Star Wars To Forget

Oct. 17th, 2017 05:36 am
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Posted by Mike Glyer

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: Never mind the prequels.  These are the three Star Wars movies George Lucas wishes he had never made and wishes you had never watched. Star Wars Holiday Special Caravan of Courage Battle for Endor

Holly Poly

Oct. 16th, 2017 10:14 pm
settiai: (Numinous World -- settiai)
[personal profile] settiai
Whoever nominated all of the Numinous World relationships for Holly Poly, I love you. ♥

(If it's not someone reading this, I'm going to be very surprised. Impressed, but surprised.)
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Posted by Mike Glyer

(1) CORE FOR RAVENCLAWS. At BookRiot, Rachel Brittain offers “A Hogwarts House Reading List: 20 Books for Ravenclaws”. It’s also about creativity and individuality, originality and acceptance. All Ravenclaws value learning and curiosity, but not all Ravenclaws are traditionally book … Continue reading


Oct. 16th, 2017 09:03 pm
kass: Veronica Mars (veronica)
[personal profile] kass
I just finished S1 of The Good Place on Netflix.


I am full of theological thoughts. But OMG I have to know what happens next. I. What. HOW IS THIS SHOW EVEN.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

(no subject)

Oct. 16th, 2017 04:52 pm
baranduin: (pic#6413115)
[personal profile] baranduin
OK, I know I shouldn't care and I don't much. BUT. So that asshole Woody Allen (he who made the funnest movie scene I've ever seen in my life dammit) got reported in the NY Times today for calling for "no witch hunts" of men pursuant to the Harvey Weinstein pile-on (deserved by the way).

This seems to me the perfect article on which to open up comments. NO COMMENTS ALLOWED. WHY NOT?

I had a lot of comments to make. Some of them might even have been approved. Have emailed the Public Editor.

So I settled instead for leaving a comment on the article about President Asshole and Senator Asshole (McConnell variety) making nice together today. Have suggested the expression on Senator Asshole's face was because he just ejaculated in his pants.

Not thinking this comment is going to get approved but what the hell lol.

It's a good thing I've never aspired to be a nice woman :-)

Happy Monday!
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Posted by Mike Glyer

Long live the king. Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, in theaters February 16.

[ SECRET POST #3939 ]

Oct. 16th, 2017 06:45 pm
case: (Default)
[personal profile] case posting in [community profile] fandomsecrets

⌈ Secret Post #3939 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.


More! )


Secrets Left to Post: 02 pages, 34 secrets from Secret Submission Post #564.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.
[syndicated profile] volokh_conspiracy_feed

Posted by Eugene Volokh

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has vetoed a California bill (SB169) that would have changed California law to embody certain Obama-era federal regulations related to campus sexual assault proceedings; I thought his veto message was worth passing along:

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 169 without my signature.

This bill would codify a combination of federal regulations and guidance on sexual harassment — some of which has been repealed, some of which is still in effect — as well as some language from model policies that have been developed by California universities.

This is not a simple issue. Sexual harassment and sexual violence are serious and complicated matters for colleges to resolve. On the one side are complainants who come forward to seek justice and protection; on the other side stand accused students, who, guilty or not, must be treated fairly and with the presumption of innocence until the facts speak otherwise. Then, as we know, there are victims who never come forward, and perpetrators who walk free. Justice does not come easily in this environment.

That is why in 2014 I signed into law the first affirmative consent standard in the country for colleges to adopt in their sexual assault policies, so that clear and basic parameters for responsible behavior could be established. Yes Means Yes, along with its attendant preponderance standard, is the law in California, which only the courts or a future legislature can change.

Since this law was enacted, however, thoughtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault — well-intentioned as they are — have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students. Depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding.

Given the strong state of our laws already, I am not prepared to codify additional requirements in reaction to a shifting federal landscape, when we haven’t yet ascertained the full impact of what we recently enacted. We have no insight into how many formal investigations result in expulsion, what circumstances lead to expulsion, or whether there is disproportionate impact on race or ethnicity. We may need more statutory requirements than what this bill contemplates. We may need fewer. Or still yet, we may need simply to fine tune what we have.

It is time to pause and survey the land.

I strongly believe that additional reflection and investment of time in understanding what is happening on the ground will help us exercise due care in this complex arena. I intend to convene a group of knowledgeable persons who can help us chart the way forward.


