Third Time is the Charm

I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut, but I can no longer let certain things go by without comment. I am quite sure I will offend some of the True Faithful, but that cannot be helped.

I am here today to speak aloud these words: J K Rowling is wrong. In fact, not only is she wrong about two things she thinks that she got wrong, but actually got right; Rowling is also wrong about something she thinks she got right, but actually got completely wrong.

Many would have you believe that the wrongs J K Rowling has unleashed on the world are something along the lines of an inappropriately out of the closet Dumbledore, the traumatic death of Dumbledore (for entirely unrelated reasons to his homosexuality), rampant incipient Satanism and Witchcraft, and any number of those sorts of things. But, no. I’m fine will all that, as should you be as well. I’m talking about more important issues here!

Three strikes and you’re out, right? You know that thing where you write something the first time and then try to re-write it but nothing is better than the first thing you wrote, only now you’ve lost that because of your subsequent changes? Yeah. That. Someone needs to take the pen out of J K Rowling’s hand. She’s drunk and should go home. Let me demonstrate:

The First Wrong of J K Rowling

Oh, so many moons ago, I read that J K Rowling no longer liked the opening to the first book. I can’t quite just now find a reference. But, what I remember is that she wished she had re-written the opening of the first book to be more obvious in genre setting and quicker into the story, instead of the way it appears in print.

She is wrong.

The opening is delightful in how it starts out normal and slowly the increasing number of owls reveals to the reader and the character of Mr Dursley just how abnormal the world really is. I know that there is advice out there, I forget from whom, about making clear in the very first sentence what genre one is in, but I absolutely adore the way normality melts away in the opening of the first book. Moreover, we get to be present at the very moment when Mr Dursley’s sanity dissolves and he becomes unhinged. And, I will abide no loose talk about changing that feature.

The Second Wrong of J K Rowling

Recently, J K Rowling has publicly stated that Harry and Hermione should have gotten together, and she regretted that they didn’t. This is an idea which should be killed in its crib … but, um, successfully this time.

She is wrong.

First off, even if Hermione wanted to end up with Harry at any point, there is no way that Hermione would have stabbed her friend Ginny in the back like that. In order to double-cross Ginny like that Hermione would have to become a selfish narcissist instead of who she was, and that would have been against her very character, and if allowed would have been the beginning of the end for everyone, because without a good-at-heart Hermione everything would have fallen apart and fizzled into infinite darkness under the real Dark Lord.

But, I’d argue that the fact that Harry and Hermione didn’t end up together is part of what helped Harry not turn into his father, and merely repeat the same story as the previous generation acted out. And, all the other characters would have fallen into enacting the same systemic failures demonstrated in the flashbacks and revelations about how completely shitty the Marauders really were to everyone else. Ginny saved Harry, not the other way around; because it was in Harry’s relationship with Ginny that he became a fully functioning and feeling adult; and it was always in Hermione’s hands how this entire story unfolded.

You think I’m overstating that? Let me put it this way: Harry had absolutely no apparent talent of his own until he discovered he was a natural at Quidditch. And, there is no way that Harry would have ever been discovered and joined the team if Hermione hadn’t used a fully functional and useful spell to repair Harry’s glasses in the very first book so Harry could actually see anything at all.

And, there’s no way Hermoine would have ended up with someone with a complete absence of actual magical aptitude … um, okay, at least Ron could play chess and throw gnomes like nobody’s business! And, red hair! They made beautiful babies, so shut up!

In fact, I bet, by the end, Hermione full and well realized that without the Horcrux in his head, Harry Potter was nothing more than a magically inept, whiney rich jock who liked to beat up on goth kids. There’s no way she would have gone for someone like that … well, you know, after she learned her lesson from how it didn’t work out with Victor Krum, anyway.

The Third Wrong of J K Rowling

J K Rowling lost the plot in the end. Yes, the entire end of the series was screwed up. Harry was no hero, for reasons I think I’ve already detailed. So, the only other kid left, and someone mentioned specifically in the books as fulfilling the same prophecy as Harry supposedly did: Neville Longbottom.

