Florida Judge Orders Palm Beach Post To Remove Transcripts Of Calls Made By 'Jailhouse Lawyer'

Judge Jack Schramm Cox, a Florida state court judge in Palm Beach, has ordered the Palm Beach Post to remove transcripts from an October article documenting a convicted murderer's habit of acting as a 'jailhouse lawyer' to solicit confessions from fellow inmates, which he promptly turns over to prosecutors and law enforcement.  The order — which the Post complied with — runs afoul of the First Amendment, an obstacle that Judge Cox's order passes over without so much as a mention.

Unfortunately, I am unable to locate a copy of the full transcripts themselves, which the Post has removed from its website.  A Google cache of the article, before the court issued its order, reveals the two paragraphs that the Post removed because they included quotations from the transcripts:

“I’m so important to these people,” he crowed in a recorded jail conversation with his daughter last year. “I’m the only person in the United States’ history that could ever provide testimony that could close over 60 murder cases, you hear me? I know a lot, sweetie. I’m gonna sit down and write a book about all these different murders and what happened and how they happened. Cause I know the law real good. I’m real sharp with the law.”


“I done worked out a deal to reduce my sentence and for me to come home, you understand me?” he told his daughter in another conversation recorded from the county jail in November.

But where, oh where, did these transcripts come from?  Surely, the Post's First Amendment rights are surrendered because it engaged in some unlawful act?

The court's order suggests — without directly saying as much or providing any evidence in support — that the Post may have acquired these transcripts as a result of the grapevine:

"The Palm Beach Post [indicated] they were in possession of the recorded calls and that it had posted the transcripts of these recordings on its website[.]  The memorandum indicates that copies of the recorded calls have been circulated amongst certain members of the legal community.  It is uncertain to this Court who distributed that information.  […] It is of some note that the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office nor the Office of the Public Defender attended the hearing.

How the Office of the Public Defender came in to possession of the recorded calls […] is of great concern to this Court.  Mr. Cobia [the informant whose calls were recorded] argues that they were not provided to [his defense attorneys] as a part of pretrial discovery and were not disclosed by [the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office] as a public record."

The court then answers its own question in the wind:

"The calls appear to have become a part of the court record as a result of Ms. Ramsey, counsel for Smith, filing them in the court file on October 15, 2015."

Indeed, the Post itself has noted that the transcripts were part of the public record.  (Smith is the defendant who filed the transcripts with the court; Cobia, the informant, is expected to testify against Smith.)

Nevertheless, the court's focus is on the point of origin, concluding that only the government could have recorded the calls.  Out of concern for the privacy of the jailhouse snitch — who acted as a jailhouse 'lawyer' to gain the confidence of other residents of the jail in order to betray their privacy interests, however limited — the court found this invasion sufficient to compel a newspaper to stop publishing what's already been published.

But none of this matters, at least as far as the Post's publication is concerned.  The Post could have acquired the recordings or transcripts from a court clerk, a defense attorney, the sheriff's office, or as a result of selling their own souls to a questionable character at a highway interchange in Rosedale, Mississippi.  Where a media outlet obtains information lawfully — even if it knew that their source obtained it unlawfully — the First Amendment protects the media outlet's right to publish that information.  Nor does an individual's privacy interest override a newspaper's right to publish truthful information included in a court record.  If a rape victim's privacy interest is insufficient to vitiate a media outlet's First Amendment rights, the privacy interest of a jailhouse informant, speaking on a phone call he knew would be recorded and could be used against him, is underwhelming as a justification.

It may well be that law enforcement betrayed Cobia as a confidante, deterring others from similarly reporting on what their fellow detainees have told them.  It may well be that even were Cobia not an informant, Florida's authorities invaded his privacy.  But the solution is not to prevent a newspaper from substantiating its reporting, which reveals the unreliable and self-interested nature of informant testimony.

The Post is appealing the ruling.


The Current Refugee Crisis

translator's preface: rephrasing the following into early 21st century English is, to understate things slightly, a challenge. To even explain why it's a challenge would, likewise be a challenge. How does one explain the polyseme in vocabulary terms that existed in the 21st century? One might as well attempt to translate the 21st century word "internet" into Old English in a way that would be accessible to denizens of a mead hall. Any attempt, including this one, is necessarily flawed.

1357 U.E. (i.e. 3328 C.E., i.e. 3328 AD), Oort Cloud Commensal

After a long shift at the atelier I returned home and turned on the polyseme to catch up on the emerge re the refugee crisis.


"…then we as members of the Commensal have a duty, a moral duty, to help. We've all experienced the wholesales of the refugee family crawling from their burned lander near the shores of the Achelous Sea, the father cradling his dead son as he steps out onto Ganymede. The time to debate is over, and the time to act -"

"Madame Secretary!"

