10 September 2018

The Price is (Alt-) Right

Professor Warren (I'm giving her the title she's earned that should get more respect than "Senator" after Thurmond and McCarthy and so many other miscreants) properly called for the "Resistance" to follow the bloody law: If they believe Trump is unfit for office, invoke the 25th Amendment. I'm actually rather pissed off that I had to go down eleven items in my search list before finding one with a non-misleading headline that doesn't miss the point entirely.

What this reflects, more than anything else, is the ahistoricity of the American media/conversation. From the 1950s until Watergate, there was a thread of fictional works that emphasized the duty of subordinate officials to follow the directives of the executive — even when they disagreed with them as policy matters — unless and until willing to pay the personal price for disobedience. Wallace's The R Document, Knebel & Fletcher's Seven Days in May (later adapted for a Kirk Douglas film), even Burdick & Wheeler's horribly mischaracterized (and overblown) Fail-Safe (either the unsatisfactory novel or the unsatisfactory film) were all part of the "national conversation" prior to Watergate, but disappeared. So, too, has the thread, as implicated in Seven Days in May itself: Now, the narrative almost always includes an immediate reward for "resistance." No one spends time in a Birmingham jail any more…

Instead, "resistance" — from the mildest speaking truth to power through active resistance up to whistleblowing — has lost the element that makes it appropriate: Perception of personal risk and the balancing act that prevents descent into anarchy. It's now as much a part of the playbook for personal aggrandizement as anything else; the rats leaving the sinking ship are demanding their fifteen minutes of fame (hoping to parlay that into a continuing slot as a pundit, which has much less risk of failure because it doesn't require the effort and expertise of actually making something happen and dealing with the unanticipated consequences) instead of doing anything to plug the leak… or prevent the next one. It's 20/200 hindsight from ignoramuses who espoused an ideologically correct policy and then discovered that policy didn't fit anything resembling facts (or even alt-facts). It's refusal to accept that Mark Felt neither sought nor obtained glory, riches, higher office, or that fifteen minutes through his acts of "resistance."

That's what Professor Warren is getting at, which you'll understand if you actually read/listen to her tweet (not linked; this blawg never links to that social media platform, but you can find it in Ms Martinez's article) or website instead of the misbegotten headlines and soundbites. Actions have consequences, and they're often mixed. That's perhaps too, umm, professorial a view for one to expect from a Senator elected in our broken two-party binary-merit system that forces us to choose the lesser evil all time because the choices we are presented are almost always evil; and, therefore, that's not what the media heard or continues to spin. The irony that so many of the commentators criticizing the oversimplistic soundbite view of Professor Warren's comment are (or at least portray themselves as) "resisters" who used that "resistance" as a stepping stone to a larger platform has escaped just about everyone.

disclosure: As a newly minted lawyer in the mid-1990s, I represented consumers in a number of class actions that were related to or going through the bankruptcy courts, and more generally in consumer finance. Professor Warren was a leading authority and provided valuable consultation on some of those matters… including, on more than one occasion, pointing out that one of the firm's dearly-loved positions was not defensible in law, but required a legislative fix if that was even possible.

27 August 2018

Overcomplicated Link Sausage Platter

Also overdue, overaged, and over the 'net.

  • As I've been arguing for decades, the courts by their very nature are not equipped to deal with disputes that even moderately approach science. The ABA's recent misguided "ethics" opinion on judges attempting to self-educate themselves is revealing; so, too, is the hoary old chestnut Palsgraf v. Long Is. R.R. Co., 162 N.E. 99 (N.Y. 1928), which reaches fundamental principles of tort law and responsibility by getting both the facts and accepted practices flagrantly wrong. (For starters, no one who handled fireworks or other explosives even occasionally would have accepted the handling of the stuff that went boom, even under 1920s norms, and it goes downhill from there.)

    But those are generic problems not tied to anything in front of any court at the moment, or at least not obviously so. Let's take a step back to methodology instead of factual or doctrinal sophistication, though, and see the impending problem facing the Supreme Court in multiple matters on its 2018 docket. Hint: What is the mathematics requirement for acceptance to Harvard Law School… both now and when the present justices were law-school applicants? <SARCASM>It's the same mathematics requirement for any other federal constitutional office, which explains a lot.</SARCASM>

  • Those problems are, however, tied to the various conceptual flaws in economic policy decisions. It's bad enough that there's criticism of the basis for behavioral economics (criticism, I should add, that appears at first glance to have corresponding flaws of its own, beginning with the distinction between designed-laboratory conditions and the messiness of the real world — and descending from there into the distinctions between means and medians, the very definition of the behavior in question, mixed motives…).

