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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in osewalrus' LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
9:10 pm
Why Is Israel More Popular With African Governments These Days?

One of many interesting developments over the last few weeks with regard to Israel, its relationship with Africa and other developing nations.
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160720-egypt-has-netan…/


While the US and EU left denounce Israel as "colonialists" building an "apartheid state," Israel's standing with East African nations and a number of other developing nations (such as Paraguay) are growing stronger.


Why? Many reasons, but here are a few.


1. Israel has a lot of what the developing world wants and needs. First, it has incredible technology for water efficiency and reclamation. It has advanced agriculture science geared to a water-scarce environment. It has a substantial venture capital community able to provide necessary investment capital for African nations like Kenya, which are turning entrepreneurial now that they are reaching the necessary critical mass for development. Israel has a huge generic drug industry which -- unlike Pharma -- is willing to sell life saving drugs in the developing world at a reasonable cost (at least when compared to US and EU based drug companies).

And none of it comes with the trade strings that make dealing with the US and EU, aka "El Norte," such an economically losing proposition (see below).


2. Israel is a counterweight to "El Norte."
For most of the developing world, the real "neo-Imperialism" flows from trade agreements which privilege large multinational companies based in the EU and US. This is particularly true on the intellectual property front, where US and EU trade deals have vastly expanded the scope of patent and copyright protection to reenforce monopolies by major agriculture and pharmaceutical companies.


By contrast, Israel pretty much just wants trade and international recognition as a normal state. They have no interest in getting other countries to change their internal laws to promote the interests of Big Pharma or Ag.


Additionally, Israel's increasing ostracism by the US and the EU paradoxically boosts its stature with the developing world. When the US and other major imperialist powers like France, Germany and the UK embraced Israel openly, the more suspicious the developing world was of Israel as a mere extension of El Norte. With increasingly vocal elements in El Norte denouncing Israel, Israel now appears much less threatening as a trade partner.


3. Failure of the BRIC countries to emerge as leaders of the developing world.

Y'all remember in the late 00s when the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) were going to displace US hegemony and El Norte generally? Now, not so much. I won't get into the various issues of BRIC and the developing world, but suffice it to say they failed to provide the necessary source of what the developing world wants and needs for its own economic development.


4. Israel is very clearly motivated to fight terrorism and is a much more reliable ally on this front than the US or EU.

We now start to get into some areas that modern progressives may find equally damning to Israel and the developing world, particularly East Africa and the Sunni states of the Middle East. But the US and the EU are increasingly seen as fickle friends with regard to maintaining regional stability. By contrast, Israel is seen as (a) extremely interested for its own safety in opposing extremist groups such as Al Qeda and ISIS, and (b) equally opposed to letting Iran or Turkey gain dominance in the region. Also, Israel is not nearly as hung up about all that "human rights stuff" that makes dealing with the US and EU such a pain in the ass. "Blah blah oppress religious and ethnic minorities, blah blah morality of using drones to kill at a distance, blah blah."


From the perspective of the East African and Middle Eastern regimes, Israel is much less annoying because it doesn't do the whole Jimminy Cricket thing, and Israel (so far) pretty much has zero interest in trying to protect human rights outside its borders (other than Natan Sharansky, and nobody listens to him). Mind you, it's not that Israelis *like* seeing human rights violated by Arab or African states. But it does give Israel a great deal of smugness about itself as compared to other countries in the region. Besides, it's not like pushing for human rights in other countries helps Israel on foreign relations because the Left is pretty much gonna keep calling them colonial oppressor apartheid racist pigs. So, like any rational actor, Israel is all like "Fuck it!" If the progressive left thinks we're worse than Uganda -- which makes being gay or lesbian a death penalty offense, why the Heck should we try to change Uganda? It'll only get dismissed as "pink washing."


So at a time when the US and EU are becoming more annoying over all that human rights stuff, having a potential partner that shares your core concerns (stoping people who want to blow you up), is not bothered by the fact that you are going to use the technology you buy and training you buy to oppress your own people, and doesn't give a crap about that "due process" stuff for killing terrorists with drones looks increasingly attractive.


5. The Developing World is a lot less sympathetic to Palestinians than they used to be -- in part because they actually went through an anti-colonial period and think the PA are being obnoxious, spoiled demand-y brats who should have taken their deal a long time ago.


Countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopa and a bunch of others actually went through historic periods of colonial rule and know what happens when you declare independence and get de-colonialized. it does not look *anything* like what Palestinians are demanding and progressives are supporting.