"-the time to act is now. We must -"

The emergent raised his voice. "Madame Secretary! I must object. Before we talk about importing potentially a hundred million refugees, we have to have a serious conversation about whether they can possibly integrate into our culture."

The secretary didn't bother to keep the annoyance from her face. [ translator's note: all references to physical gestures are, at best, illustrative, and – at worst – ficitive ] "You're going to say 'a flood of refugees', aren't you? I, for one find that phrasing offensive. May I remind you that exact sort of language was used just three hundred years ago when the Martian Diaspora brought so many people to us here in the OCC. Are you going to tell the many proud citizens who trace their ancestry to the M.D. that you don't like their kind?"

The emergent shook his virtual head. "It's inane to compare the citizens of the Martian Diaspora to the current refugee crisis. On the Barnes scale the people of the M.D. were almost all type 1 and type 2 ideologues: Nationalists, Trade Unionists, Libertarians, Atheists, Catholics. Non-totalizers, all. The Hitlerite diaspora that threatens to swamp us now -"

"Sir, I find that offensive. This is not a Hitlerite issue. This is an inner system issue. These people aren't coming here to attack us, they're coming here because they're fleeing war."

"Madame secretary I agree, they're fleeing war – a war that the Hitlerites themselves have caused".

The Secretary took a long breath. "I utterly reject that sort of bigotry. To call this a Hitlerite issue is to blame the victims. The problem is not Hitlerism – it's a small evil group of people who are twisting the words – the beautiful words of an ancient faith – to their own destructive ends."

The emergent seemed to cough. "A small group? Twisting the words? Madame secretary, have you absorbed the Hitlerites texts? Have you read Mein Kampf? Have you listened My Idaho Struggle? Have you played through even one of level of A Pure Moon and A Pure Sky: My Manifesto?"

"Yes, sir, I have. Have you? To quote one of my favorite sayings of the prophet 'We want this people to be peace-loving but also courageous, and you must therefore be peace-loving and at the same time courageous.' These are beautiful words, and when we look at our brothers and sisters from the inner system, we need to see that these are the words in their hearts, the words

"Madam Secretary, those quotes are nonsense. I -"

"I can assure you, sir, that they are entirely real! Hitler said those very words. The references are inline and you -"

"I don't mean that they're false. I mean that they have absolutely no bearing on the true core of Hitlerism."

"Sir Emergent, I find that frankly offensive. The core of Hitlerism is the same as the core of any of our ideologies. Respect for one's neighbor, personal growth, family -"

"The core of Hitlerism is none of those things; it's mass-murder, pure and simple. Let me quote from Mein Kampf. 'We shall regain our health only be eliminating the Jew.' This is the core of Hitlerism: the suspicion of contamination, the hatred of the Other. First it was Jews and Gypsies and the disabled. Later it was Hispanics and Blacks. By the time of the Near Earth Wars it was AIs and the Uplifted. Mark my words, if we let Hitlerites into the OCC, next it will be us!"

"Sir Emergent, you are out of line! All serious scholars of Hitlerism agree that the Hitlerite concept of a holy war against Jews is an allegory, an inner struggle against the 'Jew' of our own worst natures. A struggle against hate, against selfishness, against, dare I say it, suspicion of others. And, given your readiness to slander an entire people, it's perhaps a struggle that you yourself should consider engaging in. This slander against their belief system -"

"It's not slander, Madam Secretary, it's historical truth, amply documented by the Hitlerites themselves. Read their holy texts. Look at the historical record. The first war of Hitlerite Expansion in minus 32 U.E. killed 60 million people. The second war of Hitlerite Expansion in 60 U.E. killed 115 million. The third war -"

"It is historically irresponsible to ascribe all of the deaths in those wars to the Hitlerites. The causes of the wars were complicated. Let me remind you that in World War Two – and let us use the proper names for these wars, not some minority's invented jingoistic terms – it was the anti-Hitlerite bigots who used nuclear weapons. And then in the Unification War it was the anti-Hitlerites who unleashed the Sleep Plague. And, of course, in the First Near Earth War it was the anti-Hitlerites who initiated comet strikes. So if you want to talk war crimes, sir -"

"I do want to talk about war crimes, and I-"

"Let me finish. If you want to talk war crimes, then you have to acknowledge that no side is blameless. The World Wars, the Near Earth Wars, the Martian Conflict – those happened long ago, in a different time, and our own ancestors were as much to blame – perhaps even more to blame – for the death toll."

