18 August 2019

Clockwork Orange Skull

So Megan Rapinoe stuck it to Orange Skull again. She clearly has a better understanding of reality — and more, better words — than he does. Of course, Ms Rapinoe appears to have actually worked for her undergraduate degree and taken some of that knowledge with her into the outside world.

Orange Skull? Just ask the creator of Maus. Or, more likely, try to suppress it claiming "we're not political", which really opens things up for discussion. Compare to, for example, "With great power comes great responsibility."; "I came to realize that I had more to offer this world than just making things that blow up."; "Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so that people could be free. This isn't freedom, this is fear."; "The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude." OK, that last one isn't from a Marvel product, but it rather sums things up well… and makes clear (if only by implication) that censorship by the marketplace, or by market actors, is still a form of censorship. As a recently deceased should-have-been-a-Nobel-laureate noted back in the 70s,

Recently I read in Giovanni Grazzini’s fascinating book on Solzhenitsyn the following passage:

The cultural industry, vanity, the resentment felt by intellectuals at seeing power slipping from their hands, have so obscured the vision of Western writers as to make them believe that not being persecuted by the police is a privilege.

I am very slow indeed. I puzzled over that sentence for three days before I understood what Grazzini meant. He meant, of course, that it is not a privilege, but a right.

Ursula K. Le Guin.

13 August 2019

Headline-Evading Link Sausage Platter

Disturbingly closely related link sausages that carefully avoid the issues dominating the headlines… because you don't need me to tell you that the headlines, and the stories behind them, are ridiculous.

  • One of the fundamental problems with performance arts is that nobody pays much attention to infrastructure — either its needs or its costs. At the moment, this is obvious with symphony orchestras. Forty miles from each other, the Baltimore Symphony and the National Philharmonic are going through a crisis of inability to pay their large staffs. Part of the problem is that the public (and, for that matter, the trust-fundies who attend all of those wine-and-cheese parties) has little, if any, conception of just how many highly trained people it takes to put on a musical performance. One of the problems with classical music is the meme that no multipurpose facility is adequate, so there must be dedicated (and expensive) buildings ranging from La Scala to the Sydney Opera House that can really only do one thing: Unamplified group-ensemble performances lasting between 90 and 150 minutes. That meme isn't entirely wrong; an unstated consequence, however, is that nothing else can contribute to the construction, the upkeep, the staffing, etc.

    More to the point (especially in Baltimore), though, is the disdain for the back-office staff, especially in contrast to the never-ending conflict between front-office staff pay and musician pay. Bluntly, with most orchestras there's no excuse whatsoever for front-office staff, especially at the management level, being paid comparably to the musicians — it's orthogonal. But show me a symphony, anywhere in the world, where the top beggars fundraisers/party MCs make less than the concertmaster (ordinarily a violinist with three-decades-plus of experience, and usually at least a dozen years at that orchestra); care to guess who is actually more important to any particular performance? I'm not saying "don't reward the nonperforming staff at all"; I'm saying that the contests for who "deserves" more have got to stop.

    And the less said about the median remuneration for artists versus gallery owners and museum management, the better.

  • Which leads to the fascinating dispute between the repeat-World-Cup-champion US women's football (soccer) team and the US soccer federation — the counterpart of the USOC and USA Gymnastics — over the pay rate offered to the women, especially compared to the men (who didn't even qualify for the last World Cup and have never made it beyond the quarterfinals in the modern (1958 and thereafter) competitions). The underlying numbers simply are not comparable (as the men's team players note, in support of the women's team players!), but are nonetheless all that we've been given. All of this rather ignores the self-fulfilling-prophecy and confirmation bias problems resulting when women's teams (or sports) are put into fourth-rate facilities with fourth-rate infrastructure against historically-not-competitive opposition with a backdrop of gender-based pay inequality. Let's put it this way: I wouldn't pay the same price for a ticket to a Reign FC match at Starfire as I would to a Sounders match at CenturyLink (or whatever its official name is these days, which is part of the point, too); my back can't handle bleacher-like seating!

    The comparison to the preceding item (especially given the overwhelming inherited-wealth nature of "management" in both areas) is a bit too much before coffee. For that matter, it's a bit too much before a couple of twelve-year-old single malts at the end of the day, in a dark-wood-appointed lounge with… damn, that's my point, isn't it?

