Censorship and the Internet

by Henry on September 5, 2003

As a mere political scientist, I’m leery of going head to head with Eugene Volokh on the law, but I’m going to throw in my tuppence worth on his recent post on “Eric Rasmusen”:http://volokh.com/2003_08_31_volokh_archive.html#106278869634914297. Even if I’m wrong, I think there’s a useful argument to be had.

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San Juan Islands

by Brian on September 5, 2003

I was happy to see the NY Times article on the ferries between the San Juan islands. I was over there this summer for a conference and a group from the conference took one of the ferries to Lopez island. It really was incredibly beautiful. The Times story online has one photo hinting at the kind of views you get, and there are a few more photos in the print version. If you’re anywhere near the San Juans, getting out to the islands is highly recommended.

A word of warning though: if you’re kayaking on the waters between the islands, and it looks like a ferry might be bearing down on you, it probably is a ferry bearing down on you and it will probably get to you quicker than you think. I managed to stay well out of ferry routes the short time I was out there, but friends who were a little more adventurous had some impressive horror stories to tell.

Scholar bloggers

by Henry on September 5, 2003

Via “Larry Solum”:http://lsolum.blogspot.com/, two new scholar-blogs that are worth a special mention. As a supplement to his Conspiratorial machinations, Tyler Cowen has started a side-project with Alex Tabarrok, called “Marginal Revolution”:http://marginalrevolution.blogs.com/. As the name suggests, it mostly focuses on economic theory and its applications. Second, Rodger Payne, an international relations scholar at University of Louisville, who’s written some interesting stuff on framing, has started “blogging”:http://rpayne.blogspot.com/ too. Nice to see another IR type in the blogosphere.

Why does the Bush administration hate the world’s poor?

by Chris Bertram on September 5, 2003

Glenn Reynolds asks

“WHY DOES THE EUROPEAN UNION hate the world’s poor so much?”

and links to a Guardian article about Franz Fischler’s rejection of demands from poor countries that the Common Agricultural Policy be reformed. Fair enough, it should be: Europe should abandon its protectionist policies that, as Glenn says, harm the poor. But a more thorough reading of the same article would have led him to this paragraph:

bq. Washington and Brussels have tabled a joint proposal on agriculture that would involve far smaller cuts in protectionism than developing countries want. The proposal has been countered by a blueprint from leading developing countries that would involve far more aggressive reductions.

A joint proposal then? So it isn’t just those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys after all.

Non-plan

by Chris Bertram on September 5, 2003

OpenDemocracy has a short piece by Paul Barker on the late Cedric Price and the idea of the Non-Plan. Here’s a quote that will delight some and annoy others:

bq. “Architects”, he once said, “are the greatest whores in town. They talk in platitudes about improving the quality of life, and then get out drawings of the prison they’re working on.”

The idea of the non-plan sounds fascinating:

bq. He and I collaborated on Non-Plan, an anti-planning polemic, which infuriated architects, planners and assorted do-gooders. The idea emerged during a conversation I had with Peter Hall, geographer and planner, in the late 1960s. Both of us were appalled at the disasters that urban planning had brought about. We wondered if things could be any worse if there were no planning at all.

bq. What worried our critics, who were many, when the four of us published our Non-Plan issue of New Society (20 March 1969), was their uncertainty about our political stance. Was this anarchism? Or deep-dyed conservatism, a precursor of Thatcherism? Our essential point was that you should always think very hard before telling other people how they ought to live. They had their own preferences, which ought to be respected.

bq. We suggested carrying out a Non-Plan test. Four districts should be freed from all controls, and we could then judge whether the upshot was any worse than what happened with the controls on. To make readers sit up, we chose four much-cherished slices of English countryside for our test. The resultant incandescence was highly satisfactory.

I’m intruiged, and mean to find out more.

Privacy and Human Rights 2003

by Maria on September 5, 2003

Today, EPIC & Privacy International launch ‘Privacy and Human Rights 2003, an international survey of privacy laws and developments’. It is a meaty tome that summarises developments in privacy law and policy in 55 countries during the past year.

