30 November 2023

A Return to Dietary Normalcy

The turkey is gone, so it's time for sausages!

  • So someone needs to save Disney, eh? And the obvious starting point is reinvigorating Marvel — this from a studio that built its reputation on appropriating material from other cultures and copyright piracy (just what, exactly, did you think Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and The Lion King were?). Well, I don't really agree; they'd have to "reinvigorate" Marvel by both admitting that, like almost everything washed through NYC-based commercial publishing, 90% or more of it is crap… and then acknowledging the deep, dark secret abuses of its contracting practices that mean some of Marvel's properties have, umm, cloudy titles (cloudy as in "is that a cumulonimbus bearing down on us?"), meaning that they might actually have to compensate the actual creators (past, present, and future) instead of the aggressively passive investors.

    Not. Gonna. Happen. So, instead, I think this will be much more palatable — and likely (as suggested 39 years ago):

    Bloom County, 07 Jun 1984

    Or they could just add more sex at the Mouse House. Yeah, that would turn out well — just consider the most plausible alternative to the MCU (and don't even think about the longstanding media conglomerate with an even higher proportion of crap and even worse historical contracting practices).

  • Copyright is much more "in the news" of late than usual, primarily because techbros and hedge-fund managers seem to think that if they can see a way to make money for themselves, they're entitled to do so for no cost. And without asking permission; they didn't for privacy, so why should we expect them to for intellectual property?
  • Over across the Pond, the French courts have clarified (sort of) when the statute of limitations begins running on a copyright action. Only sort of, though, because it leaves wide open both which facts are relevant — for example, how precise does knowledge of who the infringer(s) are, particularly given that it's much harder to sue what common-law jurisdictions call a "Doe defendant" in France — and what, especially in the context of the vast universe of the 'net, means that the holder "should have known." My limited understanding is that the French courts have largely punted on both problems relating to intellectual property.
  • That, though, is still clearer than the EU's Intellectual Property Office calling for some form of copyright unification. The most obvious aspect of the problem is that what makes a work eligible (or ineligible) for copyright protection in each nation in the EU varies, and that variance is in part due to other laws that are not nearly so amenable to unification, harmonization, or even polite disagreement. Then, too, as the preceding sausage indicates, core civil procedure matters — in fact, it's the dominant factor in a not-surprisingly-large proportion of copyright disputes.
  • In a piece that barely scratches one of the surfaces — not for want of trying, or of perceptive analysis, but for want of about 40,000 words and a couple millenia of historical analysis (maybe more) and such — Jonathan Freedland rightly asserts that peace will require that we ignore extremists on both sides of the (current) Israel/Palestine-reflected-in-Hamas dispute. Let's not forget the extremists in Europe, either, who certainly helped — indeed, intended to help — make the region the festering pustule of political/cultural toxic waste that we're enjoying today.

    But Mr Freedland is certainly correct in his disdain for the extremists; I think his advocacy of the two-state solution wrong (a "state" created on religious-purity lines is already at least 80% of the way toward failed statehood — and that goes for both Israel and Palestine), but it may turn out to be a least-bad temporary solution until we can get two consecutive generations in power in the region, throughout the region, who have grown up not hating each other. Which is to say at least half a century from now, by which time maybe they can actually listen to some advice from Richard Loving. Advice that will be, by that time, well over a century old.

  • All of which is less depressing than contemplating techbros and hedge-fund managers and their part in dooming my children to rising sea levels. Which might not be an entirely bad thing, if it means there will be less land area in Florida and therefore fewer Florida Man stories… and fewer Florida politicians crawling up out of the Everglades onto the national stage (where they promptly urinate on debate moderators).

24 November 2023

Black Friday

It's Black Friday! Let's see, what's on the shopping list?

  • Kangaroo treats, $3.77 at MallWort (hoping they'll get through TSA's gentle ministrations)
  • High-end trading hardware, $3300; software, $800; communications (fiber optic), $99/month (but I'll only need two months' worth and even Veriz0n can't get me Down Undah)
  • Inside information to support an "optimal trading strategy," no charge from a college buddy/neighbor/whatever (because if I paid for it that would be illegal)
  • "Untraceable" cryptocurrency account for the profits… oops

Not so much oops for the corporate profits, though, eh? What I really want to know is this: If corporations are people too, why aren't the corporations paying the same tax rates as people… and paying in to the purportedly about-to-be-insolvent Social Security trust fund?

23 November 2023

The 2023 Turkey Awards

An annual tradition for over a decade! This is my list of ridiculous people from 2023 (so far). Pass me one of those rolls (and cue up the media player), please:

