Letter to ATA director Maier

The American Translators Association Board of unpaid Directors is meeting in Denver today and tomorrow. Jane Meier is a former president and current boardmember.

Hola Jane,
The others can heave a sigh of relief that I won’t be in Denver. But I do have some concerns I will share with you, as suggested on the HITA maillist.

By now it should be clear that letting the ASAE take over the ATA was a mistake. I recommend getting rid of their lawyers and all staff that are ASAE members, and to hire only half as many people to replace them. It should then be a simple matter to return our direct voting ballots—like all other NY non-profit corporations.

Inviting self-righteous impostors and infiltrators in as voting members was as big a mistake. I suggest voting a deadline for their taking and passing an exam to earn entitlement to continue to meddle in policy (). I also favor getting rid of all the Continuing Extortion racketeering.

The ATA website is practically useless. Portuguese is needlessly split 80/20 unlike any other language. Google Search “find a translator” and Abrates.org shows up in the first couple of pages, along with several local associations—even proz, Linked-in and whatnot—but not ATAnet. This is objective proof of GROSS dereliction or subtle sabotage—it doesn’t matter which. The goofy questionnaires, endlessly-looping gotcha capture challenges and screwy searches are befuddling to professionals who have been members for years. They amount to a Keep Out sign to potential clients searching to directly hire someone (someone verifiably holding credentials–rather than agency middlemen).

Now repeat that search with: “Find a translation company” and SHAZAM! The ATAnet website is front and center on the very first page peddling agency URLs. Ask yourself if this looks like a level playing field. Clearly, when Ben Teague and Patricia Newman were in the saddle, with 17% annual growth this was an association of, by and for tested translators. (ATA Chronicle, December 1981)

Oh yes, I still keep all that stuff posted at www.freelanceparty.org

The search engine results objectively demonstrate that today’s ATA is an association of, by and for the American Society of Association Executives and the agencies those worthies perceived as the key to their success in continue… symbiosis of sorts. I am asking you to champion as many of these changes as seem right to you and I’ll listen to your reasons for the ones that don’t.

I am pleased to note that ALMOST all of the boardmembers are certified in at least one language pair. But that has in the past not been a reliable defense against the inveiglements of highly-trained and experienced professional predators. Those folks are nice, agreeable and persuasive, but we were better off without them before and I’ll bet we will be better off without them once they’re working some other neighborhood.

There you have it. I’ll be posting this online just to make it difficult for the others to laugh off or ignore.
Cheerfully yours,
Hank Phillips

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Deontological dementia affecting translators

Mencken1st

Listing hobgoblins frightening to people who wish they were translators has developed into a sort of anti-industry. All through life we’ve been exposed to hogwash (nuclear power will poison us all, industry will bake the planet, refrigeration will sunburn the penguins) and survived mainly through a process of immunization. Cassandras’ declarations are invariably cast in the future tense, as somber predictions. Millerites believed Jesus would end the World 22 October 1844. Since then the  world was supposed to end by freezing in 1998 warming in 2012, and drowning by 2014. The same social “scientists” making these failed predictions also fancy themselves ethicists, when in fact their calling is deontology. Deontology is to ethics as astrology is to astronomy.

The fundamental problem is that most translators’ associations confuse ethics and deontology, and foist the latter on beginners as a substitute for the former.

Deontology seeks to impress its victims with the importance of duty, sacrifice, dependence… altruism. Ethics on the other hand is a code of values to guide your choices and actions. Professors in the time of Aristotle had already observed that students had short attention spans, and came up with virtue ethics as a useful shortcut to values.

Virtues such as rationality and judgment protect us from fronting labor or money to strangers, or relying on someone else’s verbal assurances instead of our own written bids. Virtues such as courage, integrity and independence enable individuals to look out for their own rights instead of signing them away in the form of market allocation and hold-harmless agreements dressed up to look like NDAs.

Nonsense palmed off as ethics is easily recognized for its lack of value. One large interpreters’ association worships secrecy and collusion as though that were a rational standard of value. Ask yourself whether that standard is better suited to a criminal conspiracy or to honest dealings among free and independent economic actors.

Translators whose code of ethics equips them for success write their own agreements and produce websites–not excuses for inaction. (The virtue is productivity, or industriousness). Thus you bid on jobs and customers hire you based on the credentials you show them. While it is true that the world is full of large corporations eager to rob you with a fountain pen, it is also full of honest customers eager to deal directly with qualified professionals–if they can only find them.

All of the miserable translators I have ever met show clear symptoms of poisoning by deontology. To provide valuable guidance a code of ethics must have at its foundation a standard of value consistent with the pursuit of happiness. Virtue ethics help us to better choose the company we keep. –tradutoramericano.com