Relationships and Values

The Washington Post editorial board published a ridiculous editorial last week on the fate of marriage given that young women are much more liberal than young men, some of whom are distressingly right wing. The article implied that women should compromise their political beliefs to get married.

My initial reaction to this silly article is best summed up in a saying from second-wave feminism:

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

According to Wikipedia, Australian filmmaker, politician, and activist Irina Dunn said that.

My second reaction is to ask why are we still getting articles like this in 2023. This one’s not quite as bad as the one Newsweek did in the 1990s about women over 40 being more likely to be killed by terrorists than get married — which wasn’t remotely true as well as being stupid — but it’s pretty bad.

I mean, why all this emphasis on getting married?

The Post seems to think married people are happier, but their source for that data is from a right wing organization. There is some data that married men are happier, but ….

Based on my in-no-way-scientific observation of people, single women are as happy as anybody else, and the women I’ve known who were the unhappiest tended to be married women in complicated marriages.

I’ve been in a committed relationship for the past ten years (we’ve lived together for nine). Before that I was single for many years. I’ve never been married and never had a long ongoing relationship before this one. I was happy being single and I’m happy being in this particular relationship.

The things that make me unhappy have nothing to do with my relationships.

It should go without saying that my partner and I share similar political views. There is absolutely no way I could be seriously involved with a partner who didn’t share my politics. In fact, one of the reasons this relationship is successful is that we share deep values.

There’s an implication in this discussion that political views don’t matter, even though The Post also constantly writes about polarization. It’s as if politics is like rooting for a baseball team.

But politics, especially in these times, is a window into values. If my values incorporate feminism, antiracism, addressing climate change, doing something about wealth inequality, and related issues, how can I possibly get involved with someone who embraces authoritarianism and white supremacy? Continue reading “Relationships and Values”

SFWA’s Statement on Artificial Intelligence

On October 30, the SFWA Board and the SFWA Legal Affairs Committee sent the following letter to the US Copyright Office in response to their August 2023 Notice of Inquiry regarding copyright law and policy issues in artificial intelligence, which is part of their AI Initiative.

We are aware that there is a wide range of opinion on the subject within our community, but the issues of known damage to fiction marketplaces and threats to original IP copyrights that these new AI tools pose must be made known to bureaucrats and lawmakers recommending and making policy. By doing so, when consensus emerges about the proper use of generative AI in art, we can ensure that such AI is created and utilized in a way that respects the rights of creative workers.

In the near future, we’ll have the opportunity to read other letters submitted to this call for comments, and both SFWA and individuals will be able to review them and respond. We invite all our members, but especially those writers working in gaming and comics, to make known the effects you are seeing of artificial intelligence on your careers, for good or ill.

We will continue to study this issue and speak up where we feel we can do good. The more we learn from our membership, the more effective we will be.

The SFWA Board




The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA), formerly Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is, in part, to support, defend, and advocate for writers of science fiction, fantasy and related genres. Formed in 1965, SFWA currently has over 2,500 commercially published writers in those genres across various types of media. Its membership includes writers of both stand-alone works and short fiction published in anthologies, magazines, and in other media. SFWA is not a subsidiary of any other entity. SFWA has no subsidiaries or other ownership interest in any other organization that may be affected by the Copyright Office’s policies on AI.

It is in that capacity that we write this letter in response to the Copyright Office’s call for comment on issues raised by artificial intelligence systems. As creative writers who have long had an eye on the future, we are no strangers to the concept of artificial intelligence; indeed, the work of our members is frequently mentioned by the people who over the years have made progress in that field. We have long anticipated these developments and have thought deeply over the years about its promise and pitfalls. With this in mind, it is with much regret that we cannot yet speak in favor of using AI technology in the business of creating art.