  • The Greasy Gravy Award for oily publicity that makes the main dish inedible goes to literary prize committees and their unrelated-to-art-or-reality eligibility criterea. Really, guys: A substantial proportion of the greatest literary works of all time is speculative fiction, but you'll only talk about speculative fiction when you remove all (or almost all) of the speculative elements — those elements beyond your mundane daily existence and understanding — which really, really just misses the point of "reading," doesn't it? But then, I've always been of the Devil's party. Dubious bonus: I could write the same damned thing six weeks from now (in 2024) and it would remain just as oily, just as inedible (and probably have extra lumps!).
  • The Red-Tide Oyster Stuffing Award for carelessly poisoning an otherwise tasty dish goes to the VA. Keep in mind that this would largely be meaningless if we had even the intentionally-crippled "national health" system of the UK, because then the entire VA system would be superfluous. One wonders how much health care could be provided with just the profit margins of for-profit insurers… and the administrative costs of the VA and its eligibility apparatus…
  • The Broken Wishbone Award for shattering dreams goes to Suella Braverman and her still-the-government's-priorities-after-rejection immigration policies (not to mention her personal immigration priorities, and BTW both of her parents were immigrants, let's reexamine their arrivals and see if her father was an undocumented minor who later dodged the draft like someone else's grandfather). But for the cost of the truly Tory viewpoint, ask the New Model Army — the post-punk one. And ponder who profits from imposing new, harsh immigration restrictions…
  • The Golden Gristle Award for assertions far too difficult to digest (and usually stuck in one's teeth) goes to the House Heffalumps, and the new Speaker in particular, for their implicit and explicit assertions that they're there to govern. If they were there to govern, they'd actually follow the Constitution on how to overturn previous spending bills: They'd get a majority in support of a new statute that alters the prior substantive statute or other provision (and, BTW, there's no power to change their own branch of government's policy through mere appropriations roadblocks stated in the Constitution — the limited duration of appropriations is that power, and if we're going to play enumerated-powers games we're gonna play all of them), introduce that bill in the House, then get the President to sign it. But because actually like, reading seems beyond their capabilities — or at least too far down their priority list — here's a half-century-old remedial video telling them how to do it. Bonus: It's accurate and reflects having read the Constitution.

    Communication, consideration, persuasion and compromise. It's what's for governance in a representative democracy. But not, apparently, for modern partisan politics no matter what manner of formal structure it operates in. Yes, there are vanishingly rare instances of moral imperatives in government and governance that cannot be ignored, but they don't arise every day unless one is a theocrat.

  • The Conspicuous Consumption Cranberry Relish Award for the most-outrageous example thereof goes to football club owners everywhere, who've successfully managed to avoid, say, paying for free basic vaccinations for everyone in Africa and South America with a few percent of the summer 2023 total — and thereby increasing their potential paying audiences. We'll just tastefully ignore the sour taste of always referring to the buying and selling of "footballers" and not their contract rights, with dubious echoes of slave-trading. <SARCASM> One wonders if some overhyped bands might be under a transfer embargo, thus explaining their lack of a similarly-hyped (and competent) lead guitarist. Or might "fits with the team's actual needs" be a seldom-stated consideration? Is the bassist the equivalent of a defensive midfielder? </SARCASM>
  • The Crabapple Pie Award for marketing something sour as something sweet goes to Sam Altman and the Board (former and present) of OpenAI for continuing to disingenuously create a black-box Enhanced Eliza that, in reliance on processing power many orders of magnitude greater than the original (not surprising as it's from the 1960s, and your cellphone has at least eight orders of magnitude greater processing power than did the entire NASA computer complex in 1966), hides that its baseline database operates just like any von Neumann processor does: It makes a copy to analyze. (That's what "registers" are, even when they're abstracted as "pointers" in a high-level language.)

    The same goes for all of the other AI advocates, of course; but they haven't made themselves quite as ridiculous. Not quite. Not yet. Give them time…

  • The Wilted Salad Award for the one part of the meal that's supposed to be "good for you," but is instead rather past its sell-by date, goes to the Authenticity Police everywhere, in every form of the arts. The failure to distinguish between views presented (explicitly or implicitly or even just with 20/200 hindsight) and the pre-speech background of the speaker, or even less the shadow-on-the-wall actor presenting the speaker, is just… well… preliterate. There is a distinction between Al Jolson physically acting as a charicature of a black man seen through overprivileged white eyes and Ursula K. Le Guin writing about a black man despite being a white child of academic privilege — and those Authenticity Police who can't see that the distinction exists, or matters, should have their police powers revoked (not their right to merely advocate for more representation; only their right to, well, arrest those who don't meet their self-proclaimed exclusionary criterea that usually just happen to be to their own economic advantage).
  • The Brussels Sprout Award for stinky, slimy, overcooked, gentrified little cabbages goes to the Orange One (you knew he was going to appear in this meal — it was just a question of which dish). We'll leave the purely civil little cabbages — the ones with the slugs under the leaves and the "f"-word that just isn't used in Polite Society (five letters is too many) — for tomorrow's leftovers. Which nobody will eat because they won't fit in a sandwich very well.
  • The Dried-Out Breastmeat Award for overcooking the books goes to convicted felon Samuel Bankman-Fried. I mean, really: Just because it's "not really money" doesn't mean you get to treat it all as yours. Especially not when it's a proxy instrument paid for by "it really is money."
  • The Rancid Drumstick Award for something that should be edible, but isn't, goes to Senator Tommy Teletubbyville (T-CSA) for deciding that his personal morals are so offended by a political-appointee-established Pentagon policy, primarily relating to people who don't share his religious/theocratic basis, that he's going to take it out on career officers who have nothing to do with establishing that policy and very, very little to do with implementing it. Because, like any playground bully, he can — despite the opposition of his own party.
  • The GMO Tofurkey Roast Award for a main-dish item that's supposed to be more wholesome, nutritious, and/or ethical, but merely hides something that's perhaps worse under that veneer of virtue, goes to a different Congresscritter from the former Confederacy for, well, obvious reasons. Even aside from her actual partisan loyalty being theocratic.
  • The Unwanted Obligatory Guest Award for the guest at the banquet that you had to invite (but wish you didn't have to because you knew would spoil everything) goes to El0n Mu5k (ooooh, noooo, don't file a thermonuclear lawsuit against me for calling you out! Not the briar patch!). Mu5k makes that bigoted aunt or uncle or neighbor or business associate invited as a courtesy (c'mon, every family gathering has at least one) look tolerant. His leadership ability and technology savvy show in his big rocket going boom (again) and slogans over reality for his car company. Before considering labor practices.