    Reaction profile diagram from Michigan State University, Chemistry 251–53 (Organic Chemistry)Time is also a problem. So are multiple pathways, multiple reactants, multiple products, activation energy, and most particularly capture of energy released. Economists don't ever ask the questions about capture, or even ask why long-distance runners don't just light a match and burn pure glucose to more "efficiently" release more profitenergy. Or, for that matter, ask what it takes to get that match in the first place, or how much "activation energy" it takes to light it… <SARCASM>Surely if it was as simple as mainstream economic thought implies — especially, but not only, various "trickle down" theories — nature and evolution would have gravitated that way. Instead, though, more complex organisms have more complex energy storage and usage systems.</SARCASM>

  • A more-recent piece in The Speculatator displays the usual problems with that publication's engagement with complexity. Mr Coville asks what we know about Shakespeare's wife, using that as a jumping-off place for…

    A third option is to try to glimpse him through the people he interacted with. Drawing on old biographies, novels and plays, Katherine West Scheil documents how for more than 200 years Anne Hathaway has been used as a keyhole through which to spy on the playwright as husband and lover. Her review of these varying interpretations demonstrate that Anne has been distorted to fit the Shakespeare each writer or era wanted to see.

    Alex Coville, How do we envisage Shakespeare’s wife?, The Spectator (18 Aug 2018, online ed.). Which rather assumes its conclusion: That there is complete unity between the individual William Shakespeare and the playwright known to us now as "William Shakespeare." I've long held that rather than looking for "the" Shakespeare — particularly since there are no writings at all, but only after-the-fact transcripts of what the oft-illiterate actors said their lines were, sometimes months or years after playing the parts — we should be looking for a Renaissance-era Edward Stratemeyer (or, perhaps, Franklin W. Dixon or Carolyn Keene … or, just because I like picking on him for deceptive sales practices, former marketing executive James Patterson). It's not like there aren't any precedents, even in the late sixteenth century; just take a look at the "authorship" of Amadis of Gaul, even as recounted in the famous library scene in Don Quixote! More to the point, take a look at what the "publishing industries" actually looked like under the 1566 Licensing Act.

  • Personally, I'm of the devil's party, too. Like that's a surprise. But at least it beats learning useless foreign languages; the foreign languages I've studied are useful (in contrast to most Americans who don't even try).

18 August 2018

Lying About "Security" Is Evil

… and that's totally inappropriate for a company with an alleged directive to its employees to "not be evil," Googleminions. Especially when the purported "security advice" is sent in a multi-level insecure form. In no particular order:

  • When you send me an e-mail imploring me to improve my security practices, do not send it as an HTML-formatted e-mail with both embedded graphics and a bunch of links, some of which do not match the display because there are session cookies embedded in the code. Including a direct link to log in to the account… which is exactly how phishing schemes work.
  • Do not generically classify a POP e-mail reader — that enables me to read e-mail as plain text (so that the code differences are startlingly visible, as in the free Thunderbird e-mail client) — as a "less-secure app." It may well be a "less-remunerative app because POP users don't see all of our ads or get all of our tracking cookies," but that is not the same thing as — or even closely related to — "less secure." (And the less said about the number of phishing schemes, malware-infested/pointing messages, and just plain spam that my client filters out that your own system doesn't, the better.)
  • As a bonus, using POP means one does not stay logged in to the central server constantly, so no penetration of the central server will necessarily enable access to anything of mine. Unjustifiably arrogant about your own security practices much? (Hint: I've hacked your system testing my own security.)
  • While we're on the subject of "inherently less secure," I've turned off every location-tracker on my phone, including half a dozen that aren't documented. I'm increasingly pissed off at your imprecations that I enable what you misleadingly and incorrectly call two-factor authentication for my Google accounts that would decrease security both by disclosing an unlisted number to you (the phone's Android activation is via a throw-away account accessed only fleetingly via a VPN) and requiring me to turn that location-tracking back on, because your purported two-factor authentication doesn't work if location-tracking is disabled.
  • When I wipe cookies off my system during an OS reinstall, or use a VPN on a public network when away from home (spoofing the IP address to look like one of your business partners!), don't block access to my more-secure-than-your-system-presumes POP reader (see the second and third bullet points above) on the ground that my device is "unrecognized" (even though retrieving the MAC address is trivial, and don't pretend otherwise)… especially when I've routed the VPN connection through, say, Dallas to hide my actual location as an additional security measure. Needless to say, I'm at least 1000km from Dallas at all relevant times.

