24 January 2018

More Link Sausages Regarding Self-Inflicted Wounds

After the first sausage on the platter, the ire used to season these gets a bit… intense. There's even some ire in the first one.

  • RIP Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the three or four leading American novelists of the last half of the twentieth century (and stretching into the twenty-first). She'd be endlessly amused by the placement of the initial short death notice piece at the Grauniad UK edition, right above a story discussing the Westminster Council's rejection of plans for a statue of the Iron Lady.

    And here's The Finger to the selectors for the Nobel Prize for Literature who ignored her candidacy for so many years, primarily for political reasons often blending into overt national-origins bigotry (see, too, below).

  • "Prospero" at The Economist wonders about opera's awful role models while somewhat missing the even bigger problem with established opera. Yes, "he" is right that idiot plots abound, as do sex and violence and misogyny. Those are lesser problems; the fatal flaw in opera tends to be that the characters almost never learn anything. They might (if they're lucky) achieve contemporaneous-to-the-libretto semblances of romance, usually symbolized by an "appropriate" marriage… but that's about as close as it gets, even in the more-subtle-than-most satires of Gilbert and Sullivan and the occasional work adapted with respect from another form. In short, opera tends to be very badly, if often cleverly, written; even the musical themes too often fail to develop, being quoted essentially in full in the "overture" (perhaps the epitome of spoilers…).
  • The correct answer to this inappropriate question was the same as the correct answer to assholes doing exit polling: "What part of 'secret ballot' do you not understand?" Democratic institutions do not function well — and, ultimately, cannot function in crisis — when there is any inquiry into actual votes cast by actual individuals after actual elections. Only the fact that one voted matters.
  • The entire point of a truth-and-reconciliation process is that it works if, and only if, the abusers of power collectively acknowledge responsibility… and collectively give up power. A scapegoat isn't enough. So: The white privileged 50+ men who dominate the USOC and its affiliates have to go, and not just to be replaced by people entirely from the same demographic. And it will still be hard thereafter, especially in avoiding institutional backlash (Exhibit A: South Africa — which is immenseley better off now than in the mid-1990s, but trying to pretend that there's no "It's my turn to crack the whip now!" crisis there is more than slightly impossible).
  • General note for organizations: One does not "stay out" of a dispute — even one purportedly unrelated to the substance of an award one is about to give, or to supporting "senior" members/potential members of the organization — by accepting the first (often self-serving) narrative to come along, especially without inquiring into the agenda behind that narrative. This is the third time in a decade that this organization's leadership has engaged in the principle failure mode of organizational function with significant legal implications: Refusal to gather facts — let alone evaluate them or acknowledge that there's a difference of opinion — even when offered on a silver platter. This time, it spilled over into the personal; and so I'm gone, even though these were many of my friends. I can't remain around them when they demonstrate this collective inability — refusal — to learn; I'd just be enabling, in the same sense as enabling an addict.

    This is, of course, the excrutiatingly civil and nonspecific version that applies to many organizations throughout the arts — definitely not excluding those with the loudest voices and biggest egos based in the Manhattan echobox. The organization in question's leadership has received/will shortly receive (whether the individual members of the leadership actually read their bloody e-mails is another matter) more detail involving their collective and individual dereliction of duty.

* * *

Last for the day, and far from least, the Supreme Court has agreed to review the latest Drumpf antiimmigrant order. I implore the Court to heal a self-inflicted wound with its decision in this matter — and it can do so almost no matter how it rules.

The decisions below (both Ninth Circuit and Fourth Circuit, and both District Court and Court of Appeals) have uniformly cited to the dissent in Korematsu. Even some of the dissenting passages and opinions have done so. It is long past time for this Supreme Court to formally state something very much like the following in its opinion in these matters:

Insofar as Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), holds that national origin is itself a sufficient rationale for disparate treatment of individuals by the Executive — even when the Executive states without more that national security concerns motivate such treatment — that case is overruled as wrongly decided.

The real bonus is that it has the opportunity to do so regardless of how it rules in the current matters… because any conceivable outcome that "it was within the scope of executive power as established by the statute and the Constitution" (the narrowest possible ground for reversal and upholding of the Drumpf executive order, whichever version we're talking about) still presumptively relates to the very issues misstated in the majority opinion in Korematsu.

Plus, that's part of a long-overdue healing process necessary from this Court as part of this Court's protection of its own credibility. It took a century for Dred Scott; hopefully, we'll be closer to the Plessy timeline (about seventy years — which actually just passed) on religion and national origin than on race.