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November 22, 2010


After Gawker revealed several excerpts from Sarah Palin's new book prior to its publication, Palin tweeted, "The publishing world is LEAKING out-of-context excerpts of my book w/out my permission? Isn't that illegal?" David Frum's comment on Palin's tweet was, "ACTUALLY: NO" and he followed up by tweeting, "That last tweet by @SarhPalinUSA sums up in 140 characters why this person should never be allowed any authority over any police force ever." The two Frum tweets were retweeted by Brendan, but probably for technical reasons those retweets by Brendan don't appear in the compendium above.

As it happens, two days later a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order requiring Gawker to remove the online excerpts. The grant of a TRO doesn't mean Palin's publisher will ultimately be successful on the merits, but it does indicate the judge's belief that Palin's publisher has a substantial likelihood of prevailing.

What's at issue is whether Gawker's use of Palin's copyrighted material is permissible under the Fair Use doctrine. That's a notoriously complex legal question. Frum's attempt to cast it as open and shut against Palin was dumb, as subsequent events demonstrated. Frum received an undergraduate degree from Yale and a law degree from Harvard, but in this instance he was outreasoned by Palin, who received her undergraduate degree from the University of Idaho after sojourns at Hawaii Pacific University, North Idaho College and Matanuska-Susitna College. That hacking sound you hear is the Ivy League collectively choking on its sherry.

Indeed, I omitted those retweets because the legal matter is unsettled and Frum may indeed be proven wrong. I assumed the excerpts were fair use quotes rather than actual pages, which was my mistake.

Brendan wrote:

Why does @NBCFirstRead assume Palin sleeping "half-buried in briefing books & index cards" is proof of anything? ...If you go to the library at midnight, you'll find lots of students asleep on books, but it doesn't mean they learned what's inside them.

Being with the books is a good sign. The students who spend their evenings in the library with the appropriate books are more likely to be reading them than the students who spend their evenings playing computer games.

I'm sympathetic to the struggle of political scientists to prove that their profession is real. The Casualty Actuarial profession went through a process of convincing other insurance people that our numerical approach adds substantial value to their judgment and qualitative approach. In particular, around 25 years ago there was a rapid acceptiace of casualty actuarial expertise at Lloyd's of London after many of the non-actuarial firms experienced enormous losses and the entire Lloyd's came close to failing.

Brendan's War Room link in turn links to a comment by John Sides that includes:

Oh, and while we're at it, can we dispense with the notion that academics are incapable of seeing "America?" Good Lord. As if there are no colleges and universities outside of San Francisco, New York, and Washington DC. And as if "America" somehow doesn't include university communities.

IMHO Sides misses the point. It's not that academics are incapable; the problem is that success in academia doesn't prove that the field of Political Science is real. ISTM political science can prove itself by demonstrating practical usefulness -- particularly if it proves to have monitary value. Here are two conceivable ways:

1. When political candidates routinely use part of their limited campaign funds to hire a Ph.D. political scientist, we will know that there's a real acceptance of the value of this field of knowledge.

2. When someome uses his expertise to make a fortune, we're more apt to believe in his theories. E.g., after Nassim Nicholas Taleb made zillions of dollars on the financial crash, people took more seriously his Black Swan theory. Similarly, when Brendan becomes indepentently wealthy by betting on election outcomes, we will be more convinced that his reliance on mathematical models and "fundamentals" provides a more accurate approach than that used by others.

As David suggests, it will be a red-letter day when a political campaign hires a political scientist. That day might be hastened if the political scientist could also do the candidate's hair and make-up or rub the knots out of the candidates tight muscles. It's called multi-tasking, professors. Having a good lay-up shot wouldn't hurt, either.

The link to the Gail Collins list of Bristol Palin references is broken. It's snowing outside, my car is stuck, what am I going to do?

Sorry about that - try this: http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?frow=0&n=10&srcht=s&query=bristol&srchst=nyt&submit.x=23&submit.y=16&submit=sub&hdlquery=&bylquery=gail+collins&daterange=full&mon1=01&day1=01&year1=1981&mon2=11&day2=23&year2=2010

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