09 March 2015

Dead-From-Daylight-Savings-Time-Hand Control

Why, indeed.

  • Long overdue: Credit-reporting agencies begin to impose accountability in their systems. I emphasize "begin": The new program still does not include a true post-bankruptcy fresh start. It's not that the fact of a bankruptcy and discharge shouldn't appear on a credit report — it's that everything that was discharged should be expunged. This is one of the ways people are pushed into subprime lending for the rest of their lives over, say, a medical bill...
  • Perhaps the most important element of a book's cover has been the forename(s) of the author: Names that sound "unsuitably" ethnic, or of the "wrong" gender, have been poison in commercial (and even academic and professional) publishing for at least a couple of centuries. Perhaps the e-self-publishing trend will soften that, but it won't go far enough as long as book marketers, book distributors, and booksellers continue to categorize books without reading them first... as Kazuo Ishiguro appears to have found out the hard way.
  • ...which is even worse in the world of fine art, where value (monetary and otherwise) depends on attribution more than on execution. Let's be honest: Not every piece by Picasso is a masterpiece; not every piece by Picasso objectively is inherently suprior to any piece by, say, Georgia O'Keefe; and that's without getting into non-paintings!

    This connects to the preceding item in a darker, less-examined way, too. I purposely cited "Picasso" in the preceding paragraph precisely because he was not an upper-middle-class Northwest European man. John Constable as the exemplar of all that is great and good? Really? Next thing you know, somebody will note the rampant antisemitism (all Semites, not just the Jerusalem quarter of the family) in the fine-art world and we'll never actually discuss or appreciate the actual works ever again! As a specific instance, ask yourself, linguistically, where the name "Alhambra" comes from...

  • One problem with the distributive arts is that it often involves choosing sides based on the distribution, not the arts. Case in point: Film, Netflix, and cinema owners. The ultimate problem here is that both Netflix and the cinema owners are seeking efficiency in distribution... and that's not all that consistent with "art" in the first place, let alone with the actual needs of the audiences. I've ranted here before on the miserable experience of attending a film in the US with even moderate visual impairments, let alone a desire (or need) for better back support than found on a bus-stop bench for a two-hour-plus event in which we're expected to remain in our seats. Netflix has its own problems and insensitivities; but this particular fight is particularly stupid, and strongly resembles two-bit gang leaders facing off over a rubber chicken.
  • As of this morning, approximately one-third of what I learned about administrative law is wrong: The Supreme Court has overturned the Paralyzed Veterans requirement that if an agency wants to change an existing interpretation, it must engage in the full notice-and-comment procedure.

    Wow. And Perez (PDF) is 9–0 (ok, there are two concurring opinions, but still).

    It sounds hypertechnical, doesn't it? But it matters. Consider, for a moment, the analogous effect on legislation: That any change to the filibuster rules in the Senate requires a full bill passage and either signature by the President or veto override. (And ponder the corresponding change in the House: Removal of the Speaker's power to block bills from coming to the floor for a vote, and the subordinate powers of the Rules Committee, might also require the same.)

    More to the point, this represents a conflict locus between property-like and contract-like visions of government. In property law, there's grudging acknowledgement of so-called "dead-hand control" as embedded in property law — especially real-property law — but it's generally considered a bad thing, both at a theoretical level and in the courts. In contract law, however, the exact corollary of "settled expectations of the parties" is reified as the only acceptable means of commerce under written agreements. The Court has just decided that administrative dead-hand control is not necessarily a good thing, despite the settled expectations of parties affected... who probably were dealing with a captured agency in the first place.

    And that's the real crux of the problem. The rise of the administrative state in the US was a response to both lack of technical expertise and gridlock, combined with a recognition that in the 1930s things were changing too fast for some critical elements of "law" to be embedded in statutes. Eighty years later it's worse.