This year’s review “finds increased data sharing among government agencies, the use of anti-terrorism laws to suppress political dissent, and the growing use of new technologies of surveillance.” Familiar themes to readers of my entries…

It includes an introductory chapter on the war on terror and a country by country guide. Each country entry is a short essay on the key developments with links to many original sources. Within the introductory essays, there is excellent information and analysis to be found on topics like biometrics, airline passenger data, electronic surveillance, WHOIS, Total/Terrorist Information Awareness, and so on. It really is an indispensable guide to a still rather under-reported field, given the massive erosions of personal liberty in the past couple of years.

By way of disclosure – I did the chapter on Ireland and bits and pieces on the UK, EU and electronic surveillance. A great big tip of the hat to Tiffany Stedman who was the law clerk at EPIC working on my chapter, and of course to Cedric Laurant who pulled the whole thing together.

There’ll be a webcast of today’s launch at the National Press Club (1300 ET) on the EPIC home page.

Google Functionality Marches On

by Kieran Healy on September 5, 2003

There’s an old law of software development that says every application expands to the point where it can read mail. A little-known corollary is that Google can always do more than you think.

For example, try searching for expressions like 213 * 718, or 76 kilos in pounds, or even (G * mass of Earth) / (radius of Earth^2). Amazing. Wait till Brad DeLong hears about it.

Update: Naturally, the google calculator also knows the answer to life, the universe and everything. (Hat tip: Geek Notes.)

I’d like to point out that if you’re not reading the “Pointless Waste of Time” Newsskim, you’re missing out.

ASTEROID TO END CIVILIZATION IN 2014…

…says scientists after discovering what NASA has labelled “God’s Flyswatter.”

All nine Democratic Presidential candidates have held press conferences blasting President Bush for leaving the Earth vulnerable and “naked in the dark Detroit alley of the cosmos,” (John Kerry) and for “transforming the planet – through a series of irresponsible tax cuts for the rich – into a virtual Meteor Magnet,” (Howard Dean).

The Bush Administration, meanwhile, has assembled a $60 billion emergency task force made up of NASA and military officials to devise a way to deflect the oncoming Democratic criticism. Their first pro-Bush advertisements are expected to be deployed by Spring of 2004.

Action star Charles Bronson died of pneumonia over the weekend to the delight of hack comics everywhere, who are now able to use the approximately 167,933 Death Wish play-on-word jokes they have been stockpiling for decades….

Subsequent performances in The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Battle of the Bulge and The Dirty Dozen cemented Bronson’s legacy as the ugliest man ever to have a camera pointed at him for the purposes of showing others for money. Acting without the benefit of a “Tom Cruise smile,” a “Brad Pitt chin” or even a “Kevin Spacey mild presentableness,” Bronson proved that a disturbingly ugly man can make it to the top in Hollywood, then die of pneumonia.

In other news, Kieran has previously noted that my pro-Stalin agenda has come under blistering attack. In my defense, I’d like to point out that fluffy bunnies are adorable.

All right, I’ve lowered the tone enough. Sorry.

Union blues

by Henry on September 5, 2003

“Iain Murray”:http://www.iainmurray.org/MT/archives/000267.html blogs approvingly on a recent Robert Helmer speech. Helmer claims that federalism in the European Union doesn’t have much in common with its American equivalent; it isn’t democratic, and it isn’t really federalism either. He’s trying to square a rather inconvenient circle for the righties – by and large, right-wingers in the UK and US approve of federalism in the US (more rights for the states), but disapprove of it in Europe. Helmer’s basic argument is that federalism is only legitimate if it applies within a single nation-state, where people share a common national identity and common sympathies. Thus, EU federalism is Bad – there’s no such thing as a European national identity. However, US federalism is Good – after all America is ‘One Nation under God.’

There’s one small problem with this argument. Any half-way intelligent reading of American history will tell you that it’s utter nonsense. 150 years ago, the US bore a remarkable resemblance to the EU today; a scattering of loosely affiliated states without all that much of a shared national identity. Then, from the Civil War on, it began to centralize. If Helmer and Murray are right, then, the modern American political system is at best a massive mistake, and at worst, a democratically illegitimate usurpation of powers by a centralizing federal government.

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