23 November 2013

Everything Is Going Swimmingly

Shoe, 22 Nov 2013

Yep. Even Lee Harvey Oswald.

  • One of the more curious (and frustrating) aspects of copyright and of art is the insanely bizarre pricing of originals — even originals long out of print. Even when the fakes are obvious (for some value of "obvious"... or at least verified), one is left wondering whether Wyatt Gwyon might have influenced the final price. The comparison to textual works, and piracy thereof, leads to an important philosophical, legal, and commercial question: Does it make sense to have "the original" of a work of fine art that is otherwise in the public domain in private hands... and what valid social purpose is fulfilled by such lockaways? I don't pretend to have a definitive, or even very good, answer; I do think it is at least illuminated somewhere by the interplay of ego and the endowment effect. More relevant to the ordinary concerns of this blawg, it will increasingly matter in copyright "reform" and of digital copyright, particularly as digital originals start to come into acceptability in the art world.
  • Much as I hate to link back to the dubious publishing empire of She Who Shall Not Be Named (And Will Not Pay Authors), I sort of have to in order to keep the multiple layers of self-referential regression going concerning deceptive boosterism for self-publishing... and to add a caveat that has become necessary since my "original" 2004 blawg post. The field boundaries of that nearly-decade-old piece are self-publication in print. There simply is not enough data concerning self-publication as e-books; neither is there the same marketplace structure, the same readership structure, the same damned near anything else excepting that the "product" is words strung together. A number of authors with specific, detailed business plans are being successful with e-books through a process that is analogous to — but differs in critical respects from — self-publishing in print; obvious examples include Dean Wesley Smith, Kris Rusch, and Joe Konrath, and there are others. The key point these authors have in common is that their "self-publishing" includes both backlist and frontlist titles. Somebody probably could come up with examples of "successful" self-published e-book authors who were frontlist-only (or, for that matter, backlist-only)... but I suspect (only suspect, mind you, and I could be incorrect) it would be anecdotal and just as credible as that list of print-self-publishing "success stories" I attacked in 2004. There isn't enough data to do more than hope that this swimming pool will have water under the 3m board.

    I'm not hostile to self-publishing one's e-books. I'm hostile to boosters who want to be paid excessive sums to tell you how to do so. And if you don't know what I mean by "boosters," go back and read Sinclair Lewis carefully; it's not really a very nice thing. For example, Kevin Trudeau is a booster (and disturbingly close to self-publishing in print as an ancillary to other profit-making activities... very much like Strunk, Peters, et al. in my 2004 screed).

  • An interesting blog piece on science in the humanities classroom offers some worthwhile thoughts and critiques, and still misses the real disconnect between the sciences and the humanities. Unfortunately, it's a point that the social sciences often tend to warp out of recognition: Not the role of the people involved, which remains an important issue (and one that scientists should pay more attention to), but the standards of proof and methods of reasoning, particularly regarding aggregate behavior. It's one thing to say that the humanities have their own methods of analyzing data; it's another entirely to silently neglect that those in the sciences are different — neither necessarily superior nor inferior, but different. At that, the treatment of the sciences in the humanities is better than the abject ignorance (and frequent aggressive rejection) of science in and by law, as epitomized by Justice Scalia's blatant admission of ignorance and nonetheless presumption to judge in Myriad last Term.
  • Frankly, the so-called "nuclear option" as deployed by Sen Reid is going to turn out to be a wet firecracker, so long as individual senators can put holds on nominees and committee chairs can refuse to call hearings or a vote on an otherwise-ready nomination. It doesn't matter whether those are old-style "anonymous never-expiring" holds or the "blue slip" tradition that requires approval of judicial nominees by both senators from the state in which that judge will maintain chambers.

    This arises from the continuing tug-of-war over power between the legislative and executive branches (and to those partisans — in the most-negative-possible connotation of that term — in both who view "enhance personal power and influence" as the only acceptable goal in life and/or government) that ignores the text that gives the Senate "confirmation" authority. Article II, § 2, cl. 2 grants the President the power to

    ...nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law...

    which rather begs the question of exactly what "Advice and Consent of the Senate" means. What it does not mean, however, is "the explicit approval of any individual Senator"... even if the rules adopted by the Senate regarding its own procedures (as allowed under Article I, § 5) might otherwise seem to do so. That's not to say that a (hopefully hypothetical, but I'm probably being unduly optimistic) bigoted senator can't make his/her personal disdain for all atheists known, and loudly proclaim on the floor of the Senate that no atheist is qualified to be a judge, and vote against every atheist nominee after making that speech; it is to say that that's the limit. That's "advice," and his/her vote marks whether or not he/she "consents." Preventing other senators from expressing their own opinions through speaking — let alone the opportunity to vote — is not either "advice" or "consent," or even a reasonable construction of the compound term "advice and consent," for the Senate as a whole. The Senate's powers exist only as a body; all "individual" powers granted in the Constitution reside in the executive branch (or the Vice President when he's sitting as President of the Senate and can break a tie).