26 January 2015

Another Randy Newman Memorial Blawg Post

But without any Citizens United rants. This time.

  • Author Ann Bauer thinks that authors need to disclose their sources of income, especially when they're "kept" by a spouse/partner/family fortune. This is not at all a bad idea, but it has a very disturbing corollary. By implication, it assumes that authors who might claim that all of their income comes from/through their publishing activities could do so with some measure of accuracy, and thereby have a valid comparison and meaningful discussion. As Kris Rusch notes, not so much (and her piece is both remarkably restrained and well worth consideration).

    Yes, this is me as a chemist arguing that the combination of continued reification of the Aristotelian model of matter and bad — approaching no — lab technique by those alchemists who question that model (as a side gig from trying to make gold out of baser materials) necessarily means we can't have an accurate discussion on the artistic equivalent of global warming.

  • And at least at present, the "average" author who eschews commercial publishing can't pay for a daily overmilked coffee drink with his/her earnings, either. And even less so if actually paying all the taxes due on those earnings...
  • ... while Carrie Vaughn points out that there's no one universally correct way to publish one's works anyway, along with the obvious inference that the landscape has already changed radically in five or six years and will almost certainly change radically in the next five or six years.
  • Whatever you do, though, don't rely on Wikip3dia for anything, or as a publishing "credit".
  • And meanwhile, the courts and legislators continue to demonstrate that their understanding of both the distributive arts in general and the economics of creators in the distributive arts leaves more than a bit to be desired. The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled in a way that implies there is no European equivalent of "first sale" for digital products... meaning, in turn, that those who "buy" e-books aren't actually buying them, but paying a nontransferable one-time access fee. Riiiiiiiight. And meanwhile, the same court refrained from being clear in reaching a more-defensible decision on jurisdiction over copyright infringement matters in the EU: The place where there's access to infringing work is a proper place to sue. Well, duuuuuuuh.

    OK, that was perhaps a bit unfair/Pax Americanus-seeming, as the law in Europe really is different. That doesn't make it less silly, though. Congratulations, Europe: You're slowly discovering what the US figured out 225 years ago under the Articles of Confederation... and that like South Carolina, Luxembourg is too small to be an effective nation and too large to be an effective insane asylum. (Remember, it was a Senator from South Carolina who said that.) Federal and federal-like systems require not just supremacy, but a certain amount of cultural deference, to the central authority, or they're really just excuses for hyperformalist evasion of responsibility (like that attempted by the defendant in Hejduk). And that has turned out so well for Europe over the last two millenia or so.

20 January 2015

Joe Friday Was Nowhere to Be Found

The Supreme Court has begun issuing opinions for the October 2014 Term of Court. An opinion in a patent case — that, even more than normal, is actually a question of civil procedure — may turn out in the long run to be a critical commentary on judicial competence with reach far beyond patent law.

What is a "fact," under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 52(a)(6) (which ultimately draws its authority from the Seventh Amendment, although no jury finding is actually at issue in this particular matter) that must be reviewed only for "clear error" by an appellate court? The majority opinion,1 by Justice Breyer, says that a judge's decision to credit one expert's testimony concerning what biochemists mean when they refer to large molecules as having a range of molecular weights over another expert's testimony on the same issue is a "question of fact" that must be reviewed for "clear error." Justice Thomas dissents that because the context in which the judge made his finding is the purely legal question of claim construction for a patent, the judge's decision was a "question of law" that is reviewed entirely anew ("de novo") by an appellate court. Leaving aside that both sides are wrong from the perspective of a chemist2 and deserve to be condemned to a semester of washing glassware in the lab (where they might actually learn something about the techniques by which molecular weights of complex biological compounds are actually determined), Teva is yet another in a line of cases in which judges and lawyers define what is "fact," and therefore not within the judicial competence to question, and what is "law."

