or not Hernandez is even guilty, after all murder isn’t ‘slipping’ as much as it is jumping over a cliff, morally speaking. The point is that we have ceased to view prisoners and convicts as human beings. We are devoid of moral feeling towards them. We have chosen to ignore them and to refuse to look at these problems.

The social photographer Jacob Riis documented in pictures the horrors of ‘How the Other Half Lives‘ in his 1890 book of the same name. It shocked the imagination of polite society. This problem was huge, but kept out of sight and so out of mind and so out of remedy. But we have gone back to this, or perhaps never left it.

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of Heroin use suddenly it was on the front-page of all the Newspapers. Before him, hundreds and thousands of faceless, nameless little people died and we did not care.

The opioid crisis was not and is not new. But one celebrity was all it took…

….all it took to bring about a lot of hand-wringing, protestations of helplessness by officials and by the media and water-cooler “awareness” and a few band-aids such as naloxone with absolutely none of the radical and possibly effectual action.

Will that not yet be the case again here? If that? I am concerned that the U.S. is careening towards state failure.

We have entered into an atmosphere of faux-helplessness: we talk non-stop about huge social problems but even when what is necessary to do is very clear we cannot do it. When it is unclear what to do we are unwilling to try things until we find something that works. Our political system is not capable of functioning. And even more scarily I do not see a path to restoring that capability. We have lost the ability to imagine.

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Donald Trump wins II

In the thirty years since the fall of Communism, we have lived in an intellectual famine. Basically, the left and right stopped developing, frozen like insects in amber. Our politics became consumed with Manichean zero-sum fables.

‘There is no Alternative,’ Margret Thatcher said, “T.I.N.A.” We came to agree with her. The right-wing historian Francis Fukuyama termed it “The End of History.”

Have you noticed how even a supposedly socialist candidate did not call for the abolition of property of markets and of normal buying and selling? That’s not socialism. It’s not even fabianism.

But the politics of fear which defined that era did not go away, rather than fear the Reds, we came to fear each other. This fear sank in and stained our minds.

I have a troubled and uneasy relationship with the American left which to me seems to have lost its teeth and mind and to have settled for a sort of economic-neoliberalism with fuzzy-edges and a penumbra of weak, arrogant thinking. Liberalism is like a cheap suit, it fits me—but poorly. It always sucks being more catholic than the pope.

The Internet and the modern media landscape have made it so easy, so natural to find only those who we agree with and to see only the information which confirms our biases.

The Left is very good at diagnosing this problem in others (Fox ‘news’, Brietbart) but cannot diagnose it in itself.

In 1972, Paulene Kael delivered a speech to the Modern Language Association in which she famously said “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” Far too many of us live in Kael’s “rather special world.”

This is a part of what went wrong.

This election reveals that the Left has utterly failed to convince people of certain things that we thought were at least the grudging consensus.

Presented with the “establishment-Left” candidate nonpariel, 58+ million people rejected capitalism-lite and more than 90 million thought the whole matter so insipid that they did not bother to vote at all (or they cast pointless ballots for 3rd party candidates.)

Yes, your math is correct: only about 25% of people voted for the man who will become President of 100% of Americans.

“There is no Alternative!” we said. Many agreed and decided to make no choice. But some said “Aha!, You are wrong! The Alternative is Trump!” And we could not answer them because they were technically right.

It seems history did not end, though we may wish it had.

Why did Bernie Sanders’ campaign fail?

Are you sure it failed? Certainly, Sanders has been precluded from being the nominee for a long time but it prevented the no-challenge Clinton coronation that everyone was afraid of. That is not to be sneezed at.

Beside, by out flanking her ideologically he has forced her into the unfortunate position of having as her best argument “I’m not Trump.”

But let’s examine some things that undermined the campaign.

  1. TOO NICE – Sanders was a remarkably civil, high-concept opponent. Not to sound cynical but that doesn’t really work in presidential politics.
  2. THE WORD SOCIALISM — There are two problems with using the word “socialism.” First is the obvious one. It’s just not true.

    Sanders is no socialist, nowhere near it. Nationalization of industry and abolishment of normal buying and selling are central and inseparable to the definition of socialism and both are conspicuously absent from Sander’s agenda. Sanders is a garden variety social democrat (which is a world of difference from “democratic socialist” a term with no accepted prior definition.) This left the unavoidable impression that Sanders was either uninformed or reaching for shock value. Neither is a good look on a presidential candidate.

    The second problem with “socialism” is that it invites false but hard to rebut comparisons to failed states such as Venezuela. What is happening in Venezuela is the inevitable result of the combination of price controls and artificially fixed currency exchange rates which encourage the normally economically irrational practice of buying things in order to export them out of the country. This has very little to do with socialism and the majority of Venezuelan industry is privately owned.

  3. WRONG PHRASING — I cannot say it enough, “income inequality” is a junk concept. To be sure, it’s a real and existential threat to the stability of our civilization in the long-term and when it entails rigging and economic fakery, which is more commonly than imagined, it is morally wrong but the problem lies in how it is termed. “Income inequality” sounds greedy and entitled. You get nowhere with that. Try talking about “dramatic collapse in upward mobility.”

    When you phrase it that way, many Sanders initiatives such as free at the point of use healthcare and higher education sound less like lazy-bum handouts and more like investments in that thing Donald Trump keeps talking about: Making America Great. The tack that Sanders and the left at large are taking is ideologically immoderate and renders cross-aisle support unlikely.

  4. IMPRACTICALITY — You don’t have to have a degree in politics to determine that there is zero chance in hell of Sanders implementing even a single plank of his platform as long as Republicans control the House and/or Senate. More likely than not they will retain the House and Senate. Sanders never articulated any idea as to how he was going to actually implement this. Rather, he embraced what is sometimes termed “whig history” – the idea of historical inevitability of progress towards certain ideas. That is to say, no action was required other than a vague “political revolution.” We all know what happened to the Whigs.
  5. TACTICAL ERROR — I admire the spirit of the comment about “your damn emails” but that was a mistake. We, voters, are obliged to consider the matter. Not necessarily because of alleged illegality per se but because of what pattern of secrecy, contempt for rules and disregard for appearances of propriety they evince.

Why Britain should not exit the E.U.

If I was British, I would vote to stay. I say this not because the E.U. is good and nice and stuffed with flowers and candies and such. The EU is a hideous abortion, an unaccountable, dysfunctional clusterjerk, an undemocratic Chancellery of weakness doubled upon futility.

But I say this because reform is not impossible, indeed it has never seemed more possible and in the interim, come what may, the U.K. has a permanent opt-out of the worst part of the E.U.: The Euro. The Euro is economically impossible. You simply cannot have a situation in which fiscal and monetary policy are so wildly unrelated.

For example the European Central Bank (ECB) cannot buy EU-member state’s bonds, except in proportion. Yet each member state sets its own fiscal policy (hello, Greece!) This prevents the ECB from effectively monetizing the debt. This defies the entire economic rational of central banking and fiat money. The situation is not altogether dissimilar to the doomed Bretton Woods System and we all know how that ended*.

Because the U.K. (And, also wisely, Sweden and Denmark) have opted out of the Eurozone (despite being eligible) they are insulated from the worst of the effects that could arise in the event of the demise of the E.U. itself and/or the Euro. The U.K. could mobilize rapidly to contain the worst effects.

However, should the U.K. exit the E.U. it would still feel most of these effects anyway, as Europe—vaguely or specifically—is still to be a huge economic reality for the country regardless of what the vote decides. Therefore, it is best for the U.K. to stay in the union because there are certain advantages that legitimately come from membership. The U.K. benefits enormously from membership in the common market, etc.

Moreover, should Britain leave it could provoke the near-term crackup of the union. Britain leaving a union which survives will be disadvantageous to both. But Britain leaving a Union that then explodes a year-down-the-line would be “mutually assured destruction.” Make no mistake, if the decision is ‘exit,’ and margin of victory is not as narrow as a hair, contagion will erupt. Ugly, illiberal nationalism and racism are on the ascendancy there as here. And, for once, Europe may be further down that road to perdition than we are.

* “The Nixon Shock”

Income inequality

The left has convinced itself that prattling on about “income inequality” is the way to go. This is wrong; Americans want to be rich themselves so soaking the rich is not an attractive proposition.

It’s also too easy for the right to bat aside as “politics of envy” or something like that.

What the left really needs to do is rephrase their points to be about the “dramatic collapse of upward mobility.” Americans like upward mobility, after all, they want to be rich.

Polls show the majority of Americans believe their children will not have superior standard of living and the overwhelming majority of “middle class” adults believe their own standard of living is difficult to maintain. Most under-30s believe they already are the lost generation and have little hope for the future.

There’s your hook.