Most folks in the U.S. and EU either do not pay attention to the Palestinian demands for ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population of "Palestine" or support it because the Jewish population are supposedly imperialist colonials. News flash: none of the East African nations ever got to get rid of all the white colonialists. That was a precondition of independence. Yes, a lot of the white settlers voluntarily went home. But white settlers who had lived in the country for any length of time got to stay if they wanted to stay. That's why Kenya still has white people. Ditto Uganda. Check this general Wikipedia entry on "white Africans."
https://en.wikipedia.org/…/White_Africans_of_European_ances…


Nor did any natives of any African decolonialized nation have any kind of "right of return" to go colonize England, or have their own special agency within the UN entirely devoted to their care and feeding, etc.


So if you are Kenyan, and you read the Arab and Palestinian press, and you read the combination of continued cries for Jihad against the Jews, refusal to accept independence that does not involve removal of the Jewish population of "free Palestine" and insisting on special refugee status and perks as refugees for people who are about 3 or 4 generations removed from the original refugee crisis -- you get kind of annoyed. This is especially true when all these guys are demanding you put aside your own self-interest to support them out of "solidarity."


6. Many of these governments are extremely suspicious of establishing precedents that will come back to bite them in the ass.


It's not just resentment against Palestinians for publicly demanding in all their news outlets to refuse to take a deal that any of the African countries would have been happy to take in their decolonization period. It's the fear that if you can establish a precedent under International law that does what the Palestinians and El Norte progressives want, it will come back to bite them in the ass.


It used to be easy to laugh about norms of international law and stuff. Everyone understood that you could pull that shit on Israel at the UN and there was no need to be consistent. But now, with the ICC and all those annoying human rights activists and the EU making pronouncements with actual precedential value, it's not fun any more. If what Israel did in 2014 in Gaza was a "crime against humanity," then the standard security practices in most of these countries are going to be prosecutable.


We saw an example of this when the PA tried to get sanctions against Israel at FIFA, and they got forced into a compromise where FIFA refused to consider their claims in any official way. Why? Because what the Palestinians were claiming was all apartheid treatment equivalent to South Africa, etc. is what most developing countries call "Tuesday." Interference with freedom of movement for security checks? Scheduling issues with checkpoints? General "humiliation" by going through military checkpoints and inspections. Hell, that is routine.


Likewise, of refugee status is heritable forever, that is going to really change who various ethnic minorities in developing nations get treated. Is everyone descended from someone who fled Rwanda in 1994 entitled to come back and claim full Rwandan citizenship? En masse?


All of this taken together creates a rather lovely paradox. The greater the success of BDS and other anti-Israel efforts in the US, EU and "El Norte" generally, the more attractive Israel becomes to the actual developing world. I do not suggest that this is necessarily a good outcome or bad. But it does suggest that mainstream political analysis in the Global North is increasingly out of touch with the emerging reality on the ground.


Needless to say, btw, the Arab Press is not in the least pleased: http://gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/netanyahu-s-move-into-africa-is-more-than-a-charm-offensive-1.1865921
(and I love the anti-Semetic picture that goes with the article)
Sunday, July 17th, 2016
4:24 pm
Baton Rouge

I have spent more than 10 years dreading this.

Create the right circumstances and we again discover our rich history of political violence.

Friday, July 15th, 2016
6:44 am
A Spontaneous Shabbos Drash
Experience shapes interpretation. Layning Chukot this week and am struck by the fascinating transitional elements in language. Everyone focuses on a few incidents, but the parsha is very rich and an anomaly in many ways for its shifts in language and narrative perspective. It is almost a miniature of replay of everything from the previous generation (with the exception of the Revelation at Sinai and Yom Suf) and a study in contrasts in behavior.

But most importantly, we see several critical shifts in language and action -- and in God's response. B'nei Yisorel are being made into the singular Yisroel. Moshe gradually retreats as the active leader and Yisroel takes the lead. God likewise moves from the obviously miraculous (summoning the water) to the more derech hateva (the plague of poisonous snakes). Yisroel display a heightened perception in recognizing the snakes -- which could be attributed to nature and be used as further evidence that Moshe and God had led Yisroel out to die -- as punishment from God. It is not only that they recognize and do initial teshuva by asking Moshe to intervene, but the cure itself depends on their personal teshuva and relationship with God rather than simply on Moshe's intercession (albeit they are still training and still need an intermediary).

Similarly, Yisroel move to active and derech ha teva in their dealings with the surrounding nations. We begin with Moshe sending messengers to the King of Edom. But midway through it shifts to Yisroel (using singular) and Edom (also using singular) (reading the layning really brings home the textual shift). Similarly, when the nation is attacked and captives taken, it is Yisroel (not Moshe) that takes initiative, asking God to give the enemies into their hands.