Somebody does have to answer this question, because there really is a distinction to be made. The problem is that the wrong people, with the wrong backgrounds, are making the determinations of what may be reviewed only for "clear error"... and what constitutes "clear error." One need not go so far as eppur si muove; tobacco litigation is much nearer. Ultimately, though, this isn't even an error of fact, or an error of lab technique; it is an error of writing that should have been challenged by every lawyer in the chain, by the Patent Office's examiner, and by every judge. It is not indefinite; it is unclear, but only with 20-20 hindsight by a party seeking to evade (and not to learn or to advance knowledge or practice itself) — and that is a different kind of error that is badly managed by the law. In Teva, the fundamental error was in which kind of "experts" were called upon in the first place: The "correct" experts would have been the managing editors at high-end journals of chemistry and biochemistry, because the art in which one must be skilled is not that of lab technique, but of lab writeups. That assumes, of course, that an "expert" is necessary in the first place... when the legal doctrine that patent claims are limited to what the applicant actually demonstrated should have led elsewhere.

Teva has disturbing implications for non-patent statements of fact, too. I've ranted repeatedly against overinsulation of "legislative facts" from review, and sometimes those intersect. Sometimes a legislature makes a factual statement concerning abortion, or global warming, or disease transmission, in the factual preamble embedded in a statute; sometimes it's buried elsewhere in the legislative history that Justice Scalia is so adament has no meaning. It's even more apparent in administrative proceedings (such as determining the allowable concentration of a pollutant, and the way that is to be measured). There's no place for Joe Friday in Teva: He says he just wants the facts, and this is not an instance of the facts being unclear or contested — it's an instance of deciding what might be a fact in the first place.

But there's a meta-leval implication of Teva that is at least equally important. It is quite possibly right that judges are not competent to determine scientific facts. Or, as Justice Holmes noted in Bleistein, originality or creativity or damned near anything else related to the factual question of copyright infringement. What that says is that we're choosing the wrong people to be judges more than it says that these questions cannot, in fact, be resolved. That's not a good thing. If the judicial system were more willing to admit that the finality of its pronouncements does not, in fact, provide much more guarantee of truth (or factual accuracy) than any other appearance of words in print does, we'd be better off... and not questioning exactly how many generations of imbeciles are enough, for some value of "generation" and "imbecile."

Ultimately, though, there's yet a further meta-level problem with Teva. Contrary to his catchphrase, Joe Friday wasn't looking for facts. He was looking for story: A particular kind of story supported by the individual factual circumstances (whatever, metaphysically, they might be). That is also, ultimately, what is at issue in Teva: What are the boundaries of the story being told by this patent application? In this particular instance, legal doctrine says "authorial intent is the touchstone of interpretation"... and then proceded to not introduce the primary evidence of authorial intent as the critical elements in making its determination. All in all, this is a bad job by all of the lawyers involved, not excluding the judges. That it may have turned on a question of "what evidence is admissible?" just makes the absence of scientists from the decisionmaking process that much more apparent — and inexcusable.


  1. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., No. 2013–854 (PDF) (20 Jan 2015).
  2. A.B. Washington University (St. Louis). As I've remarked before, sometimes the unjustified absence of scientists and engineers in the judicial system — and the legal profession as a whole — comes back to kick all of us in the gonads. This is one of those times.

    This is not a difficult issue: It was the lawyers' fault, and it's not factual at all. The proper practice would have been to specify the method explicitly, and that would have been required at the better journals in the chemical and life sciences had this patent application been an article submitted for publication. Further, even if the method had not been specified in the article, it would have been disclosed at one point or another in the review process, in lab notebooks, or other documentation — as opposed to lawyers' glosses on it. That the statement of the record includes no reference to any of this indicates that this is not a fact issue, but a typical lawyers' (all of them, including the judge) misunderstanding of what either a "fact" is or how science works.

15 January 2015

On the Perfidy of the Oscars

Oh woe is me, woe is everyone, the Oscar nominations for "2014" films were announced and pleased almost nobody.