Edmund G. Brown, Jr.

Roy Dotrice (1923-2017)

Oct. 16th, 2017 07:58 pm
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Posted by Mike Glyer

By Steve Green: Roy Dotrice, British actor, died October 16, aged 94. In his best-known genre role he played Jacob “Father” Wells in Beauty and the Beast (55 episodes, 1987-90). Other genre appearances include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), Late … Continue reading
[syndicated profile] volokh_conspiracy_feed

Posted by Ilya Somin

A recent article by David Hunter, a writer for the prominent conservative website Newsmax, egregiously misrepresents a post I wrote about President Trump and illegal Obamacare subsidies. He does so in large part by ignoring the date when the post was written.

Hunter depicts me as attacking Trump’s recent decision to end illegal Obamacare subsidies for health insurers:

Naturally, the anti-Trump mainstream media (MSM) opposes his rightful action. For example, Washington Post contributor Ilya Somin writes, “Now, President Trump is making the situation worse by trying to use these illegal payments as leverage to force the legislature to do his bidding.” For the record, didn’t the Democratically-controlled Congress do Obama’s bidding when they passed the ironically named Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010?….

What liberals don’t scramble, it seems, they tend to mix up. For starters, only Obama overstepped here, not Trump. Yet, Mr. Somin continues:

“What is ultimately at stake here is not only the future of the health care law, but of the constitutional separation of powers and the limits of executive branch authority. Trump’s ham-fisted attempt at dealmaking is eroding those limits….”

Had Hunter actually read my post (which he does not link to), he might have noticed that it was published on August 2, over three months before Trump announced he would end the Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies (October 13). I was not attacking the decision to end the subsidies (which had not yet happened), but rather Trump’s earlier effort to use them as leverage to try to extract concessions from Congress. Here is what I said:

Instead of simply putting an end to these illegal appropriations, Trump is trying to use them as leverage against Congress, to get it to resuscitate the stalled GOP effort to “repeal and replace” Obamacare…

[Peter] Suderman is absolutely right to point to the potentially dangerous precedent here. If it is illegal for the executive to spend money on X, it is also illegal for him to offer to continue to spend it on X so long as Congress does what he wants on some other issue. If, on the other hand, the payments are mandated by Congress, after all (as the Obama administration dubiously claimed), then Trump has no right to withhold them….

This issue is one of several where Obama’s high-handed behavior set a dangerous precedent that Trump can now exploit. In some ways, using illegal spending as leverage is even worse than just doing it without trying to extract concessions for it. The latter creates a dangerous new power for the executive that can easily be abused in many ways. There are many situations where a president can try to exploit legal ambiguities to dole out unappropriated funds to influential constituencies. He can then follow Trump’s example of threatening to cut the payments unless Congress does his bidding on some other matter.

As the above (and the rest of my post) makes clear, I have no objection to simply ending illegal Obamacare subsidies; indeed, that was the right thing to do. What I objected to was Trump’s (ultimately unsuccessful) effort to hold out the prospect of their potential continuation as leverage to force Congress to make concessions on other issues. Had his plan succeeded, it would have set a dangerous precedent for the reasons I described.

While Trump ultimately did the right thing by ending the subsidies, the credit he deserves for it is greatly diminished by the fact that he only did so after he was unable to use them for political leverage. If Trump was genuinely motivated by principled adherence to constitutional constraints, he would not have waited ten months to end the subsidies and would not have tried to used them as a political tool.

Misrepresenting my position on the CSR subsidies is not the only mistake in Hunter’s article. For example, he also erroneously describes me as a “liberal” and a representative of the “mainstream media.” In reality, I am a law professor and a blogger at the editorially independent Volokh Conspiracy blog (hosted at the Washington Post website, but not editorially controlled by the Post). I have also written extensively for conservative and libertarian media such as National Review and Reason. Hunter could have found out all of this with only slightly greater difficulty than it would have taken to read the date of my August 2 post and figure out what it is referring to. Much of this information is available simply by clicking my name on the post he quoted (or any other post I have written), which brings up my bio. The rest is readily available at my website, and elsewhere.

Hunter’s errors contain some useful lessons for other writers. First, if you are going to quote something, it pays to check when it was written, and consider what that implies for its meaning. Second, if you are going to set yourself up as a critic of “mainstream media,” you may want to at least adhere to minimal standards of accuracy yourself.

