07 August 2022

Weekend Update

I am afraid that there is no responsible opposing viewpoint this week from Emily Litella. Which would almost certainly be more factual, more relevant, and less inane than anything coming from the TV dinner guy (hint: who's the heir of Swanson TV dinners, who didn't even manage to get into that quasiselective Bay Area school?).

  • Before getting to what passes for actual entertainment-industry sausages, how about a few sprigs of local-color parsley on the platter (not nearly enough for Persian cooking)?
    • Spotted at a local store: "Free-range hot dogs." One wonders if they were humanely killed.
    • Also spotted at a local store: Jars of gefilte fish marked down for quick sale, because they were approaching their "sell-by" date. This is wrong on so many levels — the whole "point" of gefilte fish is that it never… expires — but at least it wasn't deceptively called a "best-consumed-by" date.
    • I've had many opportunities to take down pirates this week, but local tradition says they're not entirely bad, even if their jokes and "accents" are. Despite the hydros (I sort of miss the noise from the piston-engined ones, once a year).
  • Over at this blawg's only feline friend the IPKat, a guest kitty ponders recent Italian trademark rulings on designations of "Made in Italy" without reaching the question I'm more interested in, but that the courts have willfully evaded on the few occasions it has been in front of them: How does use of an undisclosed ghostwriter affect the validity of, and exclusionary power related to, an author's (or, in some instances, publisher's) brand? How about a pseudonym that hides not an "unknown but distinct" origin, but a house collective designation (e.g., Carolyn Keene) or a "rebranding" of an existing origin for purely commercial reasons (e.g., Paul French), whether voluntary on the part of the author or not? I think that's Cordwainer Bird on line one (he hasn't mastered e-mail yet)…

    All of which indicates, more than anything else, that for in relation to the arts trademark is not fit for purpose.

  • Very much like the DMCA, as implemented, is not fit for protecting individual creators' interests. Which should surprise precisely no one, as individual creators were not consulted in creating the scheme — it was all about Big Tech and Big Transferees negotiating over partition of territory in the New World. Without regard to those… uncivilized persons… already living there.

    And, if anything, it has gotten much worse since my adventures not quite two decades ago, culminating in a little trip to Pasadena to see Barbie get parodied just before my… public appearance (there's a link above). Here's the key point: Name another appellate decision on the DMCA that involved a takedown requested by the natural-person creator of the allegedly infringing work with no transferee or collective-effort involvement. I'll go run a few errands while you're searching…

  • … and pondering the connection to mistreatment of CGI and visual effects workers by the film industry. If you haven't figured it out yet, it's related to the distinction between the Duke of Milan and the Sistine Chapel; to priviligio and what it took to be granted one; in an even broader sense, to whether the existence of a discernable and remediable-through-weregelt injury to a discrete property interest is a proper gatekeeper for access to judicial process. But that's perhaps — no, not just perhaps — too theoretical for Sunday morning.

I'm an atheist so I'm not doing this. In a cathedral directed to some supernatural power. But… I would. Even if I wouldn't wish Hoynes on the nation, and have a different idea of who is a feckless thug.

03 August 2022

It's Election Season

No license. No limits. And all too often, that goes for truth as much as for politicians (who, I should add, seldom believe that they have any limits, either).

  • Methinks a little immigrant-friendliness will help get the chips made, get the job done. But there's a much more disturbing implication behind his story: At least in theory, these are the "good manufacturing jobs" that the Heffalumps have been proclaiming the sole legitimate objective of a public-high-school education for, oh, a quarter of a century overtly and at least two decades before that covertly. (I remember all too well the "ambitions" being for a good production-line job at Boeing or Paccar according to my high school's district board.) What does it say that this critical component can't be so serviced? But Lafayette and Hamilton have it right.
  • A piece at the Grauniad asks "Why do female artists make 10p/£ of male artists?" without — quite — engaging with the multiple layers of the problem. Let's leave historical aspects aside; comparing groups like Renaissance-era female artists to their contemporaries is utterly unfair on any axis of inquiry due to overt, active suppression (meaning that the population of "female period/context artists whose works have survived for contemporary evaluation" is not at all congruent with that of the males). But looking at contemporaries, it's pretty easy to spot the problem: Old-school male dominance of the entire chain from the moment the paint dries. The auctioneers/gallery owners; the critics; the museums and other curators; above all, the almost-exclusively male buyers; all reflect, for lack of a better term, the "male gaze."

    Application of the preceding paragraph to category-fiction publishing is left as an exercise for the truly perplexed; as dodgy as the statistical baselines and sources are in the fine arts, in publishing they're worse because "actual compensation to the creator" is much more open for the visual arts…

  • …as is reflected on book covers. Over the years — extending back over a decade now — I've ranted at the nonrepresentative nature of book covers. I usually do some sort of statistical thumbnailing to illustrate the problem. This time, though, I was stymied. On a recent trip to ChainBookstore, the twenty new-release casebound covers in the Mystery section had no data fit for analysis: There were zero non-Caucasians depicted. A different outlet of the same chain was slightly better a week later, with one non-Caucasian depicted on sixteen casebound covers and two non-Caucasians depicted on thirty-two softbound covers. That's… Nancy Reagan's dream of appropriate, beautiful cover design. OK, maybe not — that rather assumes that she'd read anything, or care about those who do.