Googleminions, your credibility on "security" is just about as good as the TSA's. Stop pretending that the "security advice" you're offering is anything other than "improved data collection validation." And the less said about any other aspect of your "security" systems — such as not enabling comments on websites through Google account verification if location data is turned off, and your continued unwillingness to mention the terms "EEFI" and "traffic analysis" (PDF) anywhere because their provenance as intelligence-gathering and covert-surveillance tools just might tip people off to what's really going on — the better. I'm less worried about the "surveillance state" than the "surveillance industry"… and, sadly, Google is actually a relatively good citizen in that industry. Or at least somewhat less evil than the default.

The irony of posting this screed through a Google-controlled system is purely intentional.

17 August 2018

#takemyclearanceplease

It's not current. I have no need for a security clearance at this time, let alone the one I used to hold.

I will nonetheless — for the rest of my life — support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I therefore stand with John Brennan and a collection of other distinguished past servants of the Constitution (however much I disagree with some of them in detail) and present servants like Mr Ohr. I will not be cowed by your inability to accept criticism, Mr Drumpf, and implore that you consider in the bowels of Christ — or, given your more-probable object of worship, of Mammon — that you might be wrong. Fortunately, I'm no longer subject to Article 88, so I won't have to improve my attitude to mere contempt.

And remember that Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People also spoke out against the powerful and their economic interests. Ironically enough, concerning pollution and environmental degradation. Dr Stockmann (not David Stockman) is the hero, however flawed he may be, however selfish he may be, for his allegiance to uncomfortable truths. (Admittedly, the Arthur Miller adaptation is a bit too pointedly influenced by McCarthyism to be fully "faithful" to Ibsen's original.)

16 August 2018

A Biblical Imperative

n.b. This is not my preferred — or an adequately scholarly — translation, but it's close enough for government work and available free online.

[…] The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

Ezekiel 18:20.

So much for the sins: They shall not be held against descendants. Accord Deuteronomy 24:16. (At least not here; many other verses in That Inimical Book hold otherwise, see, e.g., Exodus 20:5 and 34:7, Deuteronomy 5:9, Isaiah 14:21; cf., e.g., Matthew 18:21.) That is not our concern today, and certainly not regarding government or business or the arts or damned near anything else. Instead, we should flip the coin (that coin which embodies all that is Caesar's) and ask: When may we presume the merits of the fathers (or mothers, Loretta) in their sons or daughters (or daughters), let alone their sons-in-law?

I would ordinarily answer "never." But that would merely demonstrate that I am not fit to be a Daley, or Pendergast, or Kennedy… or a Rockefeller, or Paul, or Trump. That I am not fit to be an Amis, or Wainwright, or Sinatra, or Winslow. That I cannot be comfortable with the inherited wealth of a Pritzker or Walton or Redstone. To which I reply: That is, indeed, my bloody point — no one is, or at least should be.

Application of the above to the current government — and commerce and property ownership — in this nation at every level is left as an exercise in frustration for the voter in less than three months.


One of the dubious benefits of a classical education — aside, that is, from knowing when one might well have no more worlds to conquer — is having actually bloody read That Inimical Book from cover to cover, in multiple translations and including consideration of alternate/discredited textual components, as part of understanding both literary works and cultural imperatives. More than once, as a serious student of literature; it's nigh unto impossible to understand major figures in Western literature from Chaucer through Shakespeare to Faulkner and beyond (and that's just those writing in some form of English!) without doing so. But then, so many commentators and pundits and barfly-philosophers demonstrate that they haven't done so on a daily basis, even for much shorter foundational documents, that I shouldn't be surprised that being a nerd about things like this is so rare.

And here things get dubiously interesting: That last foundational document says nothing about nepotism but prohibits attainder — a contrast that I find quite disturbing and revealing in a document purportedly founded on rejecting any right of rulership through descent. (And the less said about the Adams Family the better.)

01 August 2018

I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Does

Two seemingly unrelated items from widely — or maybe not so widely — separated areas of public discourse reveal something rather discouraging about "honesty" in public discourse.

