02 December 2020

Advent Link Sausages

If you open a window on any date in December (or up through 08 Jan), sausage ingredients fall out. Which is a pretty good description of Heffalump governance: Open any policy, and the conflicts of interest fall out (which is about the party and not "conservatism per se," difficult as it can be to distinguish the two)…

  • In important entertainment industry news, the Japanese public showed that its collective taste is better than that Over Here as an anime piece overcame That Overblown-and-Overrated Film at the box office, even during COVID–19. Fighting demons is at least as relevant a commentary on today as a class-warfare-based "romance" in which everyone has to be a blithering idiot with less-than-zero situational awareness or the whole story falls apart (plus there's the whole blonde issue, but that's rather more personal).
  • And in vastly less important entertainment news, best wishes to Elliot Page. It's less important for two reasons. First, it's nobody else's business; if one's identity/preference involves purple hedgehogs, all that should matter is that everyone is a consenting adult (although I draw the squick-factor line at leather-wearing bovine dommes named "Bossy" — I have some limits to my tolerance). Second, I'm anticipating immense schadenfreude as awards organizations struggle to recategorize the gender-divided "actor"/"actress" categories, perhaps most of all any debates over retconning Billy Kwan and (on point here) Juno herself. Those organizations deserve at minimum the questions about their own present and historical integrity that they're going to have to struggle with — even if they pretend not to do so.

    Of note, it's interesting that even mainstream media (not just the Grauniad, but even the Chicago Tribune) is leading with the new identity and not the old. One wonders what J. Edgar "I keep my pink tutus in the closet" Hoover would have thought. I'm waiting for the X-Man-fanboy what-happened-to-my-crush-on-Kitty-Pryde backlash, though; "gay and out" was difficult enough for them…

  • Or it could just be the end of all things. As it happens, I have deep, theoretical objections to the very concept of "musical theatre with recitative chorus that couldn't spell 'Greek' if handed the first four letters, which would be 5/4 time anyway (and we all know what that means)." I enjoyed Hamilton as an alternate narrative that exposes (but does not pretend to answer) some critical questions on American identity that are usually buried by political conformity in the classroom. On the other hand, as a sometime student of utopian fiction "alternate narrative" seems a perfectly ordinary method to me… however rare it is in live theatre, which is yet another aspect of my objections.
  • Where have I heard proposals to sanction election attorneys facilitating Our Dear Leader's delusions through misuse of legal process before? I think it was about four weeks and 2,800 words ago. Shocking, isn't it, that there has been complete silence from ATRA and the usual lawsuit-suppressionreform organizations — the ones who rail against "unfair to business" courts and plaintiffs' lawyers? Ya think the not-quite-explicit sponsorship of ATRA et al. by some of Our Dear Leader's law firms might have something to do with it? Or perhaps some fear that sauce for the goose/plaintiff's bar might be sauce for the gander/insurance defense bar? Consider just how often sanctions are imposed under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 11(b)(4)… and then just say "tobacco, asbestos, and phosphorylation-regulating herbicides don't cause human cancer" with a straight face.

30 November 2020

Repeating Past Errors

Just a few disorganized musings this morning. This afternoon. Whatever…

In a rather short piece in The Grauniad, Samuel Moyn ponders whether just changing the personnel "back" to "mostly professionals" in foreign policy, as the Biden transition team appears to be doing, won't just repeat the errors of the past. Well, of course it will, but not for the reasons Professor Moyn posits: He displays little or no knowledge of what it took to "get ahead" in foreign policy starting in 1981, let alone of the distorting effect that has had.

Bluntly, the installation of natural-resource-pipeline patronage in the foreign-relations systems — formally, at State, and in foreign-relations-related positions in other agencies — severely limited who could get promoted, and thus noticed for those senior posts now. I watched this from "alongside" in a related agency, particularly the utterly bungled transition from all-anticommunist-all-the-time1 to advancing-American-economic-interests-through-message-control-and-bribery that began in 1985 and extended thereafter in every Administration. Some highly respected, and highly respectable, people (like "Ambassador-selectee" Thomas-Greenfield) managed to nonetheless maintain careers inside that apparatus. Many worthies, however — often those who thought that the business of foreign policy was, well, foreign policy (and not Exxon's shareholder valuation) — did not. And I don't see much sign of considering them. For anything.