The current crop of artificial intelligence systems owes a great debt to the work of creative human beings. Vast amounts of copyrighted creative work, collected and processed without regard to the moral and legal rights of its creators, have been copied into and used by these systems that appear to produce new creative work. These systems would not exist without the work of creative people, and certainly would not be capable of some of their more startling successes. However, the researchers who have developed them have not paid due attention to this debt. Everyone else involved in the creation of these systems has been compensated for their contributions—the manufacturers of the hardware on which it runs, the utility companies that generate their electrical power, the owners of their data centers and offices, and of course the researchers themselves. Even where free and open source software is used, it is used according to the licenses under which the software is distributed as a reflection of the legal rights of the programmers. Creative workers alone are expected to provide the fruits of their labor for free, without even the courtesy of being asked for permission. Our rights are treated as a mere externality.

Perhaps, then, creative workers uniquely benefit from the existence of these artificial intelligence systems? Unfortunately, to date the opposite has been the case: SFWA has thus far seen mainly harm to the business of writing and publishing science fiction and fantasy as a result of the release of AI systems. Continue reading “SFWA’s Statement on Artificial Intelligence”

Practical Skills from Aikido

I read on social media of another friend injured (though fortunately not badly) in a fall, and once again I want to teach everyone I know how to fall. Of course, even if you know how to fall, you can still injure yourself, but the odds are you will minimize the damage.

Everyone falls. Look at toddlers learning how to walk. They fall all the time. We get better at walking, but we still trip on things.

Doctors tell old people not to fall, but of course that’s useless advice. What people need to know — and to learn with their bodies — is how to fall safely so that we don’t hit the back of our heads or reach out to catch our whole body weight on a wrist.

The first thing you learn in Aikido training is how to fall. Judo players learn this as well, and I assume most jujitsu teaches it. It’s a vital skill for fighting arts, but more than that it’s a vital skill for human beings.

You have to learn it with your body, because in the instant moment of a fall, you don’t have time to think; you just fall. Years of experience helps, but even a small amount of solid training will make a difference. Bodies remember.

I understand that physical therapists teach falling in The Netherlands. They should teach it here. Even better, though, teach it in schools. But since so many old people didn’t learn it in school, teach it at senior centers.

One thing I remember in watching a kids’ aikido class was the children teaching each other to fall by protecting their partner throughout a throw. That’s a useful thing to learn, too, with applications far beyond the physical. Continue reading “Practical Skills from Aikido”

Is Literary Fiction Dead?

According to a recent essay in The Nation by Dan Sinykan, an English professor, literary fiction might soon be dead.

I’m probably one of many who will be glad to dance on its grave. While it is certainly true that not all fiction is great literature, the implication that only “literary” fiction is the truly good stuff made me furious long before I started writing science fiction.

Sinykan defines literary fiction as “fiction that privileges art over entertainment.” I find that definition ridiculous, given how much art I have found in science fiction and other work relegated to “genre” and how little I have found in some supposedly literary works.

I mean, are you really going to say that Ursula K. Le Guin didn’t create art? Or, for that matter, Joanna Russ or Octavia Butler?

And while F. Scott Fitzgerald had a lovely way with words, his subject matter was less than enticing. I remain unimpressed by The Great Gatsby, though I suppose the struggle between grifters and the more established rich is still a ripe subject for exploration.

When I was at Clarion West, Chip Delany told us that literary fiction was just another genre. It was a revelation. Of course, Chip’s work certainly reaches the standard of art.

I began to read science fiction at about the time literary fiction became a term – which Sinykan says happened in 1980 – because so much of what was supposed to be good fiction back then was boring the hell out of me. Continue reading “Is Literary Fiction Dead?”

Identifying bigotry, bias, and poor judgement

Today’s post was going to be short and simple because today I feel very short and rather simple. Except it’s my least favourite topic and it’s the topic that governs so much of our everyday. So it’s long and complicated.

Because I often encounter prejudice, I have ways of measuring how far it extends so that I can avoid problems and problem people when there are no solutions. I don’t walk away from anything lightly, but I need ways to assess if an event of group has become unsafe for me or if I’ve become so much a second-class citizen that I cannot be certain my voice will be heard when a problem arises. I have walked away from something just this week, which is why this post is so very personal.