    Maybe one cannot judge a book by its cover; it's only sample size of one, after all. But one can definitely judge a publisher (or bookstore) by its covers!

  • It was not a good weekend on the historic-entertainment-figures front. RIP, Nichelle Nichols and Bill Russell.

31 July 2022


Just a short bit of grousing today on "undesirables." As in, steps that retailers take that exclude them… for differing values of "undesirable" (but usually all too readily approved by Mr. James Q. Crow).

First, let's consider for a moment "sale" pricing. At OverpricedNeighborhoodGroceryChain, for example, items that might otherwise qualify as "perishable staples" — ground beef, say — are frequently on sale one of two ways. First, there's the misstated-good-price on excessively-large-quantity items, such as "$2.97 per pound (sold in a three-pound vacuum pack)" (and what makes this worse is that the vacuum pack is actually a joined-for-no-good-reason pair of 1.5 lb cubes), requiring a $9 investment in something that for a single person, or a single parent with one child, won't keep until it spoils… absent a separate freezer or huge refrigerator for leftovers. Meaning "no non-luxury-apartment-dwellers welcome." Second, there's the "buy-one-get-one-half-off" sale, which creates the same sort of problem to get the 25% discount (((1*1)+(1*0.5))/2 = 0.75). We'll leave aside for the moment the social costs imposed by encouraging overpurchasing in an era of disrupted supply chains… and the deficits in other purchases (often from the same store!) due to limited refrigerator/storage space.

Then there are restaurants like Karen's Breakfast Nook.1 The sparsity of persons of color seen at its outside seating over the past year and a half has been notable (and completely inconsistent with the neighborhood's character). Two distinct layers of efforts — aside from the sense of entitlement radiating from its patrons — keep "undesirables" away from Karen's. Most obviously, there are the prices; this is a $12.50-gets-you-eggs-and-toast place (beverage not included). Reading the actual menu descriptions — don't worry, I didn't contaminate the place with my presence, I read the menu online (my intellectual-class-traitor cooties were further filtered by my VPN) — discloses even more trouble if you speak the local dialect. The menu trumpets its organic, sustainable, locally-grown-and-raised ingredients… and there's the "local dialect" issue, because in this area that means "old-money white farmers" (and has since the 1970s, for differing values of "local").

These questionable business practices are all too easily reconciled with the supposedly-"lib"-company antiunion bias and explanations being offered by Certain Seattle-Based Retail Behemoths. One of them is becoming all too comfortable excusing its keep-this-workplace-plasma (not un-ionized) closures of stores with the excuse that "safety" and "security" have become issues at stores, magically noticed as soon as employees manage to sing about reducing charged particles in the workplace in three-part harmony.2 In that, they're probably right: It would become increasingly unsafe and insecure to be an assholish ambitiously-climbing-the-corporate-ladder store or "regional" manager if the employees felt that objecting to assholery wouldn't lead to firing…

Undesireables — they're not invited for dinner. Or breakfast.

  1. That's not its real name, and in any event this is a consolidated portrait of three different nearby restaurants with overlapping issues. It might as well be, though, given the proportion of pristine-white Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes SUVs (none of which show any trace of ever having gone off-road, and about half of which have an empty bicycle rack hanging off the back) driven by its patrons to a location less than 200m from several major public-transit points, combined with reasonable-walking-distance access to one of the most overpriced-real-estate areas of town (and that's really saying something!). Not to mention the high-volume Karen-to-Karen "let's meet for lunch next week, but let me check my calendar first" conversations on the side streets — blocking traffic next to their illegally-parked cars.
  2. This isn't just the obvious target with the green logo and burnt-aftertaste product (even for the "light roasts"). At least for that retail behemoth, there's a reasonable probability that those three employees singing in harmony share demographics with store-level management (less so regionally, but that's a pretty universal problem reinforced by how promotions work in US corporate culture). For a different retail behemoth… not so much.

30 July 2022

A Platter Full of Holes

…and the holes are dripping grease (and other liquids) onto the floor…

  • Policing in America has problems going right to the top and all the way down (for those thinking the black woman now supervising an all-white police department is probably the one creating the "hostile work environment," ask yourself why the resignations included the entire all-white department). Dah Mayah is skeptical and opposed {$} to letting the past be the past. And sometimes a dozen good guys with guns can't stop a bad guy with a gun for Reasons (that have yet to be explained, and will probably come down to "someone in charge panicked, and that happens with the defective systems we've built, but we're gonna place individual blame anyway").
  • Here's another all-too-polite piece on misuse of history in legal opinions, following up a bit on what I said last time. Of course, following Matthew Hale's practice regarding witches — he ordered at least two accused witches burned when he sat as a judge — for Steve Bannon (who really wants to "go medieval," which would mean he'd have to give up his social media access so maybe not) reflects rather badly on using Hale as authority to determine the rights of… other… noncomforming… women and girls.

