30 December 2010

Last of the 2010-Vintage Whine

Just a couple of random sausages today (although not much whine, actually); this blawg will return in 2011, two days from now, unless something Really Really Blawgworthy happens in the interim. In short, that juris doctor degree indicates that you really should trust me...

  • Marcelo Gleiser blew it in an essay at NPR, with a claim that religion is merely an outgrowth of religare, and that a sense of wonder in nature's beauty is therefore religious in nature. Leaving aside, for the moment, the cramped and linguistically imperialistic equation between the etymology of a single word and its application to worldwide phenomena, Gleiser's statement is factually inaccurate. By way of analogy, it elevates the germ theory of disease to the default perspective through which all human frailty must be examined — meaning that trauma, genetic defect, nonbiological physiochemical reactions, and unknown causes must first be filtered through a perspective of virii and protists. That won't prove much help in setting a broken bone, or diagnosing phenylketonuria (which, by the way, is covered in all of the basic first-year biochemistry textbooks), or treating/preventing radiation sickness, or recognizing Ted Bundy. In short, it assumes its conclusion, and then uses that assumption as the only warrant in the argument. Since it's just after that time of year in which professors are turning in grades, I'm giving this essay a C-... and it gets a grade that high only because it did, in a way, spot part of the issue.
  • Here's a way in which classical musicians are better off than are authors: At least some bankruptcy judges require orchestras to continue paying the musicians, even in bankruptcy. Contrast this with the mistreatment of authors when publishers go bankrupt. As it happens, the particular result in the Louisville Orchestra matter is virtually demanded by the Bankruptcy Code, which gives an extremely high priority to claims by employees. As authors are (ordinarily) merely independent contractors with contract claims (under the Bankruptcy Code), it is not surprising that they'd be behind sales drones who couldn't sell books, but are owed salary and benefits, in recovering from the debtor... merely frustrating.

    This points out a serious perceptual gap in the Bankruptcy Code, and indeed in general economic policy. Both parties — and most economicsts — are extraordinarily fond of proclaiming that "small businesses are what create jobs and growth." However, that also means one must allow for the failure of businesses, small and large, in the system... and the system is disturbingly tilted against the small business that provides essential services and property to a larger one, especially as a result of that larger one choosing to use more "independent contractors" than "employees." I am not certain where the appropriate balance lies; I am only certain that it's not being discussed or considered, but instead just gets swept under the "freedom of contract" rug (leaving a coffee-table-sized pile of dust slightly off center).

  • From the Everything Old Is New Again department, consider the relationship among existing antitrust injunctions, film distribution as it is today, and the potential of studio-sponsored video-on-demand services... and whether that just might make a Ticketmaster-for-video-on-demand oligopolist nearly inevitable, or whether it has any implications for Amazon's hybrid self-publishing programs for e-books. Yes, this sort of inquiry is supposed to make your head go all 'splody, so don't be embarassed by the little bits of medula oblongata spattered on your monitor.