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Archive for the category “ethics”

Is Marriage Unconstitutional?

This began as a comment at The Conservative Sociologist in response to her reaction to the GMM (Gay Marriage Movement).  She isn’t opposed, but finds the logic and media presentation to be flawed and annoying – she writes an interesting blog, you should check it out.

What I said was:

What I rarely see discussed is the unconstitutional nature of government regulated marriage in the USA.

In English Common Law (the law of the land when what would become the USA was still British colonies) the State is the Church and thus there is no conflict between the governments regulation and sanction of an expressly religious ceremony. The US Constitution explicitly forbids government sanction or recognition of religion. On its face, this would seem to make (federal of a certainty and arguably state as well) government involvement in marriage unconstitutional as a matter of constitutional prohibition.

Making this all so much about anything other than the gender of either participant is the acknowledged transfer of ownership of real property (to include at least one of the participants for the historical purists amongst us) that is part and parcel of the religious ceremony in contention. I don’t know about a crisis necessarily, but it is certain that no government will waste an opportunity to claim taxes and fees so I don’t expect the Supreme Court to take up this issue any time soon.

Of course, anyone seriously advancing this argument can be certain pretty much everyone will have the knives out in response … literally; virtually all of human society bases property rights and law on this explicitly religious arrangement, whatever particular religion may be the facilitator.

To be constitutionally consistent in the USA, marriage would have to be strictly a religious commitment and property rights associated with that arrangement would have to be explicitly made a contractual and entirely separate agreement between the involved parties, whether part of a civil union type contract or otherwise.

I think we can take it as a given that the GMM will be among the most fervently opposed to this question ever arising.

Marriage as it is commonly practiced in the US is an historical relic from a time when the state and church were functionally combined; the US constitution explicitly forbids state and religious union (I know that’s not a direct quote).  The US Supreme Court has a history of straining social camels through the constitutional needles eye, so that isn’t a realistic objection.  If all that be true, to be constitutionally consistent shouldn’t we either amend the document to grant explicit exception to the “no established religion” prohibition regarding the institution of marriage or write a law that makes formal the distinction between the religious commitment of marriage and the issue(s) of property rights and inheritance and all the rest?

Along with everybody else (to include Mrs. [and Mr. for all of that] Supreme Court Justice), I think it a given the gay folks amongst us will be just as much up in arms about such a ruling as pretty much everybody else will be; they are the stars of the marriage movement at the moment, in this circumstance they aren’t any different from their parents and that can’t be what equality is all about can it?

I expect this is all built on very shaky constitutional ground and has long since been resolved, but it applies an interesting filter to the questions surrounding marriage nonetheless, I think.


Going For The Gold

Via Drudge I learn from this AP story that some private US domestic organisation claims to have “stripped” Lance Armstrong of all of his 7 Tour de France titles – an authority actually exercised by the International Cycling Union.  The USADA also claims authority to revoke an International Olympic Committee authorized Bronze Medal awarded to Armstrong for his (carefully drug monitored) performance in the 2000 Olympics, as well as “… any awards, event titles and cash earnings.”

I think I begin to smell a motive for all this.

If the USADA does succeed in claiming for it’s own all of Lance Armstrong’s “earnings” over the course of his sports career, how much of his cancer foundations monies (reportedly some $500+ million) count as his earnings?

Talk about going for the gold.

Picture Of War Crime Justice

At the very end of his Dec. 22 Chaos Manor post, Jerry Pournelle links to a Treppenwitz post, now several months old, which examines a famous photo from the Vietnam War. Therein blogger David Bogner reviews some of the lesser known facts surrounding both the picture itself and people’s perception of the recorded image.

All of that is interesting, yet the single most operant fact that contributed to the circumstance playing out as it was recorded at the time is never directly mentioned.