The problem

Oct. 16th, 2017 08:16 pm
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
Sexual violence against women and girls is endemic. There's an absolute mountain of evidence that this is the case, from the experiences of my friends to any number of posts on social media to rigorous studies. A big part of the reason I decided to identify as a feminist is because women are routinely denied bodily autonomy and feminism seems to be the only political movement that cares about this.

links and personal observations about sexual violence against women )

I absolutely believe everybody else's experiences, people I know and strangers writing brave, brave columns and blog posts. I am just a total outlier, and I really shouldn't be. So I'm signal boosting others' accounts, because I know that I needed to be made aware of the scale of the problem, and perhaps some other people reading this could also use the information.


Oct. 16th, 2017 03:04 pm
kass: orange aspen leaves, "zen fen" (aspen zen fen)
[personal profile] kass
Today's been tough, social-media-wise, so I am closing all of the tabs containing non-dw (realname) social media, and cultivating some gratitudes.

1. Kitten falling asleep on my lap at lunchtime, warm and purring and paws splayed in complete relaxation.

2. Takeout Chinese for lunch with [personal profile] sanj on the spur of the moment. With bonus kitten sitting on the chair at the head of the table, and periodically sticking his head up over the edge of the table to see if we would let him eat our chicken. (Which we wouldn't.)

3. The new mini-season of Voltron went live this past weekend! Kiddo and [personal profile] sanj and I watched half of it last night, and it's delightful.

4. Yesterday I roasted some delicata squash (seasoned with salt and pepper and curry powder) and then roasted the seeds (boiled briefly, then seasoned the same way.) It pleases me to have turned something I would ordinarily have thrown away into tasty snack food.

5. Dinner for tonight is already made, so when I get home from work around 5:30 I can mostly relax. There's work I need to do, but if I don't do it tonight, nothing will catch on fire.

How are y'all holding up? Be gentle with yourselves.

2017 Sunburst Award Winners

Oct. 16th, 2017 05:21 pm
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Posted by Mike Glyer

The Sunburst Award Society has announced the winners of the 2017 Sunburst Awards for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic in the Adult, Young Adult, and Short Story categories. Adult Award The winner of the 2017 Sunburst Award for … Continue reading

John Dickinson comes into prominence

Oct. 16th, 2017 04:29 pm
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Posted by Robert Natelson

This year marks the 250th anniversary of one of the most influential series of writings in American history. The series was John Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania.” The “letters” were 12 newspaper essays, the first of which was published in November 1767.

In accordance with the contemporaneous understanding of freedom of the press, Dickinson chose to remain anonymous: He signed the letters “A Farmer.” The letters argued that Parliament’s Townshend duties were improper and unconstitutional, and explained how Americans should resist them.

The Farmer took America by storm. The essays were widely reprinted individually, and they were collected as a book. There were editions in Britain and Europe. When Dickinson’s true identity emerged, he became the second-most-famous American in the world, after Benjamin Franklin.

This is the first of five postings on the life and thought of John Dickinson. In addition to examining “Letters from a Farmer” and other writings, these postings summarize how the author’s views affected the drafting and ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

John Dickinson was born in Maryland on Nov. 8, 1732, to Samuel Dickinson and Mary Cadwalader Dickinson. His father was a prosperous planter of tobacco and later of wheat. In 1740 the family moved to Delaware, occupying a home near Dover. His parents valued learning and provided John and his few surviving siblings with an excellent classical education.

By 1750, Dickinson decided he wanted to be a lawyer, and that year he began clerking with the leading attorney in Philadelphia. In 1754, his parents sent him to London’s Middle Temple, where he studied for another three years. His correspondence with his parents from England still survives, displaying mature commentary on daily life and English political developments.

Thus, Dickinson received many advantages. But in London he encountered a severe obstacle: poor health. Even as a young man, he seems to be been subject to infection, and this remained true throughout his life. After age 40, he also suffered from gout.

In 1757, he was admitted to the bar at the Middle Temple and returned to America. Success in his Philadelphia law practice was rapid. Besides being bright and diligent, he seems to have had a magnetic presence. He was the kind of man people wanted to be around and wanted to entrust with their affairs.

Much of his Dickinson’s practice centered on private rather than public law: decedents’ estates, land claims and most likely trusts. As was true of other founders, the rules prevailing in private law — particularly the rules binding fiduciaries — influenced Dickinson’s attitudes toward public law.