    None of which matters when the "history" relied upon to interpret the present is "old-school theological revisionism masquerading as neutral presentation of facts," does it? Pretty basic science shows that time only moves one direction in this reference frame. But none of you highly-educated judges and lawyers have much of a background in even pretty basic science, do you? That's called a "lacuna," a hole that we should be seeking to fill… but for the anti-science-background admissions criteria to the law schools that tend to produce federal judges, meaning there's little to fill it with. Yes, I'm lookin' at you, Harvard et alia, and all rating systems that include undifferentiated undergraduate GPA as a significant component of determining a law school's quality.

  • Congratulations to the thirteen finalists for this year's Booker Prize for fiction written in English. In one sense, it's a gratifyingly diverse group; actually, in more than one sense. The big hole here is "commercially successful," which says perhaps more about "commercial publishing" and "the stream of commerce for literature" than one might wish.
  • It also exposes a serious hole in the current controversy over the Kahle-bros' rampant piracy excused as an "adaptation" to COVID. There are no authors at the table/in the courtroom here (and no, a certain organization based in NYC is not an adequate representative… not to mention that it's not representative in this case in any sense). So I'm going to fill the hole via the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

    12(b) [A] a party may assert the following defenses by motion:…

    (7) failure to join a party under Rule 19.


    19(a)(1) Required Party. A person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of subject-matter jurisdiction must be joined as a party if:…

    (B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may:

       (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest…

    Bluntly, publishers' interests are not proxies for, or even coordinate with, the diversity of authors' interests. Especially for — at least as claimed by the Kahle-bros in their various defenses — printed editions that have gone out of print, sometimes because the publishers have gone out of business. Just because it would be hard to give authors a (let alone enough) voice in these proceedings doesn't mean it doesn't need to be done. As currently structured, though, this lawsuit entirely ignores binding precedent: The holding in Tasini that a searchable-text electronic edition scanned from a printed text is not a publisher's "revision" but — absent an actual, clear contractual transfer of the right to create such an electronic edition from the author — an interest reserved to the author. That means that any resolution of this lawsuit will necessarily "impair or impede [each author]'s ability to protect the interest."

    Some authors may applaud the Kahle-bros' efforts. Some may not care. Some will vehemently oppose it, particularly since some of those commercial publishers have cited the existence of widespread pirated editions of the authors' older works as grounds to either refuse to publish an electronic edition or to pay less to the author for the new right to publish an electronic edition. But as much as I despise the Kahle-bros' disingenuousness and treatment of all written works as "mere information" that wants to be free/should be available to everyone for nothing (notwithstanding that such a meme reifies "art should be created only by the independently wealthy" as not just a viewpoint but a practical imperative), I despise the disingenuousness of the publishers' positions in blanket assertions of rights that they do not, in fact, control even more.

    The obvious "right way" to fill this hole would be for both the Kahle-bros and the commercial publishers to treat all questions of "default" or "routine" conduct relating to copyright as "opt-out" — that is, that one defers to the broadest possible interpretation of the rightsholder's rights as possible unless and until the rightsholder opts out of that specific proposed use. (It's also called "common courtesy," but that's nowhere to be found on teh intertubes anyway.) Oh, that wouldn't be efficient or commercially viable? <SARCASM> It would be inconvenient to ask permission instead of seeking forgiveness that will never include compensation for the collateral damage? </SARCASM> "Rights" tend not to be efficient or commercially viable by their very nature — that's precisely why we have to protect them with constitutional provisions and legislation and judge-made rules. This gaping chasm (not just hole) epitomizes much more a "why can't they both lose?" controversy than anything else.

25 July 2022

History Lessons

Historical evidence is, or at least can be, highly valuable and highly revealing. But it's only evidence, and all too often incomplete; history is writ not so much by the victors as the privileged and literate. And if the privileged and literate think something beneath their attention, victory is largely irrelevant to its nonpreservation (and later examination).1 Especially if the "victory" comes decades later; Wilberforce was no innovator in thought (just a loud and literate and privileged voice).

  • The history of imaginary numbers and their relationship to quantum mechanics is interesting in itself. At least to a nerd like me. Application to "more real" circumstances like "balanced government budget," however, is left as an exercise for the student (such as explaining why the cost to a business of training and education to enhance employee productivity is fully deductible, but for the individual actual or prospective employee not so much — and that's before getting into the whole "current income versus capital investment" debate). But then, you're reading this only due to application of imaginary numbers to the real world of electronic data…
  • Then there's the current circus in the UK, where at least they're honest about only some voters getting counted (which is what Heffalump-sponsored/affiliated vote suppression campaigns really want to achieve). And just like the conservative movement over here worships a devil wearing saint's garb, all the while ignoring the legion of flies buzzing around him, the Tories worship his contemporary with almost no concept of what things were actually like more than 1km from Whitehall.