"Long ago? The Martian Diaspoa was only 300 years ago. Many of our AI citizens remember it! But I digress: no one is arguing that there weren't casualties caused by both sides. The argument that those of us against Hitlerite immigration are making is that Hitlerism is inherently a violent expansionist ideology, that all of the wars of Hitlerite Expansion were innitiated by the Hitlerites, and that letting Hitlerites into the Oort will be a terrible mistake."

"Sir Emergent, it is disrespectful and disgusting to slander an entire people – an entire faith community – by labeling them as violent and expansionist. The vast vast majority of Hitlerites have never engaged in violent, and polls consistently show that the majority reject violence. They-"

"Fifty seven percent reject violence – which is another way of saying forty three percent endorse it!"

"If you interrupt me again, this debate is at an end."

The emergent shrugged and the secretary continued. "As I was saying, the majority of Hitlerite believers reject violence. And, in fact, the people that we are discussing today are themselves refugees from the extremist violence of their homelands. We are discussing victims, not agressors here."

Neither party spoke for a moment.

"Sir emergent, would you like to reply?"

"Ah, you're done? Very well. I believe that we both agree that forty three percent of Hitlerites endorse initiating violence, do we not?"

The secretary pursed her lips. "A minority do, regrettably, yes. I'd be curious to see what percent of O.O.C. citizens also do. I bet it's at least as high. Your [ translator's note: the following word is imprecise ] faction, for example, is on record as saying that we should burn the refugee ships before they cross into Jovian space -"

Sir Emergent [ translator's note: the following is terribly imprecise, but no better phrase is available ] drummed his fingers on the podium.

" – and – if I may quote 'destroy them all, so that no more invasion ships will launch'. Between these two choices, genocide or tolerance, the only moral choice is tolerance."

Sir Emergent [ translator's note: as per above ] leaned forward. "First, I object to the assertion that 'my faction' has argued that. There are multiple overlapping phyles in this quor-alliance, as there are in your own. To tar my entire mindshare by saying that it endorses genocide, just because a few of the more excitable four sigmas have said they want to burn the ships is to engage in the non-central fallacy. Second, to say that there are only two choices, burning the ships of the Hitlerite refugees or admitting arbitrary numbers of them to the O.C.C., is to engage in the fallacy of the excluded middle. There are more than two options. We have repeatedly backed porposals in the Unicam to fund refugee colonies on Ceres. Additionally, there are vast numbers of unused and underutilized O'Neil colonies in the trailing Jovian Trojan point, which could be purchased quite cheaply from the controlling AI syndics. More than enough to house all of the Hitlerite refugees."

"House them in permanent refugee camps? To treat them as second class citizens is offensive to post-human dignity – both theirs and ours."

"Madame Secretary, I agree that the Hitlerite refugees shouldn't be treated as second class citizens – they should be treated as non-citizens. Which is what they are!"

"I find your attitude condescending and pre-post-human."

Sir Emergent [ translators note: I give up. ] shrugged. "You are free to have whatever emotional response you prefer. The facts remain stubbornly on my side, though, and they are these:

One: The Hitlerite ideology was created by a madman, a murderer, and a genocidal dictator. It was birthed in war, and has only ever grown by war.

Two: The Hitlerite regime has done nothing but grow for 1,500 years. It has occasional setbacks, yes, but first it conquered the Teutonic regions, then all of Old Europa, then the Northern Hemisphere, then Earth, then the Lunar -"

"Please spare us from the tedious -"

"Madam Secretary, you chastised me earlier for interruption. Please let me finish."

Madame secretary harrumphed.

The Emergent continued "Then the Lunar Republic, then in rapid succession Mercury and Venus. And we've already covered the Martian Diaspora. This list only includes Hitlerite aggression in meat-space. I note that where there was once a flourishing civilization of AIs inside the Belt, there are now precisely zero.

"Three: you can argue all you want that the Hitlerite ideology is fundamentally similar to our own OCC family of ideologies, but it's not; Hitlerism is based on the premise that outsiders must be eliminated. You can argue all you want that Hitlerism has moderated from its early days, but it hasn't; you yourself admit that almost fifty percent of the refugees believe in initiating violence. Their attitudes towards the uplifted and cyborg citizens are even worse. Polls back me up on this. And finally, you can argue that refugees will assimilate into Oort culture and become more moderate in time, but there is little or no evidence to support that. Witness the Jovian Collectives experience with their Hitlerites: the permanent resentful underclass, the recent Hitlerite-led pogroms against uplifted dolphins and racoons on New Europa and Ganymede, the proposed laws against large arrays of personalities.

"Madam Secretary, in short, to admit Hitlerites to the OCC is to invite the destruction of our own society.

"We must be insane, literally insane, to permit this inflow. If we do it, we will be building our own funeral pyre."