Good.

For one thing, the distributed arts (that is, the arts based on experiencing a copy of the "original") almost always benefit from an actual discussion of some kind, even if that discussion turns out to be thinly disguised marketing bullshit. In this instance, maybe the wretchedly behind-the-times demographics of AMPAS will come under scrutiny for the Selma "snub"; maybe other issues, such as the paucity of actual central roles offered to women with an apparent age of over 40 — at least to those living in a plastic-surgery culture who have no bloody clue — and who are not named Meryl Streep, will get some discussion. The less said about H'wood's equation between "highly intelligent" and "socially awkward," the better; it's probably due more to H'wood's lack of exposure to "highly intelligent" than anything else. I hold little hope of actual change in the near future... but there won't ever be a change without the discussion happening first.

There's one thing that is not going to be discussed, though, and it's the bullshit eligibility criteria. That's why I put quotes around the year in that opening sentence. This is the real problem with Selma: It isn't a 2014 film. It is a 2015 film, because it wasn't available outside the echobox during 2014. It's the same argument that I have against awards for books that are based upon advance reading/publicity copies offered to critics months (and I'm not exaggerating) before the actual release. I would have refused to nominate Selma for anything this round for precisely that reason: Since I don't live in the bloody NYC/LA echobox, it wasn't available to be seen before the nomination period closed. And I'm not exactly living in East Podunk, either.

12 January 2015

Unparalleled Postulates

There's an inaccurate saying foisted upon first-year law students in common-law jurisdictions (and even in Louisiana!) claiming that the law is a seamless web. It's not — the law is seamy indeed, and any tour into election law will demonstrate that rather definitively — but most areas of the law do share common methods of reasoning. Those of you who remember high-school geometry and the misguided, watered-down concept of "formal proofs" taught there are more than entitled to cringe. Of course, "analogous comparison" is one of those methods of reasoning...

  • Apparently, I'm not the only one who believes that the best defense against terrorism based on "offensive" speech is the First Amendment. There are prices to be paid for speech no matter what; getting government out of that role not only makes sense, but it reduces the stakes to a private dispute. Private disputes can still be nasty, can still be widespread, can still result in bloodshed; they seldom, however, erupt into either warfare or tyranny... at least until a governmental function gets involved, at which point we end up in a company town near Mobile, Alabama.
  • The Authors' Guild has finally given up one of its lost/botched causes: the HathiTrust matter. Loathe as I am to cite PW for anything requiring legal interpretation or acumen, that article is less self-aggrandizingly deceptive than the press release announcing the settlement.... This was not a lost cause in principle — only in execution.
  • Yet another culture vulture has missed the target in claiming that academics suck the joy out of literature. Mr Giraldi has — as is usual in this argument, and he's far from alone — confused "demands imposed by the tenure process" with "what literature professors and grad students actually think, say, and do." Had he limited his critique to Publications of the Modern Language Association and to unironically linguistically imperialist Yale deconstructionism, he might have had a worthwhile point. As it is, though, he's damning every journalist on the basis of counterfactual crap on Faux News... just like Faux News itself.
  • A piece praising gatekeepers in publishing, I'm afraid, misses the point. Daniel Menaker praises editors at print publishers as gatekeepers, while missing the identity of the real gatekeepers... and the real publishing. Most publish-or-not decisions are not delegated to the editorial department, even in the relatively small minority of the publishing industries that focuses on trade and literary fiction (the focus of each article)... and Mr Menaker worked at an outlier — if a nontrivial one — in any event. Particularly in trade and specialist nonfiction (the majority of print publishing by almost any measure by a considerable margin), the acquisition meeting at which editors open the conversation — but never close it and never make the actual decision — is not just a sad event; it is the default, and has been for at least a quarter of a century.
  • Then there's the argument over the proper purpose of the corporation — an argument that bears a disturbingly solipsistic resemblance to Alexander Pope's imprecation that the proper study of mankind is man. Lurking underneath the argument, though, is the question of who has the right to determine corporate affairs... and how that person obtains that right. In reality, corporations are almost never directed for an extended period of time by a team — there's always a single decisionmaker, and the bucks really stop with him. Almost always that gender, too.

