Supreme Court decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

Posted in History and Politics on April 23rd, 2014 by byronkho

If racism in America is a thing of the past, then of course it makes sense that people should be allowed to remove, change and block any laws that attempt to remedy racism! Who needs Equal Protection under the law when in our enlightened age, racism doesn’t even exist any more? All those silly little laws are just taking up space and cluttering up legal dockets all across the country. Everyone knows that absolutely all of our citizens are completely impartial on the subject of race! There are no such things as hate crimes, discrimination in the workplace, or casual on-the-street prejudicial judgments made with reference to ethnic and racial identity! Barney’s theme song is still number one on the Billboard Top 40, where it’s been since 1992! We will all do the right thing for society and others when asked. Just ask Joseph Raymond McCarthy of Wisconsin!

I’m referring to the Supreme Court’s utterly useless decision (one among many this season) to uphold Michigan’s ban on affirmative action, in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor (joined by Justice Ginsburg), points out that “to know the history of our Nation is to understand its long and lamentable record of stymieing the right of racial minorities to participate in the political process.” She pointed out that the majority constantly changed the ground rules of the political process to first block entry to minorities, and then later to make it more difficult for the minority, “and the minority alone,” to obtain fair voting procedure (literacy and character requirements, poll taxes, special IDs) or integration (Jim Crow laws). Thus the need for affirmative action in higher education, a policy put in place and later protected by the Supreme Court when there were no other race-neutral means by which to capture an adequate level of diversity (note the parallel protection in public school education vis a vis racial integration, in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education).

Rolling affirmative action back would mean placing special burdens on minority classes to achieve results that they were not able to obtain under the political process without Supreme Court protection; this is called “yanking the carpet out from under them.” Reliance on good behavior from the majority, without a legal statute to enforce it? That’s very noble of you, my good sirs. Moving forward, minority students will have no basis for calling for special attention, yet undue attention is given to those applying as athletes, children of alumni and so on; there is an implicit unfairness in such a dual-track system that may even extend to non-minority applicants. Today’s decision is akin to the Supreme Court’s 1883 decision to strike down the Civil Rights Act of 1875: the Bradley court decided that discrimination by individuals or private businesses were “ordinary civil injuries,” and that the Equal Protection of the 14th Amendment was only a bar on State actions, not private ones. It took 71 years for the Supreme Court to realize that was a crappy decision… and another 60 years to change their mind (again).

The last word, from Justice Sotomayor: “The political-process doctrine polices the channels of change to ensure that the majority, when it wins, does so without rigging the rules of the game to ensure its success. Today, the Court discards that doctrine without good reason.”

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Dance.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22nd, 2014 by byronkho

Ridiculous pairing: some amazing urban dance to Disclosure’s future garage number, Latch… then some slow burn romance in motion to Sam Smith’s solo acoustic version. Watching the last half makes me feel like a voyeur – this dance conversation they’re having on camera… it’s totally for them, not for us. Snaps for the choreo.

And then Sia. Song is powerful and the dance, just great.

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Piketty on economics.

Posted in Opinion on April 22nd, 2014 by byronkho

So the very people who bought out all the copies of Capital in the Twenty-First Century on Amazon… were the subjects of the book, eh? Fun with speculation.

Pretty reasonable conclusions: too much concentration of capital at the top and not enough global taxation of said capital, and the poors get stuck with the bills for carrying society but can’t afford to be squeezed. Inequality is a thing, it’s intimately connected to our social ills, and it’s getting worse. Even though David Brooks says it’s not a thing and that talking about it won’t help to achieve any realistic aims for the poor. Yeah okay – after all those Supreme Court campaign finance decisions that just confirmed that those with no money have no voice? Hahahaha (ad nauseam). Our more recent complete conversion to free market capitalism was bound to clash with our historical, and apparently dated, establishment as a republic. In republicanism, the people have natural rights – in capitalism, they don’t. Only what wealth and power can buy you, and that means concentration into fewer and fewer hands… no surprise that we’re ending up as an old-style European oligarchy. Might as well start passing out the barony titles now.

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Supposed to be a post about classical music done to twerking.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22nd, 2014 by byronkho

Two versions.
Dudamel & the Stuttgart SO: 1.5 million views in 3 years.
von Karajan & Vienna Phil: 1.5 million views in SIX DAYS!

Their marketing secret? Butts. Diplo does Dvorak!

Twerking video WAS HERE. But UMG shut it down.

(Whoever did makeup for them just RUINED Waveya. They do look like cheap streetwalkers when they normally, really, don’t.)

Blood in the Water.

Posted in Opinion on April 21st, 2014 by byronkho

“Don’t drink the water… there’s blood in the water.” – Dave Matthews

NY Post: Two-thirds of NYC’s Airbnb rentals are illegal sublets.

You managed to get $450 million in VC this week? You can afford to pay for a lawyer then – see ya in court (finally). Interesting to see what the legal fallout will be, and if it empowers (or not) other localities to pursue lost revenue, and what the economic effects of a “sharing” economy really are. I will always use “sharing” in quotations because nobody doing the “sharing” doesn’t want as much money as they can get for what they’re giving. We’ll probably get some fascinating numbers out of the case: still haven’t seen a decent comparison of tourist money airBnB has brought in versus effects of rental market destabilization on overall real estate prices/availability and economic productivity lost from workers unable to get housing due to airBnB influence. (The status quo will only be able to stay if a) way bigger bribes are paid or more realistically, if b) the city can generate enough additional revenue from the tourist influx to completely overlook depleted rental and use tax revenues, destruction of other productive businesses, and seismic changes in certain social aspects of city governance… and housing in NYC is always a problem. Unlikely.) It’s feeding time for lawyers and there’s blood in the water! Popcorn!

