Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chicago Leads in Voting Rights for Necro-Americans -- Popcorn by The Colonel #83

In contract drafting, a period of time is the duration between two durationless points in time. A good drafter specifies precisely the start and end point of each period mentioned in the contract. Surprisingly, it’s hard to do.

For example, let’s say a lease expires at midnight at the end of December 31, 2022. “Midnight” is unclear, because it can mean (at least) either of the following:

(1) “the point that ends December 31, 2022”; or

(2) “the 60-second period during which a 24-hour digital clock showing hours and minutes would show 0:00 on January 1, 2023.”

The second of those possible meanings is a period, not a point, because it permits the dialogue: “Is it 0:01 yet?” “No, it’s still 0:00 [midnight] for another twenty seconds.”

If neither party to the lease cares when exactly it expires, the ambiguity is moot, but it still exists.

If exactness matters, one possible fix in this case is to use the language in (1) above, and refer to “the point that ends December 31, 2022.” That’s definitely a durationless point, the border between two dates.

The above example alone -- there are many more, involving minimum periods, maximum periods, forward-looking periods, backward-looking periods, and different units of time (seconds, days, weeks, months, years) -- shows how hard it is to specify points in time both concisely and precisely.


True or false? “If it weren’t for television, life would be no more than a unending succession of actual experiences.”

We are close to the end of David Nasaw’s “The Patriarch: The Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy” (JFK’s dad). Joe Kennedy opposed U.S. entry into World War II and the U.S. decision to wage Cold War against the U.S.S.R.

In both cases, Kennedy detested the foe (Nazism and Japanese militarism in WWII and Communism in WWIII), but believed that the U.S. should stay out of Europe, Asia, and Africa, even if they all went totalitarian as a result.

Joe Kennedy believed that the totalitarian powers would have to make peace eventually with the Western Hemisphere, and that the U.S. must avoid war to preserve the American way of life, liberty, and capitalism. He thought war with totalitarian foes would force the U.S. to become like them, and would burn through the domestically generated wealth the U.S. needed to sustain its prosperity, pay for its infrastructure, and provide for its needy. He was attacked as an appeaser or worse.

Kennedy's antisemitism was a complex matter. He had close friends and business associates who were Jews and he worked hard and sincerely in the years before WWII to get the Western Allies to make a comprehensive peace with Hitler that included incentives for Hitler to allow all German Jews to emigrate. Kennedy didn't want them coming to the U.S. or to Palestine, but to various parts of the British Empire.

Kennedy approved and admired the way he thought world Jewry worked to advance its interests (he said he wished American Catholics did half so good a job), but he thought when U.S. interests (no involvement in foreign wars) and Jewish interests (rescuing Jews in the grip of Hitler) collided, the former must prevail.

The book prompts thoughts of what would have happened if the U.S. had sat out WWII. Japan and Germany would probably have divided control of Eurasia and Africa between them and started the clock for the collapse of their empires. It's hard to imagine how the consequences for European Jewry could have been worse than what actually happened, but they would have been. In addition, there would have been no U.N. and no Israel. If Germany and Japan had fallen out, the U.S. might have been the main battle theater.

Query what would have happened if Hitler had held Europe and acquired atomic weapons around 1948, a few years after the U.S. did. Would mutual assured destruction have deterred Hitler from attacking the U.S. with them, or did his did his destructive and self-destructive madness not know limits?

Philip K. Dick wrote a story called “The Man in the High Tower,” an alternative history in which the Germans and Japanese had won WWII and divided the U.S. between them at the Mississippi. The title character, a reclusive "man in the high tower" (a compound in the Rockies) was rumored to have written a book in which the Allies had won the war, a book supposedly written with some kind of access to a universe parallel to the one in the story.

The "what ifs" of history can be interesting subjects of analysis and speculation, but they're ultimately frustrating. Like time travel stories, they suffer from a fatal flaw: rejection of causation. Events are the results of conditions existing the minute before the event, and so on back to the Big Bang and beyond. So "what if the Western Powers had militarily opposed Hitler's reoccupation of the Rhineland?" is the same as asking, "What if the Big Bang had been a hair different?"

Someone wrote that if Hitler had retired after Munich in 1938 to resume his artistic career, he would likely be hailed as the greatest statesman in German history, having enlarged a one-state German nation beyond any historical borders and without war. Our enthusiasm for an aggrandized Germany has its limits, but it would have been an acceptable price for averting WWII, the greatest disaster since the Great War, the centenary of which approaches. Can you hear the century-distant echoes of the guns of August 1914?

☛ “Dear Governor: Pardon my boy; he robbed the Chattanooga choo-choo.”

☛ Chronometer wisdom: “A watch part never boils.”

☛ The only legal way to kill a bald eagle in the U.S. is with a wind turbine.

☛ “People who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think.” --George Carlin

☛ “The purpose of a fish trap is to trap fish. Once the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of a rabbit snare is to snare rabbits. Once the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten. The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to.” --Chuang-Tsu

☛ Concerning the inclement weather predicted for the next several days, we extend our best wishes for successful coping to all our Dear Readers. Thanks for tuning in.

1 comment:

Tree Fanatic said...

Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" is an "alternate history" about Alaska's having been turned into a homeland for the Jews instead of Israel. If you like bizarre humor, you might like this novel.