23 March 2020

Prince Prospero's Internet Link Sausage Platter

I do not have a thousand hale and light-hearted friends with whom to engage in endless revels through the night in splendid luxury away from the hoi polloi, and I have no optimism that [t]he external world could take care of itself in the face of that self-imposed isolation (with those thousand hale and light-hearted friends, or more likely sycophants and other notables deserving of more dire consequences). Just revving up for the Bulwer-Lytton Contest…

  • Speaking of sycophants and notables, here's some further snark and disdain for the National Association of Theatre Owners and their bigshot spokesbacterium. Sure, maybe "exhibitors will not forget" that Universal — confronted with a national health emergency, and the prospect of massive scheduling conflicts down the road as the interlocking schedules of performers (and others) conflict, has chosen to go ahead with direct-to-home "event programming" that will be frantically welcomed in two and a half weeks by parents across the nation (notwithstanding their despair at the products being advertised as part of the event) — didn't bow down to the real-estate-speculating industry of theatre owners.

    The indie cinemas that will be put forth as "endangered" by the "reckless" acceptance that they're closed, there's inventory to be released, and customers want that inventory, largely do not depend upon those exclusivity dates that the big chain owners demand. Indeed, within 25km of me there are three cinema options… and two of them are indies, neither of which does first run (indeed, one of them specializes in revivals and the other largely in an eclectic mix including documentaries). (I'm not counting the run-down chain megaplex at the mall with a 60%-and-growing vacancy rate, particularly given the continuous rumors that the owners are trying to get out of their lease at that mall.)

    So fuck you and the horse you rode in on, Mr Fithian. I bet that if you do have children at home, you've still got a nanny (or utterly subservient stay-at-home spouse) to care for them… and that, in turn, you don't care about the easy-to-predict shrieks of boredom that just might be relieved via a streaming "event" in a little over two weeks. Because you're an "essential worker" in an "essential industry" who is getting out of the house.

    I have no contempt for the theatre owner group and its buggy-whip-manufacturer mentality (which, one might add, combines the two worst segments of the American economy: historical monopolists who got divested and real-estate speculators). At least no more contempt for them than they have for me and my demand for humane seating and reasonable scheduling and clear presentation and acceptable food and beverage choices. So I guess I'm really saying that they're beneath contempt.

  • Three recent pieces at Scientific American all deserve a little bit of thought. Avi Loeb advises young scientists not to overspecialize (advice that I wish the Army would take regarding its young officers, but that's for another time). Shilo Brooks ponders the Wright Brothers' success compared to their contemporaries' failures, but slightly misses the most-critical aspect — that the Wright Brothers acted like scientists and not dilletantes, particularly regarding the wind-and-lift data they found unreliable (so they gathered more data). Most importantly in this environment, Jonathan Shea considers the difficulties of becoming a target because one actually knows something… and it's not ideologically popular knowledge. I'm not quite old enough to remember the vitriol that was directed at Rachel Carson, but I've read some of it; one could practically do a search-and-replace for names and specific technical terms and script Faux Noos's response to the current pandemic.

    There. I said it. Prince Prospero indeed.

  • The Supreme Court released opinions today. On the one hand, two of the opinions smacked down the Fifth Circuit for making things up as they go along (largely for ideological reasons, although this Court didn't say that) and, instead, demand a Joe Fridayesque approach. In Davis (pdf) an unsigned opinion rejected the Fifth Circuit's doctrine that "[q]uestions of fact capable of resolution by the district court upon proper objection at sentencing can never constitute plain error" as having no support in Fed. R. Crim. Proc. 52(b)… despite its frequent use to throw defendants whose overworked counsel didn't raise a "factual" issue right out of court. In Guerrero-Lasprilla (pdf), the Court (7–2 this time) was equally skeptical of the Fifth Circuit's efforts to evade facts, albeit at much greater length. "Just the facts, ma'am" seems to have evaded the Fifth Circuit for too long; instead, it has been "Just the courthouse door, ma'am."

    And then, on the other hand, there's the error-ridden analysis in Allen v. Cooper (pdf), which essentially gives states (and instruments of states, such as university presses) free reign to infringe copyrights… and implies a "nonjusticiable therefore no available relief" holding will be forthcoming in the Georgia State University coursepack case. Bluntly, the Florida Prepaid matters were wrong when decided and even more wrong now; but that's for a few hundred footnotes in another venue.

    There was more, but it also is for another venue. Suffice it to say that the narrow perspective in their adult lives of this Court's membership is undermining the Court's own authority.