    Listen, you maroons: I was there. (OK, "maroons" is the wrong part of the spectrum for them, but I can't call them "ignorant sociopathic bastards"… wait, I think I just did.) It was no longer the 1880s; Britannia did not rule the waves, the sun did indeed set on the Empire, and those melaninically-enhanced people were still citizens and your neighbours. (Or your Neighbours, and the celebration-throwback to the 1980s has truly serendipitous timing… and hidden depths. Admittedly, I greatly preferred [Sir] Lenny Henry.)

  • Meanwhile, out here in treehugger country, we try to do things a little differently. Well, most of us do. We still elect too many public officials (like the individual responsible for election mechanisms and vote-counting), though.
  • But that's better than outright dishonesty in science. Got any relatives with memory problems? Congratulations — these [string of foul and offensive expletives deleted] assholes set research back at least fifteen years. It's perhaps not as bad as the antivaxxers, but that's as much due to scale-and-scope issues as anything else; the conduct appears to be just as (dis)honest and self-interested, if the self-interest aspects are slightly better concealed inside the house of mirrors masquerading as "research grant approvals."
  • I could easily fill an entire volume with reactions to the misuse of history in Dobbs; here's one relatively mild example.

    But I don't agree with the mild disagreements; they're not nearly vigorous enough. The primary problem with Dobbs — like with virtually all "real" applications of any form of "originalism" concerning the Constitution, and far too many concerning statutes (for which teasing out intent is both more valid and more possible an exercise… but only "more" and not "inevitably") — is its actual method of reasoning. Leaving aside the Dunning-Kruger problem with nonhistorians attempting to infer completion from a distortedly incomplete record (how many marginally literate farmers in upstate New York were queried when producing The Federalist Papers?), the fundamental problem is that "originalism" of all kinds in practice reasons backward from its conclusion into the purported evidence2 in a strangely well-accepted reflexiveness that turns into circular reasoning all too easily, all too often.

    Aside from the poor reasoning, at a slightly more metaanalytic level originalism has another failure mode in Constitutional analysis. Originalism denies not just the persuasiveness, not just the circumstantial merit, of dissent; it denies the validity and methodology of differing interpretations, even (and perhaps especially) when those differing interpretations have a partially distinct moral foundation. Originalism does not embrace dissent, as the Constitution does throughout; it rejects dissent. That's not representative democracy; that's theocracy. And ignoring the history of theocracy both in the world and in the four-plus centuries of European settlement of this continent, nearly two centuries prior to the drafting of the Constitution — with at least some attention to all of the collateral damage consequences — is just as ahistorical as relying upon a statement by Matthew Hale as representative of even a majority view of all citizens concerning the relationship between legal foundations and personal moral views, let alone the definitive-and-inarguable weight granted it in Dobbs. (One wonders how the reasoning of Dobbs would be applied to religious dissenters like the Quakers…3)

  • Now that he's been found guilty (that's guilty — GUILTY — GUILTY), we need to fashion consequences for Mr Bannon. Hmmm; there's a nice, handly Reflecting Pool near the seat of the institution of which he is a contemnor. So I propose binding him hand and foot and throwing him in. If he floats, he's a witch, and teh courtz should go medieval on him. If he sinks, we'll have three non-English-speaking immigrants — at least one of them here as a refugee under the Convention Against Torture — slowly and carefully write out tickets for littering on National Park Service grounds (since he'll be, well, in the Reflecting Pool). This is serious business; it should take at least ten minutes, including proofreading. We wouldn't want to submit an inaccurate, unproofread legal document or statute!

  1. Yes, this is an attack on overextension of corpus linguistics, which by its very nature presumes that the corpus accurately represents the complete discourse under discussion. One wonders how corpus linguistics would attempt to discern the meaning of, well, heresy. And if there's one concept that even the veriest moron should understand, it is that dissent and unpopular views prior to the mid-twentieth century didn't get preserved in original form with any regularity, reliability, or representativeness…
  2. Properly, the data and the warrant; overreliance on purported "classical syllogisms" is an outcome-determinative choice when dealing with the messiness of language and the real world.
  3. Or perhaps one shouldn't. I don't pretend to have scholarly expertise on Hale and his writings. I do, however, have some scholarly knowledge of some of his contemporaries… and They Did Not Approve of the Substance of Hale's Comments (as distinct from Hale and his handling of individual cases — and it's significant that they made that distinction, even and perhaps especially the nonlawyers). Perhaps perusing Pepy's Diary would begin to give some insight; so would many of the lesser-known works of "giants" of seventeenth-century English literature, which was intensely interwoven with political discourse. That is, the political discourse that we know about because its upper-class white male speakers wrote things down and later generations preserved the writings… including, one might add, under the Licensing Act that enabled printing of Hale's Historia Placitorum Coronae. That Act was rejected by John Locke as an instrument of tyranny; Locke's writings were greatly admired by the Founding Fathers of this country. One wonders what counternarratives of pleas before the Crown Courts (primarily, one might add, in criminal matters, at a time that "fundamental rights" arguments were not found there) might have been suppressed…

