A disqualification for all the wrong reasons: the Maximum Security/Kentucky Derby controversy

So I’ve kind of taken a bit of a step back from following sports. I never was a huge horse racing fan, though my mom is and I wind up watching a few more horse races and movies about horse racing than I otherwise would because of that. So it is no big surprise, then, that I wound up in front of the TV for at least part of the Kentucky Derby and had a figurative front-row seat for the controversy that followed as Country House was awarded the win and Maximum Security was disqualified after a lengthy review.

I’m not sure what the stewards saw when reviewing the race footage or if they even had access to the actual NBC Sports broadcast footage versus something recorded by the track’s own cameras. In the days after the race it came to light that if any horse was to be disqualified for interference, it should have been Country House, and Maximum Security was the victim and not the perpetrator, according to a video included in a WAVE 3 News report.

That same report indicates that the owners of Maximum Security may file a lawsuit over the questionable officiating. I don’t blame them, as this is, if not a worst case scenario for what can go wrong in the officiating of a horse race, very close to one. Every game or sport, sooner or later, is going to have an officiating issue or some type of controversy over a call. Even competitive pinball has rules governing irregularities as well as officials who have to make judgment calls, and blown calls do happen there as well. The fact that the stewards took over 20 minutes, and still, according to many fans, got it way wrong, is not going to help the image of horse racing in the least. The Kentucky Racing Commission rubber-stamping the stewards’ decision isn’t a good look for the sport, either. I hope this is the last time a high-profile race like this ends in such a controversial decision, and I hope Maximum Security gets his rightfully earned victory back.

The Mueller report and current happenings at the federal level

I know it’s been a lot quieter than it should be here. I have not forgotten about this blog; the reality is that time has been at a premium, and even in the few cases where it hasn’t been, it has gotten so bad lately that I can’t focus because I’m that pissed off about it.

Of particular note, I did download the redacted Mueller report as soon as it came out, fearing it might later be made unavailable (though if that happens, certainly someone will put it up on BitTorrent, Freenet, or some other peer-to-peer network to help keep it in circulation even if our deranged-lunatic-in-chief tried to prohibit its further dissemination by law). I have read some of the news coverage about it (there’s almost no avoiding it when reading the news daily) but I have not had a chance to read the entire report for myself. Hopefully, I will be able to post take on the Mueller report by next Wednesday (May 22) if not sooner.

I want to comment briefly on the most recent event, now a couple of weeks old but still very relevant. Attorney General William Barr was scheduled to testify before the House of Representatives today and did not show up. This isn’t acceptable for any sitting government official, regardless of any politics or partisan conflict. It is functionally the same as blowing off a court appearance.

I mention politics because AG Barr had no issue testifying before the Senate. Currently, the Senate has a Republican majority, while the House has a Democratic majority. It’s obvious to me this is a partisan play. AG Barr was called to testify before the House on a justice-related matter of direct interest to everyone in this country. That partisan politics enters into this at all is wholly unacceptable because it implies that politics come before justice. That’s not what this country was founded upon, and it’s a slap in the face to what this country’s founders did in the late 18th century.

While I do have other topics I want to write about in the interim, I did not want it to look like I’m ignoring the immediate future of the country to blog about what some may perceive as trivial matters in comparison.

Regarding the Harding Street drug raid violence and related matters

During the evening of Monday, 2019 January 28, the execution of a drug-related search warrant by Houston Police Department officers ended with five officers going to the hospital, four for gunfire-related injuries and a fifth with a knee injury (KHOU.com report). In the aftermath of this, the president of the Houston Police Officers Union, Joe Gamaldi, minced no words in calling those who fired back upon the HPD officers “dirtbags” in addition to stating the following (quote from a later KHOU.com story):

If you’re the ones that are out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, just know we’ve all got your number now, we’re going to be keeping track of all of y’all, and we’re going to make sure that we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers. We’ve had enough, folks. We’re out there doing our jobs every day, putting our lives on the line for our families.

I feel the need to address these latter comments as a long-time outspoken critic of some activities of law enforcement and the legal system.

First, I have never advocated violence against law enforcement officers or others who work in the legal system (such as attorneys, judges, etc). I condemn the violence that occurred this Monday with the same vigor that I condemned the murder of Deputy Darren Goforth in 2015. The actions of the suspects are an outrageous affront to decent society and it is my hope that the officers injured in the shootout make the best and speediest recovery possible given current medical technology.

I get that as the president of a police officers union in a large city, a lot of the job is PR and, by extension, playing up the cops as the good guys. I wish I could say for sure exactly what was intended by the words “stir the pot” in this context. I would like to think that First Amendment-protected nonviolent free speech, in the form of criticism of law enforcement officers who betray the trust of those they are supposed to be serving and protecting, is not being targeted as “stir[ring] the pot”.