I've now done my part for curbing obesity: After looking at that Thanksgiving spread, I bet your appetite is at least a little bit suppressed.

20 November 2023

Brining the Bird

Only three more days until Turkey Day! Only three more days until the 2023 Turkey Awards!

  • RIP Dame Antonia Duffy, better known as A.S. Byatt. She's far better known in the US for a filmed adaptation of one of her densely-layered novels than for the novels themselves, which is rather a shame.
  • On the other hand, if you really want to understand why so much utter crap gets published (definitely not including Byatt's works!), and why the decisions made in the New York City-centered part of publishing are so divorced from "the products," just take a look at a recent "salary survey" published in PW, purportedly covering 2022. Leaving aside for the moment the problems with "salary surveys," the table two-thirds of the way or so down the page, captioned "Median 2022 Total Compensation," is highly revealing. Jobs in editorial are paid less than management, which is only to be expected; but also less than those handling "rights" or "sales/marketing." That is, those responsible for actually selecting and working with the product make less than those selling it… or reselling parts of it. Shocking, I know.
  • That's far less disturbing than profiteering on data-scraping of military members and their families. But not at all shocking: Ethics among data brokers are… mythological at best.
  • That, in turn, is less disturbing than 21st-century COINTELPRO… in Blighty. Which is exactly what everyone over there needs to be thinking about when they've got a national election coming up next year, too.

15 November 2023

Degreased Link Sausage Platter

I've poured the excess fat off these link sausages, but that's far from their most objectionable ingredient. (Don't ask. You really, really don't want to know.)

  • Well, the studios blinked, essentially (with a few changed details to satisfy passive investors — and the Department of Labor — that they had negotiated hard). Inquiring minds want to know precisely what the studios' extensive legal departments were up to while negotiations were on hold, and particularly if there were either new loopholes being grafted in/new bad-faith interpretations being set down in long memos, or new not-collusive-no-never-collusive negotiating strategies for later individual-production negotiations being agreed to becoming industry custom via parallelism due to the (snort!) similar cost structures and efficiencies of the respective players.

    But it's also worth considering the headline of that article. H'wood is in trouble, whether from the executive overreach/blindness or creative ego/vacuum perspective. The common factor here is that none of the actual or prospective decisionmakers as to the entire "industry" have any background or experience whatsoever in the "development," the "design," or the "manufacture" of their products. That means, in turn, that the only internally-credible basis they can assert in intracorporate discussions is that past performance really will predict future returns — an assertion that almost never holds in securities (precisely why the SEC mandates that statement in ads and solicitations for investments and investment advice), and is virtually guaranteed not to hold in the arts. Go ahead: Name a figure in the arts who consistently obtained/continues to obtain both critical and public acclaim by never innovating, instead always being completely derivative. (And I do not mean derivative securities… this time.)

    Worse yet, this requires a Disney executive, or whichever major player we're worrying about, having the ability and motivation to say "Well, one reason that the MCU is now having problems is that we're trying to maintain slavish fanboy-approvable fidelity to the original comics when many of the original comics are shit" (which is an invocation of Sturgeon's Law at least as much as it is a criticism of comics, although the latter is certainly due too). We're just not going to mention other franchises, like a different one at Disney and one at Paramount (both "coincidentally" referring to a stellar body in with their first syllable) that are each even more dubious than 80s/90s superhero comics. It's not "superhero comics" that are the problem; it's badly written and conceived superhero comics that are the problem. And it helps to remember that Sturgeon was an optimist.

  • But what the literati — and, too often, the publishing industry and major bookstores — sneer at as "mere genre" (a sneer that ignores the historical meaning and misuses the word, but whatever) has value according to the British Library. Then, sometimes writing "mere genre" has other, personal consequences.
  • Continuing with the "unexpected seriousness" thread tying off that last sausage, it's rather sad, and entirely expected, when it takes nine years for someone in the "community" of international governments to catch up with a late-night comedy host and a years-past-their-greatest-popularity dance band. It's really awful when it's France that does so.

    Which is perhaps slightly less embarassing than a unanimous decision from the UK Supreme Court holding that a too-right-wing-for-most-Tories plan to return asylum seekers to a third country whilst their applications are "processed" is so obviously unlawful that one's lawyers probably advised against taking the appeal. The key issue here — one that The Orange One and antiimmigrant RealMurikans would ignore — is that one of the grounds for decision was settled international law that applies equally to the US (¶ 5), specifically regarding "leave the refugees in Mexico while their claims for asylum are resolved." (Because yeah, Mexico historically is just so welcoming to… alternative lifestyle choices.) And one should note that the UK Supreme Court, for reasons of tradition, resolves a much lower proportion of matters before it with a single unanimous opinion than does the US Supreme Court: This is the "not even close, bud" version.

    So, yeah: International law matters. And it can be inconvenient to tyrants.