The one that most people probably know about is Faceplant's takedown of a few pages for "coordinated[] inauthentic behavior" — that is, that they're fronts for unlawful, unethical, and/or excessively sleazy behavior (beyond even the standards of Faceplant). Leaving aside for the moment that this never would have happened if Faceplant weren't already under scrutiny from multiple directions for election-related deception, it's fascinating that Faceplant's own business model falls equally well inside the phrase "coordinated[] inauthentic behavior." I've seldom encountered self-aggrandizing marketing-speak that scores an own goal quite so readily outside of breakfast in Paradise Lost — not even during the Cold War; unfortunately, Faceplant keeps the scoreboard secret.

Somewhat more obscure — actually, a helluva lot more obscure, but bear with me for a moment — there's an item at PW that is at least as disingenuous regarding what's really going on. A children's book editor and author with an ironically appropriate name shares "truths" that editors want authors to know and vice versa but without getting anywhere near the critical truths most central to author-editor miscommunication. Absent from Ms Sales's list are:

  • Author, you should understand that almost nothing that I say as an editor that isn't a text correction — and even many of those — is actually my decision. I'm not just talking about lawyers getting concerned about libel or copyright infringement, either! In particular, when we're negotiating the contract I have virtually no control whatsoever, and not much more than that when dealing with things that the publishing industry says fall outside of editorial… including the title under which your work will actually be published. If I say "we," I usually mean "don't shoot the messenger, it wasn't me."
  • Editor, you should understand that I don't know enough about the other things you're doing — individually, as a department or imprint, as a company as a whole, as a subindustry — to intelligently participate in problem-solving that's not directly related to the text of the manuscript as I submitted it. (And that's assuming that I'm neither a savant whose skills are limited to the writing itself nor an artiste who just can't be bothered.) Some of this is your own damned fault, since publishing operates inside a culture of secrecy and even senior editors are often firewalled away from significant things that matter to authors, like bad-faith self-dealing to depress royalties and how reserves against returns are actually set. But you don't communicate enough with me, or with enough relevant information to actually participate in a conversation until after the train wreck is inevitable. And I don't like being blamed for the train wreck; it's going to come back to bite you next time in an unpredictable way that will hurt both of us.

Those are just two exceptionally obvious examples. Ms Sales's list includes some helpful information, but it's deceptive by omission.

My real point here is simple: Trying to change the nature of a problem to please other masters — investors as to Faceplant, the rest of the company as to editors — just leads to more problems.

29 July 2018

Fire Up the Grill

… for a summer internet link sausage barbecue platter (with the obligatory flare-ups and singed weenies).

  • Speaking of singed weenies: Can anyone really be surprised that yet more power players in show business are having their personal — very personal — shortcomings aired in public? I thought not. I've always thought that overemphasizing the size of one's box office was sort of compensating for something else… and it turns out it's not just intellectual challenges, but ethics and basic humanity. Given the yuuuuuugely great example being set in DC, though, it's difficult to get too aroused.
  • But it could be worse. It will be worse, as more and more politicians — especially the most potentially tyrannical — succumb to their historical fates.
  • From the Department of Schadenfreude Pie comes "news" that Facepalm's stock price is undergoing a deserved correction. Naturally (given the source of that second item), there's a "we'll be back" spin to it. How'd that work out for MySpace and AOL, anyway?
  • And then there's the open question of "just what the hell is an emolument, anyway?" It's not that easy a question; it's obviously more than "direct payment" (even the Founding Fathers knew how to say "bribe," and did in their letters, so the earlier New York decision seems off). It's at least open enough to question that the facts will matter and the Maryland suit will proceed (PDF), if slightly more narrowly.

    Frankly, this lawsuit is the iceberg heading for the overconfident captain of the Titanic: Revelations here are much more likely to cause mutiny among the crew (and passengers) than electoral shenanigans or people-who-don't-look-like-us repression (even involving kids seeking asylum) or that singed weenie noted above. And just like in 1912, California won't be around to save anyone this time, either. How appropriate during Shark Week.

16 July 2018

None Dare Call It Treason

… because it isn't (quite).

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

U.S. Const. Art. III § 3. Russia may be a hostile foreign power, but it is not — either under international law or by declaration of either Congress or the proper part of the Executive — an "Enem[y]."

