22 May 2022

No Heat Wave Here

But then, out here, a "heat wave" means 30°… Celsius.

  • If humanity should optimally use the metric system, its ordinary configuration would include ten fingers. And no one would ever have worried about the Chancellor's foot — not even when establishing metes and bounds in Nottinghamshire.

    Copr. Sidney Harris, 1977Snarky comments about the mismatch between the metric system and Planck's Constant will be dealt with accordingly, probably with an irrelevant reference to Critical Race Theory and some hand-waving that makes statistical mechanics look simple and rational.

  • Once upon a time, liberals (and moderates and conservatives with integrity) wanted to be on Nixon's list of enemies. Half a century later, Vlad the Impaler's list of enemies has some disturbing echoes, even in American politics. And I want to plead my case as an Enemy of Vlad; my self-respect demands no less than vehement protest at my non-inclusion…
  • But at least the winning, dominant team will get equal pay. The USWNT is the reigning world champion; the USMNT didn't make the last tournament to determine the reigning world champion.
  • The winning, dominant team in fan service, however, is busy guaranteeing future unequal pay. Guaranteeing? Well, That Would Be Telling… but looking at the named individuals, and the named entities, and the ownership of the named entities, makes it rather obvious.
  • Even more deeply into the nerdly weeds, one finds that (once again) recorded music is changing significant aspects of its business model in a way that I predict will show up in text in about a dozen years — just like every other significant change in business practices since recorded music became a major segment of the entertainment industry about a century ago. (It's not quite lock-step, but darned close.)
  • Then there's this terribly amusing tale — amusing, that is, if your sense of humor and expectations of administrative competence among lawyers are as sick/low as mine — of a hyperformalist win still leading to loss of trademark priority.
  • And yet another commentator who actually has used his education calls out TV Dinner's ignorance. (Any elitist whose forename is almost always a surname is going to get this kind of disdain from me. As will roman numerals when insisted upon by their bearer; I'm not going to celebrate your grandfather — or worse — in referring to you, especially if that ancestor was more than just an upper-class twit.)

19 May 2022

You Might Be Replaceable If…

warning: satire The intellectually challenged, clinically narcissistic, and intentionally oblivious are severely cautioned.

(With no apologies at all to Jeff Foxworthy, who didn't originate but certainly popularized a disturbingly parallel comedy-routine theme… pointed at many, but not all, of the same people.) You might be replaceable if:

  • You can't say "Real American" in any language 'cept 'murikan English.
  • You, or any first- or second-degree relative in your own generation, seriously considered joining the SAR or DAR but decided that some members were the wrong kind of people. (Especially if your name really is Karen or the word "Mayflower" is in your family legends.)
  • You had a starring role in a 1980s ZZTop music video… and weren't in the band. Especially if you weren't (yet) using the trust fund to attend A Certain Quasiselective University in the Bay Area at which you wouldn't learn that "education" is about "learning how to learn," not pontificating on dubious "facts" that aren't.
  • You think being told to go to the back of the bus is just because you're a known troublemaker or other undesireable.
  • Your first impression of Ben Davis was that he must be a righteous upstanding American, because he was a general, but it changed when you first saw a picture. The same for his son, too.
  • Mike Peters, 2022The first two digits in the year on the title to that family land you inherited are "18"… or less. Or it's in Oklahoma because you're already a replacement (Boomers and Sooners were both cheaters, as reflected in your state-university football team — and darned near everything else).
  • You think "free speech" and "free exercise of religion" are just great for people who look like you, attend the same (or at least a similar) church as you do, and agree with you. For others, not so much.

(Grandchild of four immigrants, two of whom were potential replacements, if not so much 500km to the west of where they settled…)

16 May 2022


A non-headliner opinion this morning from the Supreme Court indirectly, and perhaps inadvertently, implicates some of the Problems with the "draft opinion" reversing Roe. In Patel v. Garland, No. [20]20–979 (16 May 2022), Justice Barrett for a 5–4 majority held:

Federal courts lack jurisdiction to review facts found as part of discretionary-relief proceedings under [the Immigration and Nationalization Act, 8 U.S.C.] § 1255 and the other provisions enumerated in § 1252(a)(2)(B)(i). We therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals. (slip op. at logical 21, typography corrected)

in contrast to Justice Gorsuch's dissent, which objects:

Does a federal court have statutory authority to review and correct a BIA decision holding an individual ineligible for relief when that decision rests on a glaring factual error? Today, the majority insists the answer is no. It does not matter if the BIA and immigration judge in Mr. Patel’s case erred badly when they found he harbored an intent to deceive state officials. It does not matter if the BIA declares other individuals ineligible for relief based on even more obvious factual errors. On the majority’s telling, courts are powerless to correct ureaucratic mistakes like these no matter how grave they may be. (slip op. at logical 26).