  • Not so long ago, Illinois made its disdain for representative democracy apparent when the marginally-qualified daughter of the Speaker of the [State] House of Representatives not only ran for, but won, for statewide office, after having served as a state senator in a completely safe district. (Admittedly, it was a lesser-of-the-evils choice… each time she ran for Attorney General. The main reason the Heffalumps do so poorly in most of Illinois is that their candidates tend to be doofuses at best, and more often than not more corrupt than a Chicago machine Jackass. Sometimes one cannot tell the difference.) But now the First Spouse of New Jersey is campaigning for US Senator to replace indicted Bob Menendez. C'mon, guys, this is your inferiority complex speaking: You have to try to one-up Illinois in the nepotism standings? Really? It's almost offensively ludicrous. At least it doesn't involve any gold bars or FBI raids… yet.

13 November 2023


It's not genocide, at least not yet (as distinct from "genocidal acts"… perhaps not for all that much longer). It's "just" an atrocity. Yes, in fact one does refrain from military actions that violate the laws of war, however "necessary" they might seem, and even when "the other side" is itself violating the laws of war. That's what makes "laws of war" meaningful in the first place: One side's violations do not justify, do not excuse, the other's.

Oh, that was too polite? Too cold, too cool, too intellectual? Well, then. Let's try some more-overt outrage:

It's pretty sad when you f*cking theocrats prove — yet again — that you can't f*cking learn anything. Not even from Northern f*cking Ireland, a context that should seem all too f*cking comfortable to you assholes. Or maybe you're taking hostages and killing children because you're too f*cking cowardly to attack someone who actually can fight back, too f*cking insecure to f*cking listen. Atrocities are not a sign of strength, or resolve — they're a sign of fear, of cowardice, of complete lack of confidence in your own f*cking capability to win playground battles except by being all manly and beating up your opponent's six-year-old sister. And this goes for all of you f*cking theocrats throughout, and beyond, the Levant: You're all f*cking guilty.

"Never Again" means everyone. It means nobody should fear violence, murder, cultural annihilation, or anything else on account of their faith (or lack thereof) — or that of their ancestors, especially when "faith" gets mixed with "ethnicity" and things become even more tribal. (Nor the converse: Nobody should expect to impose violence, murder, cultural annihilation, or anything else on those who are different.) If "Never Again" means anything less than everyone, it's just another sectarian slogan of precisely that kind Tommy Sands rejected in the embedded song. Just another step toward Minersville or Tulsa or Wounded Knee… or Kishinev or Hama or Amritsar or Srebenica… "Different" does not mean "enemy," let alone "must be destroyed."

11 November 2023

Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleven Minutes Into the Eleventh Hour

No sausages today. At least in Western democracies, military personnel and veterans seldom get to see the laws or the sausages being made — they find it difficult, not to mention often unlawful, to stick their heads up above the bowl, even to watch (let alone object to the spicing… or the blade). This is therefore merely a snarl at a bullying theocrat — or is that theocratic bully? — who cannot be bothered to actually deal with those who oppose him. Instead, he insists on taking his power out on those who have no responsibility whatsoever for the policies he opposes.

Policies put in place by the electoral winners, who happen to Not Be His Type, because they don't believe in the Lost Cause or any variation thereon. Neither are they theocrats inclined to overtly discriminate against every person who doesn't share their particular sectarian bent.

Policies consistent with the apparent inclination of most of the nation. Perhaps, you arrogant jerk, in the bowels of Christ you should think it possible you may be mistaken.1

So instead of actually engaging with the policy makers, he's taking it out on those who cannot call him out on it. This particular policy preference is — in the eyes of Sen Teletubbyville (T-CSA) — so important that he cannot be bothered to do the one thing that veterans stood for, that active-duty military people stand for, that is the foundation of both this nation and every representative democracy: Listen and persuade. Instead, he's beating up Quaker kids (or at least Quakers as to him) because he doesn't like something their parents did. No, not did — they didn't force all military personnel and dependents to have abortions; they contemplated that eliminating an economic barrier might be appropriate for others.2

Of course, there's one other difference between Sen Teletubbyville and those nonpolicymakers whose promotions and appointments he's blocking: At least for the active-duty folk (an experience set he doesn't share), they're so senior that the majority have served in command positions in which a soldier/sailor/airman under their command, or a dependant, became pregnant through nonconsensual sex (up to and including "rape" in its most technical sense) or under circumstances in which carrying a pregnancy to term will directly, foreseeably impair military readiness.3 They thus have had the opportunity to learn a bit about what it's like for those personnel to not have the resources to respond to a peacetime horror.

  1. There is no public evidence — none whatsoever — that the particular target of today's screed has any concept whatsoever of what this means, or its context, or what it was opposing. And the ironies of that demonstrate why no "football coach" should ever be elected to statewide office again, in any state: For all of the years that he made two-digit multiples of wet-behind-the-ears junior faculty, none of that rubbed off on him because he was unwilling to learn. Stick to dogcatcher next time.
  2. Any resemblance between this nonsense and both the causes and the conduct of the Second Thirty Years War… will just really, really piss me off. And does.
  3. So have I.

05 November 2023

Ouruboros Link Sausage Platter

Because sometimes the link sausages turn around to bite their own… tails.

  • First up, a comment on judicial appointments, hiding inside sporting issues. Consider for the moment the not-only-possible-but-plausible-even-though-improbable possibility for this NFL season:

    • The San Francisco 49ers get back on track and win almost all of their remaining games, specifically including their remaining game against my hometown Seachickens. So do the Philadelphia Eagles… meaning that the 49ers are the second seed in the NFC playoff bracket.
    • Dah (Chicago) Bears scrape, bite, kick, and rely almost entirely on the ghost of their recently departed all-time great middle linebacker to a 9–8 record, winning the last game on a two-point conversion with no time remaining. Unfortunately, their high-draft-pick quarterback is injured on that last play… but it was enough to get Dah Bears the seventh seed in the NFC playoff bracket on the fifth tiebreaker with the Dallas Cowboys. (Yes, there are multiple, plausible-if-somewhat-improbable, sequences of results in the rest of the regular season leading to this.)