  • Confirmation bias also works the opposite direction in the arts, too, especially for anyone who is not the beneficiary of an organizational copyright holder. This piece at BoingBoing epitomizes the problem, primarily because its dataset is so badly conceived and lumps disparate populations — not just samples — together for a statistically indefensible analysis. The conclusion that is implied — that outright piracy of material that failed of formalities disfavored by governing international treaties and standards, particularly since those formalities were imposed on people (authors and, especially, their heirs) with no expertise and at a future-discounted non-volume-related cost of several times the unfair-competition-dominated market value, is ok because "nobody" cared about it in the first place — improperly treats disparate works and holders/authors alike to draw that conclusion. The example of L. Frank Baum illustrates it rather well. Baum wrote a helluva lot more than just the Oz books; indeed, the Oz books represent well under 30% of his copyrightable output. Only the Oz books were ever renewed, though. Commercially, this made sense — after 28 years, nobody wanted old chicken-farming manuals. But the conclusion that renewal is therefore somehow "disfavored" or "irrelevant" for the Oz books on that basis — as implied by both the article and the dataset chosen for misanalysis — does not follow. Indeed, looking at the universe of the types of books (because the pecularities of periodicals and registrations make the datasets internally discontinuous) that were renewed, at least on the sample basis that I did in 2005, leads to almost the opposite conclusion for several types of books. And in turn, that is inconsistent with "one size fits all" copyright, something that is almost required by the Bleistein Problem.

    None of which does a very good job, at the next level of implication, of explaining why Cloudflare is willing to take its platform away from political speech (however reprehensible) but, as a policy matter, won't even consider taking it away from thieves and pirates — not even when given a site analysis demonstrating that 90% of a given site's content consists of less-than-20-year-old pirated copyrightable material. Oh, wait: Confirmation bias again. Not to mention money-in-the-pocket bias again.

  • And, unfortunately, medical "replication" issues fall prey to the same flaws, especially when applied to nonmedical circumstances. The irony that that article doesn't see its own confirmation bias as an issue is just a bonus: Bayesian statistical analysis has its own problems with boundary conditions.

03 August 2019

Catching Up With the Future

At 3:57a.m.on Sunday, August 3, 2019, James Connor Quinn pulled off his headset and sat back in his chair, sweating and sucking air, sure now, but hardly able to believe what he alone in all his world knew.

"Jesus Christ," Jimmy breathed, meeting the future by turning to the ancient past. "Holy Mother of God."

He rubbed his eyes and combed his fingers through his tangled, scribbly hair and sat, staring blankly, for a few moments longer. Then he called Anne.

Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow (1996). Now if we could only find intelligent life inside the Beltway…

01 August 2019

Master Debaters

Let's get one thing out of the way first. The last two nights on CNN (and the preceding iteration) were not a "debate." They were a bloody talent show all too similar to the Miss USA pageant, with just about as much relationship to reality, to merit, and/or to elections. Bluntly: Policy decisions are not made on a stage under lights in response to questions from marginally informed reporters whose primary job is to enhance network ratings. Neither, for that matter, are voting decisions… something that the thing on Drumpf's head demonstrated that it understood all too well in 2016. This wasn't even a three-penny opera; it lacked Macheath as a moderator, and in place of the Queen's intervention at the end we had "we've run out of time."

The fundamental problem with public charades of this nature is that reality doesn't present chief executives with problems that have neat, simple, boundaries and neat, simple, one-dimensional solutions… that don't overlap with anything else, that never require balancing of different priorities and side effects (anticipated or otherwise), that are never undermined by opposing personal interests (or institutional interests, let alone historical imperatives). No moderator has ever asked even so simple a follow-up question as this:

How would you implement a policy concerning the opioid crisis of addiction while simultaneously acknowledging the need for pain relief and low availability of continuing medical care in the regions most hurt by opioids?

And that doesn't even get into "OK, now how do you implement that in the face of strong moral objections from really noisy objectors, especially any in Congress?" or "OK, now how is it going to be paid for?" or "OK, what's your medical evidence that strategy could work?" All too often, the candidates were talking to themselves, running down prepared points of what they (and their handlers) wanted to hear instead of even engaging with difficulties… let alone opposing viewpoints.

