20 February 2023

Holiday Bonus Snark

Bonus snark is thoroughly merited on this Presidents' Day — a holiday that celebrates men (all men so far) who were at best deeply flawed. Founding Father Washington was a slaveholder; Hero of the Union Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus for convenience (without much, if any, factual basis supporting any need); the Ad[d]ams family embodied precisely the kind of nepotism that the "no titles of nobility" clause was supposed to prohibit; and so on. So today, there's bonus snark for the famed and powerful (but how would you be able to tell what's beyond the norm on this blawg?).

  • So, according to a headline at CNN, Tesla is about to grant "an absolutely monster package for [techbro crush El0n] Mu5k" — which rather fits, given that he's an absolute monster. On one hand, the statute and regulation explicitly label anything that is a mandatory service a "recall"; it's been that way for decades; and you don't get to object to the name because it sounds bad. And it's a "recall" (vastly more serious than a mere "over-the-air software update"1) precisely because it requires one-to-one correspondence and verification of each instance; if there's any deceptive term here, it's "full self-driving" as pushed by Tesla. On the other hand, the notice objects that

    The FSD Beta system may allow the vehicle to act unsafe around intersections, such as traveling straight through an intersection while in a turn-only lane, entering a stop sign-controlled intersection without coming to a complete stop, or proceeding into an intersection during a steady yellow traffic signal without due caution.

    which sounds like standard California driving behavior to me. Remind me where Tesla has done all of its testing and development work again? Mr Mu5k, I not-so-respectfully suggest perusing a middling-old experimental psychology article (abstract, $wall for article) concerning expertise in driving, public safety, regulatory law… or public relations with those who don't already share your preference for pineapple-durian Kool-Aid® (the new kewl mixer!).

  • But that's only slightly — marginally, measured with a micrometer — more ridiculous than yet another membership scheme for essential purchases. Essential in my household, anyway: Books. Wait a minute — doesn't the Big Brazilian River already have such a membership system in place? Yes. Yes it does, with its Amazon Prime system. So big brick-and-mortar rival Barnes & Noble is establishing its own, new-and-improved membership system, for a lower annual fee. I guess that makes it sub-Prime, doesn't it? (thankyouthankyou I'll be here all week)

    Which I won't be joining any time soon. Bluntly, Barnes & Noble has historically been one of the biggest rationales/props for racist and sexist book cover prominence. The particular kind of market retrenchment implicit in this sort of membership program will just make things worse — as if they could get worse than a flagship-status store's new crime/mystery display with not one non-Caucasian face on the 24 covers displayed. That was last month.

    Which returns to the fundamental problem with B&N: It's in a New York state of mind. But that state of mind doesn't retain much credibility once one escapes into civilization, west of the Hudson. It most particularly doesn't retain much credibility for either existing heavy readers without convenient access to a good library or independent book source, whether that's their own/their parents'/their school's/their communities — or for future generations thereof. Which, disproportionately, means the kind of people who aren't appearing on those book covers.

  • It's a court holiday today, so I've got a few moments — the few moments I spend every court day pondering recent appellate opinions — to ponder some fundamental flaws in how we get those opinions. It's much the same reason that news dissemination and reporting is fundamentally flawed, that public broadcasting has gone from the frogs to the cockroaches, that problematic, tunnel-visioned assertions of authority in art criticism fail to see their infinite reflexiveness, and even well-intentioned proposals to reduce government overclassification are, in my late friend Harlan's terminology, bugfuck crazy: A profit motive is often (not always!) a necessary impetus for many (not all!) private actors, but it is never a sufficient motive for the common good. One always hopes for significant overlap, but the pretense that they are congruent sets requires one to forget the important qualifier to "self-interest": "enlightened." On the other hand, given recent efforts to turn back the Enlightenment entirely in favor of orthodoxy-enforcing theocracy (and the irony of that source is itself worthy of consideration), "bugfuck crazy" is almost certainly an understatement.

  1. Like the two different Karens who've parked their Teslas out front today and had their cars banging on my router while they relaxed at Karens' Bruncherie; the cars demanded free internet access, repeatedly, requiring me to reboot the router three times to deal with it… quite possibly for that very upgrade. (Decoding MAC addresses is trivial.) Karen #2 needs just a little bit more peroxide to be convincing, though (Karen #1 is hopeless).