    So in this not-impossible scenario, the starting quarterbacks would be Mr Irrelevant 2022 — Brock Purdy of the 49ers, the very last player selected in the 2022 draft, from a university not known for producing "skill position" players — and Tyson Bagent, an undrafted free agent from a Division II school in West Virginia.

    What does this have to do with "judicial selection"? Ask yourself where we get our judges, particularly appellate judges… and analyze the analogy…

  • Or we could just worry about something else trivial. Like fixing the internet (which is not really about tech issues), rescuing it from decades of bad design choices — and bad attempted solutions. Most of which actually relate to "what's in it for me?" being the primary motivator for those actually making decisions… a substantial proportion of whom are entirely unknown to those either pointing out problems or charged with fixing things.
  • So, Governor InSantis, "liberal" soft-on-crime policies cause mass shootings? Well, liberal policies would have led to (a) better gun control and (b) better mental-health care for an individual whose behavior had raised questions about his mental state in those who knew him. Maybe what he really means — subconsciously, that is — is that conservative soft-on-white-collar-crime policies set the conditions that encourage the feelings of helpless that trigger mass shootings, beginning with the refusal to teach that a smaller share of a much bigger pie is more pie per serving. Naaaah — that would require far too much self-awareness of the distinction between "sloganeering" (even before it becomes bigoted dog-whistling) and "real consequences to real policies and priorities."

    So, too, does the dissembling of retailers about retail theft, followed by locking up boxer shorts as "high-theft" items instead of, say, considering how many fell off the truck and how many were, well, shorted or spoiled from low-cost overseas manufacturers. Not to mention the effect on shareholder profits of excessive executive compensation just short of actual embezzlement… not just Over Here, either. Neither are we going to analyze the disproportionate gender, class, and race structure of the executive class (because that would, itself, turn around and take a nice chunk out of the first sausage on this platter — even more Over There than Over Here).

  • Which is slightly less disreputable — only slightly — than either a state governor personally attacking a journalist-immigrant who dares to engage in an actual, consistent-with-journalistic-principles inquiry regarding that governor's potential/actual conflicts of interest, right? At least InSantis (and retailer C-suites) aren't being overtly racist… On second thought, maybe resorting to dogwhistling and coded descriptors is really no less disreputable.

    Or it could just be reconsidering the status of the "Unification Church" in Japan (which won't happen over here, but should — and far from uniquely as to "commercial enterprises masquerading as religious organizations," even if one accepts that religious organizations should have tax-advantaged status because "free exercise" does not properly relate to cost-free… but "establishment" might).

31 October 2023

Trick or Subpoena

I'm focused on scaring away the kids begging for candy tonight… and their parents. (Here, little girl, have a subpoena.) I suspect most of the parents will choose the "trick" instead — bwahahahahahahaha

This isn't a platter of link sausages today. It's probably closer to candied apples (uninspected, labelled "imported from Chile" but the sticker has a 2007 copyright marking on it). Why, no, these aren't for young Miss White; hers is right over here.

  • So ex-football-coach Tommy Teletubbyville (T-CSA) is upset that the Biden Administration won't negotiate with him on his religiously-rationalized (somewhat, but at best winkingly, sotto voce) holds on military promotions and confirmations to critical positions. During multiple this-close-to-live-fire world incidents. What's that old line about "we don't negotiate with terrorists" again? Oh, you're not a terrorist, but instead a fighter for religious freedom, liberty, and orthodoxy? Well, one man's freedom fighter…

    If you want that much control over the details of military policy, dammit, run for and get elected as Commander in Chief. (By the way: This is not a dare. This is a statement of precondition.) Until then, stick to the "advise" part — you're obviously unfamiliar with "consent," especially since the Constitution grants that power to the Senate as a whole and not to individual Senators. And the downhill slide into how "consent" all too often gets ignored on the way into "out-of-state reproductive services" also bears some consideration (but won't get it) — especially considering Teletubbyville's own record of national service, or more to the point complete absence thereof. I'm afraid his idea of "good order and discipline" is far more likely to arise from sending a couple reserve O-linemen over to intimidate an opposing team's radio crew.

  • At least Teletubbyville isn't threatening actual prosecution of an author for merely, in a rather genteel way in the best traditions of how democracy is actually supposed to work, advocating policy positions not held by an aspiring autocrat.

    Yet. He isn't, after all, Matt Gaetz.


  • Notwithstanding Ms Roy's problems with the land of their ancestors (especially given the idiocy of Partition), perhaps Salman Rushdie — having already lived in hiding for two decades and lost an eye because his writings were and are upsetting to some theocrats — won't be in any more jeopardy, right? I wish. I suspect that the Authenticity Police are coming for him, and they're just as vicious as… umm, ok, maybe not. Frankly, being attacked for an "inauthentic background" in writing a work of fiction is akin to being on Nixon's "enemies list" — ultimately a badge of honor (even when the work of fiction in question is… otherwise unworthy). I'm just waiting for someone to call Rushdie a problematic author.
  • Which leads into the still-roiling labor unrest in and around the arts. Yeah, sure, the WGA settled with management — largely because despite their centrality to the process, the writers are the least likely element of "A Major Motion Picture," or even "A Half-Assed Independent Motion Picture Presented by a Suspended USC Fraternity," to blow up the entire budget in ways that can't be swept under the rug. But that leaves the actors still (justifiably) on the picket line, primarily because the budget for on-screen talent can blow up the entire budget (in ways that can't be swept under the tastefully understated, fully authenticated Persian carpet in some studio executive's office). Then there's the usual attention afforded the infrastructure, which is to say none at all (because those top bosses are entitled to the lion's share of everything, despite the fact that they didn't do the hunting in the first place).