    But that's a shorthand attempt to begin explaining a snarled GIGO/argument-from-authority problem with a method of reasoning that explicitly rejects GIGO/argument-from-authority as a methodological flaw in its dataset and warrant. It's positively etheric… and just like that particular experiment, actually proves (or disproves) something entirely different in nature from its initial assumptions. Or, as another sausage on this platter indicates, constitutes outright fraud.

22 July 2022

Trigger Warning: We've Been Here Before

I think we're well beyond a salvage operation on this derelict and now have to consider it a hazard to navigation.

92. Any person subject to this chapter who—

(3) is derelict in the performance of his duties;

shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.


94. (a) Any person subject to this chapter who—

(2) with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of lawful civil authority, creates, in concert with any other person, revolt, violence, or other disturbance against that authority is guilty of sedition;

(3) fails to do his utmost to prevent and suppress a mutiny or sedition being committed in his presence, or fails to take all reasonable means to inform his superior commissioned officer or commanding officer of a mutiny or sedition which he knows or has reason to believe is taking place, is guilty of a failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition.

(b) A person who is found guilty of attempted mutiny, mutiny, sedition, or failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.

So… yeah. On the other hand, thanks to "heel spurs" this particular… person… is not "subject to this chapter" — the Uniform Code of Military Justice. One wonders what this guy might have said 35 years ago. Actually, we need not wonder too much.

In describing their motives for riding roughshod over the constitutional restraints built into our form of government, Admiral Poindexter and Lieutenant Colonel North used almost the identical words: “This is a dangerous world,” they said. That, my fellow citizens, is an excuse for autocracy, not for policy.

Because no times were more dangerous than when our country was born, when revolution was our midwife. Our system of government has withstood the tests and tensions of civil conflict, depression and two world wars, times hardly less challenging than our own present.

Indeed, as our greatest military leaders, such as Washington, Marshall, and Eisenhower have recognized, our form of government is what gives us strength. It must be safeguarded, particularly when times are dangerous and the temptation of arrogate power is the greatest.

Vigilance abroad does not require us to abandon our ideals or the rule of law at home. On the contrary, without our principles and without our ideals, we have little that is special or worthy to defend.

At least those… derelicts… only had to worry about Article 92. (I can't say what I really think because at the time I was subject to Article 88, and some of the derelicts fell within its scope.)

17 July 2022

He's a Witch!

So Steve Bannon is gonna go medieval on teh courtz {$}.1 Well, in the spirit of imposing some original public meaning, I therefore suggest a pretrial session with His Majesty's enhanced-interrogation specialists, followed by a verdict delivered after the accused is bound and thrown into a moat. If the accused floats, we've found a witch; if the accused drowns, otherwise (but no doubt still guilty of something or (s)he wouldn't have been brought to trial).

On to the platter:

  • But that is vastly more respect than should be granted to the bar exam, which is not entitled to any due process at all. Professor Carter neglects to mention that the bar exam presumes that a majority, or even a significant proportion, of newly-minted lawyers will be immediately engaged in general practice. Umm, not so much. Professor Carter also neglects to mention that the bar exam includes precisely no material requiring prospective lawyers to move from "actual evidentiary record" to "statement or finding of fact" — despite that process being at the core of actually preventing or resolving disputes short of bloodshed (which is the law's job, and will especially be the job of the factfinder sitting over Mr Bannon).
  • Then there's the problem of fabrication — this time, not of evidence (or so it seems) but of art, by skilled artisans working to a designer's specifications. Naturally, the court didn't resolve all necessary questions (and this time not just because it was a French court2).
  • Last for now,3 when I saw the article title What John Bolton gets wrong about coup attempts – and Donald Trump my immediate reaction (without reading it) was "Virtually everything, of course." Reading the article did not change that assessment.

    "Sophistication" matters to plotting a "true" coup, eh? Explicitly without evaluating the truthfulness of specifics contained in the linked accounts or otherwise endorsing them, here are several counterexamples, both violent and somewhat less so. Characterizing any of these schemes easily within the capability of the average sixth-grader as "sophisticated" can rest only on a definition well outside the scope of any ordinary public meaning of that word. Which is, at least, consistent with Bolton's method of discourse for over 30 years. (I think there's more than one witch on this platter.)