In those days Pennsylvania and Delaware were tied in harness (they had a common governor), so a young man of promise could aspire to a political career in both states. Before Dickinson was 27, he won a seat in the Delaware colonial assembly. He was reelected the following year, and thereupon his colleagues in the assembly elected him speaker. In 1762, he won a special election to fill a vacancy in the Pennsylvania house of assembly. He was reelected in 1763 and 1764.

While serving in the Pennsylvania assembly, he faced a political crisis. Dickinson had frequently been critical of the colony’s propriety charter with the Penn family. However, when Joseph Galloway and Benjamin Franklin — two of the colony’s most powerful figures — proposed to petition the king to convert it into a royal charter, Dickinson was skeptical. A royal charter, he believed, would leave Pennsylvania unprotected if the British government ever became oppressive.

On May 24, 1764, Dickinson rose in the assembly to deliver an elaborate speech in opposition to the petition. A written version of this oration survives. It was extraordinary for its careful balancing of the risks and rewards attributable to alternative courses of conduct. It was extraordinary also for its use of what Dickinson’s beloved Roman authors called “sententiae” — sound bites. Among them:

  • “Power is like the ocean; not easily admitting limits to be fixed in it.”
  • “It will be much easier for me to bear the unmerited reflections of a mistaken zeal, than the just reproaches of a guilty mind.”
  • “A good man ought to serve his country, even tho’ she resents his services.”

The speech identified the charter change as a constitutional alteration requiring special procedures to adopt. Dickinson maintained that a legislature elected under one constitution has no power to create another one. A new constitution required the “almost universal consent of the people.”

Although Dickinson overwhelmingly lost the assembly vote, he was soon vindicated. The passage of the Stamp Act the following year demonstrated the correctness of his prediction that the British government might prove more oppressive than the Penn family. The charter-change request died quietly.

In 1765, Pennsylvania sent Dickinson to the Stamp Act Congress in New York. His fellow commissioners (delegates) selected him to author the Congress’s chief pronouncement, the “Declaration of the Rights and Grievances.” Although Parliament soon repealed the Stamp Act, two years later Parliament replaced it with the Townshend Acts. That action provoked the Farmer letters.

Tomorrow: the message of the Farmer letters.

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Posted by Eugene Volokh

(Here is the latest edition of the Institute for Justice’s weekly Short Circuit newsletter, written by John Ross.)

New on the podcast: suspending indigent drivers’ licenses, forfeiture standing, and a wayward cop’s sign ban. Click here for iTunes.