Worse, though, is this possibility — a question that, so far as I've been able to determine, has not been asked of a presidential candidate in a public debate since they were first telecast over half a century ago:

This is a follow-up to the previous question. [An outside force of some kind] absolutely prevents you from implementing that policy. Tell me how you would respond.

Because Napoleon was an optimist. It is not just "the enemy" that kills off plans — it is reality. An unexpected hurricane or earthquake that results in lots of orthopedic and soft-tissue injuries, for example, putting additional stress on the medical system while also increasing the demand for long-term pain relief, would be an obvious possibility, and is precisely the sort of thing that actually faces chief executives.

* * *

I am carefully refraining from comment about how Boris the Spider is trying to demonstrate that Anglophone executives "elected" through a combination of voter suppression, voter deception, and restricted voting populations invariably turn into clowns, when they weren't clowns to start with. Except, of course, this one.

21 July 2019

Landlocked Moby Dick

I suffered a minor parking-lot collision today at a grocery store. A selfish jerk driving a pristine-white 4x4 pickup was in a hurry to get out of the lot, clipped the rear of my parked car (which is old enough to have its own driver's license), and drove off — no doubt hoping he hadn't been seen. He put a minor crack in the rear brakelight cover.

It was a business truck, so I've got a good idea how to contact him. I won't be doing so, however, on the basis of two things: The NRA sticker on his bumper and the license-plate frame asking "Who Is John Galt?" Not exactly who I expect to take personal responsibility for anything…

But that leads to another observation. Over all the decades I've been driving, I've learned in each area what kind of vehicles to avoid because they're disproportionately dangerous to other traffic. Back in the Iron Age, it was Caddys and Lincolns and taxicabs. Now, it's Beamers… and white whales. White SUVs, pickups, and vans seem to have a disproportionate share of road ownership interests, not to mention being difficult to see around in parking lots, and the cleaner and shinier they are the more arrogant the driving. Maybe I should get a personalized plate P3QU0D; or maybe not, given the Pequod's fate.

20 July 2019

Magnificent Desolation

One small step for man, one giant step for mankind.

I remember wondering whether it was supposed to be "a man." And I'm immensely disappointed that we've barely been back since, so the singular/plural issue has taken on a disturbing, almost sardonic, unintentionally ironic tone. But then, he was an engineer, not an English major, dammit!

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.

Landing

Fifty years ago, the Eagle landed.

17 July 2019

I Could Never Get the Hang of I-de-olh-oh-gee

I'm going to be as gentle about this as I can: Lawyers in general, and law professors in particular, should not be allowed access to statistical tools unless and until they take a minimum grad-school-two-credit-equivalent course in experimental design taught by scientists who actually design experiments. A recent article on copyright remedies epitomizes the GIGO problem that results. The article is fundamentally wrong, fundamentally unsound, and based on fundamentally ridiculous experimental design. Some of the policy conclusions may have some validity, and should be part of the discussion… but the article's data set and analysis are orthogonal to any valid conclusion.

It's worth quoting the article's description of its "experimental design and method" in full, omitting footnotes (which do not appear to resolve any of the difficulties discussed below, let alone the more-subtle ones not explicable in a blawg entry).

The docket study presented in this Part is based on the Copyright Data Project, a publicly available database that contains docket entries, complaints, and other documents of almost one thousand copyright disputes from the period between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2008. The list of cases was populated by a search on Bloomberg Law of all cases filed in federal courts from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2008 for which the “Nature of Suit” is Copyright. This four-year period provides an ideal window to study statutory damages since it allows us to compare the role of statutory damages in the context of P2P file sharing on the one hand, with more commonplace copyright disputes on the other. The final list of cases in the database contains a random selection of 957 out of 17,119 cases. By randomizing the cases for analysis, the analysis is based on a representative set of cases. The docket database contains 46 coded fields and 125 different variables on each of the copyright disputes randomly selected from that period.