Comparison with the draft "anti-Roe" opinion is highly instructive — and highly frustrating. Patel essentially holds that Congress has properly denied the competence of the courts to correct a clear factual error "found" by the immigration machinery1 (however much minimized by the majority). In a disturbing parallel, the draft opinion also denies the competence of the courts to correct a clear factual error — this time by a legislative body, this time in imposing the nonmedical legislators' nonscientific2 and nonprofessional-ethics-inculcated views upon questions that if not purely medical, are certainly intertwined with (and IMNSHO dominated by) the scientific knowledge and professional ethics that are precisely what is missing from the actual decisionmakers.3

There is, however, one kind of authority that is directly relevant here. Patel and the draft "anti-Roe" opinion both rest upon a form of infallibility through finality — forms of unreviewability. Those with any knowledge at all of the actual context of the half-millennium preceding the Founders would presume — correctly, as it happens — that the Founders did not believe any human opinion was both truly final and without exception.4 Now, I'm not at all saying that there's something inherently wrong with a substantial majority of the Court coming from traditions in which one just did not question proclamations from the religious hierarchy, because people can learn from the errors of others (and judges hopefully more than most); but if the miter5 fits…

The problem in Patel is fairly simple: A chain of native-American-English-speaking, fully-Americanized "factfinders" judging the credibility of a claim of inadvertent error concerning a related-but-non-core checkbox response on a government form with inscrutably complex instructions made by someone who is neither native-American-English-speaking nor, by definition, fully Americanized. That chain became final before review by those with a wider experience in judging credibility (that is, the judiciary… which is far from infallible on this itself, as it's composed of fallible humans), because yet another body of the fully-Americanized native speakers had another agenda. Eppur si muove (and the less said for the legislative narcissism and Dunning-Kruger problems here, the less inclined I'll be to puke).

  1. With all due respect to the hard-working bureaucrats Justice Gorsuch cites, they're fallible human beings. Some of them — too damned many of them, especially the closer one gets to the "political appointee" levels — intentionally so. This aspect of competence-of-review was evaded not just in the two opinions from the Court this morning, but in all of the papers all the way down. The silent presumption of simultaneous universal good faith and universal competence in the various decisionmakers bugs me… bugs me very much as a survivorveteran of those processes on the inside. Bluntly, it does not show respect for a coordinate branch of government to rubber-stamp; the time for all deliberate speed has "run out" long ago. Because that is precisely what is at the core of Korematsu, Dred Scott and every other self-inflicted judicial wound, even when later "corrected": Forgetting the second part of "Trust, but verify."
  2. That a few legislators have qualifications doesn't keep them from being ideologues with other agendas who are hiding behind a fallacious appeal to authority — especially since the closest most of them come to "authority" is "allied field," not "same field." That doesn't go just for "reproductive health care," either; environmental policy is not being set by biologists and/or geologists, energy policy is not being set by engineers or indeed any scientists at all, military justice policy is not being set by those with command experience… I could go on for quite a while. This is, in fact, the point of the "administrative state": Expertise in the process of governance, and in getting elected to governance, has a strong tendency in modern societies to — at best — crowd out competence in anything else. Sadly, the converse is too-often true, especially when trying to deal with matters that have overlapping core-competence fields (like, say, "pandemic response," which necessarily includes virology, epidemiology, vaccine manufacture, vaccine distribution, and the logistical contexts of all of the above — and that's the vastly oversimplified illustration!).

    tl;dr Government by soundbite sucks. It's what we have, though, thanks in large part to legal/judicial competence deficits in even basic algebra.

  3. That so damned many of these legislative leaders claim competence in other fields — not just "politics" but "religion" — that have internal interests utterly inconsistent with data-driven analysis, hypothesis testing, theory formation, and constant testing of assumptions should give one pause. Or cause existential dispair.
  4. The "dishonorability," deception, and at its core encouragement of the sin of oathbreaking in Revolutionary War-era espionage (enthusiastically endorsed and engaged in by most of the Founders with substantial personal contact) is just one example.
  5. It is worthy of consideration on this point to note that positions of authority within religious hierarchies — not just Catholicism, not just Christianity — are overwhelmingly reserved for the preselected Right Kind of People. And that is anathema to democracy of all flavors.

13 May 2022

Not Really Violent Delights

There's nothing delightful about them. Just violent, and heading toward the ends.

  • (More than) once upon a time, the American military opened fire on peaceful protesters (one of the many, many reasons that I harass every West Point graduate about that damned statue when they bitch about pulling down statues of acknowledged traitors). At least one officer appears to have learned something. Better late than never, eh?

    Which leads to the extraordinarily difficult quandary of how to deal with conflicts between military and civilian control. Civilian control is a least-bad choice — one that, as the incidents cited in the preceding paragraph make all too clear, still has multiple failure points far beyond the realm of impossibility. As any even cursory history of any part of the worlds makes clear, though, Clemenceau had it exactly backward: It's peacetime that is too important to be left to the generals.

