30 January 2018

State of the Uniom-Busting

This entire entry was written prior to hearing anything this evening from Donald J. Drumpf, Genius. Although one must wonder if he has a sideline in herpetology, having popularized the twitting maga… if, that is, he could either define or spell "herpetology."

  • Given the entire context of the State of the Uniomn, perhaps a bit on "partisan gerrymanders" is in order. That's the nice, polite way to say "rotten borough" — and if you don't know what that is without following the link, the success of American proprietors of rotten boroughs in hiding them should be obvious. (I lived immediately adjacent to the former boundaries of one of these jurisdictions for a while when I was stationed Over There, and in some ways not a lot had changed in a century and a half…)

    The courts have punted the "partisan gerrymander" issue on the ground that it is a political question. Perhaps it is in some sense, given the constitutional imperative that each house of Congress is the judge of its own elections (Art. I § 5) — but it is a peculiar kind of political question, one that implicitly asks quis custodient ipsos custodes? The obvious answer is "The voting public, of course, because it can vote out the bastards"… but the whole point of partisan gerrymanders is to make that in practice impossible. In other words, determining that partisan gerrymanders are political questions not subject to judicial oversight is at best circular logic that presumes both individual and institutional good faith on the part of the legislators, when a "partisan gerrymander" by its nature is not in good faith.

  • Sometimes scientists are short, sharp, and serious:

    Does reanimating the dead require IRB approval? Asking for a friend.

    Matt Blaze (HT: Grimmelmann). And sometimes they're not quite as short, even sharper, and even more serious:

    And then there was this, a quote from one of the speakers:

    If you follow your passion life takes care of itself.

    This just strikes me as almost the most owning-class, privileged, ugly position one can take. Yes, passion is important. Yes we all need to figure out What We Want, and what we want To Do in Life. Very important. But following your passion is sometimes only possible with a full support team (including nannies or cooks or secretaries or lab trainees that make it possible to work that 4-hour day) and, needless to say, lots of money. If you are 17 and pregnant and unemployed, there is not a lot a room for following passion.

    Working class women with three service jobs, none of which include health benefits, kids, perhaps an absent spouse, or perhaps a partner that is also working like that, or perhaps has a significant health issue, do not have the luxury of passions. Maybe they get to exercise or have one of their adolescent kids make dinner once in a while. Or get fast food, because there is just no time for cooking.

    "Potnia Theron" Of course, the bonus is that the apparent gender-specificity of the latter arises only because the target audience for the confidence game involved is primarily women — not because there are no males in substantially the same circumstances (excepting the pregnancy).

  • And sometimes, even the "short version" isn't short, being just the beginning of a journey. This is something I began struggling with in the 1980s, when confronting the differential treatments and prognoses offered in the Air Force for alcohol abuse (and even leaving aside the differentials in "referrals"). It took a long time to see what the nonscientists in charge of policy were actually basing things on… and it wasn't even as scientifically valid as "just say no." (As if that was ever an acceptable response in any context, let alone the land of officers' and NCO clubs!)
  • Serious gedankenexperiment: Consider an informal group of control persons in a defined industry grouping, whether among "all" participants in that industry or just the substantial leaders. This defined industry grouping depends upon multiple skill sets — especially skill sets eligible for H1B visa treatment — not just for profitability, but for effective function; there just aren't "enough" American trained workers with those skills…

    …that is, not "enough" at the compensation that this group of control persons wants to provide them (always, naturally, significantly less than the compensation being earned by the control persons. Which leads to the underlying question: Do various customary means that these control persons use to help keep compensation for these critical workers low (including, ironically enough, the H1B visa program itself), or at least limited, demonstrate a combination in restraint of trade in the relevant labor market, whether these means are unconscious, consciously parallel, or intentional? And if not, why is this type of concerted action exempt from scrutiny? Whether as a matter of statutory language or logic, it shouldn't be.

  • Let's consider something a little less controversial. Like controlling hate speech on Faceplant. Even Drumpf is going to be challenged in displaying more sheer arrogance than is on display on any "side" in that particular dispute. But I'm confident that he can (and will) in tonight's speech; he managed it at the inauguration.