These are some of the things I use to look for incoming problems and for current problems. Every one of them relates to experiences from the last month or ongoing issues. They don’t work for extreme prejudice ie I had no way of predicting the Molotov cocktails that were thrown at a building I was in or hate mail I received. I cannot gently walk away before bad things happen. It’s not a complete list in any way. In fact, it’s simply the tools I’ve had to use this last week.

1. Red flags.

Indications that someone doesn’t see things the way I do, and (the ‘and’ is important) may act on their viewpoint in a way that’s, at best, uncomfortable, or at worse, dangerous. I avoid someone who lives locally to me, for instance, because they always want to talk about Israel or money: I’m Jewish, so I must always want to talk about Israel or about money – those are two red flags. There are other red flags for other aspects of my life. Some of them relate to being safe as a woman, some being safe as a person with chronic illness and disabilities. This last week I’ve encountered ten red flags from three people. Red flags often feel creepy to people in the same group. They’re indications of where a path can lead. When I mentioned one of them (the gender-related series) their response was “That’s so creepy.” While they’re not themselves dangerous, they can lead to bad places. One red flag won’t make me walk away from a person. We all make mistakes and we can all be stupid, after all. A consistent display of red flag behaviour, however, is a safety issue.

I first try to address the behaviour, because some of it is copying others. If telling a person “This hurts me” or “This makes me uncomfortable because…” doesn’t change anything, I have to get out.

2. Equality of access

One of the easiest-to-spot evidence of othering is when two people have equal background and put equal work in and one is rewarded while the other has to move on. This has applied to me more in Cnaberra than elsewhere in Australia. I can teach a subject for years and have amazing student ratings and full courses every time and then be dumped from the institution without notice (ask me about why I’m not at the ANU one day) or be told that, while other people are remembered by the organisation, I have to apply as if I’m a new person. I ask about my records with them and they say, “We’re not looking at history.” Except they do… with non-minority writers. Because of my disabilities, I have limited energy and not a lot of income, so it’s very easy to make something impossible for me by making it a two day job to apply for something that will give two hours income. If I weren’t in such a small community and if I didn’t hear that others are not made to jump through the same number of hoops and that their experience is counted and that most of the jobs I have to apply for as if I’ve never been seen locally are given to people whose names have come up in discussions… I’d assume it was a level playing field. There are, in other words, organisational ways of othering and of keeping undesirables out.

It took me a long time to realise this was happening. My moment of illumination came when someone carelessly said “We can’t consider you because you’re not experienced enough. The others have more qualifications, too.” This sounds innocuous. Except… I have two PhDs, a teaching qualification, 30 years teaching experience, ten novels, thirty years organising experience, non-fiction published on the subject. even the occasional award. What did my replacements have? About 1/10 of these things. What works in my favour outside a bigoted community is an actual impediment within one.

3. Fairness of treatment

This is so complicated in real life, but it comes down to “If you have two incidents at an event, are they being treated using the same set of values and the same approach/process and are all people involved in them being treated with equal fairness.” This includes communication about the incident. It’s so very personal at the moment that I’m not going to give an example, because it’s a bit triggery. Triggers are things to be avoided.

4. Being included

Who is at a social event and why? How are they treated? There are some once-close-friends who I will not dine with any longer because they only include me when they want to prove they’re not bigots and when I am at the same table as them they talk down at me. I’m only allowed to speak when spoken to. I have to respect the social order.

Or, from the other direction, is there someone who is continually left out even though they technically belong in a particular group? Are there events that don’t include this one person time after time? And, if asked, do the orgnaisers simply assume someone has asked them? Additionally, if the person is disabled, does anyone even both to ask “What do you need us to do so that we can include you?” or is the assumption made early on that it’s easier to invite everyone and expect that they won’t be able to come.

This kind of thing is very badly recognised and handled in Australia because we don’t like to admit we do it.