  • Like this one, the motivation for which is disturbingly parallel to that of a less-violent problem not long ago. Certainly not long enough ago. Why yes, I am saying he was a bigot, or at minimum acted so consistently with how a bigot would act that it's both impossible and meaningless to try to distinguish the two.
  • Or, I suppose, we could just let oligarchs greenwash everything — whether Russian or American (intentionally choosing a non-American source for that one!). And there are so many, many other examples.

    Maybe we should just get out of the habit of naming things after donors and sponsors who didn't themselves do the work. No more renaming law schools after real-estate speculators. No more art galleries named after ne'er-do-well inheritors of oil fortunes. Nope, gotta put in some actual creativity or labor… darn, there's the problem.

08 May 2022

Improvised Smoked-Sausage Platter

None of these sausages were smoked while suspended from coathangers, because it looks like there's a prospective shortage of coathangers — and it's not just a supply-chain thing.

  • <SARCASM> Yes, aspiring censors, some books really are poisonous. But it's not the content that's dangerous. </SARCASM> Generations of law students who've purchased W___ hornbooks — my old copy of White & Summers is nestled right next to an old copy of Prosser & Keeton — should think very carefully indeed about the implications. And their own safety.

    Interestingly enough, things didn't get better for green books when binders moved away from arsenic-based dyes; there's a continuing meme that green-dominant illustrated covers sell poorly. (The number of battles fought at cover meetings…) That problem is also due to dye chemistry, and fluorescent lighting, and different fading and reflectivity of dyes under different kinds of store lights that make 1950s-60s jackets look mottled, and therefore shopworn.

  • But then, some publishers are poisonous, too. Or, at minimum, some publishing deals. It's a rather different take on the outsourcing/expanded-services debate… that in publishing, has been going on (in English, it's more complicated in the rest of Europe and indeed the rest of the world) since the late 1680s, because the default "traditional publishing" deal is actually a vanity-publishing arrangement; just ask Jane Austen.
  • It could be worse than just economic exploitation and fraud. It could be the music industry (and based on what I know, Rahmann is rather tastefully understating matters).
  • Unfortunately, one of the problems with better geriatric medical care is that sleazebuckets remain active longer and take longer to die. And tend to get crankier and less open to changing contexts as they do so. (Exhibit A: A certain news organization. No, not that one. Not that one either. That one.) Anyone who knows diddly-squat about the history of science, though, already knows that.

04 May 2022

A Bag of Hammers

I'm not going to link to the "draft opinion" in Dobbs — a draft purporting to overturn Roe for, well, Reasons. I won't trample its historical errors, its linguistic errors, its logical shortcomings, its improper refusal to engage with both the First Amendment religion clauses and Ninth/Tenth Amendment reservations in a noncircular manner, its blatant misunderstanding of what "medical care" means (either today or in 1868 or 1791). I could; others will.

Instead, I will just observe that applying either "established legal reasoning" or, in the broader sense, "pure ideology" (which includes religious orthodoxy), to every problem resembles the hammer viewing every problem as a nail. And anyone who has ever built a sturdy cabinet or bookcase — one that would hold a variety of heavy objects, one that would stand by itself, one that would last — will tell you that nails alone are almost never a sufficient (or even necessary; just go to Ikea's website and read the directions!) means of joining parts together for even so simple a piece of furniture as a bookcase. No grouping of more than a dozen or so individuals is by any stretching of this analogy as simple as a bookcase…

This bag of five hammers contains only the wrong tools for the problem(s) at hand. And the bag, because it contains no scientists or healthcare professionals screwdrivers, or drills, or saws, or glue1 — let alone properly seasoned wood — is not fit for purpose.

Your own guilt is too much for you to bear: bring not therefore upon yourselves the blood of innocent men,—deceived with pretences of King and Covenant; from whose eyes you hid a better knowledge! I am persuaded that divers of you, who lead the People, have laboured to build yourselves in these things; wherein you have censured others, and established yourselves "upon the Word of God." Is it therefore infallibly agreeable to the Word of God, all that you say? I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.2

But like Urban, they are infallible not on the merits, but because there is no further appeal. Eppur si muove, figli du puttana: You may be final, but you're still wrong because you're looking only to doctrine for your answers — not to facts. Worse, it's a subset doctrine beyond its competence.

  1. The last of which involved beating and rendering dead horses at the time of the Founding. We'll not get into "French polishing" here, whether literal polishing or the polish of French political philosophers well known to — oft praised by — the Founders.
  2. Oliver Cromwell, Letter to the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland (03 Aug 1650). The entire letter is worth reading, and pondering, in this context, and particularly the reference to Isaiah 28:5–15; and so, too, is the broader context of the letter. The irony of appointment through illegitmate means and rulers lurking in the background is also just a bit too close for comfort.

