04 January 2012

Mixed Spices

The following link sausages are alternately flavored with rant and academia (or sometimes both), but they're all variations on salsiccia sardonicus. It's up to you to figure out which is which... or just be vaguely amused and not bother.

  • An alternate explanation for the banking crisis: Banking leaders are psychopaths, and are hired because they're psychopaths. This sheds some rather disturbing light on Montana's rejection of Citizens United (see the next sausage) but ultimately says nothing new... nor anything unique to finance. Have you taken a look at the top leadership of energy companies (both the awl bidness and utilities, in the US) in the last thirty years? How about among defense contractors since the dawn of time?
  • I'm still trying to come up with a coherent explanation for Citizens United — not necessarily a convincing one, but a coherent one. The Montana Supreme Court's rejection of Citizens United (PDF) seems, on its surface, to be ideological; indeed, reading the dissents (which are on the basis of stare decisis and the Supremacy Clause), it's a 7–0 rejection of unrestricted corporate personhood (with all of the echoes of Frankenstein — or is that Frahnkensteen? — both intended and accidental). There's something much more disturbing floating in there, though, and it reflects an experiential distinction between the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the State of Montana. If I am reading the various biographies correctly:

    • Of the justices who voted for corporate personhood and against finding that there was a factual basis for concern that corporations actually do unduly distort election results in Citizens United on the U.S. Supreme Court (a total of five), none had extensive experience as either a trial judge or a nonmotions trial-level litigator. However, of the four justices who voted against that position, three did have that experience.
    • Conversely, all of the judges on the Montana Supreme Court had that experience... plus some legislative experience along with it.

    I therefore tentatively put forth the following null hypothesis for testing — and I have neither the time nor the data set to test it:

    H0: Inexperience with the process of data gathering, data assimilation, and/or conversion of data to valid legal statements of fact — for either judicial or legislative statements of fact — does not influence the weight accorded to statements of fact in reaching judicial decisions.

    This is a non-normative statement and hypothesis — that is, I'm not saying whether it should or should not. For one thing, note that I said "valid" and not "sound".... Regardless, I think it both an interesting academic inquiry and a critical ideological/jurisprudential one.

  • Australian sharks are hybridizing, perhaps responding to climate change. One might say the same about their cousins lawyers and legislators, as the climate of legislation has become more legalistic (compare the backgrounds of the U.S. House of Representatives a century ago with those today). Can a hybrid barrister/solicitor in England be far behind? And would he/she wear a powdered wig around the office, or just refuse to wear one to court?
  • Professor Madison suggests that his copyright classes are going to be learning about the limits and context of copyright... and, more particularly, about how US copyright interacts with other intellectual property (e.g., trademark), with non-US copyright (e.g., droit morale and droit d'auteur), with non-intellectual-property law (e.g., consumer protection statutes regarding false labelling), and with cultural assumptions (e.g., the limits of "ownership" of cultural intangibles). Sounds like a fun class to me; but then, I'm an IP nerd whose own approach to IP questions — regardless of whether they directly concern authors and other creators — isn't exactly mainstream.