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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

AUTHORS AND READERS

"I would not want such a burden to carry."

There's a sequence in my book Snowberry's Veil that I've thought about quite a bit over the years because of what it says about readers and authors.  The scene is in the forest where Erkenbrand judges then executes a bandit, leaving him dead for the animals.  When I wrote it, I had something in mind, and I expanded on that concept beyond what I had originally conceived of.
But what I had in mind and what at least one reader got from it was pretty different.  Here's an excerpt of the scene:
When he started to come around, I dragged the bandit to his feet and pinned him to a tree with his blade at his throat.
“Bandit, I am Erkenbrand, King’s ranger. I am the representative of the King’s justice and duly appointed guardian of the King’s lands and peoples. You, on the other hand, are a bandit,” I pushed the point of the sword against this throat, upward under his jaw, “who admitted murder to my face.”
He stared at me with hate and probably pain from the rock I’d bounced off his head. He swore at me with a defiant gaze and the blood from his head matted his hair on one side.
“How many men are in your camp?”
“Go climb your ___,” he snarled.
“Who is your leader?”
“My ___,” he snarled. I sensed a theme.
“You’re not going to answer any questions, are you?”
He stared at me silently, proving my point. I didn’t have time to break his will, even if I could. I took a deep breath and sighed, tasting bitterness on my tongue.
“Because we are too far from a standing court or authorities” I said quietly, “and I am unable to hold you prisoner for delivery to the hands of magistrates, I now am passing judgment on you: guilty for the crimes of murder and theft, of banditry, and preying on the subjects of the king. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
The bandit’s eyes filled with contempt. “Ranger, you’re a ranger? Pretty sad stuff the King is sending out these days. You ran like a goblin.” He repeated his foul oath and spat at me.
“The sentence then is death,” I told him, and drove the blade through his throat, up through his mouth and into his brain with one brutal thrust. He made a sort of wheezing gasp and blood gushed out of his mouth and the wound, then he slid dead to the forest floor.
I cleaned off the blade and sheathed it, carrying the scabbard and sword in my hand. Kaskala stared at me without moving.
It was only then that I remembered that horse I’d seen in the camp. It was Lord Valance’s mount, and it was well cared for. He was either a prisoner as well - which seemed unlikely since I’d seen none of his goods strewn around or on the bandits - or with them in … some other capacity. Probably I should have asked the bandit I’d just executed about that, but I knew he’d never have answered me without some manner of torture and I just wasn’t going to do that.
I tore the patch that identified me as a ranger off the tattered remains of my shirt that I’d been carrying and left it on his body, then Kaskala and I turned to leave. I gave Kaskala the bandit’s sword, and as we walked, he looked at me regularly, as if to see something new in me.
“You killed him,” he finally said.
I nodded. The memory of the jarring crunch through the blade as it drove into his skull made my arm feel sick.
“Is this the way of your people?”
“It is sometimes. I am given the power to capture and determine justice over criminals in lesser cases such as theft, poaching, or assault. I can decide who is guilty and pass sentence on them, usually fines or restitution. The King gives rangers, such as myself, the power while in the wilds to act as watchmen do in cities, to act for justice for the people in places far from magistrates.” I wasn’t exactly sure if the words I was using were ones Kaskala would be familiar with but I didn’t feel like a long explanation either. I didn’t feel like talking at all.
“But you killed him,” he repeated.
“Yes. When there is an emergency or we are too far from cities, when I cannot appeal to any other authorities or must act quickly, I may adjudicate more serious crimes such as murder.”
“He took a life, so you take a life?” Kaskala asked.
We stopped and I took a deep breath.
“That’s not exactly how it works. That’s kind of what happened, but there is more to it than that. He was a bandit, a man who preys on others. He used his strength to take from those weaker than him, he killed and raped and harmed others and stole from them. And in the wilderness, there is no one to appeal to out here, there is no court, and there are no guards. So men like him act without fear of reprisal.
“Because he was so destructive to the safety of others, because the helpless were prey to him, people with power must stop him. It wasn’t so much that he took a life, it was that he took an innocent life to steal from that person, he killed because he wanted what they had. I killed to protect others from this fate, and because justice requires that he pay for his deeds. I killed not because I wanted to kill or because I am so powerful that he’s prey to me. I killed as a representative of the King’s justice, of his authority, and the authority of the people he serves as their ruler.
