22 January 2009

Sausage Visuals

More sausage links today... this time with pictures. Those of you who are squeamish about what the internet makes have been warned!

  • The second half of Professor Baker's essay on what ails journalism (or is that Ailes? but that's an argument for another time) has appeared at Balkinization. I think he is profoundly wrong in his prescription — a government subsidy for the press. It reminds me of my own experiences in the military, which were echoed in Colin Powell's autobiography.

    Powell had a problem with in-service rates for helicopters in Germany, and eventually traced it down to differing standards: The maintenance technical orders required a 70% in-service rate, but the Pentagon's force readiness system required a 75% in-service rate. Powell's solution — which is the wrong one, but that's another issue entirely — was to tell the maintenance people to ignore their technical orders, which were based on years of experience with the hardware and a realistic technical appraisal of the possible (not to mention indirect effects such as metal fatigue from overfrequent removing and replacing of panels), and meet the Pentagon standard. Not incidentally, that also meant that nobody had to buy more helicopters and pay more maintenance personnel to ensure that the right number of helicopters was available to meet mission requirements. That, however, is exactly what is at issue here: Should the post hoc financial statistics for journalism, or publishing in general, or for the entertainment industry, be measured against comparable enterprises... or against the universe of all investment possibilities?

    Thus far, the market has chosen Powell's "solution": Just measure against the universe for the present, and to hell with the unintended/unanticipated long-term consequences (such as insufficient replacement airframes to replace battle damage... which can't exactly be blamed on lazy mechanics). Professor Baker's "solution" is, essentially, to fudge the numbers by subsidizing the readiness rate with a 5% bonus. I question the basis for the numbers in the first place.

  • Roberts readministers oath to Obama on 21 Jan 2009Also at Balkinization, Professor Balkin himself (tongue firmly planted through about six cheeks) facetiously claims that Obama still isn't President, even though (as the photograph on the right documents) he retook the oath... correctly... on Wednesday. "Correctly" in another sense: There's no visible religious tome getting in the way of an oath concerning the State.
  • Meanwhile, in a victory for substance over dynasty, Caroline Kennedy withdrew her name to replace Hilary Clinton in the Senate, citing the always-illuminating "personal reasons." N.B. I have little argument with Caroline Kennedy's policy proposals and/or politics, primarily because they simply aren't visible; her books on public issues that I've read are rather carefully bland and nonprovocative. My distress is not that she is a member of a "political family," but that her membership in that family seems to be her only publicly stated qualification for office.
  • Oh, yeah. The Oscar nominations were announced this morning, including several leading candidates that shouldn't even be eligible. Thanks to the stupidity of the rules and the industry, a majority of the best picture nominees, and a substantial proportion of other nominees, weren't available to most of the nation during the eligibility period. Instead, they were in limited release in NY and LA only, which satisfies the eligibility rules.

    When I did a lot of book reviews, I had a strict policy that no review would be published until the work was actually available in stores here on the Silicon Prairie, in the middle of flyover country... and that any review I did based on an ARC would be confirmed by skimming an as-published copy. I wish that the Academy would adopt the same policy, so as to avoid awarding unfinished works (it is not unheard of for films to be partly reedited between those limited releases and the wide release). Frankly, I don't relish choosing between two films only for Best Picture (moving or otherwise).

  • athiest hellLast for the moment, but far from least (considering that snide-yet-serious remark at the end of the second item), I leave you with this thought from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by way of Pharyngula.