Rowling would have you believe that Harry was the hero and saved the day after coming back to life, a pathetic attempt to twist the actual truth and instead turn Harry into a risen Christ figure.

She is wrong.

In fact, without the stolen power of the Horcrux in his head and the overly patient coddling of whiz kid Hermione and the army of people around him doing all the actual work, Harry Potter would have been nothing better than how Neville Longbottom is portrayed throughout most of the series. But even still, the truth will out. You cannot deny that Neville Longbottom steps up, grows a pair, and stands up to Voldemort, and if he had half as much preparation as Harry did there’s no telling what he could have done. Probably have sealed things up behind the scenes of book three while Harry was busy being freaked out about what turns out to be his escaped petting zoo godfather.

In fact, even still, Harry died. That Harry died killed Voldemort’s horcrux in his head and left both Voldemort and Harry relatively powerless, there’s sympathy and contagion between these two that people only vaguely realize, after all. As the inaccurate Rowling version of events unfolded, unless Voldemort went completely off the rails and challenged Harry to a Quidditch match … (Hey, dumber things have been known to happen, people!) there really was no longer any chance for Voldemort at all, really just a matter of time, if he didn’t simply die at that moment the last Horcrux was broken, by Voldemort killing Harry, who is merely a functional and folkloric double of himself. And Harry should have stayed dead, or transformed into the Dark Lord he was always incipiently to become, which would have left Neville Longbottom to fulfill his destiny as the person referenced in the prophecy as the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord, i.e., to kill Zombie Harry, back from the dead to assume his rightful rôle in the succession scheme of evil! And, in a beautiful Delphic-style twist, the assumption that the Dark Lord mentioned in the prophecy refers to Voldemort is simply a mistake only revealed in hindsight: the one who lives is Neville and the Dark Lord is actually what snivelly rich jock Harry of the future cycle of the generational system would become! And, there was some guy named Voldemort who died too, but no one really remembers what he had to do with anything.

And, shit, people, just look at pictures of Neville nowadays and just try to tell me that guy doesn’t look like a real Big Goddamned Hero who pretty much towers over Harry, who went off to become some kind of Auror, like, pshaw, whatever, prance around like a naked pony on stage, and write Beat poetry.

Holstic Design with Dr. Love at Schnitzer on Jan 15th at 7pm

Yeah, that’s not a porno, you perv.

Holistic Design
with Dr. Terence Love
Professor of Architecture, Design and Engineering, Curtin University

“Holistic design depends on the material opportunities but even more on our inner subjective, emotional life.”

7 pm, Thursday
January 15th, 2009

This is part of the Linus- Pauling Memorial Lectures 2008-2009 Science, Techonology and Society series through Portland State University.

Also, maybe even more intersesting, is the talk Dr. Love is giving at Systems Science on Tue, Jan 13 at noon. If you want to go to the Tuesday Noon talk you should RVSP to the coordinator Dawn. The Systems Science building is the Harder House on campus at 1604 SW 10th Avenue, and the talk will be in Room 104.

How to steal control of an organization: new Systems Science tools for CEOs, organizational strategists, technologists, activists and military strategists
Dr Terence Love

Management, government, military, terrorists, activists and unionists depend on their ability to achieve power and control. Typically, they do this by several conventional and well known modes of intervention such as the application of legal or military power.

This presentation describes several new and powerful systems theories and tools that offer another way that is new and can be undertaken without other participants necessarily being aware of the interventions or their implications.

These new theories and tools provide a means of power and control in complex socio-technical organizations ranging from nations to small social groups. They offer a means of doing this from a position of power, from an underdog position or from a position not institutionally involved in the organization.

The theories and tools described in the presentation provide a formal basis for making small hidden changes to systems that automatically play out over time to change the ownership of power and control.