"Sir Emergent, that's quite enough. I ask the Moderators General for unanimous consent of the delegates to dissolve this quorum and instantiate another more conducive to proper discourse. A vote please? Very well. We'll now continue with a new construct. Welcome Sir Emergent Novus."

Sir Emergent Novus bowed from the waist. "Thank you for having me here, ma'am."

I turned the polyseme off and checked the replicator. This debate was boring, would never affect me, and – besides – I was hungry.

California's City of Inglewood Can't Copyright City Council Meetings, Case Against YouTube Critic Tossed

A brief update on a case I'd written about on my old pitiful blog, where you can read more if you're interested, about the City of Inglewood, California and its ill-fated attempt to sue a YouTube critic on the basis that videos of its City Council meetings were protected by copyright.  It didn't go well, and will probably get worse for Inglewood's taxpayers.

[Read more…]

Kutner-ing Corners

Adam Kutner1 is (apparently) a familiar face around Las Vegas.  He's of the genus of lawyers with television advertisements, intoning soberly: "have you been injured in an accident?", as music likely reused from an episode of Unsolved Mysteries fills the background:

Kutner can empathize, because he's also been injured — online.  And his new lawsuit is a good example of why Nevada's pretty-damn-good anti-SLAPP statute is important.

[Read more…]

Mad Max: Actually, It's About Ethics In Truck Driving

(note: nearly zero spoilers. perhaps actually zero.)

The three genres of the Mad Max trilogy

The interesting thing about the original Mad Max trilogy is that each movie belongs to an entirely separate genre. Mad Max is a 1970s biker film, Road Warrior is a western, and Thunderdome is NFL half-time show. In world-building, yes, they're all post-apocalyptic films (except for the first, which is perhaps during the very early stages of a grinding apocalypse), but genre conventions and associations matter a heck of a lot: they give us a structure to fit the pieces in to and a set of expectations about what comes next.

The original Road Warrior is, it's almost universally agreed, the best of the three, and I think the reason is not just the incredible visceral car chases and wrecks and stunts, but the western format. Echoing perhaps not only Star Wars and a bunch of Sergio Leone spaghetti, but the best western ever (Kurosawa's Seven Samurai) , the plot plays out like this: the drifter encounters a populace in need, insists that he's no hero, reluctantly is converted to serving the cause, and then – ronin-like – drifts away when the moment of need is over.

As a side note, the original Road Warrior also delivers on the important but unspoken requirement of a good western: good cinematography that displays a vast panoramic landscape. The shots where Max is looking down at the refinery camp and the desert looks so huge and empty under the infinite sky is breath taking. Later there's a second shot that always makes me catch my breath: the leaders of the refinery camp are deliberating under a single electric light against a wide purple sky. The juxtaposition of the small bright spark of technology (the first electric light we see in the entire movie, and, I think, the only one) against vast world gone dark is stunning.

Thunderdome sucked (although, after a re-watch recently, not as much as I'd once thought – it's actually the second best movie in the trilogy, and if only a few things were changed could be a lot better) for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that it departed from the Western genre for a Hollywood-ized, big-budget, campy halftime show.

Anyway, I take us down memory lane not merely for the sake of nostalgia, but as a jumping off point to explain Fury Road. Because until you understand what genre the movie is, you can't understand the movie.

A Western Super-Hero Movie

Fury Road has many of Road Warrior's strengths: it is at least half a western, and it is jam-packed with dangerous automotive mayhem.

Crucially, it did not make the same mistake as Thunderdome: taking its huge budget and using it for camp. Or, rather there are a few bits that could be campy in other contexts, but because they're so overwhelmed by gasoline, metal, and anger, they don't register as camp: one moment they're a distant dot on the horizon, and the next they're gone, behind, never to be seen again.

So, how well does Fury Road do as a Western? It does decently, but not great. The drifter arrives in town, he accidentally hooks up with the people in need, and he reluctantly agrees to help them. And then, at the end, like a tumbleweed, he drifts on. It checks all the Western boxes, but it does so perfunctorily, without passion …and, on one occasion, without a lot of sense.

Oh, and about the unspoken rule of good westerns? Yes, the amazing shots of the desert are there – boy are they there. But you knew that already, from the trailers.

If I had to put my finger on the one thing that disappointed me about Fury Road it was that it had a bit of superhero genre mixed in. In watching Road Warrior one feels concern for the protagonists and fear over their prospects. The villains are just real enough – one thinks that, yes, two years after the nukes fell and the gas ran out, the most brutal of the biker gangs and the renegade cops could have come to exactly this. In the first third of Road Warrior we see Humongous and his gang murder, rape, and loot outriders from the refinery camp, so we know exactly what they're capable of. Later, when our hero and his charges venture out into the wasteland and into conflict with the villains we know how it might very well end: the vehicles caught, destroyed, captives pulled out, brutally raped, and then crossbow-bolted when they're of no more use.