“If I had not killed him, he would have continued to prey on the weak, continued to kill, and continued to do evil. His past crimes and the threat to others required that his life be taken, justice required that he pay a price for what he had done, and I was acting as an instrument of justice. I wish it were not me, I wish I could have walked away, but I cannot. It is part of the burden of being a ranger.”
“You do not seem happy with what you did.”
“I’m not.” I was quiet a while as we walked, then thought I should explain more. “I don’t like killing. I’ve done it before and unless providence smiles on me, I will do so again in the future. Killing the wyvern was a hunt of sorts but killing that man while staring him in the eye, executing a helpless prisoner is different. It was awful, but it had to be done.”
We turned and walked toward our camp. Kaskala thought about it a while and then put his paw on my back and we walked that way for a while.
“I would not want such a burden to carry.”
When Huck, sometime commenter here, read the book, he reviewed it quite positively, but had this concern:
The one section of the book that I thought was very out of place was the scene where Erkenbrand and one of the Raccoon beastmen have a kind of philosophical discussion about the necessity and morality of capital punishment. If I were Taylor, I would have simply let the story itself be the defense of the necessity of capital punishment, instead of having the characters engage in a dialogue that was inconsistent with any of the other interactions the characters had.
Huck might have a point about the inconsistency of dialogue, which is worth pondering, but he didn't catch what I was trying to toss out there. The scene is kind of a shock based on the previous actions by Erkenbrand who I tried to portray as a pretty gentle, sensitive guy, if a bit rough around the edges.  Here he just offs a guy in cold blood.
And I thought about how that would look to his beastman companion who, after all, was part of a tribe that was essentially holding Erkenbrand on probation.  Further, I wanted to expand a bit on what a Ranger is in my world, since I'd established Erkenbrand and his abilities enough that I could get into another aspect of his life and work.  And Rangers are not just forest warriors, they are actually a branch of the royal military, acting as scouts and explorers, charting the wilderness, cataloging species and plants, clearing areas of threats, and when necessary, agents of justice.
In our world we are comfortable with the idea of the go-to guy for law and justice, and its always a comfortable system.  Life hasn't always been like that, and it wasn't that long ago in parts of the USA even where the law was what you made of it where you were.
Part of the Ranger's job is to execute justice, and if he must, do so with lethal force.  In a monarchy in a lower tech fantasy setting, the death penalty is significantly more common than in ours.  Further, in these circumstances, Erkenbrand can't tie the bandit up and call the cops, or drive him to a jail.  He's several days travel from civilization on horseback (which he doesn't have). 
So I was trying to show how Rangers worked, and what their duties were beyond just being some guy in the forest with a bow.  Politics and arguing capital punishment was the last thing on my mind.  I wasn't trying to argue for or against it.  My only concern was this was going to be jarring and shocking to many readers, who are comfortable with their world and not used to this kind of thing.  In this setting, this isn't particularly noteworthy to the people of Morien, but it could be to modern readers.
So I had Erkenbrand and Kaskala talk it over a bit, trying to show that Erkenbrand felt he had no choice but was awful about it, and Kaskala not really understanding but knowing that he could trust Erkenbrand's judgment.  Up to this point the beastmen have been, if not adversaries, not exactly allies either, and this was a bonding moment.
So to me it was a matter of character development and explaining the setting.  To Huck it was a treatise on capital punishment, an argument trying to justify or support it.  Which brings up a concern for writing.
What you're trying to do as an author doesn't always carry across well to readers, or at least not to all readers.  Some might have strong feelings on a given topic and respond poorly to it, perhaps missing what you're trying to do.  Sometimes what you try to do as an author fails, and you don't get across the concepts very effectively.
And that's just something you have to deal with.  Nobody ever has written a book that everyone loved and understood completely.  In fact, very few will really "get" your book the way you meant it.  Sometimes someone will understand completely, but its going to be rare.  The hardest part is when a reviewer misses your work entirely which can feel unfair.  So far nobody's review has particularly upset me, although sometimes they puzzle me (like the one that gave me 4 stars then spent the whole review complaining about first person).
Its just interesting to me the dynamic between readers and authors.  What you're trying to accomplish often will simply go unnoticed or be misunderstood.  But hey, as long as they're reading, that's good enough for me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

THE PLANK

"I really feel there should be a word that means 'smart person who is actually quite stupid.'  Preferably it would be in German."

