14 May 2009

Slightly Smaller Chunks

These sausages remain chunkier than normal.

  • "News" that Amazon wants to be a publisher, starting with "reprinting" self-published books... that is, the most-desperate market of authors least likely (and able) to negotiate terms. Combine this with some disturbing news out of Penguin USA about quasi-in-house authors (unfortunately, the sausages available for linking on this one appear to be undercured and full of rat hairs) and contrast the whole mess with General Varney's repudiation of Bush administration antitrust guidelines that would have insulated these efforts from review, and one gets the feeling that either the publishing industry thinks that its purported unprofitability means nobody will ever scrutinize it for antitrust problems, or that the publishing industry somehow thinks it's exempt. Or, perhaps, both... it wouldn't be the first time that arrogance of that nature had led to such problems in the distributed-IP segment of the economy (PDF).

    All intellectual property is, fundamentally, a state-sanctioned monopoly. What the IP-distribution industries too often forget is that the creators — not the middlecreatures — have constitutional imprimatur for that monopoly.

  • Neil Gaiman politely, and accurately, tells overenthusiastic fen impatient for the next Song of Fire and Ice novel that George R.R. Martin is not your bitch. It's parallel to the difference between the generic presliced "white bread" in the white plastic bag (with the multicolored dots) found in too many stores across the nation and a decent crusty (but not fetishly so) loaf of whole-grain bread, possibly baked up from a biga or poolish. One of these options is available right now, cheap, and is good for making PB&Js with the crust cut off... and not much else (one can't even make decent toast from it); the other can be the centerpiece of a meal. A Song of Fire and Ice is not intended for PB&Js.
  • Professor Tushnet notes a fascinating case involving implied endorsement. At least, I find it fascinating! "Famous" authors beware, because most people wouldn't recognize you... even your biggest fans.
  • A long post worth pondering from Professor Goldman tries to tear apart a Ninth Circuit opinion on the § 230 defense (in its most basic form, an ISP is not liable for what its customers say). It's certainly worth pondering, and points out the main problem with the way § 230 was conceived and constructed: That there aren't any bright lines on the 'net.
  • An academic at Columbia has some interesting — in the good sense of the word — thoughts on reinvigorating ROTC, but doesn't look at the other half of the equation. So long as academy graduates have advantages at promotion time provided solely by that class ring, ROTC officers are going to be second-class citizens within the officer corps... and will know it (Colin Powell notwithstanding). Further, nobody is really asking the hard question about whether the academies continue to serve a purpose that is not better served by having officer candidates mix with others who do not share the same backgrounds and goals.

    Secretary Gates seems more than willing to look at force structure and a lot of hardware acquisition problems, but not at the acquisition process for the most critical military weapons system of all: The people in charge. If you really want some empirical evidence of the problem, consider the "unsatisfactory performance termination" rate of academy-graduate flag officers in Southwest Asia since 9/11 with that for ROTC flag officers. It proves nothing, if only because the data samples are so small and the actual reasons for termination are seldom apparent to those without extensive experience in the military personnel system. However, the rates are sufficiently different that one cannot reject the null hypothesis (that there isn't a difference between the two commissioning sources once the officers reach flag rank) at any level of confidence — indicating that the matter deserves further examination.