5. When specific racist/problematic things occur, how those in charge react?

When there is hate mail or stones or Molotov cocktails or something else, how do the people in charge handle it? For years I was the go-to person for advice on these things. Now I’m told socially, “Look, antisemitic event in Canberra. You should know.” It’s done with apparent sympathy, but no support, and no sense of how I may feel to be told of a Hitler salute and that it was handled with less effort than the amount taken to deal with issues where I was seen as the guilty party. And that’s the caring people. It’s a red flag that the allies only see themselves as allies. This relates to people from majority background, or some other minorities. It also includes people who come from minority backgrounds but do not have the life experience to handle problems for others from that background, but who think that they do – this is a very sticky and thorny area. All of these people can unintentionally compound a problem. It’s also a red flag that the wider community accepts something.

There is one very difficult area here. I said that it was a very sticky and thorny area in the previous paragraph. What is this sticky and thorny area? Passing: ie it includes people from the same minority background who can ‘pass.’ Some of us have knowledge about handling difficult issues, and some do not. Just because someone from a minority passes, doesn’t mean they have the knowledge to make wise decisions… and it doesn’t mean they don’t have this knowledge. It depends so much on the individual.

If I weren’t public, for example, about being Jewish, I could publicly skip all the cultural and religious aspects of Judaism and pass as white in Australia. It wouldn’t negate my knowledge, and I was brought up traditionally and so have a fair amount of that knowledge, and my historical knowledge is mostly relating to Europe, which deepens my understanding. I know stuff, in other words, and can give good advice if asked. (The red flag for me is who rushes into things without asking, but that is an offshoot of 2 – experts who are not seen as experts because they are being othered so their expertise is not acknowledged.)

A very well-known group that has ‘passed’ is those Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews who went into hiding for their own safety. Many Sephardi Jews were killed after Inquisitional interrogation brought out that they ate Jewish-style eggs, or salad on Saturday afternoon ie that they hadn’t relinquished all Jewish culture. Some remained Jewish in secret and a few of them are emerging into the Jewish world now. Most converted to Christianity or Islam and remained safe but lost hundreds of years of heritage.

For anyone who can pass, it can be simply not telling people about your private life and that can save you from so many mean places. I choose not to hide, and these last two years I’ve questioned my own wisdom in making that choice. Anyone who cannot hide, of course, has to deal with a lot more garbage than those of us who can and those of us who do. How those in charge of a place or an event react to problems hurts those who cannot and those who will not hide their minority identity consistently and often.

This is not even close to a complete analysis. It’s based on my experiences, mostly over the past year. There are bigger and much better analyses. The first place I send people who want to get a handle on this is While Joshi’s book is about the US, the first three chapters in particular apply to Australia. Why is this so important? Many of the people who cause such problems have good intent and are otherwise nice people. They don’t, however, have a solid way of measuring their world view, understanding how it affects their thoughts and actions, and using understanding to handle bigotry. The work is often given to those who are bigoted against, which means that the experts are also the ones who need support. It means, also that those who have to deal with all these things in their everyday have to be willing to take on, as voluntary work, helping privileged people. Step one is understanding, and Joshi’s work is the first step in the path to that. Just the first step. Right now, I really wish more people in my home town would take that first step.

Ironically, I sued to teach these subjects to public servants. I was thrown out of that job without notice and without even a letter saying “Sorry we’re losing you after 20 years.” I found out I’d lost the job because of a notice saying “Your email account is being cancelled.” Manifestations of prejudice are varied and some can only be handled by walking away.

Fairies and Sarcasm

I misheard someone talking about the fairies in their garden as “I’ve got theories at the bottom of my garden.” And I do. So many of them. There are people who cannot deal with me for more than ten minutes at a time because that’s the limit they have for the way my brain works. I also have friends who love to talk with me for hours because I apparently say interesting things.

I’m not going to do that today. Not so much theory. Just a smattering of reaction that may one day become theory.

Yom Kippur is over and my life is the better for it, but I’m wrapped into how Australian Jews are represented on the public broadcaster responsible for multicultural services in Australia. My latest email from them told me (on Yom Kippur, though obviously I didn’t read it until afterwards) which shows are being moved from their streaming service. One of the two lead shows that is being taken down, as announced on the Jewish Day of Atonement, is David Baddiel’s “Jews Don’t Count.”