But they'll be just fine,2 I hope. There is perhaps no element of the executive branch in American government that so desperately relies upon the willingness of those who actually know to speak truth to power. I'm neither particularly encouraged nor, parallel to Professor Moyn, particularly discouraged by what I'm seeing thus far from President-elect Biden's team. And it's largely Nixon's fault, but that's for another time.

  1. How'd that end up working for American interests in the long run, Mr Roosevelt? (No, this ignoramus, not a President.) Or even the short run, since you didn't accurately identify the communists?
  2. Even if Lt Col (Ret) Vindman is considered "unconfirmable," naming him as a Permanent Professor of Ethics and International Relations at West Point and the National War College would be appropriate… and would not require Senate confirmation. Perhaps the political price of reappointing him to the National Security Council would be too high (although that, too, would require no Senate confirmation). And he's just an excrutiatingly obvious example of the kind of expertise that has been thrown over the side not just during the present Administration, but for the past four decades.

26 November 2020

The 2020 Turkey Awards

An annual tradition for over two decades! This is my list of ridiculous people from 2020 (so far). This could have been entirely about one very orange person, but I made an effort to diversify. A little bit, anyway. Pass me one of those rolls, please:

  • The Greasy Gravy Award for oily publicity that makes the main dish inedible goes to Faceplant and Mark I of Zuckerbergia. Which is a real achievement considering that "oily publicity" is the entire raison d'etre of Faceplant (so long as it's getting paid for that oily publicity).
  • The Red-Tide Oyster Stuffing Award for carelessly poisoning an otherwise tasty dish goes to Brewster Kahle and his Internet Archive (and, more generally, to the almost-entirely-white IWTBF movement).
  • The Broken Wishbone Award for shattering dreams goes to darling Harvey Weinstein, convicted rapist. With more than a little bit of Dishonorable Mention to the "casting couch" meme.
  • The Golden Gristle Award for assertions far too difficult to digest (and usually stuck in one's teeth) goes to Rudy Giuliani. I've never been a fan; I had questions about his inability to distinguish "law" from "political ambition" in the 1980s (which is no defense of those targeted in the "junk bond" prosecutions… most of which were enabled by career lawyers at the SEC who were sabotaged by political appointees at the top, leaving only criminal prosecution as an option).
  • The Conspicuous Consumption Cranberry Relish Award for the most-outrageous example thereof goes to T-Mobile. In this instance, it's gluttony with the explicit purpose of getting fat(ter).
  • The Crabapple Pie Award for marketing something sour as something sweet goes to not a person, but an event: Michael Flynn pardoned. I see no acceptance of responsibility or intent to do better here, which are historically the justifications for "pardons" (as distinct from "amnesty," and implicitly taking lessons in political morality from those two miscreants bothers me a great deal).
  • 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 Sen David Perdue (R-GA, at least until the runoff on 05 Jan 2021, and all you Georgians need to vote!). We'll leave aside the lack of jobs during a pandemic as entirely irrelevant.
  • The Brussels Sprout Award for stinky, slimy, overcooked, gentrified little cabbages goes to the current voter registration of the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenues, Washington, DC — a landlocked private island worthy of Dr Moreau. Or, more likely, Mr Roarke (including the white linen suit) (emphasis on "white").
  • The Dried-Out Breastmeat Award for overcooking the books goes to commercial "publishing" conglomerates. As just one example, consider the prospective merger of S&S and RandyPenguin, which could meet existing merger guidelines if, and only if, one ignores the most-profitable segments of their existing product lines. Meanwhile, the palpable relief that Sauron didn't win the bidding contest is not much consolation.
  • The Rancid Drumstick Award for something that should be edible, but isn't, goes to Boris Johnson (aka Less-Rich Trump). Fortunately for everyone, however, an undereducated Black footballer, barely out of his teens, who grew up in poverty himself, ensured something edible would be there.
  • 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 the Romance Writers of America. I'm almost as impressed by their "ethics" mechanisms as I am by those of the United States Senate. Or the American bar.
  • Special Limited Time Offer! The Salmonella Carrot Medley (Artificial Color Added) Award for discrediting an office and a nation goes to this guy — but this offer expires on 20 January 2021 at 1700Z. Although now that I think about it, he'll continue to do so long after he's left office.