  1. Apologies for the paywall. I try to avoid them here when possible, but sometimes the refusal of media investors to pay the First Amendment rent (second-to-last paragraph) comes back to bite us all. If you're going to be the "paper of record," you have to be "of record" and not "primarily for profit" — if it's on the front page, it doesn't belong behind a paywall. That's the entire point of being "the Fourth Estate" — with all of the privileges and responsibilities thereof.
  2. disclosure Plaintiff-appellant's counsel is a friend. The underlying facts appear to be much uglier than the sterile recitation in the opinion makes them seem; ponder this along with the preceding sausage. It's also very much worth pondering who is paying for all of this on the defendant's side of the v.
  3. Being carefully elliptical and Glomarish regarding the source(s) of my knowledge and conjectures. I can neither confirm nor deny that I have ever myself engaged in, or as an officer of the United States overseen, any search for manganese nodules on the sea floor.

12 July 2022

Schadenfreude–Flavored Link Sausage Platter

There's at least some in every sausage on the platter! Admittedly, that's far from unusual; this time, though, it's branding!

  • So, so sad to see BadHairBoy Jr resign as the UK's Prime Minister. It will no doubt create some eyebrow-raising entries on the next Honours List (which will be no change at all); it will lead all of us Over Here to snicker at the candidates to replace him while we carefully ignore some of the morons whom we elect Over Here; and the British Army will remain unfit for purpose (keeping in mind that The Economist would never use those words about a pillar of the establishment like the Army).
  • So the free-riders of Pandora have been sued for copyright infringement by a famously (infamously?) off-kilter comic. Pandora itself predicted such lawsuits years ago. Which mainly prove that Marx was wrong in where he pointed the finger — it's not overconcentrated control of the means of production that is the most-likely source of social problems, but overconcentrated control of the means of distribution (Exhibit 14,719 — as to both sides, may they both lose, and notice that the authors who are the "means of production" are entirely unrepresented and not being heard from, which might be less damaging than being misrepresented by the Authors' Guild).
  • At least the Mayor of Sunnydale will be a little bit safer from Oz's attack plan, given the pending hummus shortage.
  • Which beats "investing" in tulip bulbscryptocurrencies. Or, for that matter, Birdpoop. In this sausage, I think I'm going to get my wish: It really is possible for all of them to lose, with an extra dollop of schadenfreude sauce on top. Especially if one delves into the actual source of all of the "wealth" on display wih a sufficiently cynical bent…

07 July 2022

The Prince Is Having a Ball

Prince Prospero, that is.

  • One problem with the revival of neo-Austen works (not, unfortunately, considered criticism of the weaknesses of neo-Austin works relying upon anything other than alternative ideologies) is that it neglects an underlying contextual difficulty: The presumption that the period of The Regency represented a good thing, all the while neglecting the continental casualties occurring just over the horizon (because that was largely someone else's burden).
  • There's a disturbing resonance between today's "superlawyers" and prominent judges, on the one hand, and the anthropologists of a century ago on the other. Leaving aside the personal foibles for the moment, both operate(d) in fields in which the "classics" were based on research performed solely in libraries. The painful, unstated relationship to "theology" is lurking there, too.
  • As is the painful, unstated relationship to "evidence," even when it relates to something that is properly characterized as part of the warrant and not as grounds/data. Grand theory is all very well, but specific decisions based upon that grand theory must have a factual foundation — whether that factual foundation is "scientifically valid and replicable" or "anecdotally correct in a field bounded by anecdote" (such as "guilt" in a particular criminal trial not depending upon scientific evidence).

    The major blind spot in Toulmin's model of argument and persuasion is that it does not enforce a relationship between the claim and the warrant. (This problem in "philosophy" loops back into the blind spots of "anthropology" apparent in the preceding sausage, leading one to wonder whether the sausage maker allowed an unhealthy fascination with Möbius loops to interfere with tying off the links.) Physicists and chemists understand this problem as the amorphous region where Newtonian mechanics of individual particles gives way to quantum mechanics (and perhaps the other direction, too); in American law, the closest we come is the "political question doctrine" (or, perhaps, "subject-matter jurisdiction," but that relates much more to internalizing certain externalities than to a limitation on its warrant). Which still leaves one better off than pure syllogism, which ardently depends upon the the excluded middle never being at issue.

  • But that is surely less appalling than an accounting firm being fined $100 million for allowing its employees to cheat on a test — a test on professional ethics. Well, I know one large accounting firm that will never get business from either me or any of my clients (admittedly, that firm will never notice).
  • It is also substantially less appalling than the rise of Taliban-like enforced orthodoxy in the US… which isn't exactly new, as it was on the radar with the so-called Moral Majority and should have been at issue since long before the Scopes trial (which, one might further note, the judiciary got wrong by failing to boundary-check its warrants — most people forget that John Scopes lost).
  • Conversely, consider the constructive and socially-positive uses of internet porn. Which, of course, depends a great deal on what constitutes "porn," such as displaying male genitalia at more than life size. One wonders if a student film of the Song of Solomon might qualify… and whether, for authenticity's sake, all male-presenting participants would have to prove their anatomical compliance with Hebraic law during a rather distressing "casting call" supervised by a mohel…