In contrast to this level of realism, Fury Road turns the dial one more, to eleven, for that push over the cliff. It was an inspired choice, in a way: I'm glad I saw these insane war rigs, I'm glad I saw the gouts of flame, the grenades, the spiked cars, the white skinned lunatics leaping off of moving vehicles to their certain deaths, and more. I've never seen anything like it before, and it was glorious.

…but necessarily, if you're serving up an apple, you're not serving up an orange.

The scale, the craziness, the everything – all at once, in every direction – is shocking, and aweing, and wonderful. …but because it's so much, and so hyper-real, the movie slips away from being a Western and into being a superhero movie. These villains are not what real biker gangs and real cops could have evolved into in the wasteland: these are comic book crazies. In the real world, no one would actually build these vehicles. No one would actually do these things. No one would actually set up this tribe or this economy.

…and thus, because it's so much larger than life, it is not life. In Blade Runner, when Deckard misses his jump at the very end of the movie and is hanging twenty stories above hard pavement I gulp, because the idea of falling twenty stories is a real one. I can picture it. My heart hammers. My palms sweat.

In Fury Road, when Max is standing on top of a war rig hurtling through the desert I'm mostly curious as to what will explode next. There is not a moment of fear about the shear insanity of standing on top of a moving vehicle doing sixty over rough terrain. Think about that: if you're anything like me, just standing on top of the tanker would scare you to the point of needing new underwear. Yet in Fury Road none of it seems real. The violence was glorious and picturesque and insane…but not once was it scary. …because not once was it real.

Fury Road is a superhero movie.

Who is the superhero?

Fury Road is odd. Unlike the previous films in the franchise, there's not one hero, there are two. And, in fact, Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa is at the center of the plot, and at the center of the heart of the film. She drives the action, she drives the truck, she drives the plot. This is a bit odd, given that the movie is called "Mad Max: Fury Road" and not "Imperator Furiosa: Fury Road", but what are you going to do?

That said, Max gets a lot of the action, and even if it's not 51%, there's more than enough to go around.

MRA boycott because Fury Road is feminist propaganda

Someone, I think Roosh V, has announced that Fury Road is feminist propaganda and should be boycotted. There are three reasons that I can think to call a boycott.

First, to put economic pressure on someone. Given the size of the movie industry and the size of the MRA world, I can't imagine that anyone thinks that this might work.

Second, to keep out badthink (the SJW tactic of blockbots, etc.). Say what you will about the MRAs, but I don't think that this is their style.

Third, to create a conspicuous cost to being a member of community, thus serving as an initiation ritual of sorts, and binding the members of the community together.

It's gotta be number three, right?

< shrug >

Moving on:

So, is Fury Road a feminist movie?

I can see why the MRAs say so. It does seem to go out of its way to hit a few feminist tropes – I felt like I was reading bad lesbian science fiction from the 70s once or twice.

Clan of wizened "wise women"? check.

…who live a simpler, more peaceful life? check.

…and have peaceful flower-power hippie names ("Initiating Mother", "Vuvalini of the Many Mothers", "Clan Swaddle Dog", etc.)

…and carry a bag of seeds with them, a symbol of the nurturing protective womb? check.

Pro-forma enunciation that women are not property? check.

Kick-ass heroine, because girls can be just as tough as guys? check.

So, yes, there is a bit of feminism shoe-horned awkwardly into the movie. But it's more silly than objectionable. And, in fact, conservatives will find a lot to chuckle over: the maguffin on the entire chase is the group of young breedable women…and yet not once does anyone suggest that they do anything other than breed. No, a just society, it seems, will still have these women cranking out babies…just under (heh) the good guys, and not the Ugly Old Coot.

Yes, but is Fury Road a feminist movie?

No. Not unless "blowing immense quantities of shit up in a vast barren desert" is a new form of feminism I'm unfamiliar with (and if it is, I promise to give feminism another look-see – that'd be a promising development).

To the degree it's got any ideology, it's about ethics in truck driving: "people should not be slaves, nor should they live under corrupt all-powerful kleptocratic dictatorships".

That strikes me as pretty damned libertarian.

Should you see it?


In the theater.


It's not the perfect movie. It's not even the perfect Mad Max movie. But it is a spectacle of the best kind, and there's no substitute for seeing it the way every western is meant to be seen: spread across a screen as huge as the desert itself.

Post-Holiday Deadly-Sin-of-Pride Open Thread

So you wrote a blog post that you thought was really good, but somehow everyone missed it. Or you just got a good column published. Or your kid won the Hunger Games. Or your dog learned to shake hands. Or you got your name in the newspaper for rescuing a squirrel. Or you're up to something you think is cool.