    There's a hint lurking in the specific examples cited by Professor Kwak: Many of them result from "family businesses" that, like Topsy, just grow'd, helped along the way by corporatism (and not incidentally by at least some variety of unfair labor practices, in the environment if not necessarily internally). That's the unstated subtext of the "sad" story of Timken Steel: That as it turns out, the fifth-generation kid was judged to not be the best custodian of fortunes that had outgrown a reasonable family-business boundary. I'm not at all sure that recognizing that is a bad thing... if only because I've seen dynasticism in action, up close and personal, in government, in business, in the military, and in the arts, and it seldom turns out all that well. It's not that shareholder activism is always justified, or even always (perhaps not even most of the time) well considered; it's that the alternative of trusting every corporate titan to be D.D. Harriman is worse, because that is emphatically not the case.

    Working out the implications of denying shareholder activism as a (not the) legitimate means of controlling corporations for the republican form of government is left as an exercise for those with more free time on their hands than I have right now. And applying that to corporations in the arts (including, but not limited to, publishers) will require more free time than anyone has on their hands.

07 January 2015

Je suis Charlie

No, really. Hebdo today... instead of Gordon...

Frankly, if France had the First Amendment, this would have been less likely, which is in no way an attempt to excuse terrorism — just an attempt to explain one particular incident. But over here, we do...

Reprints from Charlie Hebdo (FR)

This isn't about insults, or religious respect, or anything. It's about pluralism — and that's not something that any religious fundamentalist can, or does, tolerate (just ask the shade of Dr George Tiller).

05 January 2015

I Don't See Any Horns

Aristotle gave us lots of good things... and lots of bad things, ranging from his cantankerously illogical and restricted view of nature (he's among those who popularized the "four element theory" of nature and refused to adapt that view to the actual evidence) to the single most-common logical error. One of the names for the "false dilemma" is "the Aristotelian fallacy": Reasoning that only A and B are valid (using that term carefully), that A is necessarily untrue, and that therefore B is necessarily true. An obvious example of this for those of us who had our ballots counted for President in 1980 is "If not Democrat, then Republican"... despite voting for John Anderson because I feared the incompetence and corruption of both Carter's and Reagan's coterie (and history shows I was right). With that in mind:

  • The opposite of "abused" is not "privileged." More to the point, the absence of a particular kind of abuse in one's background does not mean that one's lot in life is/was puppy dogs and trust funds and sneering privilege that makes Lake Woebegone look like pikers: It's not just that all the children are above average, it's that they're 1%ers.

    That certainly explains so-called nerd privilege, too. Ms Penny's otherwise thoughtful essay goes off the rails with its unstated assumption of opposition, of false dilemma; it's a not-so-subtle attempt to proclaim a certain group as having been "more bullied"... and therefore more entitled to take unfair advantage of, or at minimum unfairly castigate, anyone who can be labelled as one of the oppressors. I also think she's slightly understating the causation; it's not just "patriarchy," but prior-generation pressure to inherit what that generation has — the family farm, the family appointment to West Point, the family oil business, the family trust fund — regardless of the desires, capabilities, or anything else of the individuals involved.