28 April 2022

Some Assembly Required

The instructions for this monstrous platter of sausages were lovingly translated from Singapore-dialect Chinese by 1.85m-tall Scandanavian men who know little about doing assembly away from a well-equipped shop. And presented in an order incomprehensible to anyone who has ever worked with tools in the field.

  • Will Smith has been banned from attending the Oscar broadcast ceremonies for a decade, which rather sounds like a reward for his part in two-wrongs-make-a-wrong nonsense. Of course, that penalty entirely neglects the real cause: Turning an award ceremony into entertainment instead of celebration.
  • Which sure beats further ways to screw over musicians and composers emerging from the world of 'streaming' companies, but who am I to criticize a New! Improved! HiTech! industry that's operating exactly like its 1950s ancestor? It reminds one of the Wendy's ad campaign for chicken nuggets of a few decades back; as far as streaming vendors are concerned, bits are bits. And not nearly as important as inflated pigs' bladders kicked from one village green to another.
  • Including the structural dodges, like "incorporating somewhere away from actual operations to avoid government scrutiny"… or personal jurisdiction sufficient to support prosecution for fencing stolen property. Unfortunately, the current conflict 1800km to the east — and the attempts by the SovietRussian government to deal with critics — demonstrate that prohibiting conduct like this would have far-reaching side effects that are perhaps worse.
  • Then there's the borderline sociopathy of art forgers to consider. This nudges near sociopathy not from "getting a kick" out of the res, but out of exploiting it… economically. It concerns the difficult "pure copy versus inspiration" problem.
  • That is, yet another reflection of product versus process. n.b. I'm no fan of Eagleton's own theorizing, which far too often involved the literary equivalent of p-hacking — often p-hacking for a good cause, or at least against a bad one, but that's discernable only with perfect hindsight.
  • <SARCASM> Of course, lawyers would never do that. It's dishonest. The British exam system wants to resemble the bar exam system Over Here when it can finally get a complete grip on society. (And let's not forget the LSAT "problem" for admissions, either… and I say that as someone who can have had no sour grapes about LSAT scores at all. Just about the experience of the disingenuously nonrigorous test itself, including the trip to and from the test site and, umm, "related circumstances.") </SARCASM>
  • It's all just GIGO. Anyone with any familiarity with statistical mechanics at all can describe the obvious methodological problem with even this easiest-of-all applications of corpus linguistics — a mechanism that is at best capable of excluding implausible meanings. Pondering for even 30 seconds the possibility that that same data set is often used to intentionally deceive, or at least reinforce selection bias should rather complete the refutation.

    And the less said about "original public meaning textualism" from a couple centuries back, when the "public" that preserved its thoughts in writings to which we have access today was a self-selecting, ardently non-representative sample and not a population (meaning that all of the statistical tools need to be reconsidered for both validity and meaning in context, a rather ironic interpretive reflexiveness in itself)…

  • After that platter, it's time for dessert. Perhaps a chocolate gateaux? It should surprise no one that my preference is for extremely dark, and unsweetened (or at most bittesweet), confectionary. A ganache of tax policies for just the right kinds of furriners. Between-layers buttercream frosting surveilling political opponents (long before any plumbing problems at the Watergate Hotel). An entirely bittersweet layer of cake buried in the middle where no one from the outside sees it. Not to mention a menu description that bears no resemblance to what is actually served up — not flavor, not nutritional profile, not quantity, not price. And certainly not quality or attentiveness of service, let alone consideration of alternatives. No tyre-company stars for you!

23 April 2022

Bad Faith

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear argument in a matter that gives it the opportunity to correct a longstanding doctrinal error regarding the conflict between the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses.1 It won't; given the errors in its past and its current composition, it is far more likely to make things worse, both "more confused" and "more oppressive."

The inevitability is immediately apparent in what is missing in the conversation: Not once is there any attempt to place Mr Kennedy's actions2 in context. For example, not once is the name of his congregation mentioned, or other source of the personal beliefs that he claims require him to transfer his apparent secular authority as a coach and public employee to visible and clear religious exercise. This matters, especially to anyone who actually knows anything at all about the Bremerton, Washington area.3 There is a relevant history of suppression of minority views and opinions, and of enthusiastic McCarthyism, and of the US Navy.4 The only hint regarding the latter is that there's a throwaway acknowledgement in a Ninth Circuit opinion that Mr Kennedy's "day job" (he was only a part-time assistant coach!) was at the Pacific Naval Shipyard (ponder note 3 again). The source of doctrine (or personal faith) does not determine the validity or acceptability of that doctrine (or personal faith)… but neither is it irrelevant.5

It's worth considering a few variants on the context of Mr Kennedy's conduct to see what's really going on here. Consider:

  • If Mr Kennedy had placed his prayer rug at the 50 yard line, oriented it toward Mecca, and prayed… especially relevant because this case is being heard during Ramadan, concerning games ordinarily scheduled on Fridays.
  • If Mr Kennedy had cited his pastor and congregation on the record, or the record contained any "invitation to join me Sunday at X" sorts of things.
  • If Mr Kennedy had called upon the Great Spirit to bless the bounty of the post-game pizza party.
  • If Mr Kennedy had sat down at midfield, pulled out a book, and begun reading… and discussing the content of that book with interested players and community members who joined him.
  • If Mr Kennedy had done all this at a school board meeting instead of a football game.

