18 August 2016

Deep-Fried Internet Link Sausages

... County Fair Edition. Just regular old link sausages, but this time popping with even more questionable ingredients (and trans fats)!

  • A charmingly naïve piece at Law.com asks "Why Won’t Law Firms Innovate? Clients Don’t Make Them" Good question. Wrong answer, as disclosed by the unstated problem:

    But it is law in particular that seems to have stagnated in the face of disruptive changes in the market. In a survey at the Managing Partner Forum conference, 66% of attendees said that law firm strategy has not changed at all in light of disruptive change. Further, in the Altman Weil 2016 Law Firms in Transition survey, 59% of firm leaders expressed an unwillingness to change because clients do not require it, and 56% said they are not motivated economically to implement any changes.

    (fake paragraphing and hyperlinks omitted) What this does not say is that law firms don't see a professional obligation to provide the best possible service and advice to their clients — that is, that innovation appears, in the eyes of these law-firm leaders, to be completely unrelated to the quality of their counsel.

    Umm, not so much. I've used the "innovative" step of quickly reading the first paragraphs of precedential appellate decisions on a daily basis (on a heavy decision day, that's less than 20 minutes) to alter contract language and even briefs due that very day. And it cost my clients exactly nothing to do so, because I "innovatively" used Teh Internets and free resources officially from the court that are not Wexis (Wexis is inordinately expensive, I might add... and based on free use of databases of older decisions compiled by military typists in the 1970s, but that's an ugly story for another time). A professional doesn't wait for the client to ask for it or make it (more/inordinately) profitable, or for some regulatory organization to tell him (almost always him) that he must do it; a professional does it because it's the right — professional — thing to do.

    No, this is not a veiled accusation that BigLaw leadership is inadequately professional: It's pretty damned explicit.

  • Epicurious.comI found Dory. And she was delicious. OK, so it's not an elegant preparation, but in my condition I'm not up for culinary exertions. Just for the fish. (OK, so cartoon Dory is a Tang, but searching for "tang recipe" can be... disturbing.)
  • The esteemed Linda Greenhouse raises an important point about courts beginning to question legislative purposes, especially regarding controversial rights-related legislation. Personally, I don't think the courts go nearly far enough in doing so; they try too hard to "respect" coordinate branches of government, while ignoring the disrespect for the courts implicit in far too many of the worst instances. Ms Greenhouse cites to the notoriously inept Palmer case as representative, but both she — and the courts — have failed to engage with a problem that is explicitly within the competence of the courts: The distinction between fact and process. Indeed, if courts applied the same standard to legislative "factfinding" as they do to jury verdicts (whether there enough evidence in front of the jury to allow a rational jury to reach that decision, and at a higher level of abstraction whether the evidence in front of the jury was the procedurally proper evidence), courts would have far less need to ever consider motive... precisely because bad motive so often leads to procedural errors that are explicitly within judicial competence. Judges are actually pretty good at spotting someone stacking the deck (even if less so when there's Science involved, they're still better than most people). And yes, kids, it is possible to make judgments about the quality/propriety of the fact-gathering process in a religious-doctrine context... without simultaneously judging the validity of the religious doctrine qua doctrine.
  • Here's what the Arab Spring has to look forward to: illusory postcolonial "democracy" still dominated by dictators. As a disturbing parallel, it's not enough to say shah mat! in the face of the Pahlevi regime's clear abuses — one must pay attention to what might/will follow, which might/will be worse.

16 August 2016

Not the 420 News

On one hand, the Ninth Circuit ruled today that if Congress says don't spend money prosecuting medical marijuana "offenders" who followed state law, that's binding on the Department of Justice (PDF). (Echoes of the Boland Amendments are not so much intentional as unavoidable... and lead to questions that should be asked of all candidates for federal office, especially in the face of increasing quasipartisan polarization.) And the case name is just a bit too delicious to be entirely coincidental.

On the other hand, the DEA has refused to recognize recent (as in this century, not as in last week) scientific work on potential medical benefits of that same weedlike substance and kept marijuana on Schedule 1, because it allegedly has no medical value. <SARCASM> I'm thoroughly convinced that no moral judgments regarding "hippies" and/or "intoxicating side effects" influenced this decision. Meanwhile, tobacco — a "product" with far lower potential medical value than marijuana, and a far higher scientifically verified connection to harm — is not scheduled at all. </SARCASM> Of course, there are some treaty obligations making things harder... but it would have been much more intellectually honest to say so.

* * *

As of today, there are eleven weeks remaining until we won't have to hear more 2016 campaigning (there will be plenty of campaign news, though, and I give things about two weeks before the first 2018 campaign announcements). Fortunately, if things go completely combover, I'm only a few kilometers from the border, even if I'm not medically fit to travel. That said, there's something other than single-payer healthcare north of that border from which the US could learn: How not to be a sore loser.

Only a few months ago, Justin Trudeau and his centrist party put a beatdown on the right-wing opposition. (Sound familiar? That's what we're looking at this year.) One thing that did not happen north of the border — though it's exactly what I expect to happen here — is bad sportsmanship by the losing parties. A few individuals went off the deep end, true enough; but one did not see the Tories proclaiming the end of the world, or even of their own individual careers, combined with vicious rhetoric essentially boiling down to "don't blame me when things go bad" (the barely-adult version of "I told you so!" that dominates in electoral politics across the West). Indeed, one hasn't even seen significant public displays of defiance from parts of the government that remained in Tory control, whether federally or provincially. The contrast with the defiance — in both words and (mis)deeds — from Heffalump leaders after the 2012 election is astounding.

The relationship of the preceding to the Boland Amendments (and officer misconduct that confirmed for me that the Naval Academy was doing a really bad job in the 1960s... which the Navy itself refused to do anything about) is left as an exercise for the body politic.

11 August 2016

The Census-Taker's Tale

Dear Mr Oliver,

Your main story this week — extolling the virtues of local journalism — may have been just a bit overenthusiastic about the "local" part. It's one thing entirely to praise the Portland Oregonian and its investigative staff, but it hardly counts as a "local" paper to most Americans. For one thing, the Portland metropolitan area's population of slightly less than 2.4 million is twice that of Birmingham, England; that it's a quarter of the size of London hardly makes it "local" so much as "geographically separated from the national government." Instead, "local" publications in the US

  • Make the early 1980s Grauniad look a paragoon of accurate proofreading
  • Employ headline writers who think "Trump Stirs Things Up" (in yesterday's local paper... on the front page) just might be informative
  • Manage to simultaneously employ racial slurs and advocate cannibalism: "It comes with a variety of types of meat, including round-eye, brisket and chicken, but vegetarians don't despair, there's an option for you, too," in a review of a Vietnamese restaurant (no confirmation of either fava beans or chianti on the menu, though)

Perhaps part of the recognition problem is that you grew up in a nation that really has not had significant "local journalism" during your lifetime. One could see what passed for local journalism committing anti-immigrant seppuku in East Anglia and Northampton and Leicester in the mid-to-late 1980s as even the Grauniad itself moved to London from Manchester. And you didn't grow up with the Ratched (or Wretched) Chronicle (dead over three decades now, don't bother looking for it), or the American-Psycho, or the Post-Intelligibility — or any of the Indiana "newspapers" owned by the Quayle family, let alone the Nazi-Zeitung — as the "local paper."

And then there are the ads in local papers, which tend to be just slightly less credible than those appearing in national publications appearing in the checkout lanes at supermarkets. I'll pause while y'all shudder.

Yes, there's a crisis in journalism in the US, because the audience hasn't figured out the difference between "information" and "expression" (nor has the advertising industry yet admitted that it's a parasite, not a symbiote). But "local journalists" are not the bearers of the flame for any reasonable value of "local." Too often, local papers are poorly-executed fantasies of becoming SauronMurdoch... who, one should recall, got his start with Australian local papers.

06 August 2016

Wet Cleanup on Aisle 6

Yeah, I've been eviscerating lawyers across the v. from me again, and this time I got a little sloppy. Pass me the mop, please...

  • As bad and corrupt as is FIFA, the IOC is worse. Which does not, by any means, excuse anything or anyone: It's just money, politics, spite, and neocolonial arrogance.
  • I'm irritated at bad science related to cooking. There's an article in today's WaPo on a purported "brisket controversy" between smoking and sous vide that is utterly stupid because it doesn't even consider — let alone test or control for — the major difference: The ingredients. News flash, you jerks: High-end Harris Ranch beef, and in particular the "less-expensive" cuts of Harris Ranch (and other west-coast-available beef), is not the same as its market equivalent in Kansas City or Houston or Raleigh (let alone in the arrogant-foodie centers). Neither are the environmental conditions... and if you don't think that ambient air conditions matter to long-smoking, you haven't paid attention; high-altitude dry air, to name an obvious variable, is not your tasty-smokehouse-brisket friend. The argument reminds me of Alton Brown's notorious recipe for ribs done in the oven in aluminum foil — and the pseudocontroversy over whether it's ever appropriate (in 2007) to say "ribs" without "barbecue."

    Go ahead. Argue your positions from an abstraction having nothing to do with the reality of the ingredients or conditions facing either the average home cook or a smokehouse restaurant. You'll sound just like the arrogant morons running for office.

  • Speaking of whom: I wouldn't trust Ms Clinton (or Mr Johnson or Ms/Dr Stein) to properly handle any aspect — whether the initial contact or later — of a death notification concerning military personnel. I would trust Mr Drumpf even less. And unlike any of them, I say this from a different perspective: I've had to do it. Contrary to isolationist retconning, the period between the fall of Saigon and Desert Storm was most emphatically not military-casualty free. Not one of the candidates has yet demonstrated compassion when there weren't cameras there for the photo op; Drumpf has demonstrated pretty definitively that he perhaps has more in common with a seventeenth-century Elector who figleafed politicoreligious ideology behind naked personal ambition (and, simultaneously, the converse) without regard to body counts or collateral damage.

    At least Drumpf now has something in common with Bill Shatner (aside from hairpieces, that is): Screaming "Khaaaaan!"

28 July 2016

Ruling Class Link Sausage Appetizer Platter

I'm carefully ignoring the political conventions as the sound and fury of tales told by idiots, signifying nothing. Nobody will really learn a damned thing from either convention that can't be learned observing the antics in nursery school just before nap time. That's what the election itself is and will be — a snoozefest. And that's a good thing; there won't be overt and organized physical violence, or widespread "result recalibration" (not even in Chicago any more), or that sort of thing. Unlike emerging democracies, we've moved that sort of silliness to before the actual election...

  • Here's an expensive and wasteful link sausage: The real price of entrusting leadership in the arts to the all-too-often corrupt, incompetent, and/or otherwise unfit-for-the-role relatives of Old (or at least Big) Money. When I was living there, the San Francisco Bay-area arts "community" (which was not much of a community) was crippled by this problem, especially for any art form that is pre-internet; the museums were an obvious problem, but so were classical music, opera, and so on. Bluntly, if one did not have Money, one was not welcome at these institutions; being panhandled by a Board member at intermission was just a symptom. At a much higher level, the Billington regime at the Library of Congress epitomizes the problem of designated leaders who rely upon their personal connections to The Money as both their only job qualification and only effort for the institution. Maybe I should move again, a few kilometers north of here... but then everything would revolve around hockey night.
  • Yet more proof that listening exclusively to transferees and distributors on copyright policy and practice will mire one in iniquity comes from photographic "licensing." Whether this is actually worse than museums trying to claim copyright in photographs taken of their collections is beside the point: It's wrong to charge licensing fees and assert infringement by those who don't pay them for photographs "dedicated" to the public domain.1

    There is a disturbing contrast with failures to renew, or registration errors, or other third-party mistakes that give cheapasses hiding behind "information wants to be free" rhetoric that applies at most (if ever concerning copyright, as distinct from access) to information — not original expression as expression — cover to argue that art and fiction of the 1940s through early 1960s is now public domain. Yet another consequence (quite probably intentional, sad to say) of the foolishness of the 1909 Act... and a hint to the photography houses that they can no longer rely on the 1909 Act for their business model. It's only been forty years since the 1976 Act was passed!