Tell us in this thread! I declare that the cultural norms against boasting do not apply herein, to the extent they ever apply on the internet.

Please note this is not a thread about recriminations from other threads or places.

The Ken vs Vox Day Slap Fight

My wrong prediction

The other day my friend Ken asked me (and the other Popehat contributors) for feedback on his idea of blogging about his depression. He specifically wondered if various folks on the net would attack him for it.

I'm not a personal friend of Vox's, but I am an acquaintance (I have roughly as many political points of agreement with Vox as I do with Ken, so we run in the same circles, even if I'm not a card carrying member of the "Dread Ilk"), and I thought the idea that Vox would attack Ken for the post was a bit far fetched – I thought Vox wouldn't stoop to that level.

So I responded:


As someone who wrestled the black dog for a decade or more (thankfully, tho, not in the last 15 years or so), I'm a huge fan of your posts on this topic.

The cost of writing is centralized (your effort, your potential embarrassment (not that I think there's anything remotely embarrassing about it)) , and the benefit is widespread. Which is to say, in pure market terms, it's "not worth it" for you to write on the topic.

…but it makes the world a better place.

Re Vox: he's not a friend of mine, but he is an acquaintance. If he says shit, I'll rain hell-fire on him.

And then, after Ken put up his great post, I tweeted

and I stand by that.

And now it turns out that Vox has – exactly as some expected, and exactly contrary to my own predictions – attacked Ken for the contents of his post.

The raining of hell-fire – a desire I don't have at the moment

I told Ken I'd rain hell-fire on Vox, but now that it comes down to it, I realize that I'm not angry – I'm sad. I'm not sad for Ken's sake – Ken is a big boy and can take a bit of name calling on the net. I'm sad because I thought Vox was made of better stuff.

Actually, I still do. Vox is a performance artist par excellence, but he's also a crisp thinker, and usually not a name-caller. He understands that the effect of deflating someone's argument through logic and facts is a thousand times better than calling them names.

…which isn't to say that Vox doesn't call names. He does. He often does it in a cutesy way where what he says is – technically – not name-calling. "I was just stating a fact – the guy is short, given the median height of Canadians, which is 5' 9.8" according to a UNESCO survey I'm linking to."

Vox does this, I think, because years of playing war games and fighting MMA has taught him a fair bit about tactics, and he realizes that these feints lead his opponents to – well, I could invoke some phrases from Clausewitz or Jomini, but, in the parlance of our times, "lose their shit" is appropriate and isn't overstating it – and then he can step back and point, shrug, and say "see what I mean?"

This may be good tactics, but I'm not in love with it, and – as someone who's got a decent measure of respect for Vox – I wish he wouldn't do it.

So, anyway, I'd like to explain why I respect Ken, why I respect Vox, and why I think that the politics of personal attack are uncool, and why I wish both my friend and my e-acquaintance wouldn't do it.

My friend Ken

I'm proud to call Ken a friend, and I only hope that I've earned enough of his respect so that he chooses to use the same word for me.

I've met a lot of impressive people in my time on the planet, and Ken is near the very top of the list. He's whip-smart, he's compassionate, he almost always sides with the underdog, he started out as a federal prosecutor but had the strength of character admit that maybe the other side had the better ethical argument, he built a law firm from scratch, he's a great family man – basically, I haven't come across an area where Ken is not devs above the mean.

– and, on a personal note, when I was deep deep in the shit once years ago, he answered the proverbial 3am phone call and saved my ass (full details some other time, but, if you think "subpoenas, a briefcase full of money, and expert advice on how much lime to use to dissolve a body", you're off in the right direction).

You can't buy loyalty like that, and if you could, you couldn't afford it.

And even I, who sing Ken's praises, was a bit surprised by his blog post the other day. Not surprised, overly, at the contents, but surprised at the balls he had to publish it, knowing that people would use it against him.

There's the old saw that bravery isn't the absence of fear: bravery is being afraid and doing the right thing anyway.

Ken's posts on depression help people – the most vulnerable and despised people out there: the sad sacks, the "slackers", the people who "just need to buck up and start getting shit done".

As I said in my forum post, quoted above, when Ken does one of these posts, the benefit accrues to dozens or hundreds of nobodies, and the the costs all land on Ken's shoulders.

And Ken does it anyway.


I'd like to be half the man Ken is some day.

My acquaintance Vox Day

Popehat.com is a civil liberties blog, and because Ken is fashionably, but discretely, left of center, the entire tone of the blog and of the readership averages left of center.

So, when I say "I've got a lot of respect for Vox Day", I expect to be met with hisses and boos.