It is helpful to summarize a few general observations about copyright litigation. In their topography of the field, Christopher Cotropia and James Gibson observe that (1) “the Central District of California and Southern District of New York are ‘hot districts’ for copyright cases,” (2) copyright cases are “no more likely to get contentious than other civil litigation, [but] when they do get contentious, they get very contentious—resulting in significantly more docket entries, substantive rulings, and trials,” and (3) copyright dockets contain a remarkable number of (successful) small firms and “low IP” industries. Where pertinent, the analysis below will take into account these particularities of copyright disputes. Additionally, the results will distinguish between “regular” and “peer-to-peer” (P2P) or file-sharing cases. Separating both types of cases is important given the flood of P2P litigation in the 2005–2008 period.1

Go ahead. Soak that in. Now let's consider just a few of the obvious systemic flaws in this dataset (and in this instance, I lay the blame as much upon Cotropia and Gibson as on DePoorter), in the order that they become unmistakeable (that is, not disclaimed in the next sentence sort of thing!) in this passage. To begin with, "docket entries, complaints, and other documents of almost one thousand copyright disputes from the period between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2008" represents not precisely the Jurassic Period, but it's definitely Bronze Age. It's pre-tablet, pre-Kindle, pre-Spotify, and pre-online Netflix; it's nearly pre-Etsy; it's at the height of The Pirate Bay; it's at the beginning of TOR (which had enough activity to point at defendants only in the last twelve months of the studied period); it's before widespread release/use of decoders for online video content that enabled high-quality transcoding; it's before almost-universal social media account usage, a major vector for infringements; most to the point, it's before widespread adoption of cellphones able to store and replay pirated content. In short, the 'net doesn't look much like it did in 2008, let alone 2005, regarding copyright infringements.

Similarly, the reliance on only matters filed in US District Court is also more than a bit problematic. IMNSHO and consistent with both my personal experience and the general experience of authors' organizations — both specific to that period and overall since the late 1990s when I began representing and consulting for creators and other copyright holders regarding online piracy — the statutory-damages stick being waved in a takedown letter prevents a substantial proportion (at least three quarters) of lawsuit filings against nonhabitual offenders. It does so in three ways: It provides substantial incentive for nonhabitual offenders to settle, take down, or otherwise obviate the need for suit; it also provides substantial incentive to habitual offenders (overt pirate sites being the most obvious example, but also including, say, America Online, Inc. (pay attention to who argued and won that one — and concerning what kind of infringement!), Cox Communications, and so on, to make getting them into court procedurally difficult to impossible (not to mention expensive and time-consuming); and there's that pesky DMCA shield2 that locks many disputes right out of court (and the interplay with demand letters asserting ineligibility for DMCA safe harbors and corresponding availability of statutory damages can be fascinating in itself), notwithstanding that an infringement using any conduit but the internet might well have been meritorious. And that's just for indisputably-US-based defendants!

Randomization of cases for analysis isn't enough unless one first ensures that the random selection is across a single, or at least representative, population. And then one must ensure that all of the statistical tools used for analysis are sample-based tools… and perform all of the crosschecks later. Table 5, however, reflects that these crosschecks were not performed: Subsamples of two individual author plaintiffs, three "software-video games" plaintiffs, three "performing arts" plaintiffs, and five "fine arts" plaintiffs are nowhere close to the minimum sample size necessary to validate a statistical conclusion from a population of either 957 or 17,119 cases. Indeed, Tables 5 and 9 allow the inference that statutory damages, even when potentially enhanced for willful infringement, are too low to provide sufficient incentive for individual creators to file suit… although the article never considers this possibility (nor the difficulties of actually collecting such a judgment).3

The article also has a deeper, unstated analytic problem: It presumes that allegations of "willful infringement" are related directly, and only, to claims for enhanced statutory damages. Umm, not so much. Especially with smaller and independent copyright holders — authors, composers, and so on who are not operating under a collective umbrella — recovery of attorney's fees is at least as important as whether statutory damages might be enhanced. Since the willfulness of the violation is a critical factor in the Fogerty analysis, of course a high proportion of plaintiffs will plead willfulness.4 In short, the "willfulness" pleading issue is not an independent variable amenable to statistical analysis or argument.

There's also a fundamental legal-landscape problem that this article neglects: The Morris problem.5 By itself, this explains why there are so few individual authors who filed suit: They could't get into court in the Second Circuit during the study period. And authors of individual pieces in periodicals are those most in need statutory damages to make a lawsuit viable. The dataset self-selected against a substantial body of copyright holders — arguably, based upon the legislative history of the 1976 Act, those who were supposedly intended to benefit the most from the statutory damages provision. The Muchnick decision6 slightly relaxes this by enabling class-action suits to be filed and settled when not all copyright holders have "satisfactory" registrations, but only slightly — and only two years after the end of the study period.

