URLs du Jour

2022-01-16

  • It's almost as if the DOJ said "Hey, maybe we should indict some of those January 6 guys with serious crimes." It took them over a year, but they managed to come up with something. Here's the Department of Justice press release: Leader of Oath Keepers and 10 Other Individuals Indicted in Federal Court for Seditious Conspiracy and Other Offenses Related to U.S. Capitol Breach. Excerpt:

    The seditious conspiracy indictment alleges that, following the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, [Oath Keepers leader Stewart] Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021. Beginning in late December 2020, via encrypted and private communications applications, Rhodes and various co-conspirators coordinated and planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on or around Jan. 6, 2021, the date of the certification of the electoral college vote, the indictment alleges. Rhodes and several co-conspirators made plans to bring weapons to the area to support the operation. The co-conspirators then traveled across the country to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in early January 2021.

    According to the seditious conspiracy indictment, the defendants conspired through a variety of manners and means, including: organizing into teams that were prepared and willing to use force and to transport firearms and ammunition into Washington, D.C.; recruiting members and affiliates to participate in the conspiracy; organizing trainings to teach and learn paramilitary combat tactics; bringing and contributing paramilitary gear, weapons and supplies – including knives, batons, camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection and radio equipment – to the Capitol grounds; breaching and attempting to take control of the Capitol grounds and building on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to prevent, hinder and delay the certification of the electoral college vote; using force against law enforcement officers while inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; continuing to plot, after Jan. 6, 2021, to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power, and using websites, social media, text messaging and encrypted messaging applications to communicate with co-conspirators and others.

    Well, that sounds serious. Since I've mentioned in the past (accurately at the time) that nobody had been charged with sedition in connection with January 6, … well, there you go. That's no longer the case.


  • Byron York is dismissive. From his perch at the Washington Examiner, he dubs it The LARP rebellion.

    What to make of it all? First, the Oath Keepers really were a gang of idiots. What were they thinking? In what fantasy world did they, unarmed and careening in golf carts, plan to install the next President of the United States? Reading the indictment, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it all was an elaborate bit of LARPing — that is, live-action role-playing. The indictment is filled with page after page of fantasy talk.

    But of course, the group did discuss interfering with the transfer of power. They talked about civil war. They brought guns to the Washington area, although, careful to observe local gun laws, they did not use them or even bring them into the District of Columbia. They were part of the mob that entered the Capitol, although it does not appear that any of them engaged in any violence. And now, for it all, they have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

    The indictment raises questions about whether it is correct to refer to the Capitol riot as an "insurrection" or "sedition." Obviously, the investigation has given rise to an indictment for seditious conspiracy. But can the actions of a group of 11 LARPers accurately describe the motives and actions of the hundreds of people at the Capitol, and thousands more in the area, who had no connection with the Oath Keepers? A recent poll showed that many Americans view the Capitol riot seriously, but as a protest that got out of hand. The new indictment will probably not change their minds.

    Were they a gang of idiots, or is that just a retrospective judgment of history? See this description of the 1775 Continental Army: "a drunken, canting, lying, praying, hypocritical rabble, without order, subjection, discipline, or cleanliness". Contemporaneous impressions can sometimes disagree with ultimate outcomes.


  • But for a legal take… let's go to Andy McCarthy at National Review who has experience in prosecuting bad guys. In fact, he "prosecuted the last major, successful case of this kind." And he's thinking this: Seditious Conspiracy Charge Wrong.

    Seditious conspiracy is the rare criminal offense in which motive matters. In most crimes, prosecutors need establish only knowledge and intent — meaning, the defendant did not act by mistake. If you embezzle funds from a federal agency, for example, it makes no difference that you needed money to feed your starving family; you knew the funds were not yours, and you stole them on purpose, case closed.

    Why the accused acted is, however, a core question in seditious-conspiracy prosecutions. It must be proved that force was directed at government facilities and agents because they instantiated the government’s execution of its lawful authority. Or it must be shown that the defendant was trying to wage war against the American people: The purpose of attacking civilian infrastructure, for example, must be to coerce the United States into surrendering, changing policy, or taking some other national action. To the contrary, while blowing up a building in order to collect on the insurance is a heinous act, and one who does it should face a severe sentence, it’s not seditious conspiracy.

    As I hope is obvious, I go through these legal niceties not to defend people, such as Capitol rioters, who violently stormed the seat of our government and assaulted police. They should be prosecuted aggressively and incarcerated accordingly.

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    It's an NRPLUS article, which means (I assume) that non-subscribers will be unable to Read The Whole Thing. So it's (yet another) reason you should go ahead and subscribe.


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines, surprisingly, fails to hold for Michael Huemer's question: Can Teaching the Truth Be Racist?. It's a thought experiment about the Critical Race Theory debate:

    It’s a simple point. Suppose you learned that there was a school staffed mainly by right-leaning teachers and administrators. And at this school, an oddly large number of lessons touch upon, or perhaps center on, bad things that have been done by Jews throughout history. None of the lessons are factually false – all the incidents related are things that genuinely happened and all were actually done by Jewish people. For example, murders that Jews committed, times when Jews started wars, times when Jews robbed or exploited people. (I assume that you know that it’s possible to fill up quite a lot of lessons with bad things done by members of whatever ethnic group you pick.) The lessons for some reason omit or downplay good things done by Jews, and omit bad things done by other (non-Jewish) people. What would you think about this school?