Well fuck that shit: listen up, people.

Vox, like Ken, is a thoroughly impressive person. Back when most of us were farting around in college, Vox managed to bootstrap a band that cranked out some top-40 hits (amusing note: I actually picked up one of his band's CDs used about 20 years ago, a decade before I ever encountered the modern incarnation of Vox). Aside from music, Vox is also a very good fiction writer, putting many of his more respectable peers to shame. His organizational skills are fantastic, and he's bootstrapped not just his own online brand and followers, but mobilized them in a culture war against the SJWs for the control of the Hugo (a large blog post on this topic is half written, by the way). He's launched a science fiction publishing company seeming in his spare time, he's edited books, he's recruited top authors, and more. …and all of this in his spare time between doing game design, raising a family, and playing in a soccer league.

You can say that Vox's political opinions are terribly wrong. You can say that Vox is mean. You can say that he's cruel.

…but anyone who says that Vox is stupid, illogical, or lazy is just revealing themselves as either ignorant (the best case) or dishonest (the worst case).

If anyone hear thinks that Vox is dumb, I encourage you to hold your nose, read his blog for a week, and actually think about his arguments. You might think his axioms are wrong, but if you're honest with yourself, you won't think that his logic is flawed.

The Ken and Vox slap fight

I'm not exactly sure when the Ken and Vox started going at it, but my hunch is that Ken started it. I know that at least a few years ago Ken said something along the lines of "Vox looks like he gets his haircuts at the same place he got his lobotomy".


I really wish that when Ken wanted to attack someone's ideas, he just attacked their ideas, instead of making fun of them personally. But, as a wise man once said

Maybe that was the first slap in the fight. Maybe it was the 400th. But, yeah, my money is that Ken started this. And then Vox responded in kind.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Vox started it, and Ken responded in kind.

Anyway: I respect both of these guys, and I wish they wouldn't be dicks.

I'm going to respond to Vox's post, because it's handy.

First, I think that Vox is honest when he says:

Now, I don't wish disease of any kind on anyone. I never have and never will. I would very much like for everyone, even those who most hate me, to be healthy, happy, and well.

…but this is part of Vox's standard style, where all of the words of his posts are calm and unobjectionable, so when they're quote later they look like the most innocent things…but the overall gestalt is carefully engineered to provoke at an emotional level.

I admit that I've used exactly the same technique in my time. It's effective, it's clever – and on my better days, I think it's a bad thing. So, yes, I think Vox is telling the truth when he says this…but when this is sandwiched into a post that starts with the subject line "What part of 'cruelty artist' don't you understand?" and ends with the advice for Ken to get off the internet because, presumable, Ken is too fragile and delicate to handle the manly give-and-take of no-holds-barred intellectual action…well, I don't think one is really going out on a limb when one declares the whole bit of performance art a carefully designed bit of cruelty.

What is Vox trying to achieve with this post? What do we monkeys ever try to achieve in our social machinations? We intend to increase the status of ourselves and our teams, and we intend to mock, ridicule, and degrade the status of the opposing team.

So when Vox writes

When I read Ken's post about his breakdown and his struggles, my overwhelming impression was sheer bewilderment. He might as well have written it in Chinese for all that I related to it.

he's saying, translated into monkey code: "Sad pink Ken SJW team: girly, weak and uncool. Awesome blue Vox PUA team: benchpress, squat, awesome awesome hoo-ah!"

Well, I call bullshit.

Vox is pretty awesome (sorry, SJWs) in a bunch of ways.

…and Ken is pretty awesome in at least as many.

So I'm not buying into Vox's narrative. It takes a certain kind of moral strength to fight when outnumbered, when scorned by the establishment, when mocked by all the cool people (hat tip to Vox). But it takes a different and at least equally good kind of moral strength to voluntarily expose personal weakness, for no better reason than because the act of exposure helps others (hat tip to Ken).

And you know what? Ken isn't lacking in the first kind of bravery either. Look at him wade into the Vox's lion den.

A call to slap no more

All men are mortal. Socrates is a man.

– wait –

What I meant to say is: All human are sinners. I'm a human. Therefore I'm a sinner.

I've gotten catty on the internet. I've name called. I've mocked people for their personal traits instead of engaging with their arguments.

I think this is a crappy way to behave, and at least every now and then I promise myself I'll do better in the future.

Ken and Vox also get catty and engage in name-calling.

I wish they wouldn't.

I'm not going to call on either of them to apologize. Not only because I don't know who started the spat, but because "calls for apology" are a bullshit SJW tactic: they're a power play, implicitly promising absolution and forgiveness and return to the fold in return for ritual humiliation.