19 November 2020

Sausage Dressing for One Platter

…no Turkey Day large gatherings, no immense quantities of leftovers. But there will be Turkey Awards. Can you gobblegobble guess who's getting gobblegob carved up?

  • One of the biggest casualties of the delayed "transition" will be enforcement of existing law. This isn't precisely unique to the current fiasco, but it's worse this time: Every time there's a change in administration — even within the party, as in 1988–89 — federal enforcement of existing law relating to Big Business essentially stops between about a week after Election Day and mid-February. One simply will not see major actions finding unfair labor practices, or banking improprieties, or insurance improprieties…

    …or antitrust violations, especially regarding proposed nonvertical mergers. Like this one. Interestingly, I've seen nonlinkable reports indicating that the CEO of NewsCorp claims that a Bertelsmann purchase would implicate antitrust law but maintaining silence concerning his own company. The real problem here — as it is with virtually every merger since about 1917 — is in the market definition. In this particular instance, the magician's assistant (or "volunteer from the audience") is distracting attention: Everyone who is in favor of the merger is pointing at Amazon as a major market participant.

    Wrong. This would even matter if, and only if, "general trade publishing" is the exclusive market definition (and defining even that will be really interesting — does it include porn? religious-oriented fiction and nonfiction, and for the latter remember that there are major-player imprints owned by all of the candidates?). But it isn't and never has been. The more-profitable non-trade segments of these dead-tree behemoths are already vastly overconcentrated. For example, the HHI for precollege textbooks — admittedly based on third-party estimates, because nobody admits to these things in any verifiable or public way — is between 1800 and 1850 at the conglomerate level under the current structure, and would jump to at least 2350 after any merger among "Big Five" commercial publishers. Since under the DoJ's own unforgiveably lax merger guidelines an HHI exceeding 1600 is suspect and 2000 is presumptively anticompetitive and oligopolistic (if one goes back to the original academic material, 2500 is an outright monopoly justifiable only for natural monopolies), that's a Problem… in the one part of publishing that is most resistant to e-books.

    I will no doubt have more to say as this story develops. This is just one example of how market definition matters. I would call on the FTC and DoJ to preemptively do something — even just say something — but…

  • …this is under a petulant child who fires people for doing the jobs they were hired to do. At least when "doing that job" makes clear that more than one vote — the Orange One's — actually counts. Well, ok, the votes of dead dinosaurs count, too… as long as they're converted to dead presidents first. As dead presidents, they have free speech rights denied to, say, black ex-felons in Florida who have completed their custodial and supervisory sentences but can't get an accurate appraisal from the state regarding any fines, restitution, etc.
  • One suspects that a certain bow-tie-wearing Justice would have been in even deeper trouble with this Administration than either Krebs or Mueller. Especially since he would have been shooting at someone who really does think of himself as "king."

    Sadly, the efforts by Stevens and his allies did little to deal with the old-white-man problem in Chicago politics and law practice. And if you're under the illusion that politics are divorced from daily law practice, you've never appeared in Cook County courts — especially, but not only, the so-called Chancery, where minority debtors on secured and dubious loans go to lose. To have all of their equity stripped away and flipped for the profit of Other Peoples' Money (and the white men running the trusts and hedge funds investing it).