It is unavoidable that sooner or later, some cops will prove it was a mistake to trust them with the power of the badge. There are bad apples in every field: medicine (doctors, nurses, EMTs), fast food/restaurants, messengers/couriers, information technology (including internet help desks and sysadmins), marketing and PR, entertainment (including youth-focused classes of entertainment such as face painting and balloon twisting), just to name a few. It stands to reason that some who enter law enforcement and the practice of the people’s/state’s side of criminal law will wind up showing their lack of fitness to serve their respective professions.

The difference is that a bad cop or a bad DA can really screw up a life or even multiple lives with a mistake, more so than most other professions. When they do, we, the people, have the right to be heard and speak out about it. We, the people, have just as much of a right to hold law enforcement and DAs accountable as we do to hold anyone else accountable. Sometimes the last-ditch appeal to the press is the only thing that really works.

I get that law enforcement is a risky business. But don’t forget the US Constitution is part of those laws as well.

The public domain is set to expand once again

Smithsonian magazine reports on an unfortunately unusual occurrence set to happen this coming New Year’s Day.  For the first time since 1998, the copyright on many works is expiring, thus adding to the public domain.

My reaction to this: About. Damn. Time.

Disney has led the copyright lobby and could be said to have literally turned copyright into a Mickey Mouse operation (Steamboat Willie, the first appearance of Mickey,  is not set to enter the public domain for another five years). These works should have hit the public domain long ago, and the stroke of midnight signaling the beginning of 2019 can’t come soon enough to actually make this official.

If you want a real eye-opener, start with the Statute of Anne and follow copyright law through to the present day. The original term of copyright was 28 years–the latter 14 of which returned to the author no matter what. Given the rapid obsolescence of modern electronic media, I have to wonder just how much sense the current term of decades after the life of the author makes in the present day. (The public domain becomes moot when the original physical media from a century ago has long since become unreadable and obsolete. Okay, so the copyright restrictions on that VHS tape have finally expired in 2080, now it’s unplayable and the supply of VHS VCRs worldwide is down to maybe a couple of hundred, so what the hell are you going to do with it? We’ve already seen this problem with the nitrate film stock used for early silent movies.)

For quite a few more years we will start seeing works enter the public domain every January 1. Indeed, it will actually be a happy new year every year for some time, though we need to stay vigilant and keep Disney (and the other large media companies that form the copyright lobbby) from ruining it.

Meddle not in the affairs of holiday dragon displays…

I know it’s a bit late for the most popular winter holidays, but I thought I’d weigh in on this one that went viral enough to be featured on at least one national (US) news outlet.

Friendly Atheist (among others) reported on a rather unconventional holiday display involving dragons. Diana Rowland tweeted a photo of the display and a letter from a “holier than thou” type neighbor saying the display would be “only marginally acceptable at Halloween” but “totally inappropriate at Christmas” along with the worn-out line that “[her neighbors wonder if [Diana] is in a demonic cult”. Where this neighbor gets his/her authority to judge acceptable way(s) to celebrate the winter holidays, as well as his/her knowledge on demonic cults, is not mentioned. Diana’s opinion of the neighbor who left the letter is mentioned, though, with the highlight being “judgy-mcjudgyface”.

What I personally would take exception to here, is the assumption that it is Christmas that is being celebrated with this display and not one of the dozens of other winter holidays. (And you know what they say about assumptions. Hint: look at the first three letters of the word.) I mean, I’m pretty sure I can rule out Boxing Day, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, but this could easily be a display for Yule or Saturnalia. Or, Diana could be starting a new trend and observing a day in December (could be the 25th, could be some other day) as Day of the Dragons. That’s how these things start, right? Doesn’t someone have to be first? Does one necessarily have to be in a “demonic cult” just to be a bit different? Isn’t that the reason some of the colonists came over to begin with (persecution, specifically for religious reasons)?

Diana, of course, did the responsible thing: she added halos to the dragons. And added more dragons, too. She also cited a Bible passage about mystical creatures which seems to fit the description of the dragons rather well. I think Diana did rather well given she has no obligation to alter her holiday display to fit some random neighbor’s idea of what a holiday display should be.

The alternative tack is, of course, “Of course this display is not appropriate for Christmas. Neither is, say, a giant menorah and dreidel, or [insert other non-Christmas holiday symbols as desired]. Why do I have to observe all the same holidays you do?” Personally, that’s my style, calling out the assumption out for what it is, and making the person writing an anonymous letter look like the fool (s)he is.  It’s unfortunate that this is the only way some can learn that some people observe different beliefs and different holidays than they do.