02 December 2011

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Occupy Mordor!When I first started dealing with the publishing industry as a prospective author and sometime journalist (and underground newspaper publisher) over three decades ago, things were somewhat simpler, primarily in the sense that "quantity has a quality of its own." No less bizarre; no less irrational; no less downright dishonest; no less dominated by myths with no foundation at all, let alone a foundation in the present; no less arrogant in disdain for authors; just simpler.

  • If one believes a midmajor figure in US children's publishing, "We consider digital editions to be simply another format." If that's true, why does that publisher (among others) insist on compensating authors solely upon a nonauditable "net profit" basis for contributions to works that do not have per-copy costs? And that's just the start. The key point is to recognize that digital editions are — legally, economically, physically, and above all substantively — much more than "simply another format."
  • The Grauniad really disappointed me with an article proclaiming the newness of musicians doing orchestral-pop fusion and such by ignoring history. It has a long and honorable history, well beyond mere "quotation" (e.g., Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies and, in the other direction, the opening bars of many Beatles tunes) and "restylings" (e.g., Jethro Tull's "Bouree," a blues-rockish reworking of a Bach lute prelude). Just listen to Philip Glass, John Adams, a number of pieces commissioned for Kronos Quartet, Rick Wakeman (particularly in the early and mid 1970s) and Yes, Renaissance... the list goes on. In short, this isn't new; only its formalization (in the Soviet literary criticism sense of formál) appears new. I mean, really: A 1978 album on which the drummer for a "rock band" is wearing a t-shirt that proclaims "Prokofiev Rules" isn't enough evidence of cross-influence... particularly after listening to the album itself?
  • Professor Ribstein and Professor Bainbridge do not agree on Congressional insider trading. I suspect that this is an honest disagreement; I agree with the professor. <vbeg> With due respect to Professor Ribstein (and Professor Henderson), neither of them has ever had to deal with a system that had either no rules regarding conflicts of interest for government officers or no enforcement of those rules. I have. On that basis, I still believe in, and follow, the military officer rule:

    If it looks like a conflict of interest, it is a conflict of interest.

    As federal officers, members of Congress should be equally subject to the same rules as every other federal officer. I would even favor a rule requiring that all investments for federal officers with decisionmaking authority — anyone at protocol DV6 level (one-star flag officer equivalent) or above — be explicitly run through and managed by a separate indexed agency, excepting only one personal residence. This isn't about libertarian paradises; it's about basic trust — and if there's one principle that libertarians should agree on it's "trust, but verify" (especially for governments). Right now, we have neither.

  • Let's hear it for universal (un)translators and recall that communication requires context... some of which is linguistic baggage (or, more often, a U-haul trailer) dragged along for the trip. The gender-theoretical specter raised by women being neuter (or, at least, "not feminine") until they are married in German (das Fräulein, das Mädchen, but die Frau) is just the tip of the uncircumcised iceberg.
  • For my fellow civil procedure geeks out there, Congrass has passed H.R. 394, the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011, ably and clearly summarized by Professor Wasserman.