The presentation will describe several new extensions to the work of Ashby on the Law of Requisite Variety that realign its role into social and organizational context involving power and provide a new systemic understanding of the approaches described by Nicolo Machiavelli. These tools were developed by Dr Terence Love and Dr Trudi Cooper as part of a project investigating the role of classic systems tools in the design of highly complex socio-technical systems.

Pot meet kettle

I was reading an article, over at DailyKOS quoting Glenn Greenwald, about an interesting pattern that keeps coming up about lost information. What comes to mind first is the iconic patterns of corporate denial by representatives of the Tobacco industry testifying in front of congress and denying knowledge of anything. So, the model of corporate ignorance is well established in the minds of the corporate raiders that are in the executive, and now judicial, branch.

One needs only read Irons’ “People’s History of the Supreme Court” to get an idea of what happens when corporate lawyers take over the halls of justice. You see, the railroad lawyers are pervasively on the bench again.

And, I started to think about another pattern I see related to the US Attorneys and the search for voter fraud. I think there’s an interesting pattern that keeps repeating. I’ll call it the Pot-Kettle pattern. Most recently noticed in relation to a crusader that espouses the mission to fight corruption, but is corrupt:

“When Paul Wolfowitz, a primary architect of the Iraq war, assumed his post as World Bank President, he claimed the the new boss was going to be tough on corruption. Yesterday, he acknowledged that he “made a mistake” when he became personally involved in securing a promotion and a pay raise far in excess of the normal maximum for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.” [via]

But, do I detect the same Pot-Kettle pattern in the kerflufle over voter fraud which is the espoused reason for the politically guided US Attorney shuffle? Here’s a political party that just knows there’s corruption in local election process, and is desperate to seek it out. TPMmuckraker is all over that one, but so is ThinkProgress, and others.

And now, the US Attorney issue comes full circle to the pattern at the top over lost documents::

“The White House said Thursday that missing e-mail messages sent on Republican Party accounts may include some relating to the firing of eight United States attorneys.” [via]

And, why are they so adamant about fighting corruption and desperately sure that there’s a there there to find? Because they know they are corrupt, and if they can find corruption elsewhere then they aren’t as evil in comparison to others as they, at some deep level, fear they are?

It’s an attempt to respond with a “Billy did it too!” defense. Unfortunately, as it turns out, they are themselves so corrupt that there’s no one worse to point to, and so all their finger pointing accusations seem wildly contrived and delusional. Hmmm, so maybe there’s a bit of a psychological defense mechanism in their projection of what they know they are doing onto others.

Not only is this a Pot-Kettle pattern, but there’s an element of the Downplay/Intensify Schema going on here. Because while they are desperately seeking the wrong doing of others, they also are desperately covering up their own actions of a similar nature. So, that results in the dynamic where seeking voting irregularity becomes active voter suppression. The crusaders crusade against their own demons.

So, maybe, it’s actually a Pogo Pattern: “We met the enemy and he is us.”

I guess that naturally leads to the question of which came first, the corruption or the corrupt?

Update @ 3:37pm:

I noticed over at USA Today there’s an article which highlights the way that science is subjected to a Downplay/Intensify process also. Science that supports is used, but science that does not is ignored or criticised.

Thinking about the way that the US Attorney scandal has developed, I’m reminded of the way that political appointees have been put in charge of science. So, the second layer of the attack is to manipulate the information before it has to be subjected to downplay and only allow information that supports the propaganda model. So, while everyone’s been pointing to conflicting data, the propaganda machine has been at work to try to ensure that only policitally useful information is available.

That’s Orwellian par excellence.

“The sword of Damocles is hangin’ over my head …”

Be careful what you wish for, the consequences may be more than you expected: “Isn’t that what you wanted all along – freedom of religion? That freedom means all religions – even ones you don’t happen to like.” [via]

In this article, an elementary school is forced to open up a system by which kids are used to distribute flyers to families so that one religious group in the community can distribute flyers. Then, other religious group in that community use it too.