Without recounting the Treppenwitz post, the basic facts are: in 1968 the Communist Viet Cong/Viet Minh insurgent forces staged extreme acts of violence in violation of a negotiated truce throughout much of then-South Vietnam. Captured in the act of mass murder, one of these VC was summarily tried and executed by the military and civil police commander for the city and military district of Siagon (the city since re-named as Ho Chi Minh City). This summary execution was captured on both still and motion photography, the still image probably being the more historically famous of the two.

Here’s the thing; the executed man (formally Captain Bay Lop, South Vietnamese Communist Party Army, Viet Minh) was properly judged and sentenced “in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention (aka Laws of Armed Conflict) regarding “Armed Partisans”, ” civilian combatant s”, and “crimes against non-combatants”. Were an American or other NATO officer to be presented with an insurgent in Afghanistan captured committing the same crimes, he would be equally in accordance with the law (negotiated treaty having force of same in the USA) in also issuing a summary judgement and execution. We would also subsequently crucify him too.

We cry about how terrible something is, empower someone to impose our considered will upon any perpetrator of that thing, and then cry in horror that we didn’t mean for what then happens to take place, all while we set out to destroy those who did our bidding in our name. Police, soldiers, politicians; you name it, the list is virtually endless. We put people in a position to act with our authority, then refuse to accept responsibility for the predictable results of our decision. If we want honest and open enforcement of our societal decisions, we must be prepared to accept responsibility for what those we so empower do as a result. Further, if we want an open and honest society (government, law enforcement, whatever) we must judge all things – not least ourselves – just as openly and honestly.

In executing Capt. Lop, South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan was photographed performing his sworn duty in an entirely lawful manner. The honest image of that honorable act was subsequently used in deliberate campaigns of lies and misdirection, both here in the United States and elsewhere, which are themselves symptoms of what still ails American society – possibly fatally. We very well may not be able to elect ourselves out of our present national condition, but I suggest Gen. Loans experience is instructive of the consequences if we don’t.

My thanks to Jerry Pournelle for this timely reminder at the outset of our latest national election year. Sometimes, harsh facts are best illustrated by harsh images.

Merry Christmas.

Just Bad Strategy

Via Say Uncle comes notice of recent events in Houston (actually, the north-west outskirts of the city).

The mission was supposed to be a textbook “controlled delivery” — a routine trap by law enforcement officers using a secret operative posing as a truck driver to bust drug traffickers when their narcotics are delivered to a rendezvous point.

Instead, things spun out of control. Shortly before the marijuana delivery was to be made Monday, three SUVs carrying alleged Zetas Cartel gunmen seemingly came out of nowhere and cut off the tanker truck as it rumbled through northwestern Harris County …

Leaving for another time the whole issue of structuring a war so as to inflict the greatest amount of damage upon your own territory and people, let’s focus our attention on what is reported in the Houston Chronicle story linked above and some of the known behavior of the participants mentioned there-in.

Skipping right past the obvious willingness of US law enforcement officers to resort to apparently unrestricted rules of engagement as regards their own firearms, not to mention their shameless willingness to place a non-LEO citizen in such an obvious high profile target position, we have self-identified Mexican national criminal gang members operating within the US just as they are accustomed to doing in Mexico.

So let’s look at that for a moment. Both of the major gangs operating in N. Mexico routinely target law enforcement personnel (and their families) who display even the slightest willingness to oppose their activities. The newspaper makes a good effort to clearly identify as many of the cops (or at the least their agency) involved in this incident as could be fit into the story.

How long can we expect to wait for the news report on the execution of any of these officers and/or their family members by other elements of the Zetas as is that group’s long established practice?

What might the 1st Amendment consequences be throughout the United States as a result of such an obvious occurrence?

What is the likelihood of such an organisation (Zetas) being willing to spread cash around to politicians and senior cops (pardon the redundancy) so as to not overload their limited personnel’s ability to inflict damage on an enemy without interfering with “business”?

Any “strategy” that doesn’t clearly articulate both recognition of obvious problems like these as well as obviate them via conceptual structural organisation is an exercise in deliberate failure. Or a false-flag operation to disguise some other intended objective, depending on your preferred flavor of kool-aid or hat materials.