    It's not just film/TV/other-recorded-audiovisual productions, either. Consider the Philadelphia Orchestra's labor unrest, which is only exacerbated by nineteenth-century governance models (and a potential pool of leaders that looks more like the parents at JFK's "high school" than the audience).

    Starving artists don't paint daisies — they push up daisies. Although I suspect that those daisies will end up on the imported mahogany table — seats 14 to 20 — in the public dining room of some overpaid executive. Oops, it's not "pay" per se: That's not salary, those are stock options! Mind the trust fund…

28 October 2023

Some Requested Harsh Criticism

So, Judge Ho, you invite some harsh criticism? How about of your lack of reality orientation when you proclaim that there's "viewpoint discrimination" against "religious conservatives" on college campuses, and compare that to your own institution for a moment? In no particular order:

  • I have yet to see a campus-wide holiday at a non-religious-sponsored institution of higher education for Rosh Hoshanah, Pesach… and perhaps most important given the tenor of your screed, Erev Yom Kippur. (You just don't get much more "religious conservative" than Orthodox Judaism!) Or, more to the point, for Eid al-Adha (apologies for the inherent transliteration error — a problem that, for all of the difficulties with transliterating modern Hebrew, seems well beyond the sensibilities of English and Romance-language lexicographers)…

    Conversely, Judge Ho, your own court persists in issuing opinions on Martin Luther King Day and on Indigenous Persons'/Columbus Day… but not on Good Friday (the most illogically-named day of the Christian calendar, when there's a celebration of killing the purported savior… and no acknowledgment whatsoever of the surviving "family," whether that family is by birth or otherwise), which — on the formal, recognized calendar — isn't a holiday. Well, except for banks (cf., e.g., Matt. 21:12–13, and in this sense I revel in the Devil's ability — indeed, professional obligation — to cite scripture, and specifically soundbite and quotemine from it; because that's what common-law lawyers do).

  • Go ahead. Try being an atheist on one of those Fridays right before tax day ("render unto Caesar" and all that), trying desperately to assist a client with marginal English-language and/or computer skills — or who has just had a death in the family, or is preparing for Pesach in some years — in getting missing bank statements necessary to prepare a tax return. Oh, they can just take an extension, and pay the interest (or further delay any refund due)? Because your religion allows — indeed, essentially requires — banks, the IRS itself, and too many others in modern society to take an extra holiday during one of the most stressful times of the year for the poor customers (but not for the banks themselves, as their own returns are due on a different date). It appears that the words mean exactly what you declare them to be — nothing more, nothing less, and regardless of context.
  • Conversely, just see how much "accommodation" you get for celebrating Darwin Day as a holiday, as a day to reflect on the majesty of life's diversity and process — even in a university biology department. In this context in particular, it's worth remembering that there were atheists before there were Christians (or, more to the point members of any of the Tribes, and let's not get started on how that relates to defining the canon or who has the privilege of proclaiming reliance on the "original text").

Notice that none of that goes to the self-aggrandizing power politics and bigoted bullshit of determinative originalism, which if applied consistently would prohibit "religious conservatives" from consuming any tasty bacon or shrimp cocktails (Leviticus 11), and remember that under the "original text" Judge Ho's own ancestors might well have been excluded from entry to the nation, let alone citizenship. Further, although we've sort-of repudiated it, those of you with ancestors who were Over Here prior to the late 1860s need to atone for "all other persons" — mine weren't, nyaahnyaahnyaah (if ancestral guilt matters, my ancestors committed plenty of other sins, secular and otherwise — just not that one).

Oh, wait, we can change the meaning of "original texts" by amendments that reflect changed understandings? Even in a decade or less? Because that's what the New Testament texts post-Civil War amendments do? Doesn't that inherently make the Constitution a "living" document — particularly when the document itself embeds a way to to formally change its text to conform to reality, and the office you hold is charged with interpreting it in conjunction with reality and the facts placed before it in a particular dispute (even under the rejected-by-American-secession English constitution)?

I'm just getting started. But there's a football match on momentarily (an originalist football match, in which all of the players kick the damned ball with their feet), so I'll sign off for now. This is just a taste of some harsh criticism — and, in particular, it is not oriented toward any particular matter that I know to be before the Fifth Circuit (not even sitting en banc), so there's no potential "interference with judicial impartiality" issue. And it's definitely worth remembering that self-appointed martyrdom is not exactly turning the other cheek…

20 October 2023

A Sequel to Despair

Non Sequitur, 19 Oct 2023

Unfortunately, this is a more-than-adequate explanation for the conflagration going on in the Levant at the moment — it's all "geopolitical drama to keep a few old [relatively] rich guys in power" when it's blamed on organized religion and sectarianism (however often that blame is correct as to the match… but not the fuel or accelerants). Those residents of the region who can see beyond the brainwashing imposed by those old guys in power usually just want to live, to become no longer impoverished. So, because they're calling for peace and therefore a threat to the established order, they're disproportionately oops-targeted. (There are at least three millenia of precedents, all the way up to actually admitting the impulse to destroy the village to save it.)