In this, we may also explain two puzzling features. The poem and the reference to the book "The Wars of God." These poems are unusual in that they are not attributed to God or to prophecy. Nor is the Book of the Wars of God given an author or a holy or prophetic status. Rather, we must conclude that these poems and the The Wars of God are products of national authors and poets writing their own songs of praise and their own history. As with other works of man, they do not last. But they are a critically important transition in that they represent a spontaneous move to record their own history and celebrate their victories.


They are mentioned, therefore, not for their own sake, but for what they represent -- a sign of emotional growth. L'mah ha davar domeh? (To what may we compare this?) Every parent has a collection of things made by their child at various stages of life. Though of objectively little worth, these items become precious keepsakes for the parent. And not only for the parent. At times the when the child grows and is distant or disobedient, the parent may look at these keepsakes and remember the young child and recall the love and affection that seems absent today. At other times, when the parent and child have reconciled, the keepsakes have meaning to bond them together. And when the parent is gone, the child may keep the items as beloved keepsakes of the parent. "My parents kept this thing because they loved me."


So too the poems of Chukot and the reference to the Book of the War of God. God most lovingly records this stage of our national development and preserved it forever in the Torah. In times of our disobedience, God remembers the love and difficulty of raising the young nation. "Zacharti lach chessed n'uriach." ("I am reminded of the happiness of our youthful love" Jeremiah 2:1) In our exile, we recall when God was pleased to record our every victory and expression. In the days of the Messiah, we shall dwell again in the house of the Lord and we shall recall jointly with love the time of our youth.

Good shabbos.
Thursday, July 14th, 2016
6:17 am
Interestingly disturbing civil case under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)
Don't have time to write about this too much. But figured I'd park it here for possible future reference.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/07/12/9th-circuit-its-a-federal-crime-to-visit-a-website-after-being-told-not-to-visit-it/

Orin Kerr (respected Cyberlaw Prof) writes a column on the recent 9th Circuit decision in Facebook v. Power Ventures, Inc. (not sure why Kerr refers to it as FB v. Vachani (the individual owner) when convention is to use the first header first for consolidated cases). Basically, Vachani, through his company Power Ventures (collectively, "Power") developed an ap that let users organize their posts and send messages in a different way than the FB default. FB did not like this and sent Power a cease and desist, warning it that in FB's view Power's ap violated federal law. FB also blocked the Power IP address so the ap wouldn't work. Power ignored the letter and switched IP addresses. FB filed a civil suit under, among other things, the CFAA.

The opinion works in the shadow of a previous en banc 9th Cir. decision, which held that violation of a public website's terms of service did not violate the CFAA. Writing for the court Judge Graber found that a cease and desist letter is different from a violation of the acceptable use policy and terms of service, in that it provides specific notice to the individual that the computer owner (meaning the company owning the servers, not the individual user downloading the ap) has revoked permission to access the computers in question.

I'll skip Kerr's analysis (I agree with some of it, but not all) and point out what to me is the systemic problem. It's clear that the author of the opinion believes that the provider of the service (FB) should be able to limit who uses the service and for what purpose. Fair enough. But the author is shoving this outcome into a frame that does not fit. What we really have here is a breach of contract case. I make something available to a customer (and you are a customer, whether or not you are paying with money or your personal information) under certain terms, and reserve the right to deny service to a customer who violates those terms.

That's all good, proper and appropriate. But unlike a physical store, where I can simply have security evict the offending customer, that doesn't work easily for online digital services. Additionally, the right to refuse service is not unconstrained. State law and federal law prohibit the exercise of this refusal for a variety of reasons, ranging from discrimination on the basis of race or sex (including sexual orientation) to various considerations of consumer protection and equity.

These various checks and balances on "meat space" commercial acticvity evolved over time via the common law and legislatures passing statutes. We are seeing a similar struggle here, but at warp speed. It's clear the opinion does not like Power offering a service through an ap that violates the way FB wants to offer its service. One may agree or disagree with this position (I have good arguments for each, seeing as how I'm a lawyer, as well as good arguments for how to distinguish among the various types of online services). But in trying to reach the "right" result, courts need to remember they are constrained by the existing law and the regular cannons of stautory interpretation. Warping the law to reach the "right" result in a particular case often has unfortunate ripple effects in the other direction.

I've been through a couple of cycles of this, which included the fantastic warping of copyright and trademark in the 1990s and 00s to accomplish the same thing, generally at the cost of free speech and innovation. Sometimes the pendulum has swung the other way (it did on domain names and cybersquatting, not so much on TM). But even after the pendulum swings some, it still creates the opportunity for litigious behavior and things like SLAPP suits (stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation") (a lawsuit likely to lose if taken to trial, but has the effect of taking down speech critical of a person or interest and discourages participation generally. For example, the lawsuit against the NYT for libel in the Supreme Court NYT v. Sullivan case would be an example of a SLAPP suit).