  • District court: We can’t reach the merits of two Philadelphia cops’ claims against the city because their lawyer failed to comply with a rudimentary procedural rule. Case dismissed. Third Circuit: Affirmed. Though plaintiffs may still have some recourse … through their lawyer’s malpractice insurer.
  • Does a court lack jurisdiction under the Labor Management Relations Act when an employee files a lawsuit a few days before a contractually mandated arbitrator issues a final decision? Yes, says the Fifth Circuit (over a dissent), in an unpublished opinion that is also about football.
  • Septuagenarian chronic opioid addict sentenced to 18 months in prison based on government’s unsupported pseudoscientific claim that it takes 18 months for the brain of an addict to “reset.” Sixth Circuit: That was both procedurally and substantively unreasonable.
  • Retailer pays its employees on commission; if that amounts to less than the minimum wage, employees get an advance, which is then deducted from future paychecks, to bump them up to $7.25/hr. A violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act? Ordinarily not, says the Sixth Circuit, but here plaintiffs allege employees were encouraged to work off the clock to avoid the deductions, so the suit should not have been dismissed.
  • In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that non-union home health assistants in Illinois could not be forced to pay fees to a union. On remand, plaintiffs sought to certify a class of all non-union assistants — as many as 80,000 who perhaps turned over a total of $32 million. Seventh Circuit: No can do. Among other things, there’s no way to know how many proposed class members didn’t mind paying the fees. (But plaintiffs still get money damages, an injunction against forced dues).
  • Plaintiff: Red Hots, the cinnamon candy, are packaged deceptively; the boxes contain too much air and not enough candy. Eighth Circuit: Which should be sorted out in state court.
  • The Second Amendment does not protect a right to sell guns, says the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, so Alameda County, Calif., zoning restrictions that allegedly amount to a ban on new gun stores are constitutional.
  • A California law requiring an Ohio company, which helps homeowners pay less interest on their home loans, to incorporate in California as a condition of doing business in the state falls afoul of the Dormant Commerce Clause, says the Ninth Circuit. A separate requirement forcing the company to disclose in its solicitations that its services are not authorized by lenders does not offend the First Amendment, however.
  • Ninth Circuit: We reinstate this death row inmate’s habeas petition because his claims were not really waived. Dissent: I disagree, but none of this matters because California doesn’t execute anybody anyway. This is either a “cruel and expensive hoax” or “a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta,” or, possibly, both.
  • Allegation: Police corner motorist who fled traffic stop, asked police to kill him. After they shoot him with Taser, bean bags, he turns his back on the officers and begins to raise his empty hands; a Pinal County, Ariz., officer, who says he did not hear multiple reports that the motorist was unarmed, shoots him in the back, killing him. Ninth Circuit: No qualified immunity; this case needs to go to trial.
  • Colorado Springs, Colo., SWAT ignite bomb in the home of Army vet suffering from PTSD who allegedly threatened to kill neighbors (firing a shot into the ground during the altercation). The blast breaks his leg, sends shrapnel into his flesh. Tenth Circuit: He can sue officers in their official, but not individual, capacities and press his claim the city failed to train them properly.
  • Bucks County, Penn., police chief’s daughter, one Ms. Knott, is jailed for her role in beating in Philadelphia. Unrelated woman creates social media account with username “Knotty is a Tramp” and posts comments like “I’m an entitled princess who can beat up gay people if I want to.” Allegation: Bucks County officers obtain the woman’s IP address, travel out of their jurisdiction, threaten her with prosecution (for impersonation), and get her fired from her job. District court: Could be retaliation for protected speech.
  • And in en banc news, the Ninth Circuit (over a dissent) will not reconsider its ruling that a Berkeley, Calif., requirement that cellphone retailers warn consumers about the danger of radiation (in technically accurate but perhaps misleading language) is constitutional. We discussed the case on the podcast.

In May, a Wisconsin judge struck down the state’s ban on selling home-baked goods, ruling it lacked a “real or substantial connection” to public safety; rather, it served the interests of commercial bakeries that don’t want competition. Which was a superlative ruling, but state officials argued it applied only to the three home bakers who brought the lawsuit. Sneaky! This month, however, the judge clarified that indeed all Wisconsin home bakers are free to sell home-baked goods (that do not require refrigeration) without the threat of thousands in fines or jail time. Read more here. New Jersey is now the only state to ban such sales.

[syndicated profile] volokh_conspiracy_feed

Posted by Eugene Volokh

I’m delighted to report that Robert Natelson, long a University of Montana law professor and now, following his retirement, senior fellow in constitutional jurisprudence at the Independence Institute, Heartland Institute and Montana Policy Institute, will be guest-blogging this week about John Dickinson — one of the most influential (though now largely forgotten) American political thinkers of the Revolutionary era. I much look forward to Natelson’s posts.

[syndicated profile] volokh_conspiracy_feed

Posted by Orin Kerr

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Microsoft Ireland warrant case. As regular readers know, this is the case on whether Microsoft has to comply with a search warrant obtained in the United States that orders Microsoft to retrieve customer files Microsoft has stored in Ireland.

Of course, the court already has pending Carpenter v. United States, a constitutional case on whether the Fourth Amendment protects historical cell-site records. Between Carpenter and Microsoft, it’s shaping up to be a really big Supreme Court term for digital evidence collection.

It’s particularly notable that the court granted cert in both Carpenter and Microsoft without waiting for a circuit split. It’s typical for the justices to wait for lower courts to divide on an issue before they will step in. Relying on splits uses lower-court disagreement as a signal for the kind of difficult and important issues that the justices need to resolve. It’s dangerous to read too much into just two grants. But it’s plausible that the splitless grants in both Carpenter and Microsoft signal a recognition among the justices of the tremendous importance of digital evidence collection. Whatever the right answers are, the justices need to provide them.

As always, stay tuned.

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Bilibili (bīlībīlī 哔哩哔哩; B zhàn B站 ("B site / station") "is a video sharing website themed around anime, manga, and game fandom based in China, where users can submit, view, and add commentary subtitles on videos" (Wikpedia).  When you register for this site, you're supposed to declare whether you're M(ale) or F(emale), in which case your posts will be referred to respectively as "tā de 他的" ("his") and "tā de 她的" ("hers").  If you do not specify your gender, your posts will be referred to as "ta的" or "TA的", i.e., neither M(ale) (tā de 他的) nor F(emale) (tā de 她的).