But I'll make an effort to ensure this platter isn't all-war/atrocities-all-the-time. No guarantees as to all-outrage-all-the-time, though; and definitely not even much effort expended on no-disparagement-of-old-guys-in-power (not nearly enough to be a good-faith effort… dark pun intended).

  • I could just say "it's entirely predictable that a party opposed to governance at all would prove itself unable to govern," but that would be telling, wouldn't it? The Heffalumps are doing their very best to show, not tell; what more to say about the Heffalump clown car being up on blocks after having been run into a concrete wall a few times, then stripped for parts by the neighborhood thugs? Even when the car is a paid-for-by-donors Mercedes (because no American-made production vehicle is luxurious/prestigious enough for our "betters")?
  • America owes a reckoning to its mistreatment of indigenous peoples. The irony that they've already had some measure of vengeance (however much the economic benefits of that vengeance also went to a few white slaveholding families, their descendants, and their corporate retainers) gets little attention. I'd just as soon declare tobacco a Schedule I substance (together with its "mere derivative products"); it meets the definition ("no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse"), and my lungs — everybody's lungs — would benefit. Plus it would stick it to a well-hidden group of families far worse than the Sacklers.

    Sure, there would be collateral damage, including entirely acceptable civilian casualties.

  • OK, maybe I should lighten up a bit by congratulating this year's Nobel Prize recipients. But the "lighten up" is only transient, especially once one considers (a) the outdated categories, specified in the nineteenth century (the absence of "mathematics" grinds away at reality, doesn't it?) and, well, (b) the ethics of the award in the face of how "science" gets done (and got done even in the nineteenth century). The result of such a flawed, idiosyncracies-of-a-rich-tech-entrepreneur process is all too predictable.

    And that's long before considering the outright — there's no other way to say this, and it's not intended to denigrate those actually chosen (well, except maybe a few, but they're mostly deceased) — foolishness of the selection criteria for the literature prize. Leaving aside the false equivalence between "the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" and the other awards (each of which relate to a discovery that even in the nineteenth century would not have been embodied in a single work or entirely by a single person… except, perhaps, in mathematics, and only perhaps and only as to the nineteenth century and earlier), not to mention "an ideal direction" and the corresponding "most important discovery or invention," the translation problem (and this is an easy one, as it's a European Indo-European language!) further masks that "ideal direction" in at least three layers of cultural isolation, second-guessing, and white north-European privilege. Then there's the bizarre anti-science orientation of the literature prize itself: If any of an author's books have a rocket ship or extrasolar planet/moon on the cover — however irrelevant to the content, however unrequested by the author — that author's candidacy is sunk. This is the only rational explanation for the late Ursula Le Guin's absence while simultaneously awarding a number of inferior speculative-fiction works and writers that were not so handicapped; it's hard to accept The Tin Drum, most of the works of Kazuo Ishiguro, everything I've read (in translation) by Mo Yan, Gabriel García Márquez, and José Saramago, etc., etc., etc. as anything but speculative fiction (however dressed up for marketing purposes as "fabulist" or "parables" or whatever, in an effort to avoid the prejudices and bigotry of the "guardians of culture" that populate commercial publishing the world over).1

    I didn't really lighten up very much, did I?

  • Maybe the "literary fiction" horse is actually sitting in that bottle of glue out in the workshop (where it will be much more productively used to create a new desk on which one can actually write worthwhile works, computer or longhand), but at least we know who the horse is. Purportedly, not so much in Scandi-Noir, which rather leaves aside the possibility that an author changed style and voice to match the material or for any other damned reason. Oh, wait a minute… oops.

    The real problem is that the label "literary fiction" was/is largely applied by marketing dorks not addicted to the product. And that's marketing dorks at all levels — under the model of commercial publishing that accelerated to dominance beginning (in NYC anyway, and merely parallel to elsewhere) with Bennett Cerf's use of a superior original position to shred the veil, mere "editors" are now (and have been for at least half a century) there more for their immediate-commercial-appeal acumen than for their editorial skill. I, for one, would gladly treat Ursula Le Guin and Gene Wolfe and Mary Doria Russell as "literary fiction" and exclude tales of suburban unacknowledged teenaged angst by all the right kind of people, but nobody asked me…

  • Then there's yesterday's "big news" from Georgia: Lying-sack-of-vulture-guano Sidney Powell has pleaded guilty to her role in election-fraud conspiracies. That's guilty, guilty, GUILTY! (echoes from Doonesbury half a century back entirely intentional — and to whom that was applied bears more than a little consideration). What will be really interesting is exactly how Powell surrenders her law license… oh, wait a minute, that's not an explicit condition of her plea deal??????????

    Some commentators think this will hurt The Orange One's own defense. A lot. But this is a woman who already has (and had, but that's getting into other, nonpublic information) a reputation as, well, a lying sack of vulture guano. On her relatively truthful days, of which there appear to have been very few on this subject (PDF) (largely affirming the trial court (PDF)).2 The Orange One's counsel will surely employ a trial strategy of "you cannot believe anything this woman says, and here's why" in front of the jury. They may not overtly label her as such; they may also try the time-tested "rogue subordinates, epitomized by this uppity woman" defense. Needless to say, those defense strategies do not exclude each other; I expect variations on both to be in play. Especially since, based on prior statements, the Orange One's counsel is all-in on his misogyny (which is not, and probably should not be, in itself sanctionable… although one can certainly express disdain for the minuscule-e ethics, the inhumanity, of doing so even if not personally held).