All that said, there is value in letting court's take the first stab at these things rather than trying to legislate too quickly. Getting bad legislation undone is a harder process than getting bad judicial decisions narrowed and reversing the overall bad trend that may emerge at first blush as courts struggle to adapt law to the new set of circumstances. While hard on the guinea pigs either suing or getting sued, it does create a solid record and debate in the legal literature on which Congress can build. OTOH, there is also clearly costs in doing it this way, especially to the guinea pigs.

So yeah, life is messy and complicated.
Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
1:54 pm
Just how thoroughly Ben Gurion and Golda screwed the pooch on Israel
So only now are we seeing Sepharadi and Mizrahi culture, which was the actual dominant Jewish culture in Israel until the Zionist movement, get taught in Israeli schools.
http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/giving-sephardi-history-and-culture-a-voice-at-last/

This gets to one of my serious irritants about the early secular Zionists who dominated the formation of the Jewish state and dominated its politics until the 1970s. They were a bunch of racist Europena schmucks who would gladly have styed in Europe if the non-Jews in Europe would have been willing to accept them. The actual idealized Israeli state that Ben Gurion and Golda Meir and other secular Zionists talked about was "Vienna on the Mediterannean." Despite the fact that slightly over 50% of Jews in Israel are of Sepharadi or Mizrahi dissent, they are still subject to racial discrimination and cultural elimination because the values of the Secular Zionists were institutionalized.

And while Rav Kook and the original religious Olim were better about this, the religious leadership has now become thoroughly contaminated with this sort of institutional racism. Mind you, this is also following a dramatic differntiation where various sects and practitioners think themselves superior to their fellow Jews (let alone non-Jews). The word used by these practitioners when they have dealings with others is mkalkilim, meaning "to make dirty." Mkalkilim! Is not God the Mikva of Israel? But even within this generally obnoxious elitism of an elect among the elect, one can find racist overtones.

But even so, the fact that Israel only now has to rediscover its actual Middle Eastern heritage  is an appaling artifact of the racism of too many European secular Zionists. it also has created fertile ground for the whole "colonialism" narrative. It is impossible for Israeli Jews to claim Israel as our ancestral home when blotting out our own native history. Likewise, the fact that the supposedly "white" Jewish population is about as "brown" as the surrounding non-Jewish countries (because that is where the majority are actually from) is obscured by the Israeli cultural prism of normalizing European Jewish ancestry and history.

OK, rant over now.
7:40 am
Achievement unlocked: Saving communications infrastructure for all Americans
Nothing is certain, of course. But even more than the net neutrality decision, the FCC's little marked order to be adopted tomorrow concluding the rulemaking on the "tech transition" will shape our communictions infrastructure for the next 50 or so years. Thanks to 4 years of work by yours truly and a bunch of others, the FCC is adopting rules that make it possible for us to start the next phase of our infrastructure based on the values that gave us 96% penetration of voice, rather than the pure market based approach that has given us 80% penetration of broadband. The process, if carried out sucessfully and embraced by the local communities when the time comes, should ensure that vital services like 911 remain intact, we have a reasonable phase out of legacy technologies, and that EVERYONE -- including those traditionally excluded -- get an upgrade as we upgrade our communications infrastructure. It should also create thousands of good paying union jobs along the way.

I explain it all here.
http://www.wetmachine.com/tales-of-the-sausage-factory/the-fcc-sets-the-ground-rules-for-shutting-down-the-phone-system-and-sets-the-stage-for-universal-broadband/

I am particularly proud of this proceeding for a number of reasons. But most importantly, because it gives us the chance to for once, FOR ONCE, stop the inequality before it starts. 
Wednesday, July 6th, 2016
5:19 am
Old Filk Song: Iowa (Trek Version)
I hauled this out for the one-shots at Conterpoint last week end, and found out on http://ladymondegreen's page that folks had never heard it and http://cflute, http://browngirl and http://katyhh expressed interest in my posting the words. So here it is again for those who are interested.


Title: Iowa (I Just Work In Outer Space) by Harold Feld
Tune: Iowa by Dar Williams

A man can't just reach out and touch the stars
But the nights of Iowa make me wish that I could
My family and friends, I'd hate to leave you
But if the chance came by, I would

Way back where I come from
It seems no one else is bothered
By the urge to know what lies behind
The nearest bend or turn

So they walk in their world of safe people
While at night I walk out on the hillsides and burn

Chorus:
Iowa, ohhhh Iowa, Iowa
Ahhhhh Iowa

How I long to explore strange new worlds
To boldly go where no man has ever gone before
But I fear that the price I have to pay
Is to leave you all forever when I go out to explore

I asked my brother 'bout it
On a hot day
The sun beat down on cornfields
And the dust clouds filled the air

Sam said: "Hearth and home are what you need Jim.
It's family that counts, not whatever lies out there."

