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February 5, 2010

justice thomas: blindingly stupid

Yesterday, the NYTimes' legal reporter Adam Liptak covered some remarks of Supreme Court Justice Thomas that suggests that Justice Thomas'position on the Citizens United decision may not be ideological, but rather the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of how business entities work:
“I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company,” Justice Thomas said.  “These are corporations.”

Actually, the people who were editorializing were employees of The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company.  What Justice Thomas seems to have is a conflation problem.

Justice Thomas explains:

“If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he said.  “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association.”

“But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” Justice Thomas asked, suggesting that the answer must be the same.

Yeah sure but for the fact that if me and nine of my buds got together and did something like yell, "Fire!" in a crowded theater when in fact there was no fire, all ten of us would be looking at some consequences as determined by the local DA's office.  And if me and the boys form an LLC, and the LLC somehow yells, "Fire!", then we ten are not liable for the acts of the LLC.  And there is no guarantee that all ten of us are responsible for the decisions of the LLC (based on the organization and management of the LLC), so it's kind of an apples/oranges proposition that there is some equivalency in this situation.

And that's just scratching the surface.  But the ways that a business entity differs wildly from some dudes acting collectively are not that hard to discern, and I'd expect a Supreme Court Justice to be able to do so.  (Even Justice Thomas.)

Posted by mrbrent at 8:12 PM

that's not toughness

Adam Serwer nails it w/r/t terrorism and criminal trials and the general cowardliness of the righteous:
As I've said before, killing is just a means to an end with terrorism.  In this case, the end is the self-destruction of American society in a vortex of hysteria.  What's remarkable now, is that Republicans are agitating for that self-destruction in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that utterly failed.  They don't even need to kill us any more.  Al-Qaeda screams "boo" and half the country is ready to throw the Constitution in the toilet. That's not "toughness".  That's what an al-Qaeda victory looks like.

It's not that hard to suss out — just because the bad guys are killing people doesn't mean that killing people is the primary goal of the bad guys.  One does not need to be a super-genius to figure this out.  And to panic, whether over a civilian trial or a dude who set his underpants on fire, is exactly what the terrorists want.  And if the GOP is going to encourage panic as a political tool, then it makes it that much easier for the terrorists.

It's another one of those points that you get exhausted repeating but feel the need to since it hasn't sunk in yet.  And Serwer makes the point well.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:43 PM


There is a big snowstorm coming!  And in early February, of all months!

I've successfully avoided the panick! in the supermarkets, as I did some heavy shopping on Monday.  If I can sneak in somewhere tonight on the way home, some light bulbs and some chicken parts should get us through.

But, at the Local Indie Bookseller last night was a near-riot, as smarty-pants rushed to get just the perfect novel for a snowed-in weekend.  "Wolf Hall" was flying, as was Lee Child's "Reacher" series, oddly.  After an hour waiting for a helpful clerk, I found out that they'd sold the last of the DFW before lunch — even "Broom of the System".  So I settled for "London Fields", which I'll read again for the eighth time even though Amis is not a particularly popular fellow these days.

I mean, it's not even gonna snow that much, really!  Come on, nerds, govern yourselves accordingly!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:26 AM

February 4, 2010

stephanie keith

So my friend Stephanie Keith is getting some unexpected love from Boing Boing for a series of photographs she did a couple years ago concerning vodou as practiced by Brooklyn Haitians.  I've only glanced at the series, but you can have a look at that, and here series on hip young Christians, by going to her site.

Maybe it's a shame that the attention is coming because of the terrible events in Haiti, but Stephanie deserves to have more eyeballs.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:09 PM

boehner: vote for sale

I don't remember where from, but I recall hearing more than once that House Minority Leader John Boehner is not a particularly intelligent man.  Me, I more remember Boehner as an orange goblin.  But he is stupid too, come to find out, as he apparently has no idea what quid pro quo is and why elected officials generally avoid it:
Mr. Boehner told [JPMorgan CEO Jamie] Dimon congressional Republicans had stood up to Mr. Obama's efforts to curb pay and impose new regulations.  The Republican leader also said he was disappointed many on Wall Street continue to donate their money to Democrats, according to the people familiar with the matter.