Neither Ken nor Vox need absolution from me, because they haven't sinned against me.

…and neither needs to, nor should, apologize to each other, because given our current caustic culture war, apologies are just status lowering struggle-session rituals.

Here's what I do suggest, not just for Ken and Vox, but for all of us:

That we examine our behaviors with regard to name calling, and that we examine our motivations.

For those of us who identify as Christian, I further suggest that we reflect on the definition of cruelty – "pleasure in causing pain and suffering".

I suggest that it is entirely reasonable for a Christian to engage in rigorous ideological warfare, even if this accidentally causes butt-hurt and bruises when pretty lies are destroyed.

…but it is not, I suggest, What Jesus Would Do, to take active delight in causing pain or suffering.

In my ideal world, ideological antagonists would fight bitterly with each other, but they would do so virtuously:

Prudence (φρόνησις, phronēsis): also described as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time.

Justice (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē): also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue.

Temperance (σωφροσύνη, sōphrosynē): also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, and moderation tempering the appetition.

Courage (ἀνδρεία, andreia): also named fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation.

This is my modest proposal.


a sinner.

Just A Couple Of Questions About Lynch Mobs

If you're somebody who supports privacy and freedom of conscience, do you think it's healthy for a republic to have a political media that digs up wrongthink statements by random nobodies, then amplifies the statements to expose the random nobodies to ridicule or financial ruin by thousands of angry strangers?

And if you've participated in such ridicule, do you feel better, months later, knowing that you helped cost that random nobody a job, all over a poorly expressed statement on the internet?

Update: Judge Tim Grendell's Odd Letter To The Paper About His Censorious Thuggery

Yesterday I wrote about how Ohio judge Tim Grendell was abusing his contempt power in an unconstitutional attempt to retaliate against criticism.

Today a source provided me with a copy of the letter Judge Grendell sent to the editorial board of a local paper, the Plain Dealer, in response to a critical article.

The letter satisfies my expectations concerning Judge Grendell.

To the Editorial Board ofCleveland.com,
As a constitutional oriented judge and legal scholar, I appreciate the First Amendment and the general right of free speech.

What tha blue fuck is a "constitutional oriented judge," other than an attempt to make me choke on my morning coffee?

Also, note the classic censor's rhetorical move: you always start saying you respect free speech. BUT . . . . [Edit: I am reminded that the technical term for this is "gertruding."]

But the right to free speech is not unlimited. Just as a person cannot stand up in a movie theater and yell "fire", a person has no constitutional right to falsely tell a party in an ongoing child protective custody case that the judge is mentally ill, does not follow the law, and should be "kicked" by that party. Such irresponsible and false speech is just as detrimental to the public welfare and the fair administration of our public justice system as the prohibited movie theater conduct is to public safety.

So much arglebargle.

First: "the right to free speech is not unlimited" is another typical censor's rhetorical move. It's a non sequitur. If you have relevant authority showing that this particular instance of speech is outside the protection of the First Amendment, cite it. Otherwise this is like saying, "well, there are some circumstances where I am allowed to shoot someone" when the cops come to arrest you for shooting your spouse.

Second: Stahhhhp. Staahhhhp with the hackneyed, misleading fire in a crowded theater reference. Protip: the legal analysis of anyone who references that Holmes line is not to be taken seriously.

Third, the generic and conclusory "detrimental to the public welfare and fair administration of our public justice system" is meritless for the reasons I explained yesterday. Most of the language he's complaining about is explicitly opinion and rhetorical hyperbole, and he hasn't come close to offering the sort of compelling evidence of actual disruption of justice required by three quarters of a century of Supreme Court precedent.

In the case in my court, involving the protection of a child in need ofjudicial intervention, Nancy McArthur's false speech encouraging a noncompliant party to continue to be disrespectful of the Court and noncompliant with Court orders was not protected speech. It was interference with a judicial proceeding and improperly impeded the protection of a child.

Judge Grendell's proposition seems to be that if a party to a case asks me about a judge, and I criticize the judge, I'm subject to a contempt order because I am encouraging disobedience. I invite Judge Grendell, with the assistance of a doctor holding a flashlight if necessary, to cite any authority supporting that proposition.

Confidentiality limitations prevent a discussion of any other facts, but suffice to say, the Plain Dealer's Editorial Board and Brent Larkin are mistaken as to both the facts and the law. This is particularly disappointing because the Court provided the newspaper with the correct information before it published its editorial.

Oddly, though the issue is so important to him, Judge Grendell cannot cite a single precedent supporting his unconstitutionally narcissistic view of his own contempt power. Ultimately this letter is reminiscent not of an analysis by a "legal scholar" but of a YouTube comment.

People like this decide on which of your rights the State will recognize.