20 September 2011

It Still Feels Like Monday, and I Don't Like Mondays

Life sure can be... interesting. And so can the undead.
  • Congratulations to this year's MacArthur Fellows. It's always somewhat amusing to try to tease out a theme from the "genius grant" panels each year — it's almost as much fun as trying to figure out what the pluralities that elect political figures in this country (thanks to our poor voter turnout) really want. This year, one thing does jump out: Michigan. For whatever it's worth, Michigan was tied for Harvard for most affiliations (three) among the twenty-two recipients...
  • Is shifting relative tax burdens from the poor to the rich "class warfare" or, as the President puts it, "math"? Arguably, it's both; every tax system is inherently about some aspect of class warfare, and in this instance it's really the difference between "freedom fighter" and "terrorist." Perhaps the real question is whether — as the then-President and then-First Lady proclaimed — the rich are Contras too... with all the baggage that implies.
  • "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has now died a long overdue death. Like a parade of zombies, though, this kind of religious bigotry will keep shambling through the US military. One of the worst decisions that the military made in the twentieth century was to put the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, then already a hotbed of fundamentalist nonsense (but with really, really attractive real estate prices), because even when the zoomies manage to get off-post they run a fundamentalist gantlet just to go shopping. But then, the military academies really had no continued justification after at latest the Vietnam era, and in reality the GI Bill that sent a generation to college and created an expectation that the next generation would go, too.
  • And so the Tenenbaum dispute heads back to the trial court... on civil procedure grounds, as expected. This is the "but I'm a poor grad student and can't afford to pay statutory damages to the mean record companies for my copyright piracy" case. The twist in this opinion is that the Court of Appeals essentially said "well, Congress did it, so Congress is gonna have to fix it — not the courts, unless the courts determine under traditional common-law approaches that it was improper."

    Tenenbaum's position was doomed from the start, because the Court of Appeals is correct. So long as the damages model permits (not mandates) a result that is not constitutionally excessive, the law of remedies (a subset, in most ways, of civil procedure) does not permit an attack on that model; instead, that's a matter for Congress, which established the model in the first place. Existing law does allow the aggrieved miscreant to attack the particular award for the particular way it was created... under a standard of whether that particular award "shocks the conscience" in a manner that exceeds what the Constitution permits as applied to the particular facts of the particular case. This allowable attack, however, is not what was at issue here; the parties below screwed up, and led the judge to screw up, by making a facial attack without an adequately considered as-applied attack. Thus, they get to litigate it. Again. When they should have done so the first time.

  • Over at the grievously underappreciated IP Finance blog, Mr Wilkof ponders how to price e-books. He reaches the same conclusion I have: Nobody knows because the underlying data is so screwed up... and any proclamations otherwise, by anyone, are fallacious attempts to create an all-encompassing model based upon (at best) anecdotal instances over extremely limited timeframes.

I'll have specific comments on the latest Googlescan shenanigans once I clear a conflict. I had them all written up to post over the weekend and then got a phone call with a consult request...