In Donostia

I’m in San Sebasti├ín, selfying from the hotel balcony.

I’ve been here for three seconds, and it’s already my favorite part of Spain. It’s not hot! The scenery on the way here is stunning. And it’s not hot! The architecture is very dignified. And it’s not hot! My niece tried a pintxo and was overwhelmed with how good it was. And it’s not hot here at all!!!

More tomorrow.

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Book Notes: Justice on Trial

The most important thing about Justice on Trial isn’t the depth of detail on the Kavanaugh drama but the conclusion. Hemingway and Severino point out that the problem is much larger than this one guy and the surrounding drama. The problem is that the Congress is refusing to legislate. If it manages to pass anything, which is rare, it ends up being some vague grand gesture that has to be litigated in the courts.

For the really big stuff, the Congress doesn’t even try to legislate. It outsources the work to the Supreme Court. The justices have to contort themselves into weird shapes to find support for decidedly recent ideas in the Constitution. We are all very much for abortion rights and gay marriage but we also all know that they are not in the Constitution*. SCOTUS had to invent them as constitutional rights because it had no choice. As a result, every SCOTUS confirmation becomes apocalyptic because too much hangs on it. And it shouldn’t.

The judiciary branch has grown to such a ridiculous degree because the legislative branch is in retreat. Look at our Congress. Nobody even attempts to negotiate, build bridges, make things happen. There’s no politics going on. It’s all empty, vapid showmanship. I don’t want to say “erosion of the nation-state” again but what else can it be?

We are looking at these justices as these hugely important, towering figures but they shouldn’t be. The whole way things function is wrong.

I really liked this part of the book because I believe that this is precisely what we should be discussing regarding the Kavanaugh affair. The book is about looking towards the future and not endlessly relitigating past scandals, which is good.

* I’ve been saying this in this space for a decade and everywhere else for longer.

In Navarra

We are in Navarra!

There’s nothing better than a road trip to get to know a country. We are seeing a lot of solar panels and wind turbines everywhere. And we are also noticing that people drive very aggressively and carelessly in the city but turn into the most courteous, careful drivers on the highway. In North America, it’s the exact opposite.

Sandwich Hack

In Teruel, when people make sandwiches (and everybody is really into sandwiches here, it seems), instead of butter they use the inner part of a tomato (mashed abs without skin). It does the job of softening the bread without adding the heaviness that the local climate can’t support.

Of course, you need real tomatoes and not the plastic ones we get in North America.

More from the Book

Another interesting thing from the book that I didn’t know is that the reason why Kavanaugh behaved so differently at different times (like in the TV interview he sat for with his wife and the hearing) is because he was torn between two influence groups.

On the one hand, there were the Bushies who were trying to convince him to pretend to be meek, contrite and unemotional. Kavanaugh is a longtime Bushie himself, so he initially accepted the advice and sat for that ridiculous TV interview where he repeated the same thing verbatim 6 times and looked like he had a wooden pole stuck up his ass.

But the Trump camp (led by Don McGahn who was transmitting Trump’s messages) told him this was a horrible idea and that people don’t respond to that kind of thing any more. They told Kavanaugh to be emotional. The poor guy, this doesn’t come naturally to him, so he practiced and practiced. But when he finally managed to be openly emotional at the hearing, he won the nomination.

The authors of the book point out that you absolutely have to practice more for an emotional speech than for a dry one. Many people don’t realize that and fail at the task. It’s a very rare person that can be openly emotional in front of a large audience and still completely control the message. Everybody else needs to practice.