The cops named in this story (along with their families) are now all under death sentence per long established Zetas protocol and the Houston Chronicle has obligingly provided the initial target list for that groups all-too-experienced killers with the willing cooperation of the targets police themselves.

Well done all.

The only “improvement” this story could have is if it should turn out that Fast & Furious guns (those provided to Mexican drug gangs with the active connivance of US federal law enforcement) were used in this gun fight too.

This is all the fault of ordinary American’s unwillingness to refrain from any activity their government decides they shouldn’t be doing, you understand, so take up your share of the blame and send more money to your government as restitution for your failure as a citizen.

Or not.

Not-Fisking Phil Bowermaster

Phil Bowermaster is the (co- ?) creator of The Speculist blog, co-host of Fast Forward Radio and now the on-line “voice” of the Zapoint company. I have been a long-time commenter on The Speculist as have Phil and his blog-partner Stephen on my blog; Phil has even gotten desperate for interview guests had me as a guest on Fast Forward Radio. He and I have a shared context, so I’m confident he won’t be offended by my adopting the utility of the more normally offensive form this post’s structure has admittedly been drawn from.

In his Transparency Revolutionary persona, Phil posted a complex viewpoint on secrecy and transparency that made reference to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Before getting into Phil’s post, let me take this opportunity to make clear that I personally regard Mr. Assange as being repulsive, self-aggrandising scum deserving the worst treatment humanly possible for his abusive betrayal of other’s safety merely to stroke his own ego and financially better himself. As he has operated it to-date, Wikileaks and all who participate in that great betrayal deserve the professional attentions of Seal Team Six at their next opportunity.

I’m widely known to be an easy-going guy though, so perhaps I understate my feelings.

Phil wrote:

The Spy Machine and Absolutes
Posted on May 3, 2011 by Phil

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is known for having strong opinions about things, e.g.:

Wikileaks Founder: Facebook is the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented

Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, and their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US Intelligence.”

I don’t think that’s just hyperbole.

Right you are Phil; it’s nonsense on stilts! Facebook is an accumulation of unsourced data points that might by correlated to indicate potential (and extremely tentative) conclusions to anyone willing to put forth the time and work necessary to structure the data to some unintended (by Facebook and it’s users) purpose.

A spy searches out data that has been deliberately obscured. In the Facebook example, a spy would spend extensive resources searching for the data concealed by the self-posted data available to anyone who logged on to the site. I am confident this is not what Mr. Assange refers to, so “spy” is entirely misleading as is his description of the nature of the data made available by Facebook’s users.

Putting aside the question of whether the US government has unhindered or even special express access to the Facebook database, such a collection of data is a tremendous intelligence tool and is bound to be used as such. Before Facebook, Google was the most appalling spy machine ever built. A decade or so ago, AOL was. Before that it was email. A century ago, it might well have been claimed that the telephone directory was.

Actually, as it’s structured Facebook is at best a collection of data that could have intelligence value in an extremely precise application by any party willing to search out those statistically few data points of relative value to the express purpose. Uncle Sugar may very well have access to every piece of information it could possibly want about you and in all likelihood wouldn’t ever know it did unless the .gov was already looking at you beforehand and knew to search for data specific to you. Otherwise, we’re all securely lost in the daticular sea of confusion that is Facebook.

Other than the potential for data search convenience once a specific data sequence has been identified, Facebook is a nightmare of data overload.

Assange is something of an absolutist when it comes to transparency. The defining principal behind Wikileaks is that any information that has been deemed restricted and that can be published…should be published. Assange is the universal, indiscriminate whistle-blower. In his view, government (and particularly intelligence agencies) represent a class of universal, indiscriminate exploiters of information.

And here we come to the point of contention.

