Thursday, December 20, 2007

People hate librarians enough to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

This is very cool. Here is a Supreme Court media page where you can download mp3 content of Court arguments to your iPod and rock out. Or you can listen to the audio while text scrolls by and images of the participants display.

I figured I would read some of the Supreme Court, U.S. v. ALA case because we filter and I wanted to know the arguments for and against filtering.

[Assume I'm listening to the audio now... most of this post is BS, but for your reading pleasure, I will color the text of my jokes in this color.]

What's interesting is how nervous Teddy (may I call you Teddy?) gets when Justice Souter asks about unblocking the porn filter for library staff. It's like he knows that Souter is opposed to the notion of hindering librarians from viewing any material at their desks, to review any website, and he's pooping himself in fear that this line of questioning is going to kill his argument.
It's at about the 14:00 point.

And Justice Stevens, also dissenting, says this about getting around the funding portion of CIPA: "Well, you... you could have it on a separate phone line, it seems to me."
Thank you Justice Stevens. You incredibly old dude. If we used phone modems, I would be all for allowing unfiltered Internet on those terminals. Because it would take so long to download any video and most hi-def images that the question of filtering would become moot. But this was 2003, so maybe he got to his Compuserve account on a 33.6 modem with his People PC

Let me take a moment to make fun of another old person:
Justice GINSBURG: "With regard to disabling the filter, this would require carrying in buckets of water, building a fire, and pouring the water in a vat or other such container in order to produce the steam required to remove the filter?"
TEDDY: "Something like that."

[back to the show]
Here's a cool game: listen to the audio and every time Teddy says, "reasonable" everybody takes a drink. (But first, everybody take two drinks so we can all catch up with Australia.)

It's interesting that Scalia sees the possibility for porn, specifically kiddie porn, to enter the library as a reason to block all Internet access, and Ginsberg sees that any blocking of legitimate research as a violation of free speech.
And at one point Souter (dissenting) says this, "Can you require them [librarians] to exclude certain materials that it would be illegal for them to have as... as an abstract matter? Sure, I suppose.But the... the tough question is, can you require them necessarily to exclude a great deal more about which they make no decision whatsoever and which would be perfectly legal for them to have?"
Which means, can a librarian make a judgement about material on the Internet with first observing that material? Souter doesn't seem to think we can. But if someone said, hey, don't go west on First Avenue because there's lots of crime in that neighborhood, that's a judgement made without direct observation but from previous observations and also not based on the
neighborhood as a whole but on a pervasive dangerous element. But we find those judgements about unsafe neighborhoods valid in real life. How many librarians do you know who have denied purchasing from Loompanics (or Paladin Press) simply because of the reputation of the publisher? Librarians routinely make judgments on appropriateness derived from experience and training. I understand that Souter is questioning why the filter is making these judgements, but the librarian selected the filter... I guess his concern is that filters are imperfect and the librarian is at the mercy of the statute to utilize a poor product.
I like Souter because he asks good questions.

Interesting bits:
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: "General Olson, what does the record disclose is the percentage of lawful material that is excluded under these software programs as opposed to material that is unlawful for the library to--"
Wow. How do even measure something like that without outright lying?

Unintentionally funny bits from Pauly, the mystery person who refused to be photographed:
CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST: "What... what cases are you relying on to say that
the libraries would be required to engage in... in conduct that is presumptively unconstitutional?
PAUL M SMITH: --This Court's whole series of cases involving the public forum doctrine, Your Honor, which I noticed was... was not really mentioned by my colleague, Mr. Olson.The Internet, when it comes into the library, is... all of the information available on the Internet, as diverse as human thought...
immediately available to the patron.It is the most pure form of public forum
that you can possibly imagine.
PAUL M SMITH: Applying the Court's general holdings in... in a whole series of cases to try to decide whether this is a public forum, a designated public forum, created--
CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST: --You conclude that... you conclude that a library
is a designated public forum.
PAUL M SMITH: --The Internet terminals in the library are a designated public forum, Your Honor.
JUSTICE BREYER: Is it also a public forum if it's a public school library?
PAUL M SMITH: The... the case of a public school library is a... is a more difficult case.
JUSTICE BREYER: I just want a yes or no answer. On your theory is it or is it not a public forum if it's in a public school library?
PAUL M SMITH: I think, Your Honor, I can't give you a yes or no answer.
JUSTICE BREYER: Well, I need a yes or no.You either do think it is or you
don't think it is.

This is where Pauly lost his case.
JUSTICE BREYER: --then if it is a public forum, the elementary school, Addison Hill Elementary School, has to let the worst possible pornography go over the computers that come into the public school library.
PAUL M SMITH: Certainly not, Your Honor.
PAUL M SMITH: Certainly not.
JUSTICE BREYER: Well, but I... I need to know fairly specifically because I don't want if there... if... to me frankly if... if your theory of it means that every public school has to have a computer attachment which bring this material into the school, I suppose a lot of schools wouldn't have computers at all in their libraries. And... and that is worrying me.
JUSTICE SOUTER: What would your response be if... if you start where Mr. Olson started and said, you don't have to go through all of this?All you have to do is walk up to the librarian and say, I'm an adult. I want it unblocked. And it will be unblocked.
Where... where does that leave your position?
PAUL M SMITH: Well, it's not clear that the librarian would say yes. The librarian certainly doesn't have to say yes.
JUSTICE SOUTER: I... I think Mr. Olson's suggestion was that the librarian, absent some extraneous reason, would say yes.

Pauly greatest hits medley: "Plus, you have a stigma problem, very much like the one-- There's a stigma problem very much like-- You have to deal with the stigma -- Either that is something that has got a lot of stigma to it -- if it turns out that people wouldn't be stigmatized by that..."

So ultimately, the entire filtering issues comes down to the "stigma" of asking the librarian for help. And this is the basis for this case, people hate us so much that they can't bear to ask us for help even if that help allows them to watch videos of people screwing. I have never felt so reviled before. And I've been punished by nuns.