  • The Grauniad provides a seriously understated perspective on the future of libraries that rather unconsciously echoes one of the consequences of Ms Penny's piece. It's not just about horny teenagers, but horny adults who cannot imagine having passion for learning or reading at all. As a particularly sharky aside, those adults cannot imagine Hermione Granger, whose defining characteristic — even more than her brains — is her passion for everything. And because "library" is not associated with "passion" in the minds of those who are not already heavy users of libraries, that consideration never enters the conversation. Of course, they're missing out on The Decameron in favor of the Playboy Channel while they're doing so...
  • As has become all too usual over the last two decades, The New Yorker shows its limited education and perspective with another false dilemma, incorrectly headlining (the underappreciated) Michael Moorcock as "the anti-Tolkein". The pretense that there can be Only One Anti-Tolkein neglects Le Guin, Beagle, Ellison, and Jemisin — and that's just four respectable, obvious examples who write in English. It's not writers, or even readers, who have made any false binary divide: It's sales and marketing dorks in the publishing industry (all the way down to the bookstores) who haven't themselves read enough to be entitled to make such a judgment, and who on the basis of their often-incorrect surface analysis (that utterly neglects library readership...) find it easier to perpetuate such myths than investigate them. Which rather explains The New Yorker itself over the last two decades.
  • Ryan Britt ponders whether characters in Star Wars are largely illiterate. It's not the characters who are the problem: It's the scriptwriters, directors, and producers. Of course, that goes far beyond Star Wars into the entire foundation of H'wood, and indeed of popular entertainment.

* * *

Application of the above toned-down outrage to each of the following is left as an exercise for the student... and the terminally frustrated:

Life and people are complicated, and the sooner we stop trying to reduce that wonderful complication to binary us-or-them logic the better.

27 December 2014

Black ALL Lives Matter

Just some end-of-year musings — now that 'net access has been restored after the winds of a few days ago, albeit not the phones — on the latest civil-rights issue causing irrationality and self-defeating behavior. And that's just among the cops...

Nobody should kid themselves. We have a serious attitude problem in the law-enforcement community, from cops to judges (PDF) to legislators. It's the kind of attitude problem for which I would have assigned substantial, umm, "additional training" during my tenure as a commander... in the hope that it would work as much as one third of the time, meaning that only two thirds of the offenders would be back in front of me for related disciplinary offenses.

But attitude isn't everything. We also have a serious technology problem that makes things worse: The lack of effective means to apply nonlethal force at a distance, whether on the part of cops or on the part of those who encounter cops. Most of these incidents involve guns on one or both sides of a cops-versus-citizens confrontation; Eric Garner is merely a horrifying exception, but actually reinforces my point. These confrontations almost always involve one (or both) of these factors:

  • Actual, perceived, or feared possession of a firearm by someone who is otherwise suspected (rightly or wrongly, rationally or otherwise) of breaching the peace
  • A substantial difference in apparent close-combat ability, usually — but not always — a significant size disparity between individuals, often complicated by apparent intoxication/impairment

And so, in a self-protection reaction, cops (and others, too) resort immediately to use of lethal force so as to keep themselves out of the clutches of those who are perceived as significant threats to their physical safety.

Any study of military policy and history between 1897 and 1992 would demonstrate that this is self-defeating. It is bad policy. It is, above all, stupid. The era of weapons of mass destruction as the default deterrent/application of force — which is not to say that weapons of mass destruction no longer present a danger, just that they no longer represent a default and legitimate instrument of state policy, if they ever did — led us to little fiascos like the Vietnam conflicts (not just for the US, but also for the French), in which desperate and clearly oppressed populations demonstrated that there always, always needs to be an effective means of asserting force short of ultimate force. Meanwhile, however, nuclear-deterrence doctrine had essentially eviscerated not just the capability, but the the mindset and logistical preparation, of major-power militaries to do anything less than refighting the ugliest parts of the Second Thirty Years' War.

And that's what we have on the streets of America today: There is no effective middle ground between brawling and firearms, just as the US military in 1963 had no effective middle ground between up-close-and-personal, high-risk-of-casualties-to-the-sons-of-the-nation mechanized warfare and nuclear annihilation. We don't give cops (or citizens) an effective means of avoiding that dangerous-to-self brawl other than ranged application of lethal force by firearms.