The myopic view of the advocates is that they think the community is only like themselves, or at least that they have some privilege that makes them the only ones that matter in a community. But, it seems this disingenuous advocacy for privilege matched with hatred and intollerance for others is the point.

(This isn’t just about religious issues either. Just take, for example, the advocacy of line-item veto that was hated once Clinton started to use it. Or, think about the way the 109th used their power against the minority party, and now is scared they will face the same, or, you know, might have to work more than 3 days a week for their 6 figure incomes. Or, partisans pleading for bipartisanship once they’re on the outs.)

This turns out to be exactly reason why the debate over putting monuments, like the 10 commandments, in public places is so myopic and manipulated. The question about the 10 commandments was on the questionnaire sent out by the Christian Coalition of Washington to candidates for city council last year, and was worded in a way that showed absolutely no subtlety and allowed no nuance in response … in other words it was merely a doctrinal litmus test. But, getting religious monuments in public places is a sword of Damocles hanging over their ultimately intollerant heads while they complain of persecution.

Political surveys seem to fall in that category of thing that most resembles a catalog of indexical or symbolic links to an ideology. For example, the Christian Coalition of Washington includes, in a survey sent to candidates, the following “cultural diversity” question:

“Voluntary display of the Ten Commandments on public property? Support, Oppose, or Undecided?”

The sinister beauty of this question is beyond compare. There’s no context. There’s no subject to the verb in this sentence. In fact, it’s not a sentence at all. The nouns are general. The choices of response offer no room for thoughtful consideration. And, whether intended or not, none of the answers can be chosen. I am not undecided, except that I have an open mind to future contexts. I am opposed to some aspects of the issues, but I support others.

At a fundamental level, the question is a horrid distraction from seriously pressing issues of social inequity and injustice. At a more complex level, the question begs for an answer from the supporter of the Christian Coalition that is fantastically dangerous and self-defeating.

Historically, it has been possible for non-public entities to offer displays intended for public spaces. The distinction between whether the volunteering entity is itself a public or private entity is intentionally lost in this question.

If a society chooses to allow expressions of culture on public property, that society must be prepared for expression with which it disagrees. If a display of the Ten Commandments is given to the public by a public entity, like the Lyons Club, and allowed to be placed, then the Pastafarians are likely to follow with a display of their faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Logically, it follows that this is so and this is an unintended consequence of the answer that, I suspect, is expected. At least one double bind in this question is that it asks for a logical answer to a question based on non-logical reasoning. There are more than this one.

On reflection, it becomes clear the entire survey, which could appear to be completely straightforward, is of a similar nature.

In a section on “growth management” the survey asks another zinger.

“Eminent domain – U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, 6/23/2005? Support, Oppose, or Undecided?”

Again, a simple question that is wildly suited to trip up, and trip out, the thoughtful person.

I do believe that the government should reserve the rights of eminent domain and the ability to escheat the land for the common, greater good. This ability has been steadily chipped away, so there is a value in the Kelo decision. However, the SCOTUS decision seems to implicitly link the common, greater good to economic interests, essentially extrinsic use of property. This tends to deny the intrinsic value of property, such as the value to future generations and other needs which are balanced in a triple bottom line. I have a concurring opinion on this issue. While I tend to agree with the overall decision, I do not follow the logic or reasoning that was used to get there. However, concurrence is not an option provided. Kelo does seem to lead down a road that parallels the misuse of the 14th amendment by the courts. It is a good outcome that will come to no good.

The fact that I have spent so long unpacking these questions is, in and of itself, a victory for the framers. I have been well and truly monkey-wrenched.

These are post-modern koans. Just try to not fall into the spiral. Witness the bumper sticker on a local car:

“Pray that President Bush keeps God’s promise to Israel.”