Just in passing (and I am far from the first to make this observation), I notice Herr Assange – and Wikileaks more generally – seem to have the decidedly Circumstantialist policy of not revealing the secrets of those who have the reputation of actually killing those who do so. {cough}Putin{cough}

That out of the way, the US government is, at least in design, an extension of the citizens of that country. Even if only to the degree that can still be said to be true, the secrets he/they brute about are mine! The US federal government is a deliberately crafted construct intended to permit the greatest opportunity for expression of all the citizenry’s interests in all of their often gloriously contradictory intent. If Mr. Assange wishes to take active part in adjusting that construct, he should take out citizenship, otherwise I am in danger of agreeing with Vice-President Biden and the psychic shock of that occurance isn’t to be contemplated.

In his view, government (and particularly intelligence agencies) represent a class of universal, indiscriminate exploiters of information. Yes. Yes they are. In fact, I would go so far as to say that is one of the deliberate and designed-in purposes of the US federal government expressly for the benefit of the US citizenry at large. True “whistle-blowers” work to make sure the data exploitation doesn’t get directed against the citizens by their own government – who, it should be acknowledged, is expected to exploit everybody else (secretly, of course). Working to defeat this function is one of the actions taken by an active enemy of said country and it’s citizens.

Just sayin’.

For those of us who aren’t transparency absolutists, the world looks a little murkier. I agree with Assange that exposing corruption to the light of day is a good and necessary thing. I also agree that the government’s rather covetous attitude towards our rapidly diminishing private information is a cause for concern–if not alarm.

exposing corruption to the light of day is a good and necessary thing. Disagree on principle. Exposing corruption may well be a just and necessary thing, but “good” can only be derived from the context within which an action takes place. Exposing someone for stealing to feed his/her family (receiving food stamps fraudulently, say) would be Just, but precious little Good would come of it.

“Justice” and “Goodness” are synonyms only to those who impose judgement upon others, which is not the same thing as judging something for one’s self. This may seem a pedantic point of distinction, but it remains an important distinction nonetheless, I submit. Without a fixed meaning applied to concepts like language, human civilisation fails.

When I look at Facebook, I see a lot of things, but I don’t know that a “spy machine” is among them. Nor can a look at Wikileaks and see an unmitigated good. (I don’t doubt that Wikileaks is powerful, however, and likely to become more so.)

Wikileaks “power” is the direct result of the degree of use others make of it, not some factor inherent to the structural model. If, as has been charged, some soldier hadn’t violated his oath of service, Wikileaks wouldn’t have access to the data it has cooperated in betraying, ergo Wikileaks would have nothing to leak on it’s own. Wikileaks’ only “power” is it’s promise of betrayal. Betrayal of those who confide in it. Betrayal of the trust of those who’s data is stolen.

I can see the appeal of the absolutist mindset. Everything is so tidy; there are no difficult choices to make. The government should never conceal any information, and any that is concealed should be revealed. Any government interest in personal information is, by definition, not legitimate and to be opposed. And, of course, any large collection of personal information is nothing more than an opportunity for exploitation.

Those ideas are close enough to the truth to be appealing, but far enough from it to be dangerous. The reality is that every decision to disclose or withhold information involves a trade-off of risks and benefits. There is frequently ambiguity around who owns any given piece of information, who is entitled to know it, and who benefits either from its concealment or disclosure.

The absolutist approach leads ultimately not to transparency but to a kind of information anarchy. The element of trust is what’s missing both from closed organizations and societies and from the worldview of the transparency absolutists. Real transparency is all about leveraging the power of openness and authenticity within a complex and often ambiguous framework that we know as “the real world.” A transparent society or organization is self-aware, self-directed, and self-optimizing in a way that a low-trust society or organization never could be.

Let me conclude by stating that I hold Julian Assange in such low regard not due to my love of government intrusion or fondness for data classification protocols, but rather due to his unrepentant and deliberate disregard for the impact his actions have on those who’s lives are part and parcel of the data he exposes so indiscriminately. Not so much for the individual actors, those who are knowingly participants in that which Assange reveals (though they are equally deserving of having their trust respected), but more for those associated with them, their families and other associates. All these and more are actively endangered just so Julian Assange can have me typing his name onto my computer screen (among other claims to infamy). Perhaps even more than all of that though, Julian Assange deserves contempt for his desecration of the human condition expressed in the word “trust”. In my view, people everywhere are more suspicious of each other, and less generous of forgiveness, as a direct result of Assange’s Wikileaks debasement of trust, and for this most of all I despise him and all his works.