Bluntly, the Supreme Court's decision in Santa Fe rests on two insupportable premises, even if the result came out sort of ok. The first bad assumption is that in matters of religion children can and do make decisions, and espouse messages, as other than sock-puppets for adults (usually parents, sometimes other "community leaders"). There are some extraordinarily rare exceptions, but they are also so rare that it's difficult to imagine any popularly-elected school board accommodating them (let alone, umm, evangelizing them). The second bad assumption is that peer pressure to conform to a leader's6 overt, purportedly personal "free exercise" does not, and never can, constitute either an "establishment" by effect… or denegration of dissent and dissenters.

I expect that the final decision in Kennedy will be mostly in his favor. Whether he will get his job back directly or the matter is merely sent back "for further proceedings consistent with this opinion" is really the only question. This Court in particular — with its nondiverse religious background — has demonstrated little or no ability to contemplate the problems of nonconformists,7 and a majority of its members (in other contexts, both prior opinions and otherwise) has expressed overt disinterest in doing so.

  1. U.S. Const. Amd. I (1791); cf. Santa Fe Ind. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000).
  2. Remember, this case is not about Kennedy's personal exercise in the privacy of his own home. It is about Kennedy, as an assistant football coach at a public high school in a school district in which most of the "new people" are military families and/or in private industry that serves a major naval base, leading prayers on the publicly-owned field and influencing his minor students to join him in those prayers.
  3. I grew up across the Sound, so I wasn't actually in that community. That said, I had constant contact with it, and I am all too familiar with the "outsider problems" in Kitsap County — then and now. In particular, I was then (and remain) familiar with some of the community-institution bad actors — institutions, including three evangelical organizations, that in the 1960s and 1970s opposed civil rights for Others under cover of religious dominionism. The silence in the record on this point is rather disquieting… and consistent with the historical coopting of media on the western shore of Puget Sound, but that's a long (and unintentionally revealing) story indeed. Cf. Capitol Square Rvw. & Advisory Bd. v. Pinette 515 U.S. 753, 780 (1995) (O'Connor, J., concurring) (remarking that "the reasonable observer in the endorsement inquiry must be deemed aware of the history and context of the community and forum in which the religious display appears" while simultaneously, on the facts presented but without so stating, ignoring the relevant such awareness of nonmajority persons).
  4. Two hundred years of tradition unsullied by any hint of progress (a statement that itself fails to note the passage of another half-century). Worse yet, it's a ballistic-missile-submarine base, with all of the extra joy of indoctrination for the vastly-higher-than-normal proportion of personnel on the PRP.

    n.b. The USAF — and certainly the Air Force Academy — arguably does things even worse… just not for as long. Yet. And I knew (personally, we had been commissioned together) one of the outsider-officers involved.

  5. Failure to engage with this issue is a potentially fatal flaw in this record, reminiscent of (yet worse than) Trump v. Hawaii's mention but nonengagement with the bigotry that animated the challenged policy.

    Irrelevant aside: It rather pisses me off that four years after this decision was issued, it still has not been issued in its final, official form by the Court. I will not use the unofficial versions. Ever. (And neither should anyone else.) The Court needs to reprioritize actually making authoritative statements of What the Law Is available to the public, and not rely on either the Bar or the too-often-incompetent "editors" at private vendors to do so. It's hard to say whether "natural language searching" or "reliance on headnotes" is a worse way to understand the law — but they're both unacceptable, and both lead to frequent errors.

  6. It's bad enough when it's "student leaders," whether one means "football team captain," "president of the Student Body Association," one of the "popular kids" (these days, an "influencer"), or "selected mouthpiece of the principal." I've… experienced… all of them, and so did my children. It's much, much worse when it's an adult authority figure, like a higher-in-the-chain commander, a member of the school board, a "public figure" in the civil rights movement always referred to as "Rev." Mr Kennedy managed to combine the two… precisely how "evangelical Christianity" is structured to work, even if it uses different language to describe its mechanisms.
  7. Like, say, Puritans in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England. Or Jehovah's Witnesses in 1940s Appalachia. Or a woman at Harvard Law School in 1957. The irony that the all-white-male Courts of the 1940s and 1950s were better at this than the ones we have now says much more about the selection process to the Court than it should, and in particular whether "originalism" is the new shibboleth… or whether actual experiences are distinct from surface tribal characteristics. That this is the actual justification — ex ante and ex post — for having both free exercise and establishment clauses seems to have largely escaped notice. (And that my native language is not law, but literature and/or the scientific method, just makes it harder for me to conform… and I use that word with pretty extensive knowledge of what it meant at the time of the Founding. I just reject it.)