Over at Ace of Spades HQ, Drew M links a great bit about economics which has 12 economic truths from a Nobel prize winning economist.  These are a mix of common sense and basic economic fact that are useful for everyone to remember such as:
  1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.
  2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.
  3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts,
    and their preferences than you do.
  4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That is why social safety nets don't always end up working as intended.
Now, the strange thing, as Drew points out, is that the person who he got this list from is Ezra Klein, hardcore leftist and Keynesian economist who strongly supports and cheerleads for the ACA, which violates many of these economic truths.  As Drew notes:
Imagine thinking, as Klein does, that these are four essential parts (there's 12 in total) of understanding economics while simultaneously thinking that ObamaCare doesn't go far enough and we should have "a more nationalized health-care system".
...
How can you read those words and think, "Yes! This guy nails it and oh by the way, society should be organized in such a way as to ignore everything he just said"?
Just about everything this economist says is in opposition to and destroys the ideas of the left on economics and government policy.  That's not to say this is some kind of absolute proof Ezra Klein is wrong on these areas (although it should be cause for serious doubt), because economics is very complex, and the larger the economy, the more exponentially complex it becomes.
But it is an example of how so often I've seen people who lean left will know one set of facts and understand one set of truths... then profess and hold to another, contradictory set.  Ezra Klein praises this economist's thoughts on the matter, then spends his time fighting for ideas that are in opposition to them.  Fellow Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman does the same thing: he knows the things he argues for in his NYT column are wrong and even idiotic, but he argues for them anyway, and appears to truly believe them.
Even when, at times, I've seen a leftist admit that they are wrong on a topic, often they will in short order be back to arguing what they admitted recently was wrong once more.  Its as if they hold these positions not based on reason, truth, and careful consideration, but upon what they feel or wish to be true.  As if emotion and desire drives their policies and approach to life rather than reality.
And while its easy to point a finger and give the Nelson Laugh to such behavior, I can't help but stop and think.
What am I doing that's like this?  In what area am I blind, where am I imposing what I wish to be true upon what is actually true?  Looking back I can see areas I defended the Bush administration when I should have been more skeptical - the encroachment of government on privacy in the name of fighting terrorism, for instance.  I admire those on the right who did sound a voice of alarm in these areas.
I did so not out of any love or allegiance to President Bush, but out of a concern for the war we were fighting and the enemy we are still up against.  But they went too far and I should have been more objectively thoughtful about it.
I don't doubt there are at least some other areas where I do the same thing.  In Christianity, this is expressed by Christ Jesus in Matthew's gospel:
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
-Matthew 7:3-5
This comes up in the Christian life often, whether its listening to a sermon and thinking "wow [insert person] should be here to hear this" or reading the Bible and thinking "[insert person] needs to meditate on this passage!"  No, we should think first about how it applies to us, not others.
Jesus was especially annoyed with hypocrites of a certain type.  He had no patience or tolerance for people who thought that they were morally superior to anyone else.  He was at his most caustic and condemning with those who presented themselves as holy and yet inside were rotten.
And when I think of Ezra Klein's blindness on this issue, I should first consider how this is a cautionary note for my blindness, too.  Because if I can't get the plank out of my own eye, how am I going to help see well enough to get that speck out of my brother's?
And if all I can offer to the world is condemnation, mockery, and finger pointing, why would anyone want to listen to what I have to say?

Friday, April 18, 2014

WHAT A WEEK

"Ow, my Society!"

