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Guest Post - Quixotic legal battle

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.03.21

NickS writes: With the news that the court may accept the Purdue bankruptcy plan, worth reading this profile of the quirky lawyer who had been fighting the plan on behalf of a small group of clients and a sense of justice:

Here, the law empowers a single judge to halt some 2,600 lawsuits against Purdue from opioid victims and nearly every state in the nation. What is extraordinary is that Drain has used that power to also freeze attorneys general in their tracks from investigating Sackler family members, even though they themselves have not filed for bankruptcy. It's supposed to be a temporary power, because a federal judge stepping on a state's sovereign powers is a serious thing, constitutionally speaking. But here, the judge has extended that temporary power 18 times since the case began in 2019. Purdue's apparent aim is for Drain to extend it long enough for the company to obtain a deal that buries those lawsuits and kills the rights of states and opioid victims to pursue the individual Sacklers.
The attorneys general of 24 states and the District of Columbia publicly oppose Purdue's plan. The opponents, including Massachusetts and New York, represent 53 percent of the American population. They have tried to persuade Drain to let them gather more evidence to test their claims against individual Sackler family members in court. That's the best way, they say, to help them decide whether to settle, and on what terms.

Heebie's take: Quinn is the plucky lawyer, and Drain is the judge:

Another key player in the bankruptcy world is Judge Robert D. Drain, who the record shows was handpicked by Purdue to handle its case. It did this by filing for bankruptcy in White Plains, New York, where Drain is the only judge. "Purdue was so sure that it was getting Judge Drain," Georgetown Law's Adam Levitin writes in an article in the Texas Law Review, "that it pre-filled his initials on the captions of motions filed immediately after its petition, before PACER, the court's electronic docket system, had indicated a judicial assignment."

It's interesting and depressing, both. The basic maneuver is this:

Facing the possibility of ruinous lawsuits, the Sackler family members and their lawyers chose a masterstroke of legal strategy: They had Purdue file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019, just as Massachusetts and other states appeared to be closing in on the individual members of the Sackler family in court. By then, Purdue had already transferred more than $10 billion to the Sackler family.
Sackler family members could use Purdue's bankruptcy to halt all the lawsuits against them individually, hand over the besieged company, and pay a relatively small portion of the fortune they made from opioids. In exchange, they could escape a full legal reckoning of their actions and be protected from lawsuits.

We worry about AI but I sometimes feel like corporations have their own AI, by harnessing human legal code and optimizing it under little learning algorithms that were built to optimize corporations (and are powered by lawyers). And that the corporation AI bested us long ago, while we were still lacing up our shoes.


 

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Whole Women's Health, and Abortion Rights Generally

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.02.21

I don't know what to say, except goddam Anthony Kennedy and Mitch McConnell, and I wish RBG had thought ahead more. This is just miserable.


 

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How Much Of The Current Infrastructure Bill Can Arguably Be Applied To Flood Prevention?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.02.21

I'm thinking locally here, but New York City appears to be subject to repeated rain events that our current built environment just can't handle. We need to be building to deal with it -- bioswales and green roofs and permeable pavement and I don't know what-all else but something. And I'm sure other cities are in the same boat. So what's in this bill that applies?


 

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Guest Post - The synergically paradigm objectifies

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.01.21

Nworbie writes: The academia.edu grift: I get an invitation to "peer review" an "open access" paper on a journal they publish.The first sentence of the abstract reads:

The paper presents a theoretical and analytical examination of tolerance and ethics within ethnoreligious citizenship groundwork, aiming to objectifes intolerance to irreligion within a religious-national identity synergically paradigm.

This is obviously written by someone who speaks English as a third language at best, some way after academese and whatever their native dialect of the language formerly known as Serbo-Croat may be. The world will not be improved, not its stock of understanding increased, if the paper is published. But that's not the same as saying it is of no benefit at all.

The author can claim to have published it; the publishers, also, can claim to have published it. Both appear more important as a result. Of course, the whole grift depends on nobody reading what is published, but Academia.edu has that covered, too: "You would have saved 3,524 minutes with Summaries" says their most recent upselling email.

Well, I can have a go at that market too: the paper under discussion claims that the Balkans lack the cultural capital for a stable liberal democracy. If only the University of the Bleeding Obvious let you apply for fellowships online.

Heebie's take: I just read this joke yesterday:

Two economists are out hiking together. They've had a few drinks, and they're laughing and joking with each other, when they pass a pile of horseshit. One of the economists says to the other "Hey, bet you're too chicken to eat that horseshit for $100!" The second economist calls his bet and eats the horseshit, and the first economist hands over a $100 bill.
They continue hiking, and the first economist is teasing the second economist now, calling him a shit-eater. They come across a second pile of horseshit and the second economist says "Hey, if you're so tough, why don't you eat THIS pile of horseshit for $100? Bet you're too chicken." The first economist calls his bet and eats the horseshit.
As the second economist digs into his wallet and hands back the first economist back that same $100 bill, he realizes what they've just done. "I don't feel like we really achieved anything eating all this horseshit," he says.
"That's not true," says the first economist. "We just added $200 to the GDP."

Seems a propos.


 

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Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 9/1

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.01.21

This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while. There is no way it could function as that sentence implies, but it's still nice to have a thread.

Episode 93.


 

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Guest Post - Directors in India

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.31.21

LW writes: Excerpts from a very nice NY review essay about directors in India working in streaming video and censorship.