Perhaps most egregiously, the article attempts to draw conclusions about the entire universe of copyright holder behavior from a nonrepresentative set. For example, as disclosed in Table 9, it analyzes more instances of motion picture and television-program infringements — a total of 27 filed cases, all of which by definition concern a copyright holder that is not a natural-person creator — than the combined total of art and text (10 clear instances and possibly up to 8 others categorized as "publishing" for unclear reasons). Let's just acknowledge that analyzing incentives, process, or anything else as would Warner Brothers is not at all comparable to an individual author or artist. The article also incorrectly assumes that copyright is the principle, or motivating, cause of action.!7

Bluntly, this article represents what happens when someone just crunches numbers without considering where they come from, where they're going, and what they omit as much as reveal. This is especially distressing because the article is ideologically aligned with a meme prevalent in the law-and-economics movement (and favorable to certain interests), but is not founded on solid data or solid analysis of the data (before even raising the "epidemiological versus empirical" monster from the depths of statistical analysis). The particular ideological meme involved — and it's apparent only when reaching the last six pages before the article's conclusion — is that because this dataset and analysis appears to show that the existing statutory damages regime is from at least one perspective (those potentially paying them — that is, the wrongdoers!) inefficient without using that word, the entire regime must be rejected. This meme, of course, rejects that "efficiency" is itself a normative judgment, precisely because it is perspective-bound to less than all participants in a particular economic system. As is this data set.


  1. Ben DePoorter, Copyright Enforcement in the Digital Age: When the Remedy Is Wrong, 66 UCLA L. Rev. 400, 417–18 (2019) (footnotes omitted).
  2. 17 U.S.C. § 512 (limiting liability of "online service providers" in a manner explicitly excluding statutory damages).
  3. Cf. Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, 719 F.3d 67 (1st Cir. 2011). Conversations with counsel involved in the matter indicate that nowhere near the $675,000 in statutory damages assessed for a long-running scheme that it is difficult to characterize as anything but willful infringement, given the number of warnings made, has been collected.
  4. Compare DePoorter, supra n.1, at 428 (neglecting attorney's fees as related to willfulness).
  5. Morris v. Business Concepts, Inc., 259 F.3d 65 (2d Cir. 2001), later op., 283 F.3d 502 (2d Cir. 2002) (publisher's compilation copyright registration certificate does not act as a copyright registration certificate for individual freelance articles contained in that issue of a periodical).
  6. Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, 559 U.S. 154 (2010).
  7. Cf., e.g., C.E. Petit, Accio Lawsuit!, Scrivener's Error (02 Nov 2007). ETA (21 Jul 2019): The characterization that there were "two" suits by "individual authors" is wrong… because I have personal knowledge, having been consulted on all of them, of at least four that should have been included in the data set (and I was not so influential or prolific or egotistical to think that means those were the only ones not included). Of course, three of them were adversary complaints in bankruptcy proceedings, so they probably didn't get noticed — and by definition the copyright claim, and even the statutory damages within the copyright claim, was not the primary motivation for those plaintiffs. I'm also aware of a 2005 bankruptcy proceeding — that is, comfortably inside of the study period — that included dozens of authors' claims, adversary complaints, and corresponding assertions of willful misconduct by the debtor related to statutory damages as a valuation measure.

16 July 2019

RIP Justice Stevens

The other Great Dissenter died earlier today at 99, after a stroke, in Ft Lauderdale.

What I find most frustrating is that this clearly centrist man has come to epitomize "the Court's liberal wing." But that's for another time.

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

And I don't mean just to Queens (even if Queens might as well have been a foreign country when you were growing up there, happily living off the proceeds of your grandfather's career as a neopimp fleecing goldminers in Alaska). Which, perhaps more than anything else, reflects your inability to contemplate what "competition" actually means… because competition in the sex trade isn't good for anyone.

No, I mean going back to Kallstadt, where your grandfather really came from. That's the place you should go back to and fix, before you engage in a facist, racist campaign of criticizing America, like you did by not later than 1998 and went public with in 2015. Because there's nothing whatsoever wrong with the Palatinate. Nope: No antisemitic traditions (hint: Arabs and Palestinians are Semites, too), or xenophobia, or nepotism… or history as one of the strongholds of the Nazi party.