This is the same broadcaster that, when I asked what TV programming they had for the High Holy Days last year, sent me to a Hebrew radio show (hint: Hebrew is not the standard language of Australian Jews, English is).

This year, the special show they had just before our New Year was set at (in their regular email about programming), they explained, a Jewish funeral. It may have been a comedy set at a funeral, though the detailed description sounds as if it was set in the mourning period immediately after a funeral. I don’t know for sure because it was, honestly, not something I wanted to start my new year with. I’m assured by a non-Jewish friend that it’s a good show. If they put it on again, I’ll watch it and find out. I’ll watch the Baddiel tomorrow, though, because these programming decisions make me feel very much as if there are fairies at the bottom of the broadcaster’s garden, that Baddiel’s title sums up what needs to be said about it, and that I’m far safer with my theories than watching public television right now.

The good news is that some of my thoughts will be words at a bunch of places in October: at the Irish National Convention (I’ll be presenting online), at a Melbourne academic conference, quite possibly at the World Science Fiction Convention (again online), and elsewhere. I won’t be bored. (And if you want details of where I’ll be, let me know and I’ll post them as they are finalised.) I also won’t be able to see if SBS finally sort out why I wax sarcastic about them. They stopped replying to my emails when I pointed out that sending me to Hebrew radio was about the same as sending Australian Catholics to Latin radio.

I may be full of ideas these days, but I used to be such a nice person. I suspect sarcasm comes with menopause. Just suspect, mind. I now want to read a proper and carefully researched scientific study of the relationship of sarcasm to menopause. I shall go to bed and dream of such a study…

Political Ageism

I keep seeing newspaper columnists and others tut-tutting about Joe Biden’s age. Despite the fact that he’s doing a good job – better than I expected even if he isn’t doing some of the things I consider important – some suggest he shouldn’t run again.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are apparently planning to nominate the failed former occupant of the White House who tried to hold onto his job despite losing an election, a grifter who is under indictment for multiple crimes, someone who has proved that he is incapable of doing the job by the complete mess he made of it.

By the way, that con man is only three years younger than Biden, which certainly makes him no spring chicken. If anyone was raising the age question seriously, they’d be discussing it in reference to both men.

As someone a little, but not a lot, younger than both of them, I am aware that older people are at greater risk of health conditions that can keep them from doing a job than younger ones. But that is far from my first consideration when it comes to evaluating someone who is running for office.

I’ve never been a fan of maximum ages for jobs. If you can still do the job mentally and physically, why should you be forced to stop?

I do suspect that one reason people use age as a proxy there is that it’s messy to determine whether someone is still capable of doing work if you have to evaluate them. Plus there’s still plenty of ableism out there, plenty of efforts to push someone aside because they are disabled in some way.

Old people are likely to have accumulated some health conditions. My partner keeps telling me that we’re going to reach a point where we spend all day taking medications, doing physical therapy exercises, and making doctor appointments. He’s joking, but it is true that older people can’t ignore their health the way we did when we were young.

Here are some questions to ask about politicians with health issues:

  • Can they do their job around it?
  • If they can’t, will they be able to once they’ve had treatment?
  • Are there reasonable accommodations that will make it possible for them to do their work?

Based on what I can tell about Senators Feinstein and McConnell, my answers to those questions suggest that both of them should retire.

Joe Biden’s doing fine. Continue reading “Political Ageism”

Minority Cultures

I asked on Facebook if anyone wanted a short essay on how to check if something is reliable for the group that it’s attributed to and why it matters to let me know and they did. It was a good thing to write early into my New Year.

Today is when I introduce the wider issue. Over the next year, I’ll focus on specific cultural elements and, gradually, I will introduce cultural relativity, so that anyone following the series can understand the difference between how they see a given culture and what that culture is, in reality. Today, I shall use an Australian Jewish example in honour of the year 5784 and also because what happened in Australia over the last week is a really good introduction to why cultural relatively and precision is important.