04 July 2022

The Almost-Annual Rant on This Being the Wrong Holiday

Leaving aside the blown-off fingers, terrorized pets, drunk driving, and food poisoning —

  • At most, we gave The King the finger today. It took another seven and a half years before it really mattered.
  • It wasn't 04 July. Signing began over the night of 02-03 July and continued for several days thereafter.
  • The Declaration of Independence did not establish the United States, and has exactly zero legal effect today. The document that did establish the United States and has legal effect of some kind — and how much effect it has will be discussed here at length once my screen stops smoking from the sixth draft — is a mid-September work.
  • All of the above documents were written by white Christian male landowners, for white Christian male landowners. And addressed to white Christian male landowners. <SARCASM> I only qualify for 1.5 out of 4 there, so maybe my incessent criticisms are coming from an audience other than that intended? </SARCASM>
  • Focusing on the Declaration of Independence takes attention away from other, more important, more difficult foundational issues, like “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Based on the jurisprudence this Term of the Supreme Court — not to mention the Fifth Circuit — the Heffalumps have been violating that clause persistently for decades.

Oh, darn it, the vegetarian crawled out of the marinade again this year…

26 June 2022

Unappetizer Link Sausage Platter

I'll have some further words on how the Court (or at least a majority of its members) betrayed me, betrayed the nation, betrayed their oaths — later in the week. After the vitriol in my draft stops blowing out monitors and keyboards.1 But for now, a built-up-during-the-heightening-suspense platter of link sausages which, however dubious, are far less frightening than the processes (and ingredients) that led to Carson and Dobbs (and Vega and NYSRPA and…).

  • A long piece at the New York Times Magazine manages to be simultaneously perceptive and utterly inept concerning NYC-based commercial publishing's lack of diversity, and how that hurts the Product (and, not incidentally, profitability and its institutional mission, but those are for another time). The perceptive aspects arise from actually following the demographics of the editorial side of publishing — demographics that do tell a disturbing story of white upper-middle-class-nuclear-family privilege. The utterly inept aspects arise from believing that that's where the power in publishing is (and has been since the 1970s)… despite the article's constant refrains that the problem was not with substance but what would "sell."

    A better, more accurate, more perceptive piece would have focused on how one gets promoted and where the power lies in NYC commercial publishing. At least at the top three or four tiers in commercial publishing, getting to be the Publisher (the top job title at an imprint) essentially requires either celebrity status ("Nan Talese Books"), however earned, or a sales record including blockbusters that "proves" skill at sales (and not, one might add, at acquisition or editing; the very coincidence of Ms Lucas's tale is another story in itself). The S&M dorks are even less diversified than the editorial departments… and they're the ones who are in a position to do something creative — something different — to sell creative, different works. (Admittedly, there are other gatekeepers to overcome, too, like the one(s) behind this one at a certain NY-based retail chain — white trustfund kid(s).) The resemblance between the problem with increasing diversity of NFL players, occasional and halting attempts to increase diversity of NFL coaches, and the utter lack of diversity among NFL owners is completely parallel, and par for the entire entertainment industry. H'wood and N'ville are below par, and not in a "good country-club golf score" way.

  • The problems with the lack of diversity2 in publishing are reflected in broader senses, too, especially those that forget that "political economy" was a moral inquiry at its outset: The WTO and its unstated assumption that "immediate profit is necessary and sufficient motive for everything." The WTO actually has done a lot of good… but pretending that there has been no collateral damage — that, in some fields, is arguably overwhelming any good — is a parlor game playable only by the overly comfortable. In their richly-appointed parlors, isolated from the concerns of and contact with the great unwashed (especially furriners). One is reminded of a certain Poe story… and of the recent/current-if-less-alarming pandemic… and baby formula (a problem that, absent the WTO's enablement of universal "just in time" systems, would have been evaded, at least in that form)… and the real causes of climate-change inaction… and tech data brokers… and merchants of death
  • Which, in turn, leads to musings on the origins and nature of power, and of authoritarianism.3 Although I don't agree with significant parts of Prof Keum's article, that's at least in part because I come to the subject from a radically different context — literary studies in political literature and practical, hands-on work regarding totalitarian/authoritarian/overtly-theocratic regimes. There is space for both perspectives, particularly given that Plato ended The Republic by rejecting the depicted society for himself (and, presumably, those like him — the proto-philosopher-kings who reached different conclusions than the accepted norm), which reveals that The Republic was about using thought and orthodoxy as an instrument of power and not about philosophy in the first place — similar to, to cite examples actually available to Plato, fourth-century BCE Palestine, Persia, and Egypt.
  • All of which puts a further twist on well-credentialled "illegals" trying to infiltrate the ICC. Which, frankly, sounds more like something out of a bad spy novel than reality… doesn't it?4