We've hit the point where as long as it does not create the appearance of impropriety then everything is fine.  Boehner strong-arming Jamie Dimon for cash?  GOP Whip Eric Cantor invoking "buyer's remorse"?  That's not the appearance of impropriety.  That's outright impropriety.  But it's not the appearance, so nothing more to see here.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:57 AM

unfathomable incompetence and silliness

Yes it's a fun little reporter's notebook story   about how Iran sends around this hoopty national symphony on a good will tour while Iran is busy at home hanging protesters by the neck until dead.  This thing is not like that thing.  But the work of this Iranian goodwill ambassadors of classical music is described pretty vividly and more than once.  The first reference:
It played the so-called Peace and Friendship Symphony, by Majid Entezami, a four-movement jeremiad of martial bombast and almost unfathomable incompetence and silliness, originally performed, according to Tehran Times, last February in Iran to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the revolution. It has been retitled for this occasion.

"Unfathomable incompetence and silliness."  And it goes downhill from there.

So my question is, wouldn't that be a really apt time to bust out with some rich content, some fine fine multimedia, or even just one little .wav file?  Because good gracious I'd like to hear what that sounds like.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 AM

February 3, 2010

content wanting to be free

Novelist Charles Stross, ruminating on the implications of the Amazon/Macmillan kerfluffle and the digital content economy in general:
There's a big difference between a gift economy (where items are given freely, as gifts) and a theft economy (where items are taken without offer of recompense, be it monetary or participatory).  While "information wants to be free" remains a valuable insight, the freetards who are its loudest proponents these days seem blind to the flip side of the coin, which is the obligation to create and release information of use to others.

This is a distinction that gets glossed over when talking about copyright reform and the ways that the Internet has ravaged certain entertainment industries, perhaps rightfully so as the surviving companies hold price points hostage as they quibble over distribution channels.  Ultimately, at least for the creators, some kind of consideration has to change hands.  And, as Stross hints at, the consideration isn't going to resemble barter or a swap anytime soon, or the world of books will be novelists gifting each other while we content ourselves with TMZ and fanfic.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:39 AM

terrorism: back!

When we see headlines like this:
Intel chief: Al-Qaida likely to attempt attack

Then I think it's important to remember that the intelligence analyst, or more accurately the head of intelligence analysts, that comes out with a forecast of, "absolutely no terrorist attacks anytime soon!" is a person who is inviting disaster if not outright unqualified for that job or any other except for something like Bush Appointee.

Plus also as a fellow that lives in New York I should add: so what if they are?  Being scared of that shit is the job of other more lily-livered people, like Dennis Miller.  Knock on wood and all that, but being the greatest city in the world comes with a price, and that price is one that will never be known by the Mall of America, or the South.

Frankly, I find it surprising that the terrorists, or whichever terrorists it is this time, can find time to get anything done, considering how they must spend most of the day rolling on the floor laughing at Americans who are too scared to try the alleged 9-11 plotters in a civilian court.  I don't know how to say, "Mission accomplished!" in terrorist, but I bet it's not falling out of the common terrorist parlance.

You know what's scary?  Livebloging.  If terrorists really wanted to put the scared back in "we scared of you" then they would liveblog Project Runway.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:07 AM

February 2, 2010

more atm skimmers

Public service!  Boing Boing catches up with Brian Krebs who has figured out the easiest way to generate web traffic ever — investigate and report on the ways that you are totally defenseless against those that want to steal your money.  Not a lot of new info, but there is a harrowing Flash slideshow demonstrating all the devices that can be affixed to an ATM that might as well be invisible to the naked eye.

