July 28, 2010

“If you take hyphens seriously, you will surely go mad.”

Filed under: Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 17:17

If you’re not a bit of a word geek, you can safely skip this post. “Johnson” looks at the role of the copy editor:

Having recently had my forthcoming book copy-edited, I jumped right on the link (at Andrew Sullivan) to read Lori Fradkin’s “What It’s Really Like To Be A Copy Editor”. I’d struggled for hours with my manuscript, wondering what to stet and what not to stet, marvelling both at my copy editor’s care and at the confusion she introduced in places. So I was eager to see what Ms Fradkin had to say about the other side of this relationship.

But the experience isn’t quite what he hopes: Ms Fradkin is inclined to a “because the dictionary says so” approach that “Johnson” finds overly restrictive.

This is not to say “everything is right” and to get back into the tired prescriptivist-descriptivist debate. A debate about hyphens or compounds should have something useful to say about language itself. For example, The Economist hyphenates compounds when they are used as modifiers: interest-rate hikes, balance-of-payments crises, and so forth. These aren’t hyphenated when used as nouns. (“Interest rates must go up.”) I like this hyphenation. It helps prevent so-called garden-path misanalysis, by letting the reader know that even though he’s seeing two nouns in a row, they should be understood as a compound modifier, and another noun is coming up. In other words, if someone asked me why I hyphenate “interest-rate hikes”, this is what I’d tell them, and not “Because the style book says so.” The latter answer is worse than wrong; it’s not interesting.

In some cases I might disagree with our style book. I obey it nonetheless, because rulings, even when arbitrary, keep a style consistent, so readers aren’t finding “Web sites” here and “websites” there in the same article. Readers expect and enjoy uniformity as a mark of quality.

More on that elusive right to photography

Filed under: Law, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:13

Jon, my former virtual landlord sent me a link to this article, with more on the “you have the right only if they don’t stop you” aspect of imaginary laws and their not-so-imaginary enforcers:

Legally, it’s pretty much always okay to take photos in a public place as long as you’re not physically interfering with traffic or police operations. As Bert Krages, an attorney who specializes in photography-related legal problems and wrote Legal Handbook for Photographers, says, “The general rule is that if something is in a public place, you’re entitled to photograph it.” What’s more, though national-security laws are often invoked when quashing photographers, Krages explains that “the Patriot Act does not restrict photography; neither does the Homeland Security Act.” But this doesn’t stop people from interfering with photographers, even in settings that don’t seem much like national-security zones.

Tennessee law student Morgan Manning has compiled a list of incidents in which individuals were wrongly stopped. Cases like that of Seattle photographer Bogdan Mohora, who was arrested for taking pictures of police arresting a man and had his camera confiscated. Or NASA employee Walter Miller, who was stopped for photographing an art exhibit near the Indianapolis City-County Building and told that “homeland security” forbade photos of the facility. More recently, a CBS news crew was turned back from shooting the oil-fouled gulf coastline by two U.S. Coast Guard officers who said they were enforcing “BP’s rules.”

All of which leads people to believe that there really are laws restricting peoples’ right to take photographs or videos, because police and other government officials keep acting like there are such laws.

So what should you do if you’re taking photos and a security guard or police officer approaches you and tells you to stop? First, be polite. Security people have tough jobs and probably mean well. Ask them what legal authority they have to make you stop. (If you’re in a public place, like a street, a park, etc., they have none; if you’re in a private place, such as a shopping mall, they may have a basis for banning pictures.) Krages advises those hassled by security guards to threaten to call law enforcement. If it’s an actual police officer who’s telling you to stop shooting, ask to speak to a superior. And remember — you never have a legal duty to delete pictures you’ve taken.

More importantly, we need better education among security guards and law enforcement. In Britain, the country’s police chiefs’ association is attempting to educate officers about the rights of photographers. So far, nothing like that has happened in the U.S., but it should. Trying to block photography in public places is not only heavy-handed and wrong but, thanks to technology, basically useless. With the proliferation of cameras in just about every device we carry, digital photography has become too ubiquitous to stop. Let’s have a truce in the war on photography and set our sights on the real bad guys. Who, it seems, don’t carry cameras anyway.

USMC learns from LEGO

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:57

Not the actual toy, but the interlocking and standard size ideas applied to real world training grounds:

Over the last five years, the U.S. Marine Corps has built the world’s largest urban warfare training area at their 29 Palms base out in the Mohave Desert of California. There are currently some 400 structures, from private homes, to large government building complexes, operational in the training area. When development of the center is complete, there will be over 1,200 structures to train in.

[. . .]

Many of the buildings are really shipping containers, equipped with doors, windows, some paint and contents, are being used to represent the buildings. Like Legos, the containers can be joined together, or stacked, to make larger buildings. More importantly, the entire “town” can be rearranged to represent a different kind of environment. The training towns now being built represent what the marines are currently encountering in Afghanistan. But in a few years, the marines may be fighting somewhere else, and they want their training town to reflect that, quickly, when the need arises.

What is a “fusion center”?

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:50

Wendy McElroy thinks you should know how much domestic surveillance has increased in recent years:

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported on July 25 that “there are 72 fusion centers around the nation, analyzing and disseminating data and information of all kinds. That is one for every state and others for large urban cities.”

What is a fusion center?

The answer depends on your perspective. If you work for the Department of Homeland Security, it is a federal, state, local, or regional data-coordination units, designed to improve the sharing of anti-terrorism and anti-crime data in order to make America safer. If you are privacy or civil-rights advocate, it is part of a powerful new domestic surveillance infrastructure that combines data from both the public and private sectors to track innocent people and so makes Americans less safe from their own government. In that respect, the fusion center is reminiscent of the East German stasi, which used tens of thousands of state police and hundreds of thousands of informers to monitor an estimated one-third of the population.

The history of fusion centers provides insight into which answer is correct.

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