Chorus

Once I had everything, I gave it up.
No beach to walk on and no world that I can ever call my own
I have fed all to my ever hungry heart
I have become a Name that ever through the galaxy will roam

And I'd do it again.

But sometimes in the quite
Of a late watch
I think about my family and the friends I'll never see.

And I wish I was again the boy I was in Iowa
The hillsides, the night skies and me.

Chorus x2
Tuesday, July 5th, 2016
6:22 am
Conterpoint was fun.
Spent the weekend at Conterpoint, this year's rotating North East Filk convention. As usual, it was a very fun time and I will not try to name everyone I saw because I will surely leave people out.

Becky and I missed open filking Friday and pretty much crashed the first 24 hours of the con. Because it has been that kind of week and we both really needed the sleep. Did have a very nice filk circle on Saturday night led by Brenda Sutton. Moved over to the larger circle when the smaller circle started to wind down, but wilted around 2 a.m.

The most intriguing part of the con for me was the proposal from madfilkentist to consolidate the 3 convention committees/organizations and have one annual location with a much larger concom pool. I agree with this proposal. The old reasons for the rotation system are largely historical, and the hope that three different organizations in three locations would grow three strong local filk communities has not really panned out. I think we ought to give continuity a try for awhile and see how that goes.

The ideal geographic location would be in the NYC metro area, which is hideously expensive (as jonbaker pointed out, that's what a population of 8 million people does to the surrounding economy). The largest and most organized club is Massfilc, which also has 501(c)(3) status. The cheapest hotels near metro areas are in the South Jersey and Baltimore areas -- closest to the Conterpoint concom. Southern Jersery is more attractive by reason of central geography, but it has no one on the ground in the region.

So it looks like a potentially good idea, but it will need some discussion. OTOH, the sooner we can settle it, the better. Massfilc needs to get its convention committee together and hotel search under way and everything attendant to announcing the con at Contata in 2017.

For me, the best part of the con was getting to have a good, sit down conversation with Bill and Brenda Sutton. I haven't actually seen them since GaFilk in 2009 (although we have stayed in touch via FB). They recently went to SCA 50th year, and have gone all ga-ga about joining the SCA. So nice to see people more sensible than gorgeousgary :-) Alas, they will not be at Pennsic.

All in all, it was a fun con, very much like a relaxacon with fairly minimal programming. Hopefully we will make it to Contata next year.
6:03 am
Missing the 4th At the Hatch Shell, But It Looked Weird This Year
I admit, I've always been spoiled by the 4th of July with the Boston Pops on the Charles River by the Hatch Shell. I grew up going, and sailing at Community Boating during the day (except when July 4 fell on Friday or Saturday).

When we moved to DC, we tried the National Mall once or twice. Way too hot and the show was not really designed for the audience -- it was designed for the TV cameras doing "A Capital Fourth" on WETA. Among other things, they made no effort to ime the fireworks to the music. It was just "bam!" lots of pretty but random stuff while the performance kept going.

This year, since we were home because of the weather (which happily was not as bad as it could have been) and Aaron out at the movies we decided to watch A Capital Fourth on WETA. It was OK. But they show almost no fire works. And again, there is no effort to synch the fire works with the performance.

Then Becky discovered that the Pops were on CBS. But it looks like they changed things radically to fit with TV. We watched about half an hour from 9:30-10, then gave up.

Unfortunately, the fire works around here are just not very good and are waaaaaay too crowded. Need to find some small town nearby that does a traditional marching band set and modest display. I'm a sucker for a good traditional marching band medly on the 4th.

But it was a pleasant day. Happy post-July 4th.
Friday, July 1st, 2016
7:41 am
Thursday, June 30th, 2016
6:13 am
The US/Israel Military Aid Negotiations -- Food For Thought And What Obama Actually Said.
So Israel and the U.S. are renegotiating the arms aid package.Please note that by a law passed by Congress in 2010, US aid to Israel is settled at $3.5 billion/yr until 2020.



This has prompted some serious misunderstanding (a) of what Obama actually has said, and (b) what the US actually gets out of the deal.