  • What the other sausages on this platter indicate is that grasp of higher mathematics is not necessary to predict the future: Always bet on the three things that made America great (graft, corruption, and nepotism), even when there isn't an "America" yet. Some people think they can be more precise, but as (a) a lab-rat biochemist, (b) a former officer of the United States who witnessed Stuff while being a uniformed part of the furniture, and (c) a cynic since age three, I'll gently point out that applying advanced math and analysis to politically manipulated data is unlikely to lead to results that are precise, accurate, and distinct from reasonably aware observation. (Example: Go ahead. Look at the academic work underlying the HHI. Then look at the data and data sources, and ponder for a moment just how closely the probability that the data was manipulated for political purposes before it was ever plugged into the analysis approaches 1. But don't even mention the timing, mechanics, politics, and interests wound up in the dissolution of the Bretton Woods Agreement, or you'll be thrown off a cliff by the first econometrist you meet and your corpse will be defiled by every investment banker who encounters it.)

15 November 2020

Not Ready for GOBblers Yet

The turkeys are getting very nervous. Especially the smaller ones, more vulnerable this year to being "guests" at COVID-aware gatherings than they usually are.

  • There looks like a fascinating piece on the linguistic and methodological battles over "originalism" at CHE. For what it's worth, I probably would criticize both sides for failing to recognize that they're making a false assumption: That it is not only possible, but indisputable, to use a single interpretive method for a text… and that anyone "of good will" who does so "correctly" will reach the same result, notwithstanding any cultural or ideological differences. I say this having been stuck in both interpretive mudpits; both "historical literary analysis" and "originalist legal analysis" rely upon what is most charitably called "cherrypicking" of source materials. Consider, for example what "bear arms" meant to the educated classes of London and Philadelphia in 1785 or so… and what it meant to the merchant classes in Liverpool and Savannah, let alone to the uneducated rural farming communities (which can be determined only by implication because they left virtually no verifiable written records, being largely illiterate and certainly not body-politic literate) in North Cumbria and the western Carolinas.

    But I'm guessing. I can't read the article; not because it's behind a paywall, but because this message overlays the screen:

    Ad Blocker Detected
    Please support our site by adding chronicle.com to your allowed list. We depend on advertising in order to provide you with essential independent journalism.

    My originalist interpretation of "ad" and "advertising" doesn't include tracking cookies, Canvas fingerprinting, or anything else that attempts to "personalize" or track readership. That's what "ad" means in the print edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is certainly the "original." But because default settings on my browsers block intrusive tracking (and I not only remember Judge Bork's video-store rental records, I used similar methods for… official purposes), that changes the original meaning of "ad"; things are rather reflexively stuck in noncommunication. I not-so-respectfully suggest that the "proprietors" and "editorial staff" at CHE engage in an originalist interpretation of "plonk" as it applies to their foolish rejection of context (not to mention "privacy," one of the other hard problems with originalism). I'm a member of the interpretive community that developed that term, and I seriously doubt they'll reach beyond denotation to the community's various connotations…

  • But it could be worse. We could be arguing about appropriation. Again.

    I'm getting really tired of microcommunities objecting to speculative-fiction reimaginations and inspirations that do not depend upon (or sometimes even reference) historical fact. It's one thing to object to a purported hyperrealistic, commercial-publishing-meme-approved YA "problem book" set in 1980s Boston that purports to invoke the travails of the Caribbean-immigrant community and never engages with school busing (not to mention sounds like it was written by a white trust-fund kid at a workshop in the cornfields of Iowa, and no this is not a hypothetical manuscript). It's another entirely to criticize an author who is a member of the same community — but perhaps not the same microcommunity, perhaps not lifelong — concerning a work that is archly not a naturalistic/hyperrealistic depiction of "the way things are."

    Too often, context matters in ways that just aren't being considered when someone screams "Appropriation!" And if it doesn't, I think I'm entitled to call every "military novel" that tries to deal with "command issues" that has been written by someone who has never held command authority — and, therefore, isn't a member of my microcommunity — a travesty that must be pulped, and demand the revocation of their literary licenses for drivelling under the influence. That too often from even a non-appropriation-sensitized/triggered perspective that's not far off the real "merits" of those works is beside the point.

