Nem tudhatom…

by Eszter Hargittai on April 30, 2004

Via Liliputian Lilith (who realized this via many others among them weez) I noticed that today is Poem In Your Pocket Day, which bloggers are converting into a Poem On Your Blog Day. Although my high school literature teacher did everything in her power to make me hate poetry, I’m happy to say she didn’t succeed. So I share with you here one of my favorite poems, “I Cannot Know” by the Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti.

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More in Google news

by Eszter Hargittai on April 30, 2004

CT is filled with Google commentary these days, I can’t be left out!:) But since my fellow co-bloggers have provided plenty of interesting reading, I’ll just point to a clip. I used up ten minutes of my 15 yesterday in a live interview on CNNfn’s The Flip Side. Those of you who have been following my related posts and work won’t be surprised to learn that my comments had to do with seach skills and how commercial considerations may influence what people see online. It was a neat experience. And seeing splashed on CNNfn with me on the screen was pretty cool.:)

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Google as rational actor

by Henry Farrell on April 30, 2004

As “John Quiggin”: has already said, the expected market valuation of the Google IPO seems to reflect fundamental irrationality among its investors. At first glance, Google’s “IPO statement”: is even crazier – it seems to poke a finger in the eye of Wall Street. Larry Page’s covering letter tells potential investors that Google will continue to reserve the right to make extremely risky investments, to coddle its employees, and to refuse to release traditional earning guidances.

bq. Although we may discuss long term trends in our business, we do not plan to give earnings guidance in the traditional sense. We are not able to predict our business within a narrow range for each quarter. We recognize that our duty is to advance our shareholders’ interests, and we believe that artificially creating short term target numbers serves our shareholders poorly. We would prefer not to be asked to make such predictions, and if asked we will respectfully decline. A management team distracted by a series of short term targets is as pointless as a dieter stepping on a scale every half hour.

In fact, there’s a very strong argument to be made that Google’s behavior is entirely rational, and furthermore is exactly the right thing to do if it wants to maximize its long term profits. As Gary Miller has argued in a series of publications, shareholder capitalism in the strong sense of the word is plagued by fundamental inefficiencies – shareholders cannot be trusted to maximize long term value because of fundamental dilemmas of social choice.

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This is the follow-up to my previous academic literary studies and blogging post. (Memo to self: need snappier handle than ‘academic literary studies blogging’ – but not yet, lest we snap off some corner of the subject prematurely. ‘Bookchat’ not it – since it is vague and probably refers to a thing possibly necessary but hardly sufficient, if you see what I mean.) WARNING: post of interest to few.

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Europe and the War on Liberty II

by Maria on April 30, 2004

I’m running between meetings and trying to get this story into the print media (why do these things always happen on a Friday afternoon?) of an important development in the privacy of communication, so I will just point you to a leaked document hosted by the indefatigable people over at Statewatch.

Ireland, Britain, France and Sweden have proposed that the European Council of Ministers pass a Framework Decision on the retention of communications and mobile phone location data throughout the EU. This is the latest in an ongoing effort of certain European law enforcement interests (led by the UK, pushed by the US) to create a total surveillance capacity over anyone who uses a communications device of any kind, anywhere in the EU. This is sad, bad and disastrous news.

Yet again, policies which fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state are being pushed through the most secretive and unaccountable decision-making body of the EU. Yet again, so-called anti-terrorism measures are being opportunistically introduced – this time in reaction to the Madrid bombings – but applied far beyond terrorism related investigations.

As comparisons go, this measure will far exceed the Patriot Act. It is obscenely dismissive of European data protection law – which now applies to multinationals using call centres but not to curb the state excesses it was created to prevent. It is absolutely sickening to see the Irish government using its presidency of the EU to endorse measures that cut the heart right out of European human rights.

For any decision-makers who haven’t been listening to the years of pleas and demands that EU states not use the promise of information and communications technologies to surveil their citizens, hear this: we don’t trust you, we don’t support you, and unlike you we haven’t forgotten the historical reasons Europe chose to stop governments compiling databases of their citizens’ most innocent acts.

Ranking UK philosophy departments: RAE versus Leiter

by Chris Bertram on April 30, 2004

I’ve been asked by my administration for my estimation of the strongest philosophy departments in the UK (in research terms). I’m not a big fan of league tables, but, rather than leave things to my private whim I thought I’d take a look at a least two peer-review based assessments out there: the “last RAE (2001)”: and the “Leiter reports”: . Leiter has a ranking of UK departments, but to get one for the RAE you need to make some choices. My crude method was to to take the crude score (5*, 5 or 4) and multiply this by the number of staff submitted (with 5* as 6). This gave me the following ranking table (below the fold):

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Googling the capital markets

by John Q on April 30, 2004

The Google IPO has now been announced, and there are some more figures to analyze. In addition, I wanted to talk a bit about the option, suggested by one of the commenters on Kevin Drum’s blog of arbitraging by short-selling overpriced dotcoms and buying those with more reasonable valuations. Finally, I wanted to look at what all this means for capital markets and therefore for capitalism.

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From tomorrow’s “FT”:

bq. Six US army soldiers are facing courts-martial for abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees – activities uncovered during an investigation that also found widespread abuses at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, according to US military officials. The alleged abuses, made public by CBS News, included soldiers forcing prisoners to simulate sex with each other and to pose naked with American men and women in military uniforms. In photographs obtained by the CBS News programme 60 Minutes, Iraqi prisoners are shown stacked in a human pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English. In another, a detainee is shown with wires attached to his body in an attempt to convince him he might be electrocuted. In almost all photos, CBS said, the US soldiers are laughing, posing, or giving thumbