Category Archives: Politics/Law

On Being Part of the Problem

I’ve been in listening mode these last couple of weeks as Harvey Weinstein’s egregious abuse of what turns out to be dozens (hundreds?) of women has sparked a conflagration of righteous anger among many guys, and self-centered defensiveness, also among many – including some of the guys who are righteously angry. I wanted to take a minute to address that group – the righteously angry guys who are also putting a lot of energy into explaining why they’re not part of the problem.

I’m not going to try to speak for the women who’ve been victimized by this behavior (and by the entire structure of our society, which fosters and protects the perpetrators of this behavior). I’m just going to speak for myself, and state this as simply as I can. (Not very simply. Sorry.)

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Michael Brown didn’t do anything as a teen that I didn’t — but only one of us got killed [link]

Matt Yglesias makes the obvious comparison, and draws the obvious conclusion:

When I was Brown’s age I also dabbled in drugs and alcohol. Even used Swisher Sweets to roll blunts from time to time. For that matter, I also did some shoplifting. Got caught one time by a security guard at the K-Mart on Astor Place who confiscated the stuff I’d stolen and yelled at me a bunch. So I suppose that, when an undercover officer came upon me and two friends smoking cigarettes and drinking beer on a park bench that night, he could have shot us dead and then the Times could have reported that we were no angels. We weren’t.

The NYT’s Michael Brown obit is shameful, but provides a helpful distillation of the insane double standard being applied here, where a kid’s possible youthful transgressions are held out to implicitly justify his cold-blooded killing at the hands of a police officer.

The Lost-and-Found Legacy of Barbara Ringer

Amanda Levendowski at The Atlantic put together a great story about a woman who should be much better-known:

I came across a quote a few weeks ago—one that so perfectly encapsulates the outdatedness and skepticism surrounding copyright law—that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen before: “The 1976 Copyright Act is a good 1950 copyright law.”

It was attributed to someone I didn’t know: Barbara Ringer.

She was one of only a few women in her graduating class at Columbia Law School back in 1949. Just after graduation, she took a position with the Copyright Office as an examiner, where she determined the registrability of applicants’ submitted works. When she wasn’t busy working her way up through nearly every position at the Copyright Office, Ringer was drafting the Universal Copyright Convention, attending international copyright conferences, and teaching at Georgetown Law Center as the university’s first woman adjunct professor of law.

She conducted empirical research. She published her work in law journals. She even wrote the article about copyright law for the Fifteenth Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

And then I realized that I did know her. We all sort of know her: She was one of the lead architects of the 1976 Copyright Act. I went to law school to become a copyright lawyer. I had read her copyright law. I’d taken classes about her copyright law. I’d even written about her copyright law. And yet, I had never heard a word about her.

General Counsel Brad Smith on Microsoft’s privacy policy

Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required.

Great to see Microsoft listening to its customers and doing the right thing.

Silicon Valley Disrupts Discrimination: Now It’s for Middle-Aged White Guys, Too

Ann Friedman for The Cut:

It’s been a full decade since Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook and launched a thousand breathless trend stories about the code-fluent, post-adolescent masses flocking to Silicon Valley to change the world in Adidas slip-on sandals. But this youthful uniformity, once considered a feature, has become a bug. Tech, the the New YorkTimes confirmed this week, has a “youth problem.” Writes former Facebook staffer Kate Losse, “Silicon Valley fetishizes a particular type of engineer — young, male, awkward, unattached.” Or, as theNew Republic put it, the tech industry’s “brutal ageism” means that if you don’t fit the archetype — say, you’re over 35 and only wear hoodies when you’re exercising and have a few kids and a mortgage — you have to work twice as hard to get ahead. They’re stressed out and ostracized by the “culture,” worried about their wardrobe choices, wondering if they should freshen up with some subtle plastic surgery, and struggling all the while to downplay their family lives.

While I empathize, I found myself stifling a yawn as I read the Botoxed bros’ tales of woe. I’ve heard all of these stories before. It’s just that the storytellers are usually women.

Defending Innovation and Consumer Choice in New Jersey

When last we spoke, New York’s auto dealers were lobbying ridiculously to screw over Tesla. Well, apparently their peers in New Jersey liked that idea so much that they stole it and convinced the governor’s office to fast-track it. Per Tesla’s blog post yesterday:

Proposal PRN 2013-138 seeks to impose stringent licensing rules that would, among other things, require all new motor vehicles to be sold through middlemen and block Tesla’s direct sales model. This move comes in spite of discussions with the Governor’s staff as recently as January, when it was agreed that Tesla and NJ CAR would address their issues in a more public forum: the New Jersey Legislature. Instead, rather than engage in an open debate on such a significant policy issue, the Administration has expedited the implementation of a new law that the Commission intends to stealthily approve at a meeting in Trenton today at 2:00 PM EDT.

See also: The Verge‘s summary of the situation.

Just a reminder that these kinds of unnecessary regulations hurt competition by raising new entrants’ costs. This has got to be the Chris Christie administration’s dumbest act of the year!