This article from Bloomberg is a more fact specific and clarifies a bunch of stuff.
http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-22/obama-wants-to-stop-subsidizing-israel-s-defense-industry



Contrary to what many progressives keep hoping, this is not about actually reducing the total amount of money the US would give Israel from 2020 to 2029. The provision holding up the deal is that right now, Israel gets to take 26% of this aid and spend it domestically. Obama wants to get rid of that provision. Instead of spending roughly 75% in the U.S., Israel would spend 100% in the U.S.



However, military aid to Israel is not merely an act of charity, as most imagine. In exchange, the U.S. gets a number of direct specific benefits.


Collapse )



To wrap things up, ‘cause this got way too long.

(a)    Obama is not proposing cutting the dollar amount of aid to Israel. He simply wants to stop subsidizing the Israeli military/industrial complex and use that money to subsidize our domestic military/industrial complex.

(b)    U.S. military aid to Israel is not free money to Israel from which the U.S. gets nothing. It’s complicated. Whether we get $3.5 billion worth of benefit is something to debate, but it’s not flushing $3.5 billion we would spend elsewhere down the drain, either.

(c)    It’s not anywhere near certain that cutting the aid budget would have a positive impact on the region, or even on the PA.

None of which is a killer argument for those who don’t like Israel’s policies. Lots of people think we should cut off aid to countries that we don’t feel abide by human rights standards, so if you think Israel is not behaving properly and therefore think the U.S. should punish it, cool. Just don’t go all “Leave Campaign” and act like there are no consequences.
 
Sunday, June 26th, 2016
1:18 pm
Monday, June 20th, 2016
5:25 am
I acquired a fire pit for Father's Day
I have, contrary to all past practice, started to take an interest in my back yard. Perhaps this is the onset of empty nest syndrom. Perhaps it is the natural reaction to the need to get rid of two old trees in the backyard that had become a safety hazard and the resultant opening up of the backyard. ("Oh look! There's a backyard other than those two annoying trees I hated!")

In any event, I found myself in Home Depot for Father's Day (how cliche, I know) to purchase some odds an ends for hedge tending and weed whacking. While there, I found a metal fire bowl/artificial fire pit with a cooking attachment/grill. Folks who are familiar with these fire pits will know that they are essentially a metal bowl with a removable mesh top to catch sparks (there are various other, more sophisitcated models that look more like period ovens). One can, of course, get a metal grill to put on top. But this models actually had something I have been looking for in a fire pit for a long time -- an adjustable grill so you can control the heat level of what you are cooking by raising or lowering it.

So i bought it for myself for Father's Day (my inlaws having financed the gardening equipment for Father's Day -- thanks Saba and Savta!) Am now contemplating when to have backyard bardic circle and grilled meat. 
Friday, June 10th, 2016
9:08 am
To Emphasize the last point . . .
Please observe the very carefully choreographed way the roll outs of the last week or so have occurred.

1. Clinton wins primaries, makes stately address praising Sanders and his campaign and inviting them to join in fight to build better America and defeat The Evil Donald. Many other Dem luminaries likewise make comments.

2. Sanders gives uplifiting speech vowing to not drop out until after D.C. primary (thus keeping his word to stay in until the end). While he is in town for a rally, he asks for a meeting with President Obama.

3. Please note that Obama, the President, and Pelosi, the ranking Dem in the Legislative Branch, have carefully withheld an endorsement all campaign. Likewise, Elizabeth Warren, the de facto head of the "Progressive Wing," has refrained from endorsing a candidate. Likewise Joe Biden, who is Vice President, has refrained from endorsing a candidate.

4. Please also note that Sanders asked for the meeting with Obama. Also note that since he will be in town anyway to attend a campaign event, this is not a surrender. It is a meeting that conveys respect and dignity by treating Sanders as a welcome member of the Democratic "family" and not as someone either suing for terms or being summoned to do obessiances.

5. Sanders and Obama emerge from meeting all smiles and cordiality. Everyone praises each other. Sanders makes it clear he will work with the party to defeat Trump in the fall, While he does not officially quit or endorse Hillary, he no longer talks about himself as the "best qualified" to beat Trump. There is no mention of a fight at the convention. There is lot of talk about shared goals and ideals.

Why no endorsement of Hillary/ending of the race? First, Sanders is keeping his word to his supporters to "fight on to the end." it would be particularly bad if he disenfranchised Washington D.C., which is the most disenfranchised jurisdiction in the U.S. owing to the Constitution not givng them representation. But citizens in Washington DO get to vote for POTUS. So it would be cruel (and a barb in the hands of Sanders' enemies -- of which there are still many), for him to quit on the even of the D.C. Primary.

Nevertheless, because it is clear that we are now focused on bringing the party together, it is time for the Party Royalty who have so far been properly neutral to embrace the winner of Crown Tourney and start the process of annointing the royal heir. Please note the Order of Precedence for endorsement.