    The fundamental problem is that members of the judiciary (federal or otherwise) seldom had visceral and personal interactions with the bad actors (as distinct from the bad policies), and so all too easily fall back on the "persons of good faith" presumption. In my first profession, my experience was… otherwise (both domestically and otherwise, both as to Americans and otherwise, just generally otherwise).

22 April 2022

New Math

The following story problems do not appear in any textbook recently rejected by Florida as creating potential discomfort in students. But they probably should…

Carl owns a trucking company. A new report suggests that trucks with a backup camera are 37% less likely to strike and injure or kill pedestrians. Carl asks for your advice on how much he should spend per truck on backup cameras. Your research shows that Carl will avoid liability if the cost of improving safety with these new cameras is less than the chance of a mishap multiplied by the loss from the mishap — that is, if B < PL.

1. Carl's trucks primarily operate in Overtown. If the estimated loss from striking a pedestrian in Overtown is $15,000, what is the most that Carl needs to spend on backup cameras (per truck) to avoid liability? Show your work.

2. Carl has opened a new depot in Coral Gables, where the estimated loss from striking a pedestrian is $35,000. What is the most that Carl needs to spend on backup cameras (per truck) to avoid liability? Show your work.


Under Florida law, the legislature can override the governor's veto if two-thirds of the attending legislators vote to override. Newly-elected Governor Goldsmith (who was educated in New York and does not fully understand our Christian traditions) needs your help understanding the chances of a veto override. The Senate will override his veto of important bills that enhance those Christian values no matter what, but there's less party loyalty in the 118–member House.

3. If all members are present, how many God-fearing members of the House would it take to override his veto?

4. How many godless Democrats must be arrested by the State Police, and kept from attending the veto-override vote, if there are 78 attending, God-fearing members of the House?


Florida Man is on food stamps. He isn't very good at math, so he asks you for help.

5. Florida Man is a single ex-convict receiving the full $250 per month in food stamps. Because he lives in a trailer with no refrigerator, he has to shop for food every day. How much can he spend on steak on a day in April if he already has everything else for the day?

6. According to the Income Limit Chart, if Florida Man has one out-of-wedlock child in his household, and he can fence a set of four stolen hubcaps for $25.50, how many sets can he fence in one month to avoid reducing his food-stamp benefits?


(n.b. All errors intentional… if not always mine.)

18 April 2022

Professional Link Sausage Platter

…the kind of professional that rides a motorcycle, wears a black leather jacket, and is far more sadistic (and causes far more pain) than any dentist. Dentists drill into one's teeth; these professionals drill into one's soul.

  • Well, not always a leather jacket. Sometimes it's a black robe. And foofy wig. And on strike (every public defender in this country is probably rolling eyes thinking "This is news?"). At least we're getting a public defender on our highest court before Blighty gets a full-time public-aid criminal barrister on theirs… let alone at the Home Office where it's even more necessary.
  • I suppose it could be worse; it could be goofy legal (actually cultural) limitations on name changes. (I get to say that as someone who suggested that my spouse not change her name to match mine back in the 80s; there were pragmatic reasons, too, but it Wasn't Normal for commissioned officers…)
  • Or we could just ponder the "abandonment" of commercial law, which is no longer a bar-exam subject. So, so sad that lawyerly competence in this field is no longer considered testable. (I never took the class, but I have had to deal with some aspects of it; so has everyone who has ever taken out a car loan, or a mortgage, or been through bankruptcy as debtor or creditor.)
  • That, however, is the least of the problems. Consider the music industry and its various protection rackets — whether in the 1970s or right now, at the nearest venue to you. And if y'all at the top of the music industry think I'm defaming you, remember: Truth is not defamation. At least not Over Here.
  • OK, I think I've buried the lede sufficiently now. The Califonia Bar's disciplinary system has been audited and found wanting. Well, color me extremely… bored. "Rampant corruption in the [insert your jurisdiction's name here] bar with little or no effective discipline" is as newsworthy as a declaration that the Earth orbits the Sun approximately every 365.24 days.

    Which is not at all to say that there's no problem in the profession with "corruption" — just that the problem with "corruption" is far from limited to "stealing funds from settlements and judgments that were supposed to go to clients." The more-subtle, and more-difficult, corruption problems in the law come from sheer incompetence (and not just at commercial law!) and failures to perform independent fact-gathering and analysis — which cannot be measured on any bar exam — and intentional perversions of the course of justice.