  • Or you could just engage with a particularly myopic view of both history and contemporary affairs. The fundamental problem here is the reductionist "single sociohistorical causation" meme. That meme is refuted by the very fact that many of those who most need to think about this article can't read it because they don't read English… and any translation runs into Problems…

11 November 2020

The Corner of Some Foreign Field

Today is the day that should be Election Day. Not because I wanted even one more Planck temporal unit of the draft-dodger currently proclaiming his victory from the misscheduled event, but because there are reasons and people who made Election Day possible too oft forgot. Over There, they call it Remembrance Day for good reason.

Even those of us who served need reminders, although it sometimes takes a conscious effort, especially when there's lots of baggage with those memories; not all of the casualties are buried in some foreign (or domestic) field. At least we don't try to replace cemeteries with golf courses, and call the… current residents… "losers" because they're in the way of our grandiose plans or couldn't afford dubious medical opinions so that, in Patton's words, some other poor dumb bastard could die for his country. But at least some of those buried under the carefully manicured greens would then be admitted to the course… because they would have had "ancestry problems" being admitted to the courses while they were alive, having not been born to whiteness, or wealth, or maleness, or the right religion for the region. The irony that a certain golf tournament has been rescheduled for now without acknowledging any of that is a bit grating (since the Vice-President-Elect would have been excluded by multiple grounds from that course… and still is by one of them).

08 November 2020

Our Precious Essences

The national nightmare is not over yet; the alarm has gone off, but there's a two-and-a-half-month-long snooze button, of which more anon.

When, exactly, did the alarm clock ring? The Orange One is not conceding, which really shouldn't surprise anyone: It requires a level of self-awareness without self-regard not apparent in any act (or omission or statement) of this Administration. Further, conceding an opponent's superiority, or even single fine play, is a gracious act that requires an underlying sense of decorum, of refined manners, of common courtesy, that has been missing from this White House since 20 Jan 2017 and from this Administration's titular head since approximately 1946.

But there are three fundamental reasons that it took until Saturday. First is the foolishness of the Electoral College; had this been a "straight popular vote," we would have known by midday Wednesday, when Biden's margin in the national popular vote exceeded the total number of ballots remaining to be counted. (That the Electoral College is supposed to protect against electing a virtually unknown demagogue, but was gamed by one to enable his election in 2016 with a distinct minority of the popular vote, just underlines its foolishness.) Second is the misconduct of Heffalump fleeting majorities (and sometimes minorities) at the state level to suppress votes and throw as many roadblocks as possible into efficient counting, such as prohibiting the counting of mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania (absentee or otherwise) until 03 Nov. These are both longer-term problems that require longer-term solutions… including a Voting Rights Amendment that both enshrines the Voting Rights Act of 1964 (including §§ 2 and 5) and eliminates the Electoral College.

Nonetheless, there's one area in which no government action is required that led to further confusion and continues to reinforce The Orange One's intransigence: The media's refusal to accurately and clearly present election results or make "calls" based upon them. This has been nonpartisan. It is, in part, a legacy of Bush v. Gore; CNN has arguably never recovered its credibility after calling Florida for Gore. This is not limited to "liberal" or "conservative" media. More to the point, though, it's sheer management incompetence and fear. Managers are afraid of "being wrong" — something that anyone with an actual background in journalism, politics, military leadership, law, or anything based on either evaluating or resolving actual conflict sneers at because they all understand that "being wrong" at times is the nature of playing the game. But it's also a subtle self-indictment of themselves, because media management is also indicating by its failure to actually use results that it has, as they would be used by actual decisionmakers in government, that management has no confidence in the corrective measures put in place since the 2000 election — measures that have been tested in four previous Presidential elections. Management, however, doesn't pay the price for this; the rest of us do. (Management will continue to do well on its stock-option-based compensation formula because the markets generally reward not taking risks with higher stock prices.)