I'm not advocating that everyone on the street needs a Taser (which, after all, isn't all that effective, despite H'wood's dramatics). I'm not even advocating that all cops should reach for a Taser or similar device first. I'm pointing out that we need something better than that, and that it needs to be in more widespread use among everyone so that the personal equivalent of nuclear warfare isn't such a default.

In the end, the race, gender, religion, social class, or whatever other easy-to-glibly-differentiate characteristics of either victims or perpetrators don't matter. All lives matter. Instead of relying on "sociology" that is obviously bad to adherents of Ayn Rand and prejudices that are unacceptably irrational to Torquemada, we need to provide alternatives... because, unfortunately, conflict happens. It's to everyone's benefit for conflicts to have more nonlethal means of expression, and thereby more nonlethal outcomes.

Then, too, there's the problem so understatedly noted by Walt Kelly: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." That applies to everyone in these "law enforcement v. thugs" oversimplifications. Law enforcement too often becomes thuggish, relying upon might-makes-right rationalizations... which, in the end, is what the "thugs" (and they are out there — no matter his/her race/ethnicity/whatever, someone who is extorting protection money is a "thug") are doing, too. Too often, it's difficult or impossible to tell who the "real" miscreants are; I'd be much happier if it were more possible for both sets of miscreants to lose without dying. Of course, it's not in the interest of certain segments of society to allow the less-empowered a means of attacking the more-empowered as a reaction — justifiable or not — to perceived abuses of that power... but that's a complex matter for another time and that probably has no solution (or at least no solution that does not require a few people to walk away from Omelas).

24 December 2014

I Passed Eighth-Grade Typing

...and, therefore, I despise the Macintosh user interface; and most phone interfaces; and, more to the point, Windows 8.x and the moronic Metro interface. Especially, but not only, when the Metro interface is used as a way to hide privacy- and security-invading "apps", their settings, and means of disabling them. This is particularly annoying in protecting confidentiality: It's not the Microsoft App Store's (or iTunes', or Google Play's, or anyone else's) bloody business what pictures I may (or may not) have viewed recently, or media files I may (or may not) have played, etc. It's not even their business whether I've viewed/played anything on this machine.

I work with and alter and edit words all day, and sometimes numbers in the same way. My computer is not just for small-furry-animal videos interrupted by incessant ads for "cheaper" home loans/male "potency" pills/hair-loss cures/anything else. That some people do use their computers that way is their business... but the perception that everyone's computer should arrive out of the box prepared for endless hours of grumpy cats, while hiding everything I need, is more than a bit offensive. It's entirely understandable once one accepts that (a) marketing dorks did not pass middle-school typing, as a rule, or at least got poor grades; (b) are in control of far too many businesses; and (c) are best at marketing themselves as the solution to problems (whether real or imagined).

Yes, I'm grumpy. It has taken four days of concentrated work to get this machine somewhere close to productivity-ready, after the catastrophic failure of its predecessor (not just "hard disk error," but bricking; but I make backups!). And this machine has less crapware installed on it than most.

So, if I'm grouchy, that's why. (Like anyone would notice.) And replacing both computers and my phone in three weeks (two changes unplanned) sure hasn't made for more blawg entries, has it?

17 December 2014

My Grinchly Side Takes Over the Blawg

Still recovering from device crashes and replacements...

  • Well, this is truly offensive: The possibility of dynasty v. dynasty in 2016. I'd complain that this seems unusually tone-deaf for that family (and that means both of them), given the recent release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report... except that it's not. Not unusually tone-deaf, that is.

    It's not just that I don't think it's a good idea to have close family members rotating through federal offices; it's that I think it fundamentally incompatible with anything resembling the values on which this nation was founded, the Adams family notwithstanding. (Sure, they made mistakes; "three-fifths of all other persons," anyone?) But for the Attainder Clause, I'd even propose that spouses, siblings, and children of federal elected officials should be barred from elective office — it's not like there aren't plenty of other opportunities for public service, such as the military and the Peace Corps, that don't implicate dynasticism at the ballot box. All of this is aside from policy preferences: I lived in Illinois for too damned long to ever accept that as justification for keeping politics in the family.

