24 May 2010

Second Helping

These very well might not qualify as "link sausages" under USDA standards... because they're all meat, no filler.

  • It appears that Lord Lester — a well-known barrister who was partly responsible for fashioning the so-called "Reynolds defence" of fair comment by media — has been serious enough about reforming England's reprehensible libel law to introduce a private member's bill doing so... which, since the matter is due to be mentioned in the Queen's speech tomorrow, just might have a snowball's chance in hell of getting passed. Exactly a snowball's chance in hell.

    The problem is that it's a Private Member's Bill introduced in the House of Lords, which remains the single greatest monument to the value of reputation (and against the value of free speech) in England. That's why I give the bill as introduced a snowball's chance in hell: Regardless of party allegiance, it can — and almost certainly will — be killed by the personal interests of those who've been stung (justifiably or not) by England's press, or who fear such. It's fascinating to me that the press is more intrusive and more outlandish in nations where there is less guarantee of freedom of the press — even if often on behalf of the authorities, it's still intrusive and outlandish. One might think that if the esteemed members of that House really did value their reputations, they'd be in favor of relaxing libel laws on that basis... unless, that is, they're afraid of the results when truth becomes a complete defense.

  • James Frey: First a literary "con artist" (so to speak... although I personally put most of the blame on the publisher and its S&M department), then a class-action defendant. Sometimes law professors really do try to grapple with reality. Or at least literature. Well, maybe not: The author of that piece is Canadian...

    Then, on the other hand, sometimes law professors go out on a limb with hypotheticals. (Yeah, that never happens.) I suppose there's always the chance that a law professor might write a journal article that essentially proposes creating slave AIs instead of independent ones like HAL. And that always turns out so well.

  • Remember in high school when you were studying the US Constitution (if you weren't, you should still pay attention), and you tried to figure out what a "bill of attainder" was? Well, here it is. And it does matter, because ultimately what got ACORN in trouble was pissing off the Tea Partiers with its message that all is not well in America. Leaving aside the validity (or not) of the charges against ACORN regarding voter registration drives, petition drives, etc., it is impossible to foresee Congressional action being taken during the reign of George III, and under a Heffalump majority, against a pro-Tea-Party group that expended similar efforts and used similar tactics to (a) prevent them newcomers from registering to vote and/or (b) did the same thing in Appalachia... among folk of Northwest European descent.
  • Professor Dorf has made some rather understated, if all too accurate, comments concerning the "real" meaning (and symbology) of "libertarianism"... and it's not a pretty picture.

    The answer, I think, is that libertarianism, like other ideologies, provides a single ready answer to all questions: Government is the problem. Communists (real communists) believe that poverty and other social ills are all the product of the exploitation of the poor by the rich; Nazis say everything is the fault of the Jews; and radical Islamists blame the social and economic problems of most Islamic societies on the ruling elite's corruption by Western culture. Of course, in 21st century America, one can hardly found a viable political movement on communism, Nazism, or radical Islam. By contrast, libertarianism is a kind of extreme form of core American values themselves. Goldwater was tapping into something authentic when he said that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." Authentic but nonetheless wrong in its zeal to oversimplify.

    (emphasis in original) But then, I have a much harsher view of libertarianism, and fascism, and communism, and virtually every other political movement in history that has relied upon demonization of an Other. I could call it "simple-minded bigotry," but that, I think, understates its power and misleads as to its origin. It is, instead, magic — pure, simple, simplistic, visceral, ideological, and free of all context (and most thought). But the Mad Tea Partiers ("In This Style, 10/6") couldn't possibly be doing anything like that, since they're all from xtian 'murica, right? Well, speaking of mythological origins unsupported by facts... like "liberal" as even existing in modern US political thought...