  1. This isn't the first time the leadership of a profession of which I've been a member has betrayed the profession's ideals and very basis. I've been here before, which is just really f*cking great. I can hear the f*cking bagpipes all over the building… and across the Reflecting Pool…
  2. Not to mention laziness and stupidity. Compensation for the S&M dorks in commercial publishing is just as inadequate as that for editorial staff, which leads to entirely predictable distortions in who becomes those dorks, gets promoted from within those dorks, and their tunnel vision. The reflexive undermining of the profit motive is just astoundingly inept, and justified only by the trust-fund-kid/spouse context.
  3. I'm going to admit that I'm familiar with Plato only via translation, and that my knowledge of details of ancient-European/Greek/Balkan culture doesn't extend much past a very good survey course at a very good university and smatterings gathered in other coursework. That said, I'm extremely familiar with multiple translations of the progenitor work… and with Popper's various writings, which tend to prove more than anything else that Olympic-caliber conclusion jumping works best when only one's social circle is in charge of both determining who is allowed to compete in the event and in judging its results. No, I'm not a fan of Popper; the flaws in his reasoning epitomize the leaps from "theory" to "laboratory" to "fieldwork/practical application," and the many stumbles therein. For example, his failure to emphasize that closed societies were epitomized by theocracies centuries before Plato, and to fold that into his understanding of a "closed" society, is itself a fall from Olympus.
  4. That's my story and I'm sticking to it because Reasons that are entirely unrelated to searching for manganese nodules on the sea floor.

24 June 2022

Another Victory for (the) Establishment

My outrage at the obvious substantive and methodological failures of the Dobbs opinion is for another time, another forum. The general tenor should and will be obvious: It is a kind of opinion that we should expect from "judges trained only in the law" (Bleistein) who — despite their reliance on a distorted practice of "history" that would be laughed out at any AHSA convention1 — don't know enough history precisely because of that limited background. Even less do they know enough about medicine to assimilate the dominant medical aspects of any individual decision.

As frighteningly obtuse, appallingly tone-deaf, and predictably tunnel-visioned as the opinion in Dobbs is, I'm actually more concerned about what its combination with Carson (from three days ago) really says:

Theocracy Now!

It's not just the substance of either opinion, or even both together. The methods of reasoning, the rhetoric, and the substance of these opinions constitute an Establishment of Religion by redefining the terms in a way to meet the preferences of the Establishment.2 One can't reach a valid understanding of either "free exercise of religion" or "establishment of religion" by reading a dictionary and performing grammatical exercises that wouldn't have been possible in late eighteenth-century America… even had any of the white upper-middle-class and upper-class gentlemen who were the Founders had what passed for "expertise" in linguistics at the time (most of them would have been stumped by "Alles ist verbinden, dass nicht verboten sind"). At its core, Carson treats "free exercise" as parallel to "free beer" — that is, kostenlos, while neglecting that "establishment" comes in a lot of forms other than having a Prince-Elector of Mainz. (Right, Lillian and William?)

It's not "three-fifths of all other persons" — it's 50.8% of all persons. And for that first one, the courts never admitted the error: It took three-quarters of a century and a very uncivil war, with just a few casualties (not the least of which was the truth), and the political will of largely non-gerrymandered Congress (and minimally gerrymandered states). I'm not optimistic about the other one, especially given other historical parallels regarding theocratic dominance and theocratic subversion of (pun intended) established political mechanisms. Meanwhile, the news contains not one word, not one inquiry of the theocrats, regarding either the obvious problem of "the death penalty" or the less obvious problem of "exactly what effective measures are you taking to prevent the slaughter of innocents in classrooms?"3

Ironically, this post is several hours later than it would have been; the blog's host decided to invade my privacy with Mystery Security Theater 3000 techniques (specifically, easily-defeatable so-called "two-factor authentication" that actually only benefits its advertising campaign) that I didn't have time to deal with.

  1. Or, to put not too fine a point on it, a convention of military historians… or of their law school classes.
  2. Being a member of a non-Establishment "belief group" twice over — once by ancestry, once by considered choice — and having suffered consequences from both aspects more than once (albeit nowhere near "as bad as it could have been") makes me extremely wary of this volatile mixture. Perhaps we can look forward to the Defenestration of ProudBoys in the very near future… and three decades of very uncivil warfare thereafter.
  3. Aside: The incident in Uvalde is a rather disturbing refutation of the "one good guy with a gun" meme: There were are least a dozen. And they were stopped by another good guy with a gun who froze, or lost sight of the actual mission, or was simply unable to translate "simulated experience" and "training exercises" to the real world. Anyone who has ever really been there knows that… and application to a woman's decision to have an abortion — or not — presents very much the same problem. Part of the point of "ethics and morals" is that the principles must adapt to the situation before one, based on what one knows at the time… and information deficits, not to mention panic attacks, still result in suboptimal decisionmaking without a moral deficit. I can say this without making either the on-scene leader or the off-scene leaders to whom he was answerable the "villains of the piece"; it's called being set up to fail.