Dearest Rachel –
I’m guessing this has something to do with yesterday’s letter, combined with having watched a couple of speed runs of Cuphead last night. It’s the only thing I can think of off the top of my head that’s why I would have a dream about the governments of Massachusetts and Connecticut throwing dice to solve their budgetary issues between each other. On each successive throw, Massachusetts loses Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties before the governor of Connecticut offers to give it all back on one last wager. Needless to say, Worcester county is soon in Connecticut’s possession as well, and the governor gathers up the property statements, cheerfully bidding his fellow governor a good night, and that “we should do this again some time,” before returning to Hartford, all but doubled in size.
“Hey… at least, you still have Bah-ston,” he offers over his shoulder as he departs.
A silly scenario, I know, and one of the reason some of the stories I would hear from the Pinnacle Club members last week were of no interest to me – some people might just enjoy those kind of games (and you certainly were good for many a card game yourself), but when you bet money or property on the outcome, you’re asking for trouble. Those ships, I’m told, run on the revenue from the casinos, and we both knew well enough to bet ON the house rather than betting the house.
I keep wanting to leave the outside world – particularly, the political aspect of it – out of these letters, but they do tend to inform how one is to live within it, it would seem. Besides, some of the things that people say in public fora these days cannot go without comment, as far as I’m concerned, because the implications behind them, even outside of the political realm, can be absolutely staggering.
Take the current hearings about the proposed new addition to the Supreme Court. On the face of things, it shouldn’t make any difference to speak of – one liberal justice will be replaced by another, it is what it is, big deal. We’re stuck with it, but it won’t change the dynamic of the Court in the slightest, save to carry that leftward bent far into the next generation. That could as easily be said of most of the previous appointments, substituting “right” for “left,” with the notable exception of Justice Ginsburg; but that’s how the process works. Based on that, this should be a dull, dry process, with the outcome in absolutely no doubt.
And yet, Mark Twain – to say nothing of Solomon – keep being proven right.
It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubtMark Twain (also attributed to Abraham Lincoln in a slightly different variant)
Even fools seem to be wise if they keep quiet; if they ·don’t speak [L keep their lips shut], they appear to understand.Proverbs 17:28, Expanded Bible
Of course, when you’re under oath before a Senate subcommittee, I suppose you have no choice but to speak up and answer the questions you’re given. But some of those answers!
Let’s set aside the flippant coda she’s (is ‘she’ actually a ‘she’? Because apparently, ‘she’ doesn’t know. Yeah, that’s how stupid this week in Washington has gotten, where a judge, who will likely be making decisions on various disputes, including some having to do with women’s rights, admits to not knowing what a ‘woman’ is, thereby calling the entire concept into question, and ostensibly disqualifying ‘her’ from ruling on such cases) tossed out about why ‘she’ can’t answer what one would think would be a simple question: “I’m not a biologist.” Oh, so it is a matter of biology, then, your Honor? Good to know, as we’ve been told otherwise over the past few years. Nice to have a definitive source to consider reliable, even if it isn’t you; at least you’re pointing the rest of us equally ignorant plebes in the right direction.
Also, can you imagine how ‘she’ would have reacted if a defendant in her court had responded with something like that? “I don’t know who shot him, your Honor… I’m not a ballistics expert.” Even Bones McCoy wouldn’t get away with that, not in a court of law. Still, this isn’t a court case, and she’s not on trial – not as a defendant, anyway. This is more of a glorified job interview, and the point is for ‘her’ to display ‘her’ qualifications for the job, including giving an idea as to how ‘she’ might rule in certain cases, whether ‘she’ might be likely to legislate from the bench, and so forth.
And it’s here where I want to focus on. In addition to ‘her’ odd take on the apparent fact that there’s no lay definition of a woman, there had already been a question raised as to her opinion (and sentences ‘she’ had handed down based on that opinion) that certain crimes are punished too harshly, if ‘she’ were to go by the book. As a result, ‘she’ would fairly routinely hand down sentences for a specific crime that were considerably less than the amounts recommended by statute. In ‘her’ own words:
With one click, you can receive, you can distribute tens of thousands [of images]. You can be doing this for fifteen minutes, and all of a sudden, you are looking at thirty, forty, fifty years in prison.Ketanji Brown Jackson, March 23, 2022
So, because a defendant could make this mistake (and, to be charitable, it is a mistake) over and over in a short span of time – possibly without considering the implications and ramifications of his actions – through the miracle of the internet, thus compounding his recommended punishment exponentially (since each image would be a separate crime in and of itself), ‘her’ opinion is that one quick screw-up should not be allowed to ruin one’s life.
Let me just stop and say that this is a fairly noble opinion to have. It does seem unfair that a single decision – even one that compounds so quickly you hardly realize how fast it’s growing on you until it overwhelms you – should ruin a person’s entire life. It seems to fly in the face of Newtonian physics – the reaction to an actual should be equal and opposite. Thirty years doesn’t seem to be equal to fifteen minutes – let alone fifty years.
And yet, and yet. That’s certainly not how the world works, your Honor. How many murders are accomplished in a split second, after all? The fact that something can be done quicker, and in mass quantities doesn’t cheapen the seriousness of the offence – nor does it minimize the effect on the victim – does it?
If we could only eliminate the long-term effects of instantaneous events, what a wonderful world this would be. When we used to watch Craig Ferguson on his late-night show, I recall him talking about a book – I don’t recall if he had written it, or just read it and was massively enthused by it – entitled “Between the River and the Bridge,” where a person who was in the process of committing suicide suddenly realized he had all the answers to life after he had jumped, but before he hit the water. Of course, it was too late to do anything about it, and he’d already made the commitment; he was a dead man falling at that point. But imagine if that instant regret could be mitigated. Think of how many answers to life’s greatest problems would be in hand it our foolish decisions didn’t have long-term consequences!
Even situations that one wouldn’t consider mistakes could be undone. Certainly, there’s no evident sin or folly in sliding down a snowy hill. What happened to you should not have happened (although I suppose some people would argue that the slight possibility of danger is what gives the activity its adrenaline rush, which makes it that exciting), and you would still be with us today. That would be wonderful if that were the case!
Why, we might still be in Eden today if God hadn’t handed down that overly harsh punishment. Good Lord (literally), it was just a bite of fruit, for crying out loud! Wasn’t that a bit too harsh a reaction?! Go easy on the poor stupid ‘man’ and ‘woman’; they didn’t understand what they were doing and what would happen, right?
Yeah, that’s not how life works, Judge. I mean, if we as a nation want lesser sentences for a crime such as this, we can elect a legislature to fix that (although, given the particular crime in question, most parents would not want their own kids thus victimized, and probably not be in favor of making changes that favor the perpetrators). But that really shouldn’t be your purview, your Honor. Until you can stand, Canute-like, athwart all of the history of action and consequence and reverse the latter for being disproportionate compared to the former (and to be honest, if you could, that would be much appreciated, at least in one circumstance I can think of), then I think you might seem a bit wiser to just… be silent.
Meanwhile, I still image the governor of Rhode Island offering to ‘help’ his counterpart in Boston… possibly for an option on Dukes County? Got to live up to the name, after all.