Meanwhile, your dubious allies are trying another path to take us back to the good old days of the 1950s: painting members of the United States government with the label "communist" just because they say "disagreeable" things. (There are exactly 57 of them, Senator IselinGraham. All while the House Heffalump leader is named… McCarthy. Can't you guys even come up with new slurs?)

So get back to where you once belonged (although I don't think you left for California grass (which you would have paved over, anyway, even though that's a different song by actual Americans)… or consorted with a man who thought he was a woman, let alone a gender-fluid tree).

And in the meantime, my apologies to the four women of color who've been pilloried in this way. It's all I've got, I'm afraid… but in a sense, we're all responsible. That's the point of representative government.

Launch

Fifty years ago, Messrs Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins cleared the tower…

13 July 2019

Z731

Most of these sausages are related to my natural habitat: Libraries. Directly or indirectly.

  • The ALA has finally recognized that continuing to name its top professionalism award after a bigot is probably not a good plan. And that's even before considering the cultural insensitivity and imperialism, scientific ignorance, disdain for both law and literature, and a reading public that was entirely upper-middle-class white men (with an occasional nod to upper-middle-class white women) born and living east of the Hudson, that is inherent in the disease that he has imposed on American libraries: The Dewey Decimal System. Now if we can just get the ALA to deaccession that monstrosity…
  • I can't help smiling at this one. The very concept of drag-queen story hours is mind-boggling to someone who grew up in the 60s and 70s. On the other tentacle, that was in one of the more repressive enclaves in the Seattle area — which I like to think I largely outgrew (even before high school, let alone adulthood) — so…
  • (I'm using this source only because it's not behind a paywall — and the better, more-nuanced ones are.) Libraries — including my local library — are beginning to push back against publisher discrimination against libraries. The irony of publishers claiming unilaterally (and, one might add, inconsistent with both copyright law and the relevant parts of the UCC) that those who "purchase" an e-book or downloadable audio file are "only" getting a license becomes most apparent when comparing it to publishers' uniform refusal to accept that, as a matter of law, they've only gotten a license from authors (and, therefore, that licensor/licensee law, not seller/purchaser law, regulates the contracts, transactions, and rights) is too much to handle on a Saturday morning before the caffeine kicks in. The nicest descriptor I can find this early is "disingenuous," although my immediate impulse is more toward "inherently and intellectually dishonest."
  • Speaking of paywalls and publisher dishonesty, there's almost nothing more inherently and intellectually dishonest than for-profit publishers locking publicly funded scientific research up behind paywalls. Well, maybe the default demand of law reviews to claim copyright in law journal articles written by people not on faculty at the journal's sponsoring law school is moreso — but not by much. News bulletin: The (US) 1909 Act was abrogated over forty years ago, and it never had validity outside the US.
  • At the other end of the age spectrum — and still a huge impact on libraries — consider the YA wars being waged by and on behalf of those who haven't read the books. That's the most intellectually dishonest aspect of the whole thing: It's not just those criticizing and defending particular books who haven't read them; it's many of the people charged with marketing them, who selected "YA" as appropriate in the first place. Exhibit 22,978: this forthcoming book, which will be marketed as YA in the US and has not a damned thing to do with YA; indeed, it subverts just about everything "related to" YA because its subtext and context presume familiarity with Paradise Lost.
  • Then there's an unexamined issue: The relationship between bookstores and libraries, especially as bookstores disappear. This is another east-of-the-Hudson problem: The general conceptions of "the proper place and role" of both bookstores and libraries presume that every literate individual (regardless of age or economic circumstances) has easy walking, or at least short-public-transit-trip, access to both large, comprehensive, well-stocked public libraries and large, comprehensive, well-stocked bookstores staffed by employees and managers who really know their respective inventories. Umm, not so much… especially as real-estate speculation continues to force bookstores to close (and, frankly, was one of the two major causes of both Borders' demise and the still-probable-if-perhaps-a-little-delayed failure of B&N). The reality is that a healthy culture needs both, but that has been increasingly difficult since the mid-1970s.
  • We all need to remember that libraries are the best defense against misinformation in general, cultural imperialism in particular, and information that's relevant and not just from an ill-formed search result. Although they're not a defense of or for abused adjunct professors, the real problem there being that anti-tax maroons have convinced themselves (and others) that money paid to people who develop resources — like, say, people — is a pure sunk cost and not an investment with a difficult-to-quantify return.