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    Your Public Domain Day Report, 2019: YES!!!

    Today, at last, is Public Domain Day in the United States. For the first time in decades, some American copyrights were actually allowed to expire naturally, a mere thirty-nine years later than planned. So after years of blogging, every January first, about what wasn't entering public domain and what would have entered public domain under earlier laws, I can finally blog about what is entering public domain.

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    Advent in Herod’s Kingdom

    Long before Christmas season was a consumer extravaganza starting just after Halloween, it was a period of solemn religious reflection starting four Sundays before Christmas. For some of us, it still is. In America that means it's both. I experience, and enjoy, the secular Christmas of eggnog, gift wrap, and Dean Martin, but I'm also mindful, maybe a bit more each winter, of Advent and its quieter demands. We're in the bleak midwinter, of the season and sometimes of the spirit. And midwinter's never seemed bleaker than when I watch the news.

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    Harvard and David Hogg

    Parkland survivor David Hogg, one of the most talented of that talented crop of activists, just got into Harvard. I’m happy for him. He was immediately attacked on social media by haters who called him unqualified. But he is a perfect example of Harvard’s long-standing admissions process, the “holistic” method they’re currently being sued over. That method is once again favoring a white kid. But it’s a reasonable and smart decision by Harvard.

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    My First Short Story in a While

    As previously mentioned, I have a new short story out this month: my first in 21 years. I am very happy about this. And, as promised, here's a taste and a link to the full piece. I hope you enjoy it.

    The thing that broke your heart was, he could still fly. Nothing else to call it. There he was in those silly clothes, going wherever he pleased and not falling, as if gravity were just some tired social pretense and he’d grown too old to bother. But it wasn’t the same.

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    Writing Short Fiction, Then and Now

    I used to write short stories. Then, for many reasons, I stopped writing fiction. Today I had my first story published in more than twenty years. (It will be posted on the web in two weeks, and I will link to it then. If you can't wait, the issue's for sale here.) More stories may be along; we'll see. If it takes another twenty-one years, I'll have something to look forward to in 2039.

    It's a little strange returning to an art form after two decades away. One of the things it means is that in my old stories, no one has e-mail. Most people didn't. Or cell phones. Any temptation to dredge up old pieces is held at bay by the fact that they've become historical fiction.

    So what else has changed?

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    Where Is Donald? Veterans Day Edition

    Today, Veterans Day 2018, the President of the United States stayed in the White House. He did not go to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath. He did nothing to commemorate Veterans Day. The excuse was a forecast of rain. This makes no sense.

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    The Death of Whitey Bulger

    I never thought I would be upset to see Whitey Bulger die. But somehow that happened. Because Bulger's death, like Bulger's life, promoted organized crime.

    I'm seeing a lot of the usual nonsense about the man, filled with praise he never deserved, from people who should know better. I blogged about the Whitey myth, and the way he the press builds him up into a folk hero, back when he was first arrested:

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    Talk Like Crazy People Are Listening

    Dear politicians: talk like crazy people are listening to you. Because they are. We're a big country, with hundreds of millions of people and no guaranteed health care. That means there are a lot of Americans who are mentally ill, and a lot of those people can't get proper treatment. Every time you speak in public, remember that there are some disturbed people who will take what you say, whatever you say, seriously, and that they might act on it.

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    What Just Happened in Northeast Massachusetts [UPDATED]

    Dozens of fires and explosions broke out in three small Massachusetts cities tonight. Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover have been evacuated, and power has been cut off to prevent more houses from blowing up. People are injured. Many have lost their homes. And at least one man is dead, because his chimney fell onto his car.

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    I Am Part of the Resistance Inside King Lear's Court

    King Lear is facing a test to his monarchy unlike any other faced by a fictitious British monarch. It is not just that he parceled out his kingdom and left himself nothing. Or that the country is bitterly divided between his scheming, ungrateful daughters. Or even that the kingdom may soon be overwhelmed by French invaders.
     
    The tragedy – which he does not fully grasp – is that many of his own followers are working diligently from within to frustrate his goals.
     
    I would know.
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    Some Bodies Matter More Than Others: The Judith Butler Thing

    This week I started an online petition calling for Judith Butler to resign as president-elect of the Modern Language Association. If you're a member or past member of MLA, I'd invite you to sign it and to share it as widely as you are comfortable doing. Here is a letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education making a similar case.

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    The International League of Dark Money

    Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are bent on destroying the peaceful international order that the United States built after World War II. They're hostile to the World Trade Organization, NATO, you name it. But Trump is not the only complicit American here. Because Trump and Putin are champions are a very different, more lawless international order, which many wealthy Americans participate in and derive benefit from: the international league of dark money.

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    What Kim Jong-Un Wants

    What does Kim Jong-Un want from this week's summit from President Trump? More than anything else, he wants what he has always wanted, like his father and grandfather before him: to split the U.S. off from its allies South Korea and Japan. The worst part is, he is already getting what he wants.

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    Zero-Sum Trump and the Chumps

    I used to be close to a pair of senior citizens who'd retired from long, prosperous careers as bookies. And after a while I began to realize that, although they were both still extremely sharp, they were not especially good with money. They weren't catastrophes. They didn't go broke with bad investments. They just never did as well as they should have, almost never got the full value from a deal. They had both done very well in an illegal business, but they seemed weirdly unable to make an honest buck.

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    Don Corleone's Guide to Attorney-Client Privilege

    So the President of the United States is very concerned, and very confused, about attorney-client privilege. Let me try to explain, using the example of Tom Hagen from The Godfather. Why The Godfather? Two reasons. First, I want to. Second, I have a terrible suspicion that some of Trump's misunderstanding comes from watching the Godfather movies. (He does love TV.) Trump reportedly believes any meeting that has a lawyer in the room is protected by attorney-client privilege, and oh my sweet God is that not true.

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    Partial List of Hope Hicks's White House Duties

    White lies
    Little fibs
    Harmless prevarications
    Genteel fictions
    Telling the truth mainly, but stretchin' it some
    Artful misdirection
    Poetic license
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    The Deputy Who Didn't Shoot

    People, including the President of the United States, are heaping scorn and shame on the Broward County Deputy who was assigned to protect Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, but who did not go into the building to confront the Parkland shooter. He has lost his job. He will probably never live this down, and may never get over his guilt. I don't particularly admire him, but we should not pretend for a second that he is the reason that lives were lost. I might hope and wish he'd gone into that building, but his behavior was completely normal.

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    For Le Guin

    Ursula K. Le Guin was my hero. Urusla K. Le Guin is my hero still. She is gone from this world, and only her words are left to us. Those words are marvels.

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    The Art of No Deal

    As everyone has already noticed, a president who boasts about his deal-making skills, author of The Art of the Deal, has been unable to strike a deal to keep his own government funded. Worse, he actually blew up a deal in the making, and now negotiations from the White House side seem to have all but stopped. This is because the word "deal" doesn't mean what Donald Trump thinks it means. He doesn't want a deal. He wants a "win," which he defines as the other side losing. And that makes deal-making impossible.

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    Your Public Domain Report for 2018

    Hey gang! It's time for Public Domain Day again, where we list all of the music, film, books, and other pieces of art leaving copyright today. And here's that list again, just like last year:

    Nothing. Nothing at all.

    Happy New Year.

    Although the Framers of the Constitution only gave Congress power to grant copyrights and patents "for a limited time," repeated extensions have made sure that nothing has entered the public domain in the United States since January 1, 1979. Today makes nearly forty years since that happened.

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