  • And the less said about how a former Vice President demonstrated that he is not now, and probably was not in 2000, fit for office, the better. I would expect better, and more consistent, logic from a sophomore taking a slightly advanced composition class; an honest speaker or writer does not have the privilege of changing an entire argument by redefining a term with converging common and technical definitions to mean something entirely different. The issue is not whether someone else did something bad; it's whether US personnel did evil under color of law, because "he did it first!" doesn't even come close to a justification — let alone an excuse. They were, after all, only following orders... or something like that.

    Dick Cheney is turning into a corollary of Godwin's Law.

  • Here's an example of everything that is wrong with the American education system, stated blandly in the "paper of record" without any qualifiers:

    The system, enacted into state law in 2010, was created, in part, to make it easier to identify which teachers performed the best so their methods could be replicated, and which performed the worst, so they could be fired. Although very few teachers in the city were deemed not to be up to standards, state officials and education experts said the city appeared to be doing a better job of evaluating its teachers than the rest of New York State.

    Kate Taylor, "New York City Teachers Score Highly Under New Evaluation System" (17 Dec 2014). "Bad" teaching is seldom about technique — or at least not solely and directly. It's much more often about ignorance... and the lack of achievement required for the undergraduate degree in education both takes good examples out of the classroom and locks ignorance into it. Too many teachers, especially at the middle- and high-school levels, simply don't know enough to teach some of the material that they need to... and because they themselves (on average) have lesser academic credentials than those who earned core subject-matter degrees, their very existence is a subtle put-down of academic achievement in the classroom. And then there's the not-unusual problem of students both knowing more than and being smarter than their purported instructors, and all that does for both the learning experience and general behavior...

  • After several weeks now using an Android phone, I have to say that Android sucks. It sucks less than IOS and Windows Phone, though. Fundamentally, the problem is that all three phone systems — and, indirectly, the hardware they're running on — are fundamentally hostile to selected two-way communication; they are, instead, optimized for pushing data at the user — for advertising. And that's bad writing, even when the data is fully graphical by nature.
  • I've never been a fan of The New Republic; I'm not particularly enamoured of ideological filters on broad-based discussions. I'm even less a fan, though, of essentially forcing out long-term staff for the new owner's ego... especially given the source of the new owner's money. I'm not saying that no staff turnover was appropriate; I'm saying that absent actual misconduct, the existing staff at least deserves respect from the new ownership. If you really want a "new staff," start your own damned magazine from the beginning instead of carpet-bagging your way in.
  • Here's another data point demonstrating that judicial elections are a bad idea. We'll leave aside anything about policy in particular areas, and just note that judges subject to electoral approval would not — did not — attack popularly-passed Jim Crow laws. This is, fundamentally, the reason that I prefer easy removal of matters to federal court from state courts: The appointed federal judiciary struggles through one fewer thumb on the scales of justice. I also found it interesting that the Trib's short bio of the author of that opinion piece noted that he's a "trial lawyer"... but not that he's a former president of the Illinois State Bar Association.

11 December 2014

Just Whelmed

I'm just whelmed; not over-, not under-, just whelmed.

Some significant technical difficulties in the last couple of weeks have kept me from updating this sausage factory: Changing out all three connectivity devices... two unplanned, one catastrophic failure.

And then there's this (PDF, large file), which just really sort of made my day. Even several days before, when it became apparent that it was going to be released. And the blame extends back into the 1980s, because that's when the supervisors who kept pushing conduct like this were hired... often at the expense of those who had actual expertise and/or experience with the cultures, the people, the regions, the concepts. All under the less-than-benign ideological supervision of the Greatest Generation.