Here's a screenshot of a friend's bilibili page showing this usage:

Cf. also:

What seems to have happened over the long haul during the last century has been first a gendering of the third person pronoun, then a degendering, then a regendering accompanied by another degendering….  It's enough to make your head spin.  But all of that is in the written language: 他她它 ("he, she, it"), etc.  In the spoken language, they remain constant: tā.

[Thanks to Alex Wang]


Oct. 16th, 2017 12:51 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Does Spanish paramilitar have a different meaning than English paramilitary, or at least stronger negative connotations? This question has recently become the focus of reaction to a New Yorker article by Jon Lee Anderson, "The increasingly tense standoff over Catalonia's independence referendum", 10/4/2017.

The first paragraph of Anderson's article (emphasis added):

Voting rights have been under siege in the U.S. in recent years, with charges of attempted electoral interference, legislation that seeks to make access to the polls more difficult, and gerrymandering, in a case that reached the Supreme Court this week. But no citizens here or in any democracy expect that they may be attacked by the police if they try to vote. Yet that is what happened on Sunday in the Spanish region of Catalonia, where thousands of members of the Guardia Civil paramilitary force, and riot police, were deployed by the central government in Madrid to prevent the Catalans from holding an “illegal” referendum on independence from Spain.

In El País, Antonio Muñoz Molina accused Anderson of lying ("En Francoland: En Europa o América, les gusta tanto el pintoresquismo de nuestro atraso que se ofenden si les explicamos todo lo que hemos cambiado"):

Pocas cosas pueden dar más felicidad a un corresponsal extranjero en España que la oportunidad de confirmar con casi cualquier pretexto nuestro exotismo y nuestra barbarie. Hasta el reputado Jon Lee Anderson, que vive o ha vivido entre nosotros, miente a conciencia, sin ningún escrúpulo, sabiendo que miente, con perfecta deliberación, sabiendo cuál será el efecto de su mentira, cuando escribe en The New Yorker que la Guardia Civil es un cuerpo “paramilitar”.

("In Francoland: Both Europe and the US love what they see as Spain’s quaint backwardness so much that they feel insulted when we explain to them how much we have changed"):

Few things make a foreign correspondent in Spain happier than the opportunity to corroborate our exoticism and our brutality. Even the renowned Jon Lee Anderson, who lives or has lived among us, is deliberately lying, with no qualms he is aware that he is lying and aware of the effect his lies will have, when he writes in The New Yorker that the Civil Guard is a “paramilitary” force. [translation from the El País web site]

This has resulted in an energetic discussion on Twitter (Twitzkrieg?), in which Anderson's position is that many English-language sources call the Guardia Civil "a paramilitary police force" or something similar, e.g.

and that Antonio Muñoz Molina is using a meaning difference between English and Spanish in a disingenuous way, e.g.

Before looking into it, my understanding of the English word paramilitary aligned with Anderson's, namely that it means "organized along military lines", whether in reference to governmental organizations that are not part of the military, or to civilian militia-like entities. It's easy to find examples in English where paramilitary is applied to non-military governmental organizations, e.g. these examples from Google Books:

Correctional officers (C.O.s) were organized in accordance with a rigid paramilitary chain of command.

There is an obvious need to change the bureaucratic paramilitary structure of police organizations, so prevalent in the majority of police organizations around the world.

But on looking into it, I found that things are more complex. I was surprised to find that the OED's only relevant gloss would specifically NOT apply to a police organization like Spain's Guardia Civil:

Designating, of, or relating to a force or unit whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which is not regarded as having professional or legitimate status.

The OED's earliest citation is from 1935, but seems to originate in the 1934 "Reply of the United Kingdom Government" at a League of Nations "Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments". The OED citation is the first sentence of the following:

A difficult problem has been raised in regard to the so-called " paramilitary training" — i.e., the military training outside the army of men of military age. His Majesty's Government suggested that such training outside the army should be prohibited, this prohibition being checked by a system of permanent and automatic supervision, in which the supervising organisation should be guided less by a strict definition of the term " military training" than by the military knowledge and experience of its experts. They are particularly glad to be informed that the German Government have freely promised to provide proof, through the medium of control, that the S.A. and the S.S. are not of a military character, and have added that similar proof will be furnished in respect of the Labour Corps. It is essential to a settlement that any doubts and suspicions in regard to these matters should be set and kept
at rest.