POTUS (Head of Executive Branch, leader of the party)

Ranking Member of the House (Head of Government In Exile of the Legislative Branch)

Just about simultaneous: Joe Biden (VP) and Warren (de facto head of the progressive wing).

Do you think things just happen to work out that way? i make this point especially about Biden. Some folks have speculated Biden's decision not to endorse Clinton was bitterness on his opting not to run. In fact, it is a matter of precedence, and one where Biden has been taken to the woodshed before for failure to observe proper presedence (remember how annoyed Obama was when Biden announced his thumbs up on same sex marriage before Obama did).

6. But also note that Sanders still has an out if the promised terms don't work out. We are on a glide path to a big reveal and successful convention in Philly, especially in contrast to what looks like a growing disaster for Republicans in Cleveland. Additionally, all the swirling expectation of bitter resistance from Sanders keeps the tension up for the big reveal in Philly. This, in turn, puts pressure on all the negotiators to make things come out right and not hold out on personal agendas.

Played right, the platform is a symbol of compromise, unity and statesmanship accepted by acclaim with all sides claiming victory. And all sides will be right. Politics at its best is NOT a zero sum game where one side emerges triumphant and the other emerges bitter and angry. At its best, politics is the way in which we develop a consensus as a society of our values and how we intend to implement them through our government. "And to secure these rights, men create governments, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Of course, the platform and unity themselves are preludes to implementation post victory. There is a difference between unity as a political party around broad goals and values and the nuts and bolats of governance. That is why we can expect much scrambling around who will be at the center, so as to position themselves for the post-election government.

And as an example, we now see Debbie Wasserman Schultz rising to defend the CFPB regulation of payday lenders against an amendment on the appropriations bill offered by a Republican colleague. A token of good faith that, in exchange for likely keeping her job (at least through November), she will behave herself publicly and embrace the new consensus. (Note DWS did not actually embrace the rule substance, but not using approps to short circuit the rulemaking process. A fine nuance tha those of us who dance the political pavane apprecaite.)
7:17 am
Our Political Pavane
A few more observations for my fellow Dems on what I call "the Dance of the Adults" for my SCA friends.

Like many dances descended the English Inns of Court and Elizabethan Parliamentary times, the Dance of Adults begins as a stately pavane then evolves into a spirited corranto. The pavane has many mandatory figures designed to show off the grace, elegance and pomp of the most important players, who lead the procession. By contrast, the corranto is designed to show off one's energy and strength. The pavane is carefully choreographed, whereas the corranto is more improvisational. During the pavane stage, we will see all partners working in harmony. As the music picks up the pace and transitions, we will see partners begin to separate into their individual improvisational steps. This is where you will see the true partners work together, whereas the rivals will increasingly try to separate out for their own individual improvisations. As always, there is a danger that -- as the music picks up the tempo and dancers become less coordinated with each other -- accidents will occur (or worse, some dancer may deliberately try to trip a rival).


What distinguishes a skilled Master of Revels is the ability to detect such potential problems and diffuse them quickly and quietly by varying the tempo, using more skilled dancers to help the less skilled keep time, and discretely sidelining the odd troublemaker who will not otherwise contain him or herself.


As always, there will be critics carping on the sideline who think the pace is too slow, too quick, or who simply like to smirk and spread gossip. Sometimes the chatter from the sides is so loud it threatens to drown out the musicians. A skilled Master of Revels, however, knows to ignore the carping critics and stay focused on bringing the dance to conclude with a gracious reverance.


For Bujold fans., It's the dance at the Emperor's birthday. And yes, as someone noted when I made a similar analogy previously, this is the last generation that will dance this particular dance by this particular set of rules.
Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
6:19 am
Some reflections on the end of Primary Season
First, thank God that's over. Now we have the road to Philly (much more on that below).

Second, I will confess to my own tribalism and modest disappointment. I should have liked to have seen a Jew nominated for President. Given the demographics, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime -- if at all. But so it goes.

Third, What to Expect On The Road To Philadelphia. Both Clinton supporters (the Establishment Wing of the Democratic Party) and Sanders supporters (the Progressive Wing) face choices. Most critically, is this about unification or adulation. Are you willng to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve your goals, even if it means letting the other wing keep its dignity, declare victory, and never admit that you were right and they were wrong -- for all values of "you" and "they."

Collapse )

Is this about unification or adulation? Is it about getting the right result, or about personally feeling good? That is the question both the Sanders wing and the Clinton wing need to make as the Democratic Party heads to Philadelphia.
Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
6:30 am
I keep rediscovering why I took a FB vacation
I really, really need to stop posting political analysis on FB during election season. Like any human endeavor, FB concentrates human traits. In this case, the intensity around the election is insane.

