02 May 2010

A Varied Selection of Internet Link Sausages

You don't need to go to the store for the variety pack: I've got it right here!

  • Our imported link sausage department has a fine selection today.

    • KAL, The Economist, 25 Mar 2010While continuing to deny Britain's own role (present and historical) in the Middle East problems through silence, The Economist notes that the US can't make peace in the Middle East all by itself, which is at least a start. Calling the ghost of Lord Balfour... and every other colonialist who drew national boundaries without regard to tribal territories and/or accurate topographical maps...
    • The Economist also offers some musings on whether corruption makes economic sense for companies operating in corrupt regions... under the byline "Schumpeter," no less ("destructive creation," meet "creative destruction"). I wonder if Hollywood qualifies as a corrupt region under this reasoning? Or if it applies at all to the utterly irrational parts of the economy?
    • And in the meantime, them durned furriners at BP are muckin' up our coast off Louisiana. (Compare to the preceding item.) The BBC's summary is, perhaps, the most useful.

      Meanwhile, nobody is questioning the relationship between this spill and excessive, preventable demand for oil for suburban assault vehicles, etc. still running on batteries that seem twenty years behind our other technology. It's not at all coincidence that the effective length of a patent — even under pre-1995 US law — is just about twenty years; and it's even less coincidental considering who controlled many of the critical enabling patents relevant to batteries due to acquisition of space program subcontractors...

    • My colleague-across-the-pond Charlie Stross explains Steve Jobs's disdain for Flash... without once resorting to asserting that Jobs's ego (which is apparent in the anti-academic interfaces of every Apple product) won't let him see the good points of Flash, whatever they are. I despise Flash myself, but for rather different reasons than any potential opportunity to defy a sixty-year-old antitrust decision and its unjustly neglected domestic partner.
  • Late-breaking news: Somebody is getting rich on corporate/banking failures... and it's not orphans and widows getting their investments back. None of this is to say that there needs to be a cap on legal fees, because that way lies madness (and evasion, and corruption, and driving some of the best practitioners away because they can't recruit the next generation for a highly technical and skilled legal specialty1). It is only to say that some of the amenities need to be reigned in... and that some one-time scanning and later electronic distribution of files would go a loooooong way toward controlling "photocopying costs".
  • The FCC appears unlikely to give up on regulating broadband internet access. What this really proves, more than anything else, is that major administrative action has moved from Congressional gridlock to agency capture... and I'm not all that sure that's an improvement. When the FCC tries to regulate, it gets challenged by some of the truly deep pockets in American culture, and usually not on grounds that the regulation could have been better — usually on grounds that any regulation at all is inherently bad. And when the FCC is, itself, captured by ideologues, we end up with the focus on content instead of on "communications," and ignoring the ideological context of the particular instances in which the FCC does attempt to impose its authority (would 0.6 seconds of Janet Jackson's breast have generated the same official outrage if she'd been white... or if it was a younger black man "pawing" at her?).
  • A good, if incomplete, explanation of why the Arizona anti-illegal-immigrants statute reflects a kind of racism we supposedly eradicated in 1964 and 1965. (HT: Jay Lake) Of course, my ancestors all came through Ellis Island, so what the hell would I know about it? Well, leaving aside that under current law, at least one, and probably three, of them would have been illegals...
  • Carrie Vaughn suggests that writers need to concentrate on doing their homework instead, perhaps, of just relying on "innate genius" (whatever the hell that is)... without once mentioning the relationship between her ostensible subject and Voltaire. (So I'm a nerd.)

  1. Oops, I've done it again. By merely saying "specialty" concerning a lawyer, and implying that said lawyer is a "specialist," I've come close to violating Ill. R. Prof. Cond. 7.4(c).

    The bar authorities can bite me on this one. If the general public can understand that a punter or placekicker is a "specialist" on a football team without somehow inferring a greater formal qualification (such as an NFL-issued certificate in placekicking accuracy and technique), the public can understand that "specialist" refers to experience and individual training at least as much as it does to any certification or governmental imprimatur. And remember, my ire arises — this time — concerning a true specialty in law; inexperienced attorneys get involved in the details of corporate/banking bankruptcies at the peril of everyone. A rule with no discernable benefit to the public that the rules are supposed to protect should be eliminated... particularly as this rule seems to run afoul of the principles explained when the Supreme Court rejected blanket restrictions on attorney advertising on the ground that "the disciplinary rule serves to inhibit the free flow of commercial information and to keep the public in ignorance." Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 365 (1977).

    [I]t seems peculiar to deny the consumer, on the ground that the information is incomplete, at least some of the relevant information needed to reach an informed decision. The alternative — the prohibition of advertising — serves only to restrict the information that flows to consumers. Moreover, the argument assumes that the public is not sophisticated enough to realize the limitations of advertising, and that the public is better kept in ignorance than trusted with correct but incomplete information. We suspect the argument rests on an underestimation of the public. In any event, we view as dubious any justification that is based on the benefits of public ignorance. Although, of course, the bar retains the power to correct omissions that have the effect of presenting an inaccurate picture, the preferred remedy is more disclosure, rather than less.

    Id. at 374–75 (citation and footnote omitted). The irony that some states (but not the most relevant ones) offer a "certification" in bankruptcy practice that is far from uniformly obtained by lawyers practicing in that area just makes this more... interesting.