It's not that long since Halloween, though. There is still a horror show to come. At least one relative of his (with appropriate professional qualifications and first-hand knowledge to weigh with conflicts of interest) agrees. It's going to happen across the government and the rest of American affairs. But as damaging as that would be, it's not the worst he can do. Ford, Carter, and GHWB resisted the most partisan and aggressive "noncooperation" measures suggested by some of their advisors (some of which are not public knowledge). This time, the resistance would have to go the opposite direction, and I'm frankly concerned, because this time the guy with his finger on The Button is the one in need of self-restraint, and we've seen the lack thereof for decades. I have no confidence whatsoever that this Vice President, and/or this Cabinet, have either the intelligence or moral fortitude to invoke U.S. Const. Amd. XXV § 4… because if they did, they would have done so by midafternoon yesterday.

Last for now, and far from least, I remind every attorney who is filing election challenges of two of your fundamental duties:

By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper—whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it—an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;

(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and

(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 11(b) (and there is an equivalent in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania civil procedure); and

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good-faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law. A lawyer for the defendant in a criminal proceeding, or the respondent in a proceeding that could result in incarceration, may nevertheless so defend the proceeding as to require that every element of the case be established.

Comment 1 The advocate has a duty to use legal procedure for the fullest benefit of the client’s cause, but also a duty not to abuse legal procedure. The law, both procedural and substantive, establishes the limits within which an advocate may proceed. However, the law is not always clear and never is static. Accordingly, in determining the proper scope of advocacy, account must be taken of the law’s ambiguities and potential for change.

Comment 2 The filing of an action or defense or similar action taken for a client is not frivolous merely because the facts have not first been fully substantiated or because the lawyer expects to develop vital evidence only by discovery. What is required of lawyers, however, is that they inform themselves about the facts of their clients’ cases and the applicable law and determine that they can make good-faith arguments in support of their clients’ positions. Such action is not frivolous even though the lawyer believes that the client’s position ultimately will not prevail. The action is frivolous, however, if the lawyer is unable either to make a good-faith argument on the merits of the action taken or to support the action taken by a good-faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.

Ill. R. Prof. Cond. 3.1 (substantially identical in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania).

A client's subjective belief, without more, is not a basis for either "an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances" or "a basis in fact that is not frivolous." (Internet-breaking string citation omitted.) Conduct yourselves accordingly.

03 November 2020

No Exit

In no particular order, a few thoughts for an "Election Day" that is both on the wrong day if it's supposed to be a single day (it should be Veteran's Day… and there is increasingly less reason to put Veteran's Day on 11 November anyway) and — especially this year, but for at least two decades — isn't a single day.

First, if you are approached by an "exit pollster" of any kind, remember that this isn't Srbenica or Москва (or Florissant, Missouri in 1981, let alone Arkadelphia, Mississippi in 1957). You don't have to answer. Especially if you've been previously identified as an "undecided" voter, you shouldn't. Instead, the appropriate answer is:

What part of "secret ballot" do you not understand?

The only person(s) who need have any information connecting a particular ballot to a particular voter are election officials. So don't feed the advertising-executive monster. Don't feed politicians'/political operatives' egos (believe me, they don't need any feeding). The results will be the results when they're finalized; when all of the hanging chads have been resolved, even if that results in some "undercounts"; when all of the signatures have been matched (and voters with broken hands, or early-stage Parkinson's, or whatever, whose signatures don't match what was on their driver's license six years ago because they can't hold or move a pen the same way have had an opportunity to satisfy the election officials); when all of the mailed-in ballots have been finally delivered and counted in accordance with the rules established not by partisans but by election professionals.

Second, if you haven't voted yet, do it. Ignore the robocalls; I've gotten two in the last 36 hours reminding me to vote "correctly" (and yes, that's code for "the way the Government's official exit pollsters expect you to," especially given the language they used… and I don't just mean "foul language"). Allow time for mishaps and parking issues and so on; remember, you can still think about your choices while you're standing in line, socially distanced.