What happened in Australia? A major public broadcaster in Australia formally celebrated Jewish New Year only on their Hebrew radio channel, according to their own search engine. SBS has a Yiddish channel (which has a report on antisemitism that I’d love to hear… but my Yiddish is very small, and learned as an adult) and a Hebrew channel that contains most of their publicised Jewish content. These two radio shows are the focus of programming for SBS for those they identify as Jewish Australians.

Programming outside these two radio shows includes the occasional recipe on the food site, news about antisemitism, news about Israel (often showing a worrying bias) and, from time to time, aspects of Jewish history and life as part of regular TV. There is an upcoming series that talks about how a part of Australia nearly became Israel, and has a Jewish presenter (whose father I once made laugh, but that’s another story). A Jewish comedy thing has just been shown, and I’ll get to that in the next paragraph.

The capacity to product culturally fair and supportive material lies within all this, but SBS gets things wrong, almost every time. Late last week, for instance, it advertised a new show with a Jewish theme. “Just in time for New Year!” I thought. I was prepared to admit publicly that I had been entirely wrong in my assessment of SBS.

The show is all about things that happen at, as the promo explains, “a funeral service.” When I looked at the detail about the show, it’s not a funeral service… it’s what SBS thinks is a Jewish funeral service. And it’s a comedy. Programming that includes anything Jewish is rare and special, but a comedy that revolves around death is not appropriate as the sole Jewish offering for the Jewish New Year. It’s the time when we celebrate life and talk about the living future.

What else has SBS done that includes Jewish Australia but also hurts it? SBS had a report on the first Australian cookbook (I’ve written about it elsewhere, Abbott’s heavily plagiarised volume) and mentioned the Jewish recipes… but the presenters had no knowledge that the recipes were all plagiarised from a very famous Sephardi London cookbook. The most crucial aspect of Jewish Australian history represented in the book was missed. This aspect is that Jews have been in Australia since the First Fleet, that nineteenth century Australian Jewish culture was heavily from London ie from an entirely different corner of the Jewish world to current stereotypes, which are mainly American.

I asked SBS themselves about their Jewish programming, a while back. They sent me to the Hebrew radio show. The languages of those two radio shows (Yiddish and Hebrew) support the stereotype that all Jews are sufficiently other that, regardless how long someone’s family has been in Australia (in my case, between 105-158 years), English won’t be their mother tongue. That became a bigger problem when the broadcaster itself sent me to the Hebrew radio show when I asked about Jewish programming. When I asked SBS about why they’d sent me to Hebrew programming, I also asked them if they sent all their Catholics to Latin radio shows. They did not reply.

The whole of the Australian multicultural broadcaster sets up a view of Jewishness that applies only to a minority of Australian Jews. The view does not reach past stereotypes or challenge racism or accept Jews as fully Australian, and they do not know how to culturally focus. They don’t even have a 101 in this: when I looked up “Jewish New Year” in the food section, I found recipes for long, plaited challah. It is not a New Year dish. We eat a round, white challah at this time of year, because we want to have a good and sweet year. This challah is readily available in those supermarkets that stock kosher food, so it’s not that hard to find out about. The problem is not the challah. It’s the conflation of search terms and the assumption that Jewishness is simple and doesn’t need focus.

The lack of focus on what Australian Jewishness is, leaves out the wider Australian community. Most people who rely on SBS and who do not speak Hebrew have no idea that it’s New Year for us. The article in a Canberra newspaper this year was inaccurate, but interviewed a Jewish local leader, so reflected some aspects of Judaism better than the publicly-funded national broadcaster.

Why is this so important? And why do I appear so consumed by it?

I used to advise government bodies on these issues (not just on Jewishness, but how to see and devise sensible government policy for multicultural Australia and its many different communities ie how to get past stereotypes and into reality), but they told me I was not someone they wanted advice from. This was when the Howard government came into power. The Howard government left a legacy that later governments took up. When I worked with SBS (on a different issue, but this subject came up in discussions) they were very aware of issues that they now ignore entirely. Some communities are more visible and have better representation than others. Jewish Australians are now part of the othered groups, and we’re a very good canary in the cultural hate coalmine.