That said:

The very best evidence that Putin would have wanted Drumpf to win in 2016 is that — after, at minimum, indictments implicating Putin's government (and, reading between the lines, personal involvement at some significant level) prepared/supported by people Drumpf on the same day declared he had "great confidence" in — Drumpf can't think of a reason that Putin would have wanted him to win in 2016. The parallel to the repeated victim of fraud not being able to understand why con artists would target him is rather apparent… and disturbing… especially given the glee with which con artists pass around lists of marks based upon their past successes.

14 July 2018

Six Copyrightable Works in Search of "the" Author

Part 0 (Introduction)

Part 1: The Simple Author/Claimant Distinction

Once upon a time…

No, I'm afraid this isn't a fairy tale. Neither is it fiction. Now, where was I?

Most Americans' knowledge of the Duke of Milan ends with the character by that name in a Shakespeare play4 (if that much, as the play has never had a very successful film or television production made from it). Ludovico Sforza, who was the Duke of Milan at the tail end of the fifteenth century, was not himself an artist. Or writer. Or inventor. Or, really, much of anything other than a mere patron of artists and individuals works of art: Sforza supported Leondardo da Vinci for years and in particular commissioned The Last Supper.

It's that last clause that's of interest here. Today, we think of The Last Supper as a painting "by" da Vinci; in our minds, there's no question about its "authorship." Who is this Sforza guy anyway, to claim authorship of a painting to which his sole contribution was approval of an idea and money? Sadly, under US copyright law as it stands, Sforza is the author… or, at minimum, the only party with standing to file as copyright claimant. This is due to the goofiness of the "work for made for hire" (usually referred to as just "work for hire") doctrine and a bit of transubstantiation worthy of a Reformation in itself. The first step is simple, and buried in the text without ever using that ugly word "patron":

In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.5

The typical Renaissance commission met the predicate requirements of a work for hire, being produced by an employee. Some works (but not paintings!) may have done so when produced by what we would now call a "freelancer."

A “work made for hire” is—
   (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or
   (2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.6

We'll return to parsing the second clause of that definition later on, because it has some fascinating implications for terminations of certain publishing contracts7 that are eligible to occur right now.

The Last Supper's attribution history exposes, or at least implicates, several dimensions of the author-claimant distinction:

(A) Temporal disjunctions, especially for better-known works. For example, almost everyone thinks of Citizen Kane as "by" Orson Welles, not as "by" RKO; conversely, only aficionados attempt to distinguish among the various Marvel Cinematic Universe films by their directors and/or screenwriters.

(B) Form disjunctions, as implicated by the second clause of the WFH definition. Why, for example, should the financial backers of a filmed audiovisual production have a greater copyright claim as a matter of law than do those of a theatrical production? How about a filmed audiovisual production of a theatrical production?8

(C) Positional disjunctions, primarily those caused by greatly unequal original positions. These may be economic or other power-related inequalities,9 but not necessarily; mere informational asymmetries, such as those present when a more-skilled artist or author collaborates in an unfamiliar field or context, can be equally distortive.10

There are lots of other disjunctions to consider — especially when we start to consider joint authorship later on — but these will do to justify a fair number of footnotes.


  1. William Shakespeare, The Tempest (FF 1623, est. prod. 1611/12). Somewhat ironically, many scholars consider this play to be the last one that Shakespeare "wrote" alone… which, given the controversy over Shakespearean authorship, made it reflexively necessary to cite to it in this piece. There is some reason to believe — but so far as I'm aware no clear documentation — that Shakespeare was at least partially aware of the patron/author relationship involving Ludovico Sforza (purportedly the "real" inspiration for the play's character) and Leonardo da Vinci.
  2. 17 U.S.C. § 201(b) (current to 2018).
  3. 17 U.S.C. § 101 def. 55 (current to 2018).
  4. See 17 U.S.C. § 304(c) (current to 2018). I will take the opportunity to snarl at the drafters of this subsection of the Copyright Act, which is both recursive and self-contradictory due to bad thinking, bad writing, bad factfinding, and conflicts of interest. It is, however, the law — even if, and perhaps especially if, it seems designed to make actually exercising the rights granted next to impossible, and the Copyright Office has historically abrogated its duty to provide appropriate guidance to do so (I have been unable to find any citation to Copyright Office guidance in any reported case regarding an attempted termination).
  5. As a preview of later discussion, these definitional quandaries result from oversimplification, on the order of declaring that every gravitational interaction is between two bodies only, and that one can always neglect the effect of every other gravity source other than the two most obvious ones. In reality, not so much — just ask anyone computing a trajectory from Earth to Mars. Essentially, this is an attempt to define away certain problems by pretending that they don't exist.
  6. Cf. generally John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971, rev. ed. 2005) (that this is an essentially obligatory citation does not mean that it's irrelevant). There is a long history of scholarship on unequal bargaining position in contracts that is equally relevant, perhaps epitomized in Grant Gilmore, The Death of Contract (1974).
  7. Cf., e.g., Sybille Bedford, Aldous Huxley: A Biography (rev. ed. 2002) ___ (describing Huxley's frustrations with the generally poor writing skills he encountered in Hollywood); compare (if you dare) 20th Century Fox, Star Wars (1977) (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) with George Lucas, Star Wars (1977) (film "by" an auteur with novelization of that same film "by" the same individual).