Third, and especially if you live in what has been characterized as a swing state (or, within a state, a swing precinct), ignore the electoral "news" for at least twelve hours after the polls close. Once again, don't feed the advertising-executive monster. I recommend a strict doseage of your favorite twentieth-century films, whether that's Dr. Strangelove, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or 2001, or Metropolis, or something else entirely. It need only keep your attention off the captured "news" system until there's some chance of predictability. And it will be only a chance for at least a week.

Fourth, realize that there's going to be posturing no matter what the result. I find it far from inconceivable — in fact, I expect — that in the event of a relatively close anticipated Electoral College count at any time after late afternoon Eastern time, Our Dear Leader will declare victory. (How does that work again? And how many casualties were suffered afterward?) Worse yet, I expect that toward mid-January he'll hole up in the White House, declaring that he's the legitimate victor and that the election was stolen from him… essentially requiring use of force to winkle him out, expecting that the opposition will blink and refrain from using force. Perhaps the military won't participate, although if it's too long after noon on 20 January 2021 the new commander in chief might invoke the Insurrection Act with complete legal (if not necessarily ethical) legitimacy. Somehow, though, the thought of pepper spray being pumped in through the air system seems of Procrustean propriety, if not necessarily certainty or effectiveness…

Fifth, remember that all voters are equal. Pundits and ad executives and political operatives and such generally think that some voters are more equal than others. The entire point of our constitutional system — the original document, even, let alone the Fourteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act — is that they're wrong. It's up to the voting public to demand that fair and equal count.

31 October 2020

Gonna Get a Big Dish of Beef Chow Mein

Under no circumstances, however, will my hair be perfect (I don't really like pina coladas anyway, and Trader Vic's is right out even without a pandemic).

  • Do vote. Please. That's how you thank veterans for our service.

    But don't vote for/against professionals whose professional judgment in specific instances must be independent of popular will. Doctors (including elected coroners). Judges. Prosecutors. Sheriffs. Read U.S. Const. Art. IV § 4 and ponder, for a moment, whether a "republican form of government" includes such elections — especially in the face of Articles II and III.

  • All too often, though, we're left voting for what Leo — a Chicago politician no less — called "the lesser of who cares?" Our "two-party system" is broken, because with relatively rare exceptions the party apparatus denies even a voice to significant consituencies, let alone an actual seat at the policy table. Don't fall for facile lesser-of-two-evils reasoning without at least acknowledging that when one chooses the lesser of two evils, one is still choosing evil. Sometimes there actually isn't a better choice; but the proper response is not to throw up one's hands and lament, but to ensure that the next time there is a better choice. The major reason for doing so is simple: As Korematsu demonstrated all too well — at that time and in the decades until it was finally abrogated — it's much, much too easy to be wrong when choosing amongst evils.

    This cycle, it's not a choice between two evils. It's a choice between supervillainesque reveling in evil (cackling and incompetent henchcreatures included) and (highly probable) mediocrity. Even if "voting for mediocrity" isn't exactly choosing good, it's not choosing evil.

  • One of the obvious big victims of the pandemic has been so-called "legitimate theatre." The system was already in bad shape, from the perspective of playwrights, of staff, of the structure of the entire "system" (if calling something as chaotic as theatre a "system" doesn't disserve them both). These are important mechanistic issues. But…
  • … just as in commercial publishing, there's a critical journalistic failure. At some point, we've all heard of the "five ws and an h" that every story needs to ask. "Who" is too often left out, or at least inadequately examined. There are actually three separate "who" questions: Who participates; who consumes; who benefits. All of these sources dance around the first question, without ever engaging with source barriers other than immediate pay. "Making a living now" is admittedly a critical factor, but it simply does not engage with "making a living while training," let alone "recoverability from failure." None of the sources engage with the other two questions, and for that reason alone can't reach any non-bandage, self-sustaining solution to the first one.
  • That is admittedly a highly theoretical inquiry. Unlike these latecomers to the party, I was in the trenches, then left. I left for a field that is, if anything, worse: Law.