Its been a strange week in the news.  From Bundy vs the BLM to Ukranian Jews, all sorts of oddities have taken place.  The US House of Representatives is voting on whether to withhold salary pay from those found in contempt of congress, which would affect current US Attorney General Eric Holder.
The Bundy Nevada ranch stand off was odd.  Living in the western US, I'm well aware of how much land (over half of it) the federal government owns and in some states like Nevada, barely any of it is private land.  The origin of this was basically extortion; if a territory like Nevada wanted to become a state, they had to let the feds declare big sections of it theirs (because of all the mineral resources, apparently).
And as time has gone on, the federal government has grabbed more and more land.  Some is for national parks, some is for wildlife preservation, some is for military use, and so on.  Now, much of Nevada is virtually uninhabitable, but some of it is pretty valuable land, such as the grazing property that Bundy was using.
And being desert, water rights are very important as well.  And apparently the area was being considered for a solar energy farm by some investors, including big donors to Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV).  The whole thing was an ugly mess, and its not over yet.  The BLM has sort of backed down, but in all this you have to ask a few questions:
Why does the BLM have guys with rifles and mechanized infantry?  The whole militarization of the federal government is disturbing.  These guys don't swear allegiance to the US Constitution, they don't come from a culture of patriotism like most military volunteers do.  They aren't barred by US law from being active on American soil.  Its like an end run around the military by the executive department, who apparently wants its own private army it can use against Americans.
And how is it that this Nevada desert turtle is so suddenly endangered after nearly 200 years of coexisting with cattle?  According to biologists I've read, they interact quite well.
Meanwhile, fliers were distributed in Ukraine to Jews, requiring them to pay a 50 dollar fee and register with the government.  This struck me as both unlikely and plausible at the same time.  Remember the play and film Fiddler on the Roof?  One of my favorite musicals, its set during a pogrom against Jews in Ukraine.  That happened more than a few times, even as recently as under Stalin.
Yet at the same time, it struck me as very unlikely that any government would be that bold and obvious, and I questioned how the US State Department got a copy of one of these so fast.  Now the government of the area in Ukraine is claiming the logo is theirs but they didn't print or distribute these.
And honestly, this does strike me as a pretty typical KGB psyops campaign to discredit a government and make the population fear and dislike them.  So the Russians might have done it to destabilize the area and weaken the government.  Who knows, I guess we'll wait and see.
A strange bit of news was this one: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman makes six figures a year at his job.  He owns a mansion as well as several other properties, and is worth $2.5 million dollars.  He just got a job as a lecturer at CUNY for $25,000 a month to give lectures on - I'm not making this up - income inequality.  Now, if you've read any of his columns you know that Krugman is a leftist Keynesian economist and he'll say rich people are bad and stealing from the poor... while collecting his $250,000 a year paycheck to say so.
And students wonder why college costs so much.
And then there's the Census.  President Obama directed the Census department to change their reporting.  Why does this matter?  I'll let Megan McArdle explain:
For several months now, whenever the topic of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act came up, I’ve been saying that it was too soon to tell its ultimate effects. We don’t know how many people have paid for their new insurance policies, or how many of those who bought policies were previously uninsured. For that, I said, we will have to wait for Census Bureau data, which offer the best assessment of the insurance status of the whole population. Other surveys are available, but the samples are smaller, so they’re not as good; the census is the gold standard. Unfortunately, as I invariably noted, these data won’t be available until 2015.

I stand corrected: These data won’t be available at all. Ever.

No, I’m not kidding. I wish I was. The New York Times reports that the Barack Obama administration has changed the survey so that we cannot directly compare the numbers on the uninsured over time.
There's only one reason the federal government wants to keep this data from the eyes of economists and pundits: its awful and makes them look stupid.  Its also why the Obama administration has not yet and has no plans to ever release the number of people who actually have signed up to the ACA.
And of course, there's that jet that disappeared.  Remember the plane?  The one that everyone was talking about and was CNN's broadcast day for about 30 days in a row?  Flight 370?  The coverage has disappeared, too.  Its sort of funny in a way how suddenly and totally everyone just dropped it.  It was the main topic on news, blogs, and social media, now nothing.  The problem is the black box flight recorded stops sending out a distress signal after a month, so they have nothing to home in on.
But something curious I liked that someone brought up (I cannot recall who): remember Ted Danson and the rest going on about how polluted and trashed the ocean is?  How totally full of debris it is, how there's a Hawaii-sized island of trash from cruise ships floating around?
Yeah, they didn't really see that out there, did they?  They had a hard time finding any significant debris, let alone some big enough to be plane-like.  Just something to consider.
And in my work, I finished and published a Fantasy Hero module called The Lost Castle.  Its an adventure for fantasy gaming, particularly Hero Games stuff.  I got official licensing from Hero Games and its the "featured product" on their official website store.  It will be on Amazon etc as a download and purchase soon as well.
The next project for me is a reboot of The Fantasy Codex.  This was a 2 volume set for the previous edition of Hero, and its taken a while to rebuild the thing for the new edition.  I've streamlined it, cut out repetition, and its bundled into one, slightly fatter, volume now.  I've run into a bit of a snag, though.  I lost a computer and all its data, and the bad part is the backups I had off it aren't complete.  To make matters worse, the cover to The Fantasy Codex, vol 2 looks like this:
The problem is, I don't have that original art anywhere.  I thought I did, but it was just a copy of the first volume's cover.  And that's quite frustrating.  All I have is this little postage stamp sized copy.
So now I have to rebuild it, from this basic drawing my architectural designer and clock maker brother Jonathan did for me:

