12 January 2018

Link Sausages From Shithole Countries

There's this great honkin' statue in New York harbor that bears an inscription explicitly welcoming people from shithole countries. OK, it doesn't say "shithole countries," but is there any doubt that is what this means:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

unless, perhaps, you can't bloody read English?

  • Ben Yagoda offers some interesting thoughts on reviewers, properly citing the intent of Sturgeon's Law even if he somewhat mangles the "canonical" version of the quote… and comes nowhere near the fundamental differences among the entertainment industry's understanding and use of reviews, reviewers' understanding and use of reviews, and the various reading publics' understanding and use of reviews.

    "Reading publics" is plural. Although both they and I read speculative fiction, I'm not part of the "reading public" consisting of fans — whether those who focus on a particular series or those whose reading decision is guided by whether a work has been compared favorably to the purported "tradition" of Favorite Author X. This is an incredibly common distinction, but because it doesn't lead to easy, thoughtless application of unproven and unprovable marketing memes, it gets almost no attention from anyone.

    But more to the point is this: I cannot judge a reviewer's credibility without seeing what the reviewer disapproves of. Knowing that a reviewer likes some of the same things I do is not helpful if the reviewer's reasons are incoherent, or infected with a secondary agenda (e.g., "must be good because it's libertarian"… with no explanation of whether that means economically, civil-rights-style, or some other aspect of accepted libertarianism, let alone hidden one), or flat wrong. Knowing that a hypothetical reviewer always gives a substantially better evaluation of any mystery that includes a defense attorney as a major character — even when ineptly depicted or worse — is important to understanding reviews of, on the one hand, Reversal of Fortune and on the other of The Firm (the reviewer I'm thinking of — a well-known one — gave them the same rating when they were first shown).

  • From the Department of Multiple Wrongs Making Right(?): Apple has accused the PTO of succumbing to (Apple's words) "lobbying" by an opponent in an administrative-law trial. That's pretty bad (and probably a case of the pot calling the kettle black, given Apple's own history with the PTO). Reading between the lines of the story, however, raises my eyebrows regarding the definition of "lobbying": I'm not sure pointing out potential conflicts of interest is "lobbying". Indeed, it's arguable that Apple's own in-house counsel violated the duty of candor — which applies to administrative proceedings as much as it does to courts — by failing to itself immediately disclose that at least one of the three administrative-law judges assigned to the matter was its own former lawyer… especially in the particular context. Of course, things get worse farther down the road, and once the spin attempts are discounted, nobody emerges with much (if any) credit. The initial purported "lobbying letter" may well have had merit on the substance, but the method was entirely screwed up, and later communications don't appear to have had the same merit.
  • And from the same department, the House has voted to extend paranoid surveillance powers. The problem is not with those operating in good faith now; it's with what the gathered data can (and will) be (mis)used for by those who are not operating in good faith, both inside the government… and outside it when the inevitable Snowden-like leak and the inevitable data breach(es) and the inevitable political blackmail occur. And I didn't even have to raise the spectre of a free and investigative press!

    If you can't get a warrant, you don't know enough to make sense of the surveillance material anyway. If it's too administratively difficult to find a judge, pay for more judges… it's much cheaper than long-term data storage anyway. If you've never even thought about converting masses of documents/recordings from today's storage formats and hardware to something useful in five years, a decade, or more down the road — and that's what it takes to deal with these things — just consider the historical and present example of IRS computer systems, let alone the VA.