15 January 2010

These Sausages Still Quite Grumpy

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

  • Some advance notes on human rights for Dr Martin Luther King's birthday, officially celebrated on Monday 18 January:

    • In his monologue last night, Craig Ferguson smacked Rush Limbaugh — always a soft target on human rights issues — around pretty well... and suggested an eminently reasonable "solution" to the problem Rush has himself created for himself (again). Now if someone would just do the same for Pat Robertson...
    • There's a spat over "privacy" for advocates of restrictions on gay marriage brewing out west that reflects — perhaps more than anything else — the inability of the culturally conservative judiciary to adapt its own culture to that of the society it helps to shape and govern. Linda Greenhouse of the NYT gives her take on the closet sought by gay-marriage opponents, but the implications remind me more of the aphorism about sunlight being the best disinfectant of government than anything else.
    • Russia has ended its opposition to reforms that would extend the reach of the European Court of Human Rights, in a rather surprising and underappreciated shift. Now let's see if the next step — enabling actual and effective enforcement of that court's rulings — goes anywhere...
    • Although this doesn't sound at first like a human rights issue, William Zinsser actually makes some sense (for a change) when he discusses what makes good writing, particularly in non-English-speaking nations. Would that his textbook On Writing Well — of which I have many foul memories from high school and being forced to teach from it at the college level — had itself done a better job of selecting examples of good writing... that remained culturally aware and did not fall into the Anglo-Saxon superiority trap, and did not err in embracing the "there's only one kind of good prose" meme.
  • Publishing piracy shock horror: Another flawed study finds pervasive e-book piracy on the internet (and uses absolutely meaningless methodology in assigning a dollar value... just like the BSA and RIAA have). Like I'm surprised by any of this.
  • If you really want to understand the lunacy involved in the "late-night wars" (referred to by Ferguson in his monologue above), all your really need to do is look at the management structure of NBC — or, more directly, the fact that the management structure was put in place to satisfy French masters at the French media conglomerate partner of General Electric (NBC's actual owner and operator). It's not just about Zucker's patent-pending implementation of "narcissism as corporate management philosophy"; it's about religion, and we all know exactly how far anyone is going to get in resolving that.
  • Being a commercially published author is more than a bit like prostitution: First you've got to be solicited, then you have to put up with the indignity of only being remembered for immediate gratification. And then you get stiffed by the "customer" and ripped off by your pimp, but that's hardly unique to that "profession."
  • An interesting, largely "here's the data, think about it" post on the finances of college athletics at PrawfsBlawg nonetheless fails to grapple with either of the elephants in the room. On one tentacle, many of the highest-demand "supporters" of college athletics do not, in fact, have a distinct connection to the college sports team of their choice (Exhibit A: Supporters of "the Chief" at the University of Illinois are/were by, a distinct majority, neither themselves former athletes at the University of Illinois nor even actual graduates of the University). On another tentacle, the entire meme of intercollegiate competition does not grapple with how its purported benefits trickle down to nonparticipants in intercollegiate athletics. And the less said about the so-called "amateurism" of college athletics (at least in Divisions I and II), the better! (N.B. I'm a proud Division III graduate myself... who also holds a graduate degree from a Division I school.)