    The organized bar presumes that courts will deal with these problems; the courts presume that the organized bar will deal with these problems; and in the end, nobody deals with these problems (and anyone who complains — in proper form, with documentation — gets either ignored or castigated by the judge/bar system for engaging in ridiculous satellite proceedings).1 I'll freely admit that judges generally have better things to do with their time than deal with disgruntled lawyers accusing each other of distorting matters to pervert the course of justice; I deny, however, that the organized bar does. That's its [unbelievably foul and offensive string of expletives in six different languages deleted] job. Not being a trade association, not keeping The Club's membership disproportionately limited to the Right Kind of People, not obsessing over the appropriate passing score for a bar exam that tests less than a quarter of what a lawyer needs to know and nothing at all of how a lawyer needs to investigate merits.

  1. And here, a bit of a Glomar irony, which contributed in no small part to both the necessity and the shortcomings of the audit of California's disciplinary system: A complainant who is either also a member of the bar or is represented by independent counsel may not disclose the existence of a complaint. For example, let's say that Lawyer A became aware of a scheme by the Governor of his state — a member of the bar — to sell a nomination for a vacant legislative seat to the highest bidder (money or whatever), and had solid, admissible evidence. Lawyer A may never reveal that he/she/they made a complaint to the bar authorities — except to the bar authorities if later accused of failing to comply with Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3(a), the "rat on your buddy" rule (cf., also from that jurisdiction, In re Himmel, 125 Ill.2d 531 (1988) (imposing discipline on a lawyer who, at his own client's demand, failed to report another lawyer's misconduct because it would have interfered with the client's recovery from the other lawyer)).

    So I'm thoroughly Glomaring the past few decades. But then, I knew how to make a Glomar response looooooong before law school… but that's only required as to specific instances. I can neither confirm nor deny my personal knowledge (and/or supporting documentation or other evidence) of any examples of licensed attorneys engaging in conduct to the prejudice of justice as it relates to Rule 8.3 or any report thereunder or related to it.

11 April 2022

Acceptance of a Disability

warning: Satire. The intellectually challenged and situationally oblivious are strongly cautioned.

Since it's April — another month coopted for "awareness" so as to limit shame on the subject the other eleven months of the year — and a certain type of behavioral challenges are what we're supposed to be aware of this month, I'd like us all to be more aware of, and have greater acceptance for, a behavioral challenge faced every day by a high proportion of the politically prominent. Although this challenge is not presently recognized by the mental health community,1 the subclass of those confronting it merits vastly greater attention.

I refer, of course, to moraldivergence. Those afflicted with moraldivergence are treated with less understanding, and even greater disdain (and disgust), than those afflicted with physical ailments, like leprosy and fully-symptomatic carriers of the human immunodeficiency virus. This lack of acceptance on occasion culminates in profound and permanent social disapproval with extreme consequences resulting from acts that — from the perspective of the moraldivergent — are perfectly normal for those of their responsibilities.2

This overt discrimination is particularly disquieting when applied by persons who do not share the same cultural imperatives as the targeted moraldivergent individual. There is no U.S. Senate Rule XIX in ordinary public discourse, which leads to ugly accusations of "war crimes" and "genocide" against a not-insignificant proportion of politically prominent moraldivergents. This is simply not acceptable; it leads to unclear communication and a shameful failure among the moral-abled to accept that moraldivergents are just acting naturally — particularly, it seems, in disputed, unclear, and unsettled political contexts. A perceived desire for lebensraum on behalf of those whose interests have been entrusted to a moraldivergent surely cannot be an appropriate rationale for overt and intentional discrimination against the moraldivergent,3 regardless of the particular political or historical overtones.4

  1. It used to be an established recognition and even routine diagnosis in some parts of the world, but that has faded since the early 1990s. See, e.g., Jason Luty's helpful summary and a specific illustration from a less-acclaimed-than-she-should-have-been author who suffered from ghettoization throughout her writing career — rather ironic in itself, as a failure of awareness in the self-identified fully-abled.
  2. Although well beyond the scope of this short essay, public reactions to moraldivergence frequently implicate free exercise of religion. That the religion in question frequently resembles self-worship to the fully moral-abled is irrelevant — it is fundamentally a free-exercise issue.

    That quasireligious conflict and selectivity frequently intersects with the free-exercise aspects of moraldivergence has mostly escaped comment. Compare, e.g., the full record that resulted in Church of Lukumi Babalu Ayé v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993), with Justice Stewart's reservations in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964).