The reality is that every decision to disclose or withhold information involves a trade-off of risks and benefits. This.

Colored by the realisation that all people (as individuals or in organised fashion) work to achieve advantage for themselves, the gains realised through transparency will always need to be balanced by the advantage gained from closely held knowledge as well.

Which is just another way of saying what Phil said in closing.

UPDATE: The one time I don’t check Instapundit first, he has this bit of Facebook relevance on offer. Talk about your “spy machine”. 😉

Law? It’s For The Little People

So, will this little incident disqualify Tarrant Co. from participation in the court jury process as it does for Texas citizens? Not only is this multiple counts of “fraud by check”, it’s serial attempts as well. As we all hear every time we appear for jury service, even instances when the check writer doesn’t actually receive trial is the equivalent of conviction for the purposes of jury duty qualification.

So, is the court above the law it exists to adjudicate?

Conservative = Conspiracy?

Much to Alan’s proclaimed mystification, I’m a fan of Vicious Circle and greatly enjoy the interaction of the gun blogging “characters” who directly participate. As a result, I tend to read their personal blogs frequently as well. Most of the time they each tend to be fairly consistent with their “on air” persona’s and intellectual positions. And I must confess, I’ve long suspected that Alan was a little more “out there” (in the Alex Jones/George Noory tradition) than he was want to let on. As evidence of this, his propagation of Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory as “Conservatism”.

Not only is this patently false as history, it completely distorts both the concept of “money” along with that of “conservative”.

Because some Hollywierd Left Out takes the opportunity his flapping in the breeze on the backside of Andrew Breitbart’s coattails provides him doesn’t make the result even remotely true. Please, Alan, tell me that you aren’t serious about any of this – most particularly the cheap and over-done rip off of the whole “300” meme at the end?

I find it hard to believe that any serious person, particularly one who champions individual firearm ownership and usage, would even consider for a moment the obvious logical fallacy in the whole “gold = money” hysteria. I can’t believe, Alan, that you would seriously argue that the gun is the civil right enshrined in the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution; why then would you allow yourself to even appear to argue that one of the many manifestations (a particular refined metal) of the intellectual concept of money actually is the concept itself?

Added to all that, do you even realise, Alan, how you have positioned yourself as a practitioner of one of the oldest and most frequently disproved racist libels of human history? Red Shield? Rotts Schield? Rothschild? You’re not seriously going to promote “The Evil Jew Banker” as being in any way equivalent to “true conservative values”, are you Alan?

And please don’t think for a moment just taking my word on either of the preceding two paragraphs. Read for yourself what Niall Ferguson (that would be the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and not some other one) has to say on all of that in his quite readable The Ascent Of Money.

Want to argue means and methods for keeping money a transparent and measurable allotment of value? Have at it, I’d love to take part, but not if the premise is in any way based on myth, slander or mysticism (all common attributes of the “gold is money” fabulists position). Here’s an opening gambit: In what ways are variously refined metal’s monetary position equivalent to the historic claim of Roman Catholic Church doctrinal claims of primacy in all questions having to do with religious or ethical debate?

The logical inconsistencies alone will keep you occupied for some time, I predict, but the answer is quite simple and direct.

Are they trying to start a fight?

Yes, they are Tam. And the way they win is to get you to swing first.

This is basic classical strategy, folks. When forced to engage an enemy within a defined boundary (like a national border), every effort must be taken to provoke as many localized incidents as possible so as to prevent formation of an organised and unified opposition. Especially when attacking from a position of (societal) dominance, it is desirable to incite actions in response to which exceeding established societal constraints and limitations can be argued as imposed necessity. The more extreme the enemy (that would be our fellow citizens, you understand) can be portrayed to be, the easier it is to claim the rightness of whatever behavior needs justification. Claiming the moral high ground isn’t enough, being acknowledged as being in the ethical and moral right is mandatory for the ultimate legitimacy of any “victorious” claimant.