    I hope you agree with me that this is a story of a blatantly racist and shitty school. It would be fair to describe the school as promoting hatred toward Jewish people, even if none of the lessons explicitly stated that one should hate Jews. I hope you also agree that no parent or voter should tolerate a public school that operated like this.

    Now, what if the school’s right-wing defenders explained that there was actually nothing the slightest bit racist or otherwise objectionable about the school, because it was only teaching facts of history? All these things happened. You don’t want to lie or cover up the history, do you?

    I hope you agree with me that this would be a pathetic defense.

    If your CRT-defending reaction is "Well, this is different!", Huemer has that covered too. Click through.


  • I had not, actually, been wondering about this. Clayton Cramer (for some reason) has the answer, just in case: Did You Ever Wonder What Happens to neo-Nazis Discredited by Being Children of Holocaust Survivors?

    List of nearly 20 books at the link, nearly all wacky. Well, only one title seems vaguely non-wacky: Mussolini's War: Fascist Italy’s Military Struggles from Africa and Western Europe to the Mediterranean and Soviet Union 1935-45. The Amazon page shows it to be Mussolini-philic, claiming that "New York City escaped an atomic attack [from WWII Italy] by margins more narrow than previously understood." Yeah, I don't think so.

    Clayton doesn't mention what landed Collin in jail: it wasn't for being a Nazi jerk, but instead a child molester.


Last Modified 2022-02-21 7:11 AM EDT

Convenience Store Woman

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I listen to the "Reason Roundtable" podcast every week, which includes, at the end, their recommendations for things (movies, books, music) listeners might enjoy. I've (frankly) had bad luck with Katherine Mangu-Ward's recommendations; I just don't share her science fiction tastes, probably because I'm an old stodgy man, she's a young with-it woman. But she recommended this book a few months back, I finally checked it out from the Portsmouth Public Library, and (yay!) finally, a win for Katherine. I liked it a lot.

Plus which, it's multicultural! Set in modern-day Japan, originally in Japanese. It's also very short. (But it counts as an actual book read! It counts!)

It is the story of Keiko Furukura. It's clear that she's on the spectrum, as they say. She's always been an oddball, observing society, family, co-workers, and acquaintances as an extraterrestrial might, always looking at how others behave, consciously aping their speech patterns and mannerisms. That's how she's managed to fit in, as best she can.

And she's really found a relatively comfortable niche, clerking at a (see the title) convenience store in a Tokyo suburb. She's been there for eighteen years in the same part-time job. She's seen managers and co-workers come and go. She gets by with her meager salary and eating unsellable food items. (And some sound pretty tasty. Spicy cod roe noodles? Hm.) We learn that her family is concerned by, but resigned to, her eccentricity. It helps that she's totally impossible to insult. Even the most offensive things people say to her—she simply observes them, never taking anything personally.

And things might have gone on longer, were it not for Shiraha, a new employee who's a different kind of oddball: even more alienated from society, leeching off family, and someone who's not at all interested in doing his job well. Keiko (again, ET-like) is fascinated by this new behavior, and their relationship evolves into… well, it's weird to us outside observers, but it makes perfect sense to them. I found myself cheering for her, hoping she could overcome this disruption in her life.

I found it useful to imagine the characters here speaking loudly and stiffly to each other, kind of like those poorly-dubbed Japanese monster movies from my youth.

Charlotte's Web

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Charlotte's Web was on the New York Times shortlist from which they asked their readers to pick "the best book of the past 125 years". Since I hadn't read it, I put it on the TBR list. So: one more down, twelve to go!

I know: it's a kid's book. And it's very short. But it (nevertheless) counts as part of my 2022 reading! What can a 70-year-old man say about it?

Well, it's charming, of course. And E. B. White's elements of style shine throughout. Despite the title, it's the story of the pig, Wilbur. He is inauspiciously born as the runt of his mama's litter, which would usually doom him to a very short life. But young Fern implores her father to spare him, and Wilbur gets pampered instead. Shuffled off to another farm, Wilbur gets tossed in with a menangerie of beasts in a barnyard: a rat, some sheep, a goose, and (ah, there she is) a large spider named Charlotte. And they all talk to each other. (I assume this book is often read aloud, with the reader performing each voice appropriately.)

Wilbur thrives. Too well for his own good, unfortunately: his new owner has ham and bacon plans for him. Can Charlotte save him? Spoiler: yes.

Even though I hadn't read the book previously, we'd taken my kids to a play based on the book, so I kind of knew about (another spoiler) Charlotte's somewhat sad fate.

Death is an overriding theme here. So here is my 70-year-old man observation: Charlotte kills and eats a lot of flies, but they don't talk. It would have been interesting if E. B. had put that in. "Rats! I'm stuck in this web thing!… Oh, no, here comes a monstrous spider! She's wrapping me up! Save meeee…"


Last Modified 2022-02-15 7:57 AM EDT