So this will take a bit of work with the free image manipulation program GIMP to get it looking like I want, again.  Its just a piece of internal art, but its a big full page piece, so I can't use manipulate the little image and use it.
*UPDATE: Here's what the final image looks like:
I have a lot of stuff in the pipes for Fantasy Hero, and I've been getting a lot done while I wait for Life Unworthy to get back to me from my editor.  He's been very busy and as he does it on spec (I want to pay him, but can't yet) so I can wait.  But until I get it back I'm leaving it on a shelf because I want to see it with fresher eyes when I get it to edit.  As I wrote earlier, this one really has me nervous.
So I hope you have a blessed Easter and enjoy the extra time off.  Spend it with family and maybe consider how two thousand years ago, someone lived a perfect life and died the death our sins deserve for us, so we can have salvation from our sins.  You know, if you can find time between eating chocolate and hunting for eggs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FREE INFORMATION

"private correspondence is also a powerful tool for slandering climate data"

The Freedom of Information Act passed in 1966, the year after I was born.  Signed into law by a reluctant Lyndon Baines Johnson, it was a response to the increasing secrecy and untrustworthy nature of the federal government.
The principle behind the FOIA is that the federal government is subservient to the people of the United States and should, upon demand by the people, provide reasonable materials not critical to national security.  So you can demand the tax returns of a politician, but not the password to the CIA's secret files.  There are ten different categories to exempt information from the FOIA, which the government can reject a request under:
  1. (A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order
  2. related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency
  3. specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (other than section 552b of this title), provided that such statute (A) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue, or (B) establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld (this was later given more specific detail in the Privacy Act of 1974).
  4. trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential 
  5. inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency
  6. personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
  7. records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual
  8. contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions
  9. geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.
  10. information of a commercial nature, including trade secrets, whether or not obtained from a person outside the Postal Service, which under good business practice would not be publicly disclosed
Other than this, the federal government is required, under the law, to reveal information requested by individual citizens, within a reasonable time period.  There are fees involved, which can be somewhat expensive, which make the process more difficult and are of questionable nature, but they are partly there to keep frivolous requests from bogging down agencies.
This system has been copied by many countries around the world and there are FOIA laws in place in states as well as at the federal government level.  Such a bill would almost certainly never be passed today, as it limits government power and makes it more accountable to the people.  Since the time when this bill was passed, the philosophy of government has shifted to more rulership over than subservience to the people.
One of the things that stood out in the Climaquiddick Emails were several mentions of how to get around FOIA requests, what to block from being released, and what should be destroyed so it cannot be released due to these sort of requests.  Because these scientists were working for federal government dollars, their research fell under FOIA requests.
Michael "Piltdown" Mann and others fought very, very hard to keep from having to show their work, which any other scientist in any other setting would be glad to show.  They considered efforts to force them to show how they came to their conclusions and what data their reports were based on to be offensive and wrong, and whined that their opponents would use it against them.
To this day, much of the material Mann, for example, used for his "hockey stick" graph is gone, and the Eastanglia research center claims it was destroyed; the old "eaten by my dog" ploy.
Recently, Michael Mann sued Mark Steyn when Steyn pointed out quite factually that Michael Mann at no point received a Nobel prize for anything.  Michael Mann claims he did, and the university he works at claims he did.  Mann sued Steyn for his statements, and several people noted when the news came out that this was a very stupid thing to do.
See, when a lawsuit or court case takes place, there's this process called "discovery" in which the court requires the people involved in the case to totally and freely release information related to the case.  Michael Mann really, really doesn't want some of his work to be released to the public, and especially not to Mark Steyn.  So either he didn't really think this through very carefully, or he figured Steyn would cave based on the costs of a lawsuit.  Which if so, he hasn't been paying much attention to recent events - Steyn among others fought and beat the tyrannical Canadian Human Rights Commission not that long ago.
The lawsuit follies continue, with Mann starting to show signs this was all a terrible, stupid mistake and things aren't going well for him.  As predicted, Steyn's legal team is using the discovery process to dig out all kinds of stuff Mann has been keeping from the public (again, very odd behavior for a scientist not working for a company).
And others are trying to dig out Mann's work using FOIA requests.  They have tried again and again, and Mann's lawyers have been very successful at blocking these requests.  So much so that people are starting to take note, because these efforts have very wide-reaching significance.As Greg Greico writes in the Times-Dispatch:
Skeptics of climate change have filed requests for Mann’s emails under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. (Mann is an influential climatologist whose work has bolstered the case for man-made global warming.) So far, they have lost. And they have lost so badly that media organizations have sat up, taken notice — and filed a brief in the case.