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Poveglia Island.

Posted in History and Politics on April 18th, 2014 by byronkho

Anyone want in with me on a real estate purchase? Poveglia Island, 10 minutes from Venice, currently for sale by the Italian government (price unknown), and host to hundreds of thousands of plague victims, vampires, botched insane asylum experiments and abandoned homeless people.

Modeled off other plague lazarettos, where hundreds of thousands of bubonic plague victims were dumped… ahem, quarantined during the massive and oft-occuring plague outbreaks of the 1400-1700s, Poveglia housed all quarantined foreign visitors coming in by ship to Venice, and then received a large portion of the suspected domestic cases banished to die away from the “normals” during virulent outbreaks. The dead were buried in mass graves filled with up to 2000 corpses per trench, and the “overflow” were burned. Poveglia’s charnel pits are as of yet unexplored but it is definite that the island is littered with human ash and bone: people consider its soil to be 50% human remains at this point. Some of these plague trenches were sometimes reopened to bury fresh corpses, and it was a common sight to find bloated old corpses that would have blood seeping from their mouths and rotted holes in their shrouds over their mouths (decomposition gas would collect at the mouth and bacteria would congregate in that area, thus rotting the cloth at the mouth first). They were considered to be vampires and would be quickly reburied with a brick between their teeth (so they’d starve, naturally… also, had they been feeding on other poor inmates? horrors!); “vampires” have been found in many of these lazaretto burial trenches, and are likely to be found at Poveglia. Millions died in plague outbreaks throughout Italy over the centuries, and Poveglia’s share seems to have been rather large: with over 20 outbreaks of plague, up to 50,000 Venetian deaths in any given outbreak and a good portion of them quarantined to Poveglia, a “few hundred thousand” is a decent guesstimate.

In the 20th century, home to a mental asylum manned by mad scientists and doctors who performed hundreds and maybe thousands of illicit and botched lobotomies, the asylum graveyard being full of the victims of neural experimentation. When that proved to be too much gruesomeness for mainlanders to swallow, they converted the place into a hellish last stop for the “elderly indigent,” poor old people who were dumped there to fend for themselves when they became embarrassing problems for cityfolk. After that atrocity closed in 1968, the Italian government decided people were no longer allowed to visit… but now it’s okay to sell? I want in!

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Sogdian Empire.

Posted in History and Politics on April 17th, 2014 by byronkho

In the Sogdian Empire – an ancient Iranian civilization centered around Samarkand and Bukhara in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and a major trader along the Silk Road – it seems that slavery was a fact of life for residents of the empire. In a marriage contract written around 709 (and found at a site 100 km from Samarkand in 1934):

“And if [Ot-tegin] becomes somebody’s slave… then Cat with her progeny will become free without compensation… And if [Cat] becomes somebody’s slave… then Ot-tegin with his progeny will become free without compensation, so that one will not suffer and pay for the other one.”

Two surprising notes for me: 1) that slavery needed to be mentioned in a marriage contract, and 2) that no-fault divorce clauses were included at all. Slaves were actually rather a large part of the Silk Road; in fact, the silk in its title was merely a very common form of payment for all sorts of goods that traveled the various Silk Roads, including human cargo. Empires along the route were routinely hassled and attacked by the Mongols, the Persians and other Arab empires, and frequently lost manpower to slaving runs. They, in turn, looked upon slavery as a common business outcome, so internal disputes could result in slavery as well. In any case, it happened often enough that the authorities thought it wise to allow remarriage without repercussion should slavery break up a family.

Sogdian law regarding no-fault divorces in general was way ahead of the times. Either party were allowed to defect from the marriage without providing reason and without having to pay any compensation to the other party, and both were required to leave the other with the belongings they both inherited or acquired themselves during the marriage. Belongings that were given to one by the other were required to be returned. If adultery was the cause, then the offended party could require the adulterer to pay them 30 dirhams and send away the concubine; otherwise, they could divorce. This was a great step forward from Babylonian law (just on the other side of Iran from Samarkand) from several centuries earlier that had prescribed being “thrown in the river” for any woman who wanted to divorce.

In general, the Eastern empires (Bactria, Persia, Sogdian, etc.) during this period (the 700s) tended to not include any morality clauses within their marriage contracts, and in this way supported more gender equality. Roman and Greek-influenced marriage contracts, on the other hand, viewed women as another item in family property and required men to support their wives (which would mean that the finances and legal decisionmaking of said wives were not their own). Rome, in particular, often used morality clauses in marriage contracts as a method of silencing political opponents: the punishments usually included confiscation of property, and stripping of citizenship and exile for the more troublesome. No-fault divorces, in such climes, were not much seen or allowed.

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Like on FB, lose right to sue?

Posted in Opinion on April 17th, 2014 by byronkho

Real helpful General Mills. “General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, ‘join’ it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.”

Yeah, it probably won’t hold up on appeal but definitely not good for ahem, some fields, and of course some poor schmuck will have to be the first test case in order for that application to be found unprotected.

(They retracted this already.)

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Matambre a la Pizza.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16th, 2014 by byronkho

Matambre a la Pizza: Made in Argentina, this dish involves tenderizing a flank steak in milk overnight, grilling it to a perfect medium, and then topping it with San Marzano sauce, mozzarella cheese, Italian tomatoes, roasted red peppers, fresh basil and flecks of soppressata. Then bake. ITS STEAK PIZZA.

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Flume & Chet Faker.

Posted in Music on April 16th, 2014 by byronkho

Aussie electronica collabo and some slick moves on the streets at night. Watch out bro: tryna dance and get robbed be kinda bad.

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