Yet the law couldn't have foreseen an era in which shows would be beamed on-demand into people's homes, bypassing both cinemas and the separate but even more restrictive TV censorship codes, the latter of which is yet to be updated to include streaming platforms.
Filmmakers like Kashyap were quick to grasp the potential of these platforms, which meant losing a cinema-going audience but gaining directorial freedom.
Paatal Lok depicts three distinct circles: that of elite Delhi journalists; of struggling inner-city detectives; and of the assassins, who are mostly drawn from impoverished lower-caste backgrounds in the provinces.
What is most satisfying about the show is how well it knows all three worlds, and how it dramatizes the parasitic relationships between them. At one point an English-speaking TV journalist thanks a Hindi heartland reporter for a tip. The reporter responds, "You English news agencies carry news of India, not Hindustan"--where "Hindustan" is a metonym for Indian life outside the Westernized enclaves of the big cities. The English-language journalist, in turn, reflexively offers up a mixture of flattery and condescension: "Well said, Amitoshji. You Hindi journalists have a finger on the real pulse of the nation."

I went for a visit to Chicago, turns out that there's a suburban library there that's utterly a palace of civilization-- great collection in open stacks, beautiful modern setting. I read this nice essay from the New York Review on paper there and felt like I had ascended to a higher plane of being. There's a few new Chicago city libraries that are also very nice, one near my mom's place there, smaller collection but also a nice setting. But Skokie was a palace, up there with Boston PL or fabulous university libraries that have succeeded in being ideal refuges.

Heebie's take: (Mostly unrelated but on the topic of censorship is the new China rule about no one under 18 being allowed weekday video games. Brief because I've gotta run)

On the topic of midcentury book choices, I told LW to make the final determination, and he said, "Eve's Hollywood . Generated some discussion and enthusiasm in the thread, more recent than 'The Group', an author at least one person dislikes, so a personality. I haven't read it yet, looking forward to trying. No obligation to finish or research, personally I'll find excerpts I want to talk or joke about.

Since we're less likely to have detailed exchanges about points raised in the books, I think less need for absolute consensus. That is, as long as there's enough centripetal tendency from at least several people choosing the same book, if people read different books chosen in a similar spirit and talk about them that could well work."

Sounds great to me!


 

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Ida

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.30.21

Chill suggested a hurricane thread, which is a good idea, and included, "The storm surge caused the Mississippi to flow backwards yesterday for a while. Not like we need another cause for dread. I don't watch the TV news, but when I check headlines I'm surprised that the hurricane isn't dominating front pages. It seems so hugely awful."


 

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Guest Post - Landslide

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.30.21

NickS writes: I thought I was done being frightened by stories about Trump. Appalled or enraged, yes, but not scared. This, however, was really concerning:

[A] couple of hours later [on election night 2020], things had changed dramatically. Arizona had been called for Biden by Fox News and the betting markets were moving back his way. Calmer heads - including the data analysts at FiveThirtyEight - were pointing out that there was a long way to go in the counting for the other swing states, given the number of postal ballots involved. The 2016 vote was no guide because the turnout this time was so much higher. Trump's numbers had probably peaked and the counties still to be called tended to lean strongly towards Biden. My immediate response to all this was a mild sense of panic. If I - along with so many others - had experienced a wobbly moment when I believed that Trump was going to win, the man himself must surely have thought the same. Who was going to tell him he was wrong?
The answer, according to Michael Wolff's relentlessly lurid Landslide, is no one. It turns out that 10.30 p.m. on 3 November was the pivotal moment in the Trump presidency. When the early results came in favouring their man, Trump's campaign team, including members of his immediate family, had competed with one another to bring him the good news. As with a king, no one wants to be the bearer of grim tidings, but everyone wanted to be the one to say this was going to be huge. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, phoned him early to report: 'It's happening.' Jason Miller, his senior election adviser, tweeted: 'It's happening.' By 10 p.m. Trump was convinced he had triumphed, with plenty to spare. At 10.30 he took a call from Karl Rove, former election guru to George W. Bush, congratulating him on his win. This sealed his mind against all remaining doubt. As Wolff writes: 'Why would Rove - a man as in with the Beltway Republican establishment as anybody, who didn't like Trump much and who, to be honest, Trump didn't like - call to say he'd won if he hadn't?' Even the turncoats were coming to pay their respects.

Heebie's take: We will be processing the Trump presidency for a long time. One detail I found interesting:

The decision by Fox to announce Arizona for Biden, when other networks still had the state as too close to call and Trump's people were telling him it was a solid win, came from the very top. The Murdoch clan had long loathed the Trumps...When the son who stayed, Lachlan, got notice that the Fox analysts had Arizona for Biden, he phoned his father to ask what they should do. Did he want to make the early call? 'His father, with signature grunt, assented, adding: "Fuck him."'

I remember hearing about the maverick-honest Fox analyst who had called the 2012 election for Obama and how he was still on the job, and assumed the Arizona call had just been from him. I hadn't realized it had an element of personal-fuck-you to it.

On the whole, the inside scene is lurid and I find it less stressful and more interesting to read about, now that we have some temporal distance. But it's not up-ending what I imagined it to be.

Also the last line of the book review is nice:

That Trump continues to prosper politically, notwithstanding the chaos and degradation of his final months in office, leaves Wolff awestruck, in spite of himself. 'The fact that he survived, without real support, without real assistance, without expertise, without backup, without anybody minding the store, and without truly knowing his ass from a hole in the ground, was extraordinary. Magical.' But this is not magic, and Trump has no mystical powers. It's just democracy, coming apart at the seams.

Indeed.


 

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