07 July 2018

An Overdue Platter

Taking a timeout from reality — or, at least, what passes for reality these days — for some really heavily smoked, uncured internet link sausages. You don't want to know about the "byproducts" in these. You really don't.

  • Since this nation is now headed by a game-show host, I thought it long past time to unveil the game show that really inspires so much of his style. And his substance. Of course, it's not exactly new… but then, the concepts behind Jim Crow weren't exactly new, either.
  • Which, now that I think about it, also explains a bit about the resurgence of false-nostalgia-tinged popularity of "Hapsburg" culture. That phenomenon reminds me a great deal of the popularity of "fifties" things while I was in high school, perhaps as much a reaction to school busing as anything else. But Hapsburg culture doesn't have any baggage like that (rented trailer? what rented trailer?).
  • Then there's the two-cultures phenomenon and its necessary corollary, distrust in "science" that is not about science at all. There's an "ingredient" here that the good old CHE would never admit to, and that SciAm would never notice: How undergraduate credit hours are misallocated between courses in the sciences and elsewhere.

    There's an old myth (reinforced by university administrations consisting almost entirely of lawyers, social science/humanities faculties, and b-school types) that because laboratory "contact hours" allegedly require less preparation time outside of class than "lecture hours" or "discussion hours" do, they should be less rewarded for the student. A typical example from my misspent youth was freshman physics — a four-credit course (each semester) consisting of three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory time every week (plus an "optional" one-hour quiz/discussion section led by a graduate student). But, of course, nobody had to read the lab instructions beforehand, or go through the relevant substantive material in detail so that the instructions made sense, or spend an average of two hours per lab session writing up the results for grading; conversely, one was not expected, or allowed, to write one's paper for Western Civ while Norris the K droned on from the front of the class, to choose an equivalent from another culture. And it got worse as one got more advanced: The junior-level synthetic organic chemistry laboratory garnered three credits for one lecture hour and six laboratory hours (which almost everyone in the class extended to about ten due to the "open lab" policy of the instructor, and it still wasn't nearly enough), and one-to-five ratios were not unheard of. All of this at a university with an unusually enlightened attitude toward the plight of the science student.

    Given this disparity in unacknowledged time commitments, the dearth of science and engineering majors participating in timesink policy-oriented extracurriculars shouldn't surprise anyone: Instead of attending meetings of economic-and-technology policy clubs so that a little real understanding of the technology part could be injected, they were in the lab… or, more to the point, the few science students who did so were not in the lab learning about science.

04 July 2018

"Mission Accomplished" Yet Again

… although this year, my lament may be a bit farther out of the mainstream.

I continue to resent celebrating giving the King the finger instead of the actual accomplishment of the Constitution. It's even more of a problem given that July 4 isn't when it was signed in any event. But since our inability to impose our manifest destiny on the rest of the world was brought to the forefront in the early 1970s, between Vietnam and OPEC, this nation has trended more and more toward jingoistic declarations in ringing prose that neglect others' interests (legitimate or otherwise) and egregiously ignore the difficulty of making a good-sounding deal work, in practice, when it confronts the enemy. Or even just reality.

It's understandable, I suppose. It's always easier to celebrate a single anticipatory event than to anticipate the hard work coming afterward. But it's not laudable.

28 June 2018

Damn — Another One

RIP Harlan Ellison, 1934–2018. I was a fan long before I became his lawyer (and friend). One result of his legendary advocacy for authors' rights continues to be cited as a leading case on internet piracy, despite it being fifteen years old (the equivalent of about 75 years in internet time).