So remember: if you ever actually have money again, devise some novel way to hoard/dispense it that does not involve robots because you cannot trust robots.  No fault of the robots, of course   it's the fault of the hackers, who are smarter than the robots (for now!) and are all from Eastern Europe and all use your money to by those leather jackets that look somehow like vinyl.

Or just don't have money.  Path of least resistance.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:46 PM

jesus was not one to punch someone in the face

As a refugee of the sort of charismatic Christianity that keeps looking for a gimmick to rope in the hapless and then trick them into loving Jesus, the fight club gimmick has to be the most baldly cynical of them all.

Jesus can be a lot of things to the faithful — he's really neat like that.  You like hot dogs?  Jesus likes hot dogs too!  And what about baby kittens?  Why, Jesus could not resist a baby kitten!  But the assertion that Jesus was a warrior and then emulate that by punching people in the face is a stretch, as Jesus never actually punched anyone in the face!

If fans of violence really wanted to get all Christ-like in their pursuit thereof, then they should not be punching but rather getting punched in the face, because that's pretty much what God sent his only son down here to do, right?

Actually, it's pretty disgusting, even more so than the kind of faith practiced by Lloyd Blankfein.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:58 PM

February 1, 2010


For all of you who like me used to read Harper's religiously and do not anymore, read and see the monster we have created:
In a rambling 40-minute monologue that left many attendees perplexed, [Harper's publisher Rick] MacArthur, 53, talked about the problems facing Harper’s: readership was down 35,000, newsstand sales were plummeting, the only direct-mail piece that seemed to work was 20 years old.  Worse, Harper’s seemed irrelevant — “the mainstream media is ignoring it to death,” he said — according to people who were at the meeting.

What he did not address was the chief concern on everyone’s mind: two days earlier, without warning, he had fired the magazine’s well-liked editor, Roger D. Hodge, in a five-minute conversation as Mr. Hodge was finishing his breakfast croissant.

Harper's irrelevant?  Well, it certainly hasn't aged well.  I know that somewhere between college and here Harper's fell by the wayside.  Maybe it was one of those times I was broke and cut back and then just forgot to re-renew the subscription?  And obviously Harper's has not exactly surfed the digital revolution — even the New Yorker gives enough free tastes that everyone complains about which features get partitioned.

So yes we should buy more Harper's.  If only there was still such a thing as a news stand.

The sudden firing thing, though, that's not us.  But at least it's tawdry!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:47 AM

can't not be cynical

I don't think that even the most optimistic of us thought that the Haiti quake would come and go without any profiteering — those hospitals won't build themselves back poorly by themselves, just ask Naomi Wolf — but who'da thunk that the tragedy would be gold-rushed by churches eager for converts and orphans?

We do live in a time when are all experts in everything, like branding and independent film financing, but apparently the side effect of this is that we are Snidely-Whiplashed into laughably transparent "goal oriented" behavior.  Of course, by "we" I mean the Scientologists and the Baptists.  I'm rooting for the Lutherans to govern themselves accordingly.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:31 AM

January 31, 2010

peter straub

So years ago when I was a young reader, I got turned on to Peter Straub.  "Ghost Story" was what got me, and it got me good — a nested narrative as much about the act of storytelling as anything else, masquerading as a horror novel.  And as I sped through high school, Straub published "Koko", which seemed to be a smart jackknife whodunnit that introduced a metanarrative that would unfold over the next two novels, "Mystery" and "The Throat", which got me through college and the slack-motherfucker years.

Straub is solidly in the horror genre but he is also SMART, accessible enough to partner with Stephen King, and wily enough to create a complete world running through a number of books, with the gateway to this world being a character named Peter Straub.

I looked up to Straub like I would've looked up to a baseball player if I was less a reader and more a sports fan.

So on his Twitter feed I noticed a little contest, of sorts, and, long story short, I am one of the winners.  I get to have a question answered by Straub, and I get an autographed book.

And I am giddy like a fifteen year old, a couple decades later.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:45 PM