Do you know why fascism ultimately failed following WW II? Because the Jews held the moral high ground ’till the gasping, fiery end and were acknowledged as having done so. How many of us are prepared to go to such an equivalent extreme in order to “restore the Constitution” or “show that socialist _______ (name of politician of your preference here) what’s what”?

Have you – not just you personally, Tam – have we taken a moment to consider just who it is we are most likely to violently confront “come the revolution”? It won’t be Judge George Steeh of the Eastern District of Michigan, some bureaucracy, or any politician; no, it’s going to be the people specifically employed to “interface” with the public. You know, the cops. With the fire fighters and EMS types very quickly to follow.

Take a look at the riots in the LA area back in 1992. While the fuzz was all forted up during the first 36 – 48 hours of the thing, the FD and EMS were regularly shot at (and even occasionally hit). Persistent denial of authority’s intrusion into disputed territory is one of the most commonly chosen tactical errors known. I say error because the simple fact of control of a region being visibly/publicly disputed is sufficient to undermine authority’s claims thereon; actively engaging them (especially from within the boundaries of that region) on their own terms thereafter is a recipe for defeat in detail.

Are we really prepared to accept the almost certainly utterly insignificant nature of the incident(s) that will spark off the conflagration? It won’t be the next act of further infringement on our rights itself, it will be some cop’s trying to “do his duty” afterwards that has Joe and Jane Six-Pack going off. Maybe the FBI “… tagging you like a migrating harp seal every time you want to run to the 7-11 for a bag of chips, and warrant be damned” or just Officer Random Example serving a subpoena. All without any of us going anywhere near a Costco you will note.

Before this goes too much further, might I suggest a close examination of the French Resistance during WW II? Pay attention to who was associated with whom, and by what political ideology and/or class distinction, and then determine how almost everyone eventually “just happened” to come to the Gestapo’s peculiar attentions. France is a pretty unified country compared to America, any bets on how long it takes for the debt settling to get good and bloody here? Then add all of those foreign US bond (government debt) holders trying to get some of their own back into the mix.

There’s never a “good” time to start fighting and “history” is always much nastier in the doing than in the telling later. Before we do this, maybe take the time to check for alternative options just one more time? We don’t want to fall victim of “their” manipulations, do we?

Even if you can put it out in time, there’s just not much you can do with a burnt bridge afterwards.

Who Own’s The Dead?

Or, perhaps more fully phrased as; can the dead retain “rights”?

In comments to this film review of the then-recently released James Cameron film Avatar by Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon, I said in part:

I forget who’s scifi story I read it in (lo, these many years ago now), but the idea put forth was that technology had developed to the point that it allowed then-living actors to emulate long dead performers (who already had an established marquee value) in new on-screen entertainment productions. For the life of me, I can’t see how the technology behind Avatar wouldn’t allow this to actually occur now. Mind you, I’m not looking forward to watching “John Wayne” and a 13 y/o “Brooke Shields” as they star in the new production Rio Blue Lagoon, but I don’t doubt someone in Hollywierd will try that very thing some day too soon. Or worse.

The possibilities are a bit frightening actually, given the degree to which people’s experience has trained them to associate a broadcast image with the person being depicted. If someone used the Avatar technology to film an actor killing a person, and the crime was actually committed, what with all the physical evidence of a murder having occured, could you prove that wasn’t actually you in the video of the killing posted on You Tube? Or the President or the Pope, as the case may be? The possibilities are … interesting, aren’t they?

While trying to be somewhat provocative yet mindful of courtesy on another’s blog page, I may have mis-served my objective.