Mind you, I'm reading Chernow's biography of Hamilton, and the frenzy around the election, including relentless personal attacks, is certainly consistent with his description (and that of others) of politics in the immediately pre and post Revolution and in the early days of the Constitution.

Anyway, I cannot help but observe that while I understand the AP's rush to declare Clinton the presumptive nominee, a declaration that she has won the number of delegates based on Super Delegates is sure to fan the flames of disunity and conflict. It is especially irritating since today Clinton is likely to clinch the deal with a sufficient number of pledged delegates.

This does not, however, cause despair to supporters of Sanders who are not unalterably opposed to Clinton as the nominee under the right circumstances. (I will add that I consider Clinton a perfectly good candidate in her own right. Likewise, while I favored Sanders, I do have concerns and disagreements with his potential as President as well. But I digress.) To the contrary, Sanders has proved not only that the Democratic base is much more open to a progressive message than many people (including many long-time Democrats) believed, but that Democrats can attract independents by explicitly adopting (and implementing) more progressive policies and embracing a role of government in improving people's lives.

This means, going into the convention, that Sanders has considerable influence to shape the party platform and begin the internal process (with the rest of the "Warren wing") of shaping the post election party. This takes some considerable skill.

Centrist democrats in the DNC are like any incumbents -- they dislike change, especially change they do not control. This is not so much corruption but human nature -- albeit human nature that lends itself to corruption. As always, most of what happens will go on behind the scenes, with endless speculation (as it is now). What makes this more difficult is that Sanders is not so much the leader of a movement as its representative. He knows that he cannot turn his supporters on and off like a switch, nor would he want to do so if he could. That means that he needs to woo his base to support a Democratic party that incorporates whatever changes and commitment he gets.

This is not to say that Sanders will simply "take what he can get." Part of the purpose in continuing on in a challenging manner despite the oft repeated points about math is to persuade the centrists that they will need to make real changes to win over the Sanders wing. It is still possible that these negotiations will fail, and that Sanders and his supporters will need to withhold support. That would be disastrous in the short term. But time favors the younger, more progressive wing of the party. The evidence of the last 12 years is that the future of the Democratic Party lies less with the 1990s coalition of centrist professionals and traditional labor and civil rights leaders, and more with the rising tide of new civil rights and social justice activists and a minority/majority working class. Conservatives were defeated in their attempt to take over the Republican Party in 1976, but wildly successful in doing so in 1980. Democrats looking for a melding and transition from the 1990s philosophy that was essentially conservatism with a conscience with the more progressive philosophy of the incoming generation of Democrats would do well to identify their own core principles and negotiate a merger of the two wings of the party in good faith, rather than simply resist all changes.
Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
5:36 am
Link Harvest: Poll of African American California Voters
Look, demographics matter in the African American Community as well.
http://africanamericanvoterrep.org/aavrep-poll/

Also note key issues: improving public education, homelessness, holding police accountable for violence.
Monday, May 23rd, 2016
10:03 am
The Dance of Grown Ups has begun
All you need to know on the Dem side.

Sanders made it clear that the goal will be to come together and beat Trump in November.

Clinton has expressed lots of interest in meeting with Sanders on the platform and everything else "when he is ready."

Ignore the cloud of chattering that surrounds the grown ups dancing. Both Sanders and Clinton are old dealers who understand about The Deal. This is a trickier dance than in '08, because Sanders and Clinton do have significant differences both in terms of policy and in terms of structure of the Democratic Party. Additionally, neither is so delusional as to believe the other exercises autocratic power over their supporters (and even less over their "supporters").

Sanders did not get the nickname "amedment king" for nothing. And Clinton did not acquire a reputation as a pragmatic deal maker for nothing. Both also understand that the issues at play here go well beyond the election of 2016. Clinton is no fool. She understands the demographics and the failure of the Democratic Party as a party to grow when demographic data suggested it should be growing.

So watch the grown ups. Ignore the chatter. Or, if you prefer, ignore everything until after Labor Day.
9:53 am
Will robots replace lawyers?
BakerHosteler, one of the country's largest firms, has "hired" a robot called ROSS to handle routine bankruptcy research.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/05/16/meet-ross-the-newly-hired-legal-robot/

My feeling on this is that using robots and data analysis has not worked in fields that require certain types of creative thinking and where human beings are decision makers. Radio, for insatnace, data analyzed itself to death.

I expect that robots (by which I mean AIs capable of doing legal research at a more sophisticated level than the average legal search engine does today) will be helpful tools. But put me in the Samuel T.Cogswell camp in believng that humans will continue to matter in the formulation of law.
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