29 March 2017

Remembrances of Link Sausages Past

I'm afraid that the smells that triggered these memories wafted up from the garbage disposal…

  • Much of the media now is making a big deal of the political correctness being imposed by the Drumpf Administration on all of its hires, as if this is somehow news. The latest example is a Pentagon-sponsored think tank whose prospective head appears to have been forced away because he — a registered Heffalump — opposed Drumpf's campaign. The real problem is that this isn't news. For those with long memories and who were "inside," watching the "restaffing" at the military academies and postgraduate schools in the 1980s was disheartening. With slightly shorter memories, the rush to convert appointed positions to civil-service positions under George II (and thereby provide a form of "tenure") was equally distasteful. With only a medium-term memory, one can recall the more-recent overt politicization of attorney hiring under George III.
  • And then there's First Brexit, triggered today. With only a moderately long memory, the breakup of Yugoslavia and its consequences comes to mind. What, you think that's excessive? Maybe, maybe not: As a reaction to this version of Brexit, Scotland may clamor to vote again on deunionization (in USian terms, "secession of the state," which should bring further chills given the poor state of race relations in the center of the Isle of Britain).

    Second Brexit, however, remains a historical fact (and perhaps an inevitable one).

  • A major publisher is yet again caught underpaying authors under even the publisher's own abusive contracts (I've been involved in some contract negotiations with Pearson's educational imprints, and "abusive" is the polite-for-public-consumption term I've chosen to use here as a general comment without implying that I know what's in these particular contracts). The reason this sort of story is not more common in the US is simple: Because authors are legally independent contractors, collective action in anything except actual litigation violates antitrust law, because it would be a "combination in restraint of trade." Now throw in confidentiality clauses in contracts and the fact that a few terms are individually negotiated, making a class proceeding much more difficult...
  • Then there's the problem of physical appropriation of cultural artifacts, and the issue that this mock trial did not (and could not) engage with: What if the "meaning" of these artifacts has been irrevocably altered by the fact of the earlier removal? More to the point, what if the earlier removal is what gives them continuing meaning at all, given the changes to their context since? And what if Judge Posner's concern at celebrating a "slaveocracy" is something that we should also apply to, say, the Louvre's collection?