  1. That is not saying that the "winners" were/are inferior to Le Guin — it is only pointing out that they didn't have a marketing-imposed handicap for fundamentally similar works, as The Left Hand of Darkness really has very little technologically to distinguish itself from the 1970s except biology and setting on "another planet" — specifically, Planet Siberia (c. 1937 with slightly updated technology, different geography, and a more-than-passing nod to prior Nobel laureate Boris Pasternak).
  2. There's one bothersome aspect of this ruling: The pretense that twelve hours of "continuing legal education" can overcome the fundamental misconduct behind a multi-state web of filings that resulted in a 900-page amended complaint just before this judge. At minimum, there should also have been a three-credit-hour (that is, roughly 40 class contact hours plus preparation time, together with multiple graded exercises) advanced-undergraduate-level composition course included in that sanction. At least the judge also suggested reexamination of the law license; predictably, however, that didn't work out so well, which says more about "selectivity of bar discipline" than any bar disciplinary authority wants to acknowledge. It also says a helluva lot about the bar admission process, in particular the emphasis on "bar exams" that do not — by design, cannot — test the ability, let alone inclination, to tell the client "no, you're liable" or "no, don't do that, it's unlawful," let alone "no, you're not entitled to the pony as a matter of law." It's worth noting that at the time Powell was first admitted, there was no required ethics exam, nor required testing integrated into the basic exam (it was merely a testable subject); I'm not certain that "grandparenting in" is a good idea in that context, let alone when a licensing jurisdiction changes its entire ethics ruleset (and Texas did, too, after Powell's admission to the bar).

11 October 2023

Link Sausage Platter of Utter Despair

I have sympathy for all of the victims in the last few days in the Levant.1 Regardless of age, gender, faith, or any other tribalist bullshit.

  • A pox on the houses of all of the theocrats in Southwest Asia. Regardless of what "side" they're on, which religion they're espousing, which more-powerful nation-states they think they have in their corner. OK, maybe not a pox; from all appearances, they've already been self-medicating with mercury salts for decades, with all of the expected side effects. None of which is an excuse for targeting noncombatants — especially children — as a instrument of "statecraft."

    Neither a one-state or semi-two-state solution has worked, so maybe we need to go the opposite direction. I propose a zero-state solution: Theocracies are, almost paradigmatically, failed states in any event — and every "state" in the Levant is either an overt or covert theocracy.

  • Of course, mercury salts weren't cheap during their primary period of use (in Europe, from the early fifteenth century up through the mid-twentieth century). At least there wasn't any effect on credit scores, though. (We'll leave aside the racism in the history of credit scoring and that remains inherent in the choices of data streams and analyses. Yes, I am accusing American Big Finance of benefiting from and perpetuating racism and other bigotry.)
  • Of course, the Levant isn't the only place with horrible politicized violence of late.2 In a few minutes, it'll be day 596 of the Muscovite Soviet Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • We don't even need to go overseas. We can just watch the Heffalumps "unify" (ha!) behind a candidate for Speaker. It's really appalling when the lesser of the evils is Steve "David-Duke-Without-the-Baggage" Scalise (one wonders if he now regrets saying that… foreshadowing of the next sausage). Things are no better in the Senate, where Tommy Teletubbyville (R-FundyCSA) has, through his oathbreaking (he doesn't understand that Art. VI cl. 3 applies to him — and that he's obligated to follow it regarding nominees) has ensured that by my count thirteen, and maybe more, critical offices related to US preparedness in the Levant, Niger, and Ukraine remain unfilled because he would impose his personal religious beliefs as a qualification for office.
  • And there's related cancel-culture news. Some CEOs demand that Harvard name students who were members of organizations that made ill-advised statements "in opposition to Israel" in the last few days. (Interesting how they waited until this was already in the news, isn't it?) Mr Ackman doesn't want students to "be able to hide behind a corporate shield when issuing statements" that he characterizes as supporting terrorism. <SARCASM> No, only CEOs have that privilege. One wonders whether any of Mr Ackman's investments — or the investments, and even direct activities, of other CEOs who agree with him — will have their value enhanced by continued and even increased armed conflict in the Levant. And, of course, none of those CEOs ever made statements while they were callow college kids that might be embarassing today, that involved approval of bullying. I suppose they'd prefer complete student apathy — which they'd then complain about and threaten the job prospects of students who refused to take any stand at all. </SARCASM>

    I want a list of all of those CEOs, and their companies and churches (and their little dogs too) who want to cancel the job prospects of those kids — so I never again buy their products/services, or the products/services of companies in which their hedge funds hold major positions. Guess I'm not going to dine/graze at Sweetgreen any time soon… bloody bigots.

  1. "Levant"? Why not "Israel" or "Palestine"? Because those are inaccurate labels imposed by bigoted upper-class twits in European foreign ministries over a century ago. They mislead, both as to those particular spots on the map and by blinding one to regional issues that cannot be ignored; the road to Damascus is well over 200km… "Levant" is the least-inflammatory label for the current focal point of the conflict that I can come up with that doesn't exclude other parties from their own roles in creating a 300km-diameter pool of petroleum byproducts just waiting for some asshole to show up with a match.

    "Next Year in Jerusalem" never contemplated either excluding others or statecraft. As it is, we've got a century and half of "statecraft" on display that's less competent than any aspect of Watergate.

  2. I'm no expert on West Africa and Niger, but I do have past professional connections. I'm… a bit apprehensive.