  3. It is not, perhaps, as irrelevant as it might seem to compare the "fair use" aspects of material frequently mischaracterized by mere lawyers as "parody" (a legally-proper parody qualifies as fair use) with other material mischaracterized by lawyers as mere "satire" (does not qualify as fair use). See generally Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994); cf. Dr. Seuss Enters., LP v. Penguin Books USA, Inc., 109 F.3d 1394 (9th Cir. 1997) (lawyers did not force courts to confront the radical change of context and presentation itself as the parody, and thus lost because it was only satire… and about judges, contra Campbell, 510 U.S. at 582–83).
  4. So as to avoid distracting invocations of 10 U.S.C. § 888 and similar red herrings, there is only a single reference directly to United States persons in the body of this essay, and even that is somewhat indirect. But this is a footnote, so slightly-less-indirectly referencing a few will not cross the line to "contempt" — particularly since, as this note is below the horizontal line, the individuals referred to are beneath contempt.

08 April 2022

Leisure-Suited Link Sausage Platter

In lime-green doubleknit polyester! With a four-button jacket! OK, maybe it's just that they're industrial leisure…

  • First, a few contrasting, if somewhat bizarre, intrusions from the world of copyright and IP exploitation merit consideration — together. In yet another case demonstrating that influence and Progress in the useful Arts1 is more than a bit difficult to separate from infringement, British songwriter Ed Sheeran has beaten back a copyright-infringement claim. One might well ponder the contrast with publishers — not the author's estate, however tangled — that authorize continuation novels a la Jason Bourne (n.b. presented as an example of the kind of work, without regard to literary merit; I do not have specific knowledge concerning the estate in question). But at least it's not yet another attempt to make the 'net Special… or otherwise mix media and sources and inspiration and damned near everything else.
  • The contrast of the preceding sausage-with-too-many-flavors with foundations of scholarship leads directly to intellectual indigestion — thus justifying a place on this platter for each!
  • Also from the Department of It's Money That Matters, there is finally some pressure in Europe to end "golden passports" — maybe. It'll be just as successful as any such movement in the US regarding certain visas for certain residents of "friendly" nations… neglecting the lovely assurance and implications, buried in coded language deep in the officialese, that "labor certifications are not required."
  • Or you could just set up your own country, I suppose. A while back, I sarcastically remarked that the head of a certain (anti)social media operation wanted to be his own country, and really needed only his own currency to lend his reign some sense of legitimacy. Looks like he's taking my "advice" on that.
  • We really don't do a very good job of honoring veterans in this country, especially not since implementation of the all-volunteer force. We do an even worse job of fulfilling our promises to them, but that's not exactly new (and that damned statue is still at the entrance to the training grounds).
  • The NFL's institutionalized racism, sexism, and other bigotry (of all kinds) has to go. Of course, it's not just the NFL; one of the reasons I won't be watching or paying any attention whatsoever to Tiger Woods this weekend is where he's trying a comeback from injury, and it's not just that venue. When a white-guy eligible-for-Social-Security coach calls out the hiring practices of the league's owners (black/nonwhite players in 2021: 58%/70%; black/nonwhite head coaches as of this posting: 9%/16%; black/nonwhite ownership as of this posting: 0%/<5%) and it's almost immediately buried by just-barely-journalistically-neutral accounts of discrimination lawsuits against the league (and this is one of the less-incredulous reports), you know that there's a communication problem. Not to mention an entitlement problem.

    It's no better in the rest of the entertainment industry. Quickly: Name a nonwhite head of a major H'wood studio (<SARCASM> "excluding" the Jews who supposedly control everything with their New York senses of humor2 — that's "race" only when it's convenient to call it so </SARCASM>). Ever. The "film academy" is not really any better and won't get better until the most-racism-entrenched branch — the marketing and publicity branch, filled with and run by the people who make all of those never-in-writing comments about how white audiences won't go to a film led by an unknown black actor and influence hiring decisions throughout the industry — gets blown up… or better yet excluded because with the exception of those never-in-writing comments they don't actually influence the making of films. How about commercial publishing, and the subtleties of risk-taking? Or "general-audience" (that is, not specifically ethnically marketed) recorded music? Or the major gaming companies? Or (anti)social media platforms?

    For all the progress made at the ballot box since 1964 — and there's been a lot, but there's a lot more to go — it seems that the cable box needs even more attention in the C-suite (and throughout management). We're not actually striving for a more-perfect union when we grudgingly allow access to the ballot box while less so to the ballot; and the same when we grudgingly allow access to the title page while less so to the job title.

  1. This is about the only context in which you'll ever see me citing that academic with approval — the theoretical framework. His anti-science attitude and frequently bigoted work in the "lab" of literary analysis are Explicitly Disapproved, in particular regarding the pro-Establishment "serious trade nonfiction" for which he's best known outside of literary circles. I'm not even going to give him a namecheck; not even as much, or as frequently, as I namecheck Ezra Pound, James Baldwin, and certain others because doing so makes those who haven't actually looked at the data (read the works in question) so bloody uncomfortable. It's even more worthwhile contemplating the populaity of Pat Boone…
  2. See, e.g., untitled pilot/Season 1, Episode 1, The West Wing (22 Sep 1999) (during the all-white-and/or-Jewish politicotheological throwdown). But I'm not from Connecticut.