09 October 2010

Weekend Sausage Factory

As usual, I'm on no particular schedule here; I blawg when I can, and when I feel like it, and yesterday was neither.

    I'll start off with a public service announcement, and note that — although it's not quite as amusing (or horrifying) as "President Quayle" — there's a very simple way to deal with the problem:

Vote, wherever you're eligible. And since it's that time of the cycle in the US, make sure your registration is current and you take advantage of "early voting" where appropriate and possible.

  • A pride of lions, a murder of crows, a rash of cutesy, untypesettable, idiotic company/product names. What's really sad is that the Economist columnist didn't see fit to notice — or perhaps just didn't get — the two cross-lingual puns being attempted with Cisco's "ūmi"...
  • ...although "Johnson" makes up for it with his next entry, a worthy attempt to disambiguate "liberalism" and "libertarianism" that ultimately misses one of the subtle distinctions between the two caused by a differing perspective. I'll freely admit to being a "left liberal" myself, and having little respect for "libertarianism" of any variety, because history has convinced me that power is like gravity: It accretes. True "liberalism" recognizes power accretion and seeks, via structuring of government power, to shape that power toward guarantees of individual liberty, such as creating economic equilibrium through extensive (but not exclusive) private ownership of property/capital, means of production, and rights to labor. Libertarianism, however, denies that power accretes, instead presuming that individuals inherently have the means to defy gravity.

    To put it another way, in the face of a force I cannot avoid, I prefer to structure that force to minimize bad consequences... and Marsh v. Alabama is merely a window into the bad consequences of excessive, truly private control. This is the flip side of libertarianism: It presumes that nobody will abuse the power they can accrete under a truly libertarian, hands-off, no-restriction-on-conduct system. For all the faults of representative democracy, there are limits on accretion of power.

  • The Second Circuit properly — at least, properly under existing interpretations of the First Amendment — has reversed Vermont's refusal to allow vanity license plates with religious messages (PDF) on the ground that that constitutes "viewpoint discrimination." This, however, leads to an alternate question: Can one refuse to place one's hand on the Bible, or state the words "so help me God," when rendering an oath in court? Same reasoning... and, unfortunately, there's probably a different answer, as it would probably be treated as contempt of court akin to refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (like some West Virginia schoolgirl from an unpopular sect, even if the Court later overturned that decision).
  • Put that drink down and follow Professors Froomkin and Feld as they discuss the real path toward 'net neutrality. And why does this matter? Ask yourself this question: Is Amazon potentially its own ISP (hint: see 17 U.S.C. § 512(k)(1)) subject to these rules?
  • Professor Goldman notes the gorilla-eat-gorilla world of advertising graphics, which would probably make Don Draper pretty drunk (on the other hand, is there anything that wouldn't?). All seriousness aside, I think this a better claim than Professor Goldman does, for a very simple reason: The implied indorsement (or, I suppose, implied denigration) is one of the unstated subfactors under § 107 that will tend to deny fair use... particularly in the Sixth Circuit, where the case will be heard. (Whether it should be is a question for another time.)