The earliest use of the term in the New York Times is in a report about the same discussions —

"Simon to the Commons", 4/9/1935: (Following is the text of the account given to the House of Commons today by Foreign Secretary Sir John Simon of conversations recently held by him and Anthony Eden, Lord Privy Seal, with leading officials in Berlin, Moscow, Prague and Warsaw)

Regarding land armaments, Herr Hitler stated that Germany required thirty-six divisions, representing a maximum of 550,000 soldiers of all arms, including a division of Schutzstaffel and militarized police troops. He asserted that there were no paramilitary formations in Germany.

The next example has the same negative connotations and the same association with fascist groups — "France suspects Klan counterpart", NYT 11/17/1937:

The question or whether a French counterpart to the Ku Klux Klan really exists was again raised today through the arrest of a wealthy Lille contractor, Rene Anceaux, M. Vosselm, one of his employes, and Gerard de ia Motte-Saint Pierre on charges which remain unspecified, but are in the case of M. Anceaux plotting against the security of the State and for the others possessing weapons of war and "association with wrongdoers." […]

M. Anceaux served as an officer during the World War and was wounded. He was the president of the Lille branch of the dissolved Rightist "Paramilitary League."

The 1939 New Jersey statutes contain a law using the term in a similar way:

Any 2 or more persons who assemble as a paramilitary organization for the purpose of practicing with weapons are disorderly persons.


As used in this act, “paramilitary organization” means an organization which is not an agency of the United States Government or of the State of New Jersey, or which is not a private school […]

So in English as well as in Spanish (and French and presumably other languages), the term paramilitary and its cognates seem to have originated in the 1930s in reference to fascist groups "whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which [are] not regarded as having professional or legitimate status", as the OED put it.

At some point, the "not regarded as having professional or legitimate status" clause seems to have faded away — though perhaps without being totally lost, since the term continues to be used to refer to non-governmental as well as governmental but non-military organizations. Thus "Charlottesville Joins Suit Against Paramilitary Groups Connected to August 12", NBC News 10/12/2017:

Charlottesville is joining a suit to prevent what it calls unauthorized paramilitary groups from returning to the city.

Georgetown Law Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection filed a complain Thursday, October 12, asking Charlottesville Circuit Court to, "prohibit key Unite the Right organizers and an array of participating private paramilitary groups and their commanders from coming back to Virginia to conduct illegal paramilitary activity."

And my impression is that when someone uses the word "paramilitary" in connection with police forces, their attitude is often a critical one. Thus "Paramilitary police: Cops or soldiers?", The Economist 3/20/2014, begins with the subhed "America's police have become too militarised", and notes that

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams (ie, paramilitary police units) were first formed to deal with violent civil unrest and life-threatening situations: shoot-outs, rescuing hostages, serving high-risk warrants and entering barricaded buildings, for instance. Their mission has crept. […]

Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is overseeing a study into police militarisation, notices a more martial tone in recent years in the materials used to recruit and train new police officers. A recruiting video in Newport Beach, California, for instance, shows officers loading assault rifles, firing weapons, chasing suspects, putting people in headlocks and releasing snarling dogs.

This is no doubt sexier than showing them poring over paperwork or attending a neighbourhood-watch meeting. But does it attract the right sort of recruit, or foster the right attitude among serving officers? Mr Balko cites the T-shirts that some off-duty cops wear as evidence of a culture that celebrates violence (“We get up early to beat the crowds”; “You huff and you puff and we’ll blow your door down”).

Anyhow, there can be little question that Spain's Guardia Civil is a "paramilitary police force" in the current English-language sense of the word.

And it's not clear to me that the current Spanish usage is actually different. Thus the Real Academia's Diccionario de la lengua española defines paramilitar as

1. adj. Dicho de una organización civil: Dotada de estructura o disciplina de tipo militar.

without any stipulation of illegitimacy. And since the same dictionary defines civil in the relevant sense as "Que no es militar ni eclesiástico o religioso", and since the Guardia Civil is self-defined as "civil", it seems that paramilitar ought to apply to that organization without any untruthful intent or effect.

[h/t David Lobina]




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