Lewis Black’s voice echoes in my head, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”

I’m at the end, and I don’t even know where to begin. One can hardly imagine another, more concise welcoming message for those on a trip down the rabbit hole than this except, perhaps, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Update 25feb09 @ 2:01pm:

Looks like there’s some more on the issue of monuments like the donated ten commandments in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum which moves the issue more firmly into the realm of establishment clause conflicts than first amendment by making monuments in public areas actually government’s speech. I’m not sure that’s better. I’m not sure it’s worse, but it seems worse to me. The whole issue is still wonderfully complex; which is too much for some people to be bothered with thinking about, but probably still useful for shallow and knee-jerk litmus tests.

Update 25feb09 @ 2:59pm:

Somewhat randomly, or maybe guided by forces beyond my knowing, I ran across an interesting article at h2g2: “The Ritual Decalogue versus the Ethical Decalogue“.

Whither sprynet now?

Time to track the ownership of sprynet again? Last time I looked it was back in ’99. I sent out an e-mail:

So, it’s been fun watching where Sprynet had ended up over the
last couple years. Okay, so let me see if I can get this right:

Sprynet was purchased by Compuserve
Compuserve was purchased by AOL
AOL sold Sprynet to Mindspring
Sprint purchased Earthlink
Mindspring was purchased by Earthlink
Sprint is purchased by MCI-Worldcom

So, the current score card says that Sprynet is owned by
MCI-Worldcom, in case you were trying to keep track … it’s kinda
like playing Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon. How many mergers does it
take before Sprynet has been owned by everyone in the industry?

So, the last time I tuned in, it was at the time when MCI-Worldcom and Sprint announced a merger in 1999. I think I took too long to pay attention. With the Sprint Nextel merger, and MCI merging with Verizon I think it’s finally too much time past to trace Spry any longer. Even the domain spry.net appear to have been re-registered by some other entity (a Texas law firm) since 1999. I seem to recall that spry also used sprynet.net and that’s registered by someone apparently in Korea since 2000.

I suppose a copyright and trademark search might show something of who could be called the holder of spry now.

On the topic of crazy mergers, here’s news that AT&T and BellSouth are looking to combine. If the only thing to stop it is if the feds step in, then clearly the trend is that the less regulation the more consolidation there is. That means that monopolies, or cartels in an economic homeostasis, are the end result of this economic system without regulation. Free markets do not result in pervasive competition, but rather a process of consolidation and concentration towards economic homeostasis. This balancing loop then tends to resist change and to destroy overt competition whenever possible in order to maintain the status quo.

“Hello, I must be going!” – Marx, Patron Saint of Consultants

Via Communication Nation, “Beware of experts, wizards and consultants“:

“Experts usually mean well, but they often don’t dwell in the world of reality.”

And the expert doesn’t usually have a long term relationship with the entity they are “helping” with advice. That means that they are likely ill-equiped to handle long-term, systemic issues such as delayed consequences.

But, that’s the consultant game, more so with the less reputable consultants. A consultant is less likely to want to create a sustainable situation because that means the consultant can’t come back in a few weeks or months for another hit. But even when this isn’t intentionally done by the consultant, the chances are that an organization will become over-reliant on consulting, on the outsider.

Sustainability should be a big part of the conversation between any organization and consultants they hire.

Intended unintended consequences …

Via Slate, “Tragedy of the Airport – Why you get stuck for hours at O’Hare. By Austan Goolsbee“:

“Each time an airline schedules a flight, it doesn’t take into account the backups it causes by crowding the airspace. The dynamic generates a tragedy of the commons, in which each of the companies vying for runway slots has an incentive to overschedule.”

Here’s a perfect example of how recognition of the system dynamic is important. There’s also a clear incentive, a competitive advantage to struggle at maximizing use of the resource instead of fixing the system via 2nd order changes. By staying within the known system, there’s a known set of rules by which competition can take place. It’s a case of plausible deniability, or at least willful.

So, the entities in the system, keep the system going. Perhaps they don’t realize they are in it, but I suspect they know full well. They have agreed that this shall be the field of conflict, and so keep the system running.