Expanding upon my initial (and thankfully still hypothetical as of yet) example, what are the property rights (amongst other) complications deriving from the example I offered above? Imagine if you will, an explicitly pornographic “entertainment” (pre-supposing that actual film and present-technology digital media aren’t the only distribution possibilities) depicting the physical image of John Wayne from the motion picture Rio Bravo in a graphic display of sexual congress (or, in more sailorly terms: a two-fisted three-holer) with the film image of the then-13 y/o Brooke Shields from the motion picture Pretty Baby combined with her performance two years later in The Blue Lagoon, giving rise to my speculative title; “Rio Blue Lagoon“.

Let me take just a moment to acknowledge both that, not only is the ever-lovely Brooke not dead yet, Mrs. Henchy is eminently capable of defending her own interests. In the present circumstance, what she provides is the context for a rare alignment of interests (mine); speculation on the possible ramifications of future developments, individual rights, strategy and smokin’ hot babes. Not necessarily in that order of precedence.

Returning to Mr. Cameron’s technical triumph (and I don’t believe it can honestly be described as anything less), there do seem to be a number of unintended consequences to his quest for the 2.5 billion dollar gross. The possibility I raised first on The Speculist has now been considered by none other than Brian Wang of the Lifeboat Foundation and principal author of the Next Big Future blog, where-in he also notes the less light-hearted possibilities:

“There is also the increased possibility of fake news interviews. The image of President Obama could be made to say or do anything. Similarly for Osama bin Laden.”

Drawing inspiration from the recent electoral event in Massachusetts, consider the following:

Dressed in casual attire, Senatorial candidate Scott Brown is seen leaning against a parked pick-up truck’s rear fender, speaking into the camera. While he does so, the nude figure of Martha Coakley is seen in the near background entering into the sex act with an heroically priapic Sen. Edward Kennedy while he rests his buttocks against a low bridge railing.

It almost doesn’t matter what verbal content is conveyed by such a video appearing on YouTube, Vimeo and all the rest of the on-line outlets available, the visual one is the message. The image technology displayed in Avatar makes this type of moving image’s falsehood essentially undetectable to all but the most in-depth examination of the process by which it was created, I believe (those with actual detailed knowledge of the technology’s limitations are encouraged to step in here – all I’ve got is how it has been publicly characterised to this point).

Possibly even more inimical is that precisely the same “performance” could be created by supporters of either of the two actual Senatorial candidates – to equal effect. Dueling douche-baggery, if you will.

Mr. Brown’s (either of us actually, but “the other” is most pertinent to this discussion, he selflessly asserts :)) history of apparent casualness regarding personal nudity plays into such an accusation of attacking an opponent in this fashion. Similarly, the predictable response of “shocked” “violation”, “virtual rape” and similar vociferous pronouncements from the Coakley camp.

All of which distract from my question today: what (if any) rights are retained by Mr. Kennedy, or his estate, in such a now-plausible scenario in light of Mr. Cameron’s visually stunning achievement?

Understand, all of the “actors” in the foregoing little (and also thankfully still hypothetical) drama would be performed by real, living people who’s images were subsequently re-worked with Avatar-type technology to seamlessly appear as presented above. The two candidates at least would still have the option to pursue recourse under existing laws governing electoral practices if in no other venue. Mr. Kennedy isn’t afforded that opportunity any longer and I’m unclear on what alternative option might plausably be pursued, and by which “offended” parties, under any existing US legal construct (leaving for the moment the more direct time-honored methodology that modern social and legal institutions frown upon).

The actors could claim legal innocence plausibly enough. If the post-production work was done outside US legal jurisdiction, I’m not sure any recourse via the courts would be possible under current legal codes.

For myself, I think the concept of property extending to one’s image is well-enough established that a straight-forward extension of that concept into perpetuity as the default legal standard doesn’t seem that contorted. Such a legal position allows for added revenue possibilities for individuals as well as those who also hold more limited rights to someone’s visual image, along with further complication of estate planning, but these are details that markets are well demonstrated to sort out given a sufficiently solid demarcation within which to do so.

Any thoughts? Mrs. Henchy per chance? 🙂

Yes Redux

Now this is how you respond to a circumstance as discussed at the links included here. Get allies.

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