03 April 2020

Life in the Time of COVID–19

It was inevitable: The scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. Dr. Juvnal Urbino noticed it as soon as he entered the still-darkened house where he had hurried on an urgent call to attend a case that for him had lost all urgency many years before. The Antillean refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, disabled war veteran, photographer of children, and his most-sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.

— Gabriel Garcia Marquez (trans. Grossman)

But what memories might torment those, like the new Administration spokesbacterium on the current pandemic, who have never displayed a hint of conscience to be tormented, in any context at all? Although one should certainly expect a private physician to be expected to make a house call… if only to keep things, well, private.

  • And meanwhile, religious assholes continue to put us all at risk. The obvious target is fundagelical xtians who have already demonstrated refusal to acknowledge that health care is not congruent with religious snits and bigotry. But this is an equal-opportunity pandemic, and it's not just fundagelical xtians. Dammit, "enabling spread of disease" so as to show respect to someone who can't acknowledge that respect because they're dead? The pride — the fundamental absence of humility — in these arrogant ignoramuses with their implicit claim that their personal beliefs outweigh my minimal personal safety bears some careful consideration under lots of core religious authority — both New Testament and Old. And the less said about gun nuts who think they need firepower to protect their hoarded toilet paper, the better.
  • The world of sport has had dubious amusement galore, both related to the pandemic and otherwise. The Olympic Committee (sorry, guys, you do not get to escape your past so easily with a PR-stunt name change) is whingeing that it needs a bailout too. Frankly, Ms Jenkins is far too restrained in her criticism of the failure to support actual athletes, although a more appropriate response might just be too long for the wordcount she was allotted. Olympic committees worldwide — and the USOC is among the worst — have been populated by and dedicated to upper-class dominion with the occasional condescending nod toward middle-class sensitivities since the modern Olympic movement got its start in the 1890s. "Support of the athletes" has always been behind the gold medal of "support of the Committee," the silver medal of "support of the Committee's patrons," and the bronze medal of "support of the Committee's overpaid permanent staff" — going back to not later than the 1904 St. Louis Games. Supporting the actual athletes doesn't even get on the podium.
  • And meanwhile, the attorneys for US Soccer in the ongoing equal-pay dispute with the four-times-in-three-decades-world-champion US Women's National Team have moved to withdraw. Without accusing particular attorneys — or at least not too much — of failing in their ethical duties, one must ask a preliminary question: What does it say about the hierarchy at US Soccer that it hired a law firm known for union-busting to deal with a pay dispute of this nature? And just what did they expect would happen as they built and hoarded their reserves without paying the players who made those reserves possible anything close to fair compensation, let alone "equal"?
  • The pandemic also leads to other foolishness. The so-called "Internet Archive" is sponsoring massive internet piracy. The hypocrisy is just astounding: If it really was about "information wants to be free," the Internet Archive would just have its many denizens create summaries of material for educational and informative purposes, not copy the exact expression. Instead, this reflects the meme "it's easier to ask forgiveness than get permission," which meme presumes that either would be forthcoming in the first place for more than sufficient reason.

    Needless to say, Mr Butler's inbox is going to be getting full very shortly. The DMCA, at 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(2), does not treat FormMail (or more contemporary recoded equivalents, whether masquerading as "database entry systems" or whatever) as sufficient or necessary, but read together with (3) requires a "service provider" to both accept notices by direct e-mail and read the bloody notices that are not in the exact form that the FormMail-equivalent system would provide… especially when those notices provide more information than the FormMail-equivalent system requests, such as the specific basis for rejecting claims of fair use. There must then be a timely written response within the scope of the statute… and not within the aspirations of "governing" memes. (Sadly, the Internet Archive isn't alone in this — the notoriously difficult to use YouTube notification system is just one other example.)