26 October 2020

Eight More Days

Watching "laws" and "sausages" being made is far less stomach-churning than watching elections — especially when not just one candidate, but one entire side, is acting in bad faith. And BTW this isn't about ideology, but factionalism: Not all conservatism at election time is in bad faith; all fascism is, though, however aligned it claims to be with conservative — or for that matter any other — ideology.

  • Like this moron. And for those who claim he was just "exercising his constitutional rights," remember that while he is in uniform he doesn't have unlimited individual rights — he is an officer of the state, and his uniform is not to be disrespected with partisan slogans. This is why commissioned officers are (or at least were, during the time I was on active duty) strongly discouraged from having political bumper stickers on their cars; those cars had identification stickers marking their registered owners out as officers.

    Although it says an awful lot about "police state" mindsets that:

    Fraternal Order of Police President Tommy Reyes said Ubeda had just voted and was in Government Center for no more than 10 minutes when he was photographed. He also said Florida statute permits police to vote in uniform. Said Reyes: “We would also like to state that the national FOP has endorsed President Donald Trump’s reelection.”

    Voting in uniform is fine. Adding partisan decoration to the uniform, not so much. And the police union leaderships wonder why there's so much distrust of police by minorities when they endorsed a racist bigot for reelection…

  • So do the intelligence agencies around the world. Sort of like all of the agents on the old FBI (with the single exception of the star, who was Hispanic), and all of the cops on Dragnet, were white. You might have thought they'd learned something from college basketball, although I suppose the Oxbridge men running GCHQ in the 1980s can be excused for not knowing about basketball — they were too busy with polo and cricket. But the past hasn't changed that much: They still demand the easy way while pretending that the Pentagon Papers leak was unique and will never be repeated. Well, only a few times.
  • We could start by evicting the landlords, I suppose. Remind me again about the Orange One's past as a landlord?
  • But at least we can have the scholarlyartistic output of a Harvard math professor. Until January 2024.

22 October 2020

I Voted

… so I don't have to pay attention to tonight's impending trainwreck. FWIW, I think "Wee Willie" Webster would probably be a better choice of moderator; with all due respect, I think Ms Welker is not quite capable of imposing the minimally necessary flying suplex, let alone the more appropriate atomic wedgie, on either of these candidates.

At least this time, I'm so far from Chicago that I only voted once.

21 October 2020

The Unavailable Best Word

Our Dear Leader notoriously declared that he has "all the best words." There's one best word, though, that he doesn't have; that I doubt that even at his best he could have legitimately obtained; and that absence, that deficit, that incapability lurks beneath all of the ignorance and abuse he spews forth every day:


Our Dear Leader could not, on his best day ever (with all of his best words), have gotten admitted to any medical school on the merits. Admission requirements had coelesced in the 1970s to require at least two years of undergraduate chemistry (with laboratory), at least one year of undergraduate physics (with laboratory), at least one year of undergraduate biology (with laboratory), and at least one year of calculus. To my knowledge — and based upon looking at the graduation requirements and available courses for Our Dear Leader's undergraduate institution — he… didn't. Which is consistent with what his niece says (impliedly relying upon her sister's evaluation) in her book about his academic, and more generally intellectual, accomplishments and capabilities. So if there's an "idiot" anywhere around here, it's not Dr Fauci, who no doubt earned high grades in those undergraduate courses and went on to earn a doctorate in a scientific field (medicine) besides. <SARCASM> I suspect that the only field in which Our Dear Leader could have earned a doctorate on his own merits is The Art of the Con. </SARCASM>

So whether Dr Fauci is a team player or not, he's got a word — and earned that word — that Our Dear Leader doesn't and can't have. Which no doubt sets off more orange ire and envy because people tend to trust that word and its bearers on scientific subjects like, say, disease transmission and control, more than they do Our Dear Leader. Well, not everyone… but the ones he needs to convince to vote for him who haven't already signed up for Four More Years (to echo what I heard all too often in 1972, concerning someone less visibly corrupt).