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Polls and problems

At least 15 years ago, an international society of statisticians published a report about the future of public opinion polls.

Because of changes in technology and the way people responded to pollsters, they predicted that getting accurate public opinion on anything would be next to impossible -- sooner than later.

Not too long ago, the inaccuracy of major polls just proved how right these statisticians were. People don't respond to polls. The pollsters don't have their cell phone numbers. Just about everything mitigates against accuracy.

Today's papers carry the story about another round of bogus poll numbers, this time relating to the Iowa caucuses.

So, when does poll mania stop?

Never. The elections are horse races, and that's not going to change. Media love polls, regardless of whether they are worthless. And pollsters aren't going to quit hawking their snake oil.

Just don't believe everthing you read and hear.

The porn guy

Before Christmas, one of our male volunteers was going from back to front in the library, passing by our bank of public-use computers and was brought to a dead stop by something he saw on the screen of one of our patrons.

Yep: Porn.

Right here in a public library for God and His little children to see.

We got the guy straightened out in very fast order.

And we're still wondering why he would think it's perfectly OK to come into a public place and watch porn. Brain dead?

I guess not. Turns out a guy up in Eau Claire, Wisc., was in the university library there watching porn when he was turned in by a couple of students who thought it was tacky, rude, and insulting, much less offensive.

The librarians stopped him. And he sued, alleging a First Amendment right to view pornography in a public place.

Now comes an appellate court in Wisconsin tossing out the guy's lawsuit. No right was offended by the library's action, the court said.

To which I say, "Amen."

We have winners!

Our second annual Wimberley Film Festival, conducted Saturday evening, was a smashing success. A total of 11 movies were entered for viewing and judging.

The following were our winners. Congratulations to all of them.

Best Movie, Youth Division: "Stayin 'Alive'" produced by Coleson, Ian and Sage Summers and directed by Coleson, Ian and Sage Summers.

Best Movie, Adult Division: "Dreamcatcher" produced and directed by Tess Hasbrouck.

Best Actress, Youth Division: Genivieve Hodge in "Mischief and Mayhem"

Best Actress, Adult Division: Dorothy Anderson in "Dreamcatcher."

Best Actor: Erik Coomer in "Gold"

Most Artistic Movie: "End of Everything" produced by Maverick Shaw

Best Foreign Film: "Call Me James" directed by Amy Bryson

Best Director: Isabelle Hodge

Small Bambi Awards went to the following:

Hercules, the cat, for best performance by a cat in "Stayin 'Alive.'"

Nori Larsn for Best Technical Support.

Joe Hasbrouk for Best Supporting Actor in "Dreamcatcher."

Prices rising

I've written here before about the rising price of college attendance, and there's no sign of it going down.

A small part of the rise is due to the cost of textbooks. I think I have mentioned here before that when I was teaching editing at UT-Austin I did not require students to buy a textbook. Instead, I just provided materials that I had developed over my years as an editor and reporter.

Texts come from a variety of sources, including commercial scholarly presses and university presses. The Journal of Scholarly Publishing just released a comparison on pricing by those two kinds of press, showing the variation in prices associated with different kinds of books by general area. For example, all English lit books are compared with each other, and all Psyc books are compared, so things are apple to apple.

Commercial scholarly press books are now approaching the $100 per-book price. University press books are in the $60 to $80 range.

The difference is explained, of course, by the drive for profit. University presses don't expect to make  money. And they should only make enough to keep printing.

But, that gives you some idea of why costs are rising. None of the books have gone down in average price since 2012, the first year reported in the stosry.

The right to be forgotten

In Europe, citizens have the right to require Google and other search engines to remove old news or information about them after the passage of a certain period of time.

No such right exists in the United States as a matter of law.

So, the American Library Association and others have been asking, in a variety of forums, whether this country should.

The central notion here is that people have a right to bury their baggage after a reasonable length of time. If you, for example, were arrested for stealing chickens when you were 17 and an item appeared in the newspaper or in an electronic venue, shouldn't you be able to put that episode behind you when you decided to run for office as a 54-year-old? Doesn't simple fairness dictate that you do have such a right even if it's not in law?

Yes, it should.

And, as a practical matter, the principle is recognized in the Unite States in the common law developed around the issue of privacy. The courts have found that you can win an invasion of privacy case under civil law if a sin from long ago makes it back into print or online 20 or 30 years after the fact.

In the newspapers I edited, I warned all my reporters and copy editors not to go back in the files and dredge up ancient news about individuals who were making news again.


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