The Virginia Supreme Court is weighing whether a professor’s emails are, as a Prince William County circuit court ruled, “proprietary” and therefore exempt from the state’s FOIA. The lower court ruled that proprietary records are those “owned or in possession of one who manages and controls them.” This has alarmed the media organizations, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the AP, the Newspaper Association of America, Reuters, Atlantic Media and several others.
What's going on here is that the judges are trying to decide the difference between personal materials and those pertinent to federally funded work, which is a tricky business.  Personal stuff that happens to be done while on the job paid for by the federal government is not federal business, and hence is not subject to FOIA requests.
But the judges here have defined this so broadly and unwisely that news organizations are alarmed.  Why?  Because this definition can apply to anything a university or college has.
The media groups note that the lower court’s ruling “literally writes into the exemption the very definition of a public record in Virginia. ... Under the lower court’s definition, no public university record would qualify for release under VFOIA because all university documents are presumably ‘things’ and would be ‘owned or in the possession of’ the university.”
If you're in the news or information business, this is not good at any level.  Further, it prevents people from digging into how public funds are being used by individuals who can just claim its "proprietary" and thumb their nose at the public.
Global warming alarmists saw how incredibly destructive the emails that were leaked under the Climaquiddick releases were to them.  Comments about destroying information, destroying enemies, using the peer review system to protect themselves and silence critics, and "hiding the decline" in temperature were devastating to their cause.  The mask was lifted, and people could see what an enormous scam this all was.
They don't want to have this happen, ever again.  So they're fighting hard to keep their work away from the prying eyes of people who are paying for it, demanding everyone just trust them despite past evidence that they're completely untrustworthy.
And because destroying emails relating to work government money pays for is a federal crime, they are hesitant to just wipe out their correspondence (although they admit having done so in the Climaquiddick emails).
So they're using lawyers and either sympathetic or not very bright judges to block any efforts to see their stuff, and in the process are creating precedent and legal basis for anyone to block FOIA requests.  This is much more broad and significant than just abuse of funds by global warming fanatics.
And the whole thing betrays a certain arrogance and condescension when it comes to power and the people of the United States.  You don't need this, you don't deserve this, shut up and do what you're told.  How dare you question us or require us to show our work!
These scientists are acting in this manner largely because their money is at stake.  I can't find how much Mann makes a year, but judging by his flying around the world and the cash he throws around for lawsuits and publicity, I suspect he does pretty well.  And, of course, the university loses money and esteem if their pet researchers are shown to be scammers and con men.  So they have a lot of reason to hide the research as well.
The government has always been very resistant to FOIA requests, because they just don't want to be bothered by the public and do not care to be accountable.  They've gotten more resistant as time has gone on and the imperial government philosophy has become more entrenched.  But universities and scientists following in the same path is a very bad thing.
These people want to be unaccountable, they want to do whatever they choose with the public's funds and then not be held to task for how they use it or what they use it on.  And that simply should not be allowed.