SBS’s lack of understanding is a good template. It demonstrates a wider problem. That lack of focus, of seeing people for who they are, applies to many cultures in novels, in music, in TV, in cinema, in news reports. Given this, the skills I used to teach – how to see outside one’s own cultural boundaries and how to do this respectfully – may be handy again.

I’m going to find some of my old teaching materials, and work, bit by bit through them here, on this blog. I’ll also do interviews of writers, but not as many as I had planned. And this is my New Year promise to you. There will be silly posts, and lazy posts, but there will also be some very useful ones, that take up my past work and update it, and present it to anyone who needs it. It’s not the same as the day-long workshops or than the consultations that are in my past, but if my posts help even one person not create the sort of mess a very well-intentioned public broadcaster has made, a mess that unintentionally supports antisemitism through its support of stereotypes, then that’s a good outcome for a New Year resolution.

Decline and Fall

I grew up learning that the Roman Empire fell because of decadence. This was intertwined with Christianity as interpreted in Texas small towns. I don’t actually know much about Rome and my father, who was fascinated by Roman history, is no longer around to ask.

A quick Google search indicates that, as with many things, the collapse of the empire was the result of many things and decadence is unlikely to have been a major factor. And of course, these days cries of “decadence” come from right wing extremist talking points about drag queens and the idea that women control their own bodies.

So it’s a word one should use with caution.

But I read this Lyz Lenz Substack piece and felt so horrified that my first response was that the world was decaying around me.

What shocked me wasn’t the bros coming out to defend their rapist friend – I knew that happened. It was that there was a TV show called Punk’d over 20 years ago that was a nasty version of Candid Camera on steroids.

The show did appalling things to people for a joke. The one that really got me was the one that set up the pop star Mýa to go on a date with a guy who pretended he was obsessed with her in a very creepy way.

The people who did this had to know about the real problems famous people have with that kind of stalker, not to mention that this kind of obsession is one of the terrible things that happens to many women. But they put it on anyway and then called it a joke.

They got rich making “jokes” like this. And lots of people apparently watched this on television.

Now I think that’s decadent: making entertainment out of people’s very real fears. Continue reading “Decline and Fall”

Lawyers Destroying Themselves

Law is inherently conservative.

By conservative, I mean two non-exclusive things:

  • It prefers the status quo.
  • It favors the elites, as in the well-known quote from the French novelist Anatole France:

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

I was once helping my father with a minor legal issue in his business. I told him he had to do such and such. He told me J.P. Morgan expected his lawyers to fix things, not tell him he had to follow the law. I told him he wasn’t J.P. Morgan.

I am quite sure that J.P. Morgan got away with all kinds of things and that his lawyers helped him do it. He was incredibly rich and powerful.

But even though law favors the powerful, even as we can all cite numerous examples of wealthy people doing terrible things and getting away with it, there are limits to how far lawyers can go even on behalf of such people.

As I watch all the lawyers caught up in the many criminal cases against our former grifter-in-chief, I find myself shocked that so many people who once had sterling, establishment careers were willing to throw those over to support a con man. I mean, these are supposedly conservatives. Right-wing extremists, to be sure, people who advocate authoritarian government, but still, conservatives.

I did not expect to find such people throwing away their careers in an effort to block an election and destroy our democracy.

John Eastman had a cushy job at the Claremont Institute. He had a reputation among those who think the Federalist Society makes sense. All he had to do was share his outrageous positions in the form of, say, law review articles and op-eds, rather than positioning them as legal advice and trying to convince other people — notably Mike Pence — to do illegal things to try to block the will of the people.

And Rudy Giuliani was the former mayor of NYC and a former U.S. attorney. He’s an asshole, sure, but all he had to do was stay out of all this and many people would still think he was a hero because of September 11.

I have no idea what they thought was in it for them. It’s not like Trump has ever been loyal to people who sacrifice themselves for him. Continue reading “Lawyers Destroying Themselves”