  • In line with some deeply and fundamentally flawed "recommendations" concerning a "small claims copyright procedure" issued by the Copyright Office under the prior regime, Rep. Jeffries has introduced a bill with typical lawyerly prolixity to establish a small-claims "alternative dispute resolution" system for copyrights. We'll ignore for the moment that the predictable side effect — which will occur on the close order of Planck time after the effective date of implementation of any even analogous system — will be the overwhelming of the system by porn purveyors seeking to blackmail "illict downloaders." We'll also ignore that my comments are restricted by multiple actual (not potential) conflicts... and my professional and personal disdain for those who are most-publicly pushing in favor of such a system. Instead, my opposition arises from fundamental flaws and mistaken assumptions in the very concept, especially — but not exclusively by any means — the failure of the last forty or so legislative sessions to provide the federal judiciary what it needs to do its job(s), combined with an increasing reliance on "user fees" without regard to second-order effects.

    And from the number of trees that will die just from printing the bill, and the necessary forms to implement it. The key to understanding this bill is to ask a Latinate question: Qui bono? If you have trouble understanding that, consider the next link sausage.

  • Here's what is really wrong with the American education system: We don't demand enough classroom achievement... from the teachers. A newspaper story notes that this may be improving, though; "average" SAT scores among new teaching hires in 2008, they climbed seven points to 46th percentile in math. I'm not thrilled; the implication that initial hires in 2000 were below the 40th percentile in math is frightening, particularly since so many teachers in the American system have at least partial math-teaching duties. The less said about measuring preparation in literature and the rest of the arts, the better.

  1. I put scare quotes around that word because it points at a lacuna in the 1976 Act, and the Berne Convention: Neither really provides for putting already-existing materials voluntarily into the public domain. There's an argument that doing so would be a synthetic contract action in which the author sells the work to the public for a price of zero, but that's contorting the statute (and even the Berne Convention) in a way that is inconsistent with the constitutional language. Too, if it's a "synthetic contract," it's a mere transfer of rights... subject to rescission/termination under § 203 or § 304(c), potentially by the author's heirs.

    And that's leaving the quasimonopolistic rentseeking by the photography houses and their underpayment of photographers aside for another time. These are not paragons of virtue under the best of circumstances.

22 July 2016

Es war kein Münchner Bierhalle...?

Yet again, we're stuck with the media obsessing about talent-challenged thin-skinned reliant-on-the-uncredited-skills-of-others narcissists unable to accept that not everything is about them. I'm not sure whether I'm more annoyed by the utterly predictable and seemingly choreographed Nashville v. LA bullshit in popular music, the utterly predictable and seemingly inevitable clash of egos and sour grapes in broadcast propaganda, or the utterly predictable infantile histrionics over which "unsuitable" candidate gets to have access to The Football for the next four years.

Regardless of who "wins" any of these contests, someone is going to need a new communications director. I suggest that these two are leading candidates:

As mere comedians, they have more respect for the facts — and get them wrong a helluva lot less often — than any of the purportedly serious men (and they're almost all men) running political communications for the Establishment today. And do not kid yourselves: All of the candidates with multi-million-dollar media buys and war chests and polling operations are Establishment, however much they try to distinguish themselves with meaningless (and inaccurate) labels that seem non-Establishment.

13 July 2016

At Least the Robot Had No Impure Motives

I hereby accuse Wayne LaPierre in particular and the NRA in general of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded public theater. And the late Chief Justice Burger, with his emphasis on getting rid of federal cases at the earliest possible moment — and thereby suppressing consideration of many of the predicate issues, because state courts are seldom institutionally competent to do so (especially with elected judges) — of blocking an exit. That incident in Dallas didn't have to happen; neither did the police shootings that led to the demonstration in the first place.

  • Here's why a formal document destruction policy for surveillance material is actually critical to everyone: Sometimes, lost records are found. And when the authority for gathering the records ab initio is as dubious as it was for the NYPD "Red Squad," things get really... interesting... for both historians and everyone else.
  • But analyzing records in a coherent fashion matters, too. Epic fail: Asserting that there is only a limited number of plots, especially while misusing (and, more to the point, inconsistently using — similar to "organic food" — a technical term to mean something else). Two really obvious counterexamples rather destroy the thesis. Perhaps the most obvious is Sherlock Holmes, in which the plot-influenced relative emotional states of both the characters and the reader are wholly subordinate to solving the puzzle presented in the story (for both the characters and the reader). Somewhat more subtly, the entire analysis presumes that the purported "story shape" of an individual work stands entirely alone; analyzing James Bond works in this type of system is meaningless (and no, it doesn't work any better by abstracting the definition of "work" to a higher level). And to top it off, very little of this analysis actually concerns "plot" — that was imported by an obviously ignorant headline writer.
  • Yet more improper conduct from the Senate, where it appears that nutcase pressure is preventing the Senate from confirming its own employee, the Librarian of Congress. <SARCASM> OTOH, if one discounts self-aggrandizing party-hosting seeking donations from the east-of-Hudson subculture, the Library of Congress has been without effective leadership for years, so what's a few more months until the election? </SARCASM> The disturbing inference of "It's because she's a black woman" is hardly undermined by recent photographs of a Congresscritter from Iowa — a Union state — with Confederate flags on his desk... even if he's in the House and not the Senate.

06 July 2016

Careerism (Again)

Perhaps the most damning conclusion stated in the Chilcot Report — the twelve-volume review issued today of the UK's participation in the post-9/11 invasion of Iraq — is buried toward the end of the Executive Summary.

824. The following key findings are from Section 17:

  • The Inquiry considers that a Government has a responsibility to make every reasonable effort to understand the likely and actual effects of its military actions on civilians.
  • In the months before the invasion, Mr Blair emphasised the need to minimise the number of civilian casualties arising from an invasion of Iraq. The MOD’s responses offered reassurance based on the tight targeting procedures governing the air campaign.
  • The MOD made only a broad estimate of direct civilian casualties arising from an attack on Iraq, based on previous operations.
  • With hindsight, greater efforts should have been made in the post‑con´Čéict period to determine the number of civilian casualties and the broader effects of military operations on civilians. More time was devoted to the question of which department should have responsibility for the issue of civilian casualties than it was to efforts to determine the actual number.
  • The Government’s consideration of the issue of Iraqi civilian casualties was driven by its concern to rebut accusations that Coalition Forces were responsible for the deaths of large numbers of civilians, and to sustain domestic support for operations in Iraq.

The Report of the Iraq Inquiry, No. HC 264 (06 Jul 2016), at 128–29 (emphasis added).

"With hindsight" my ass: Don't confuse us with long-established international law (well known to every commissioned officer), or facts, or even the search for facts — we have careers to protect. One almost expects Malcolm Bloody Tucker to have been in charge of something... oh, wait a minute, that was based on the shenanigans of the Blair government...

30 June 2016

Happy Birthday to This Blawg

... which is a teenager today. I think it outgrew having birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese's a while ago, but I must resist its inquiries concerning brewpubs for a while yet. At least it's never sent a selfie from a Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber event, and I know where it is at three am. It's still too young to vote this November, though.

27 June 2016

Brexit

England 1:2 Iceland — thoroughly deserved (England was bloody brain-dead, both in their initial setup and on the field).

I suspect this Brexit will hurt much worse in the short run. Iceland is still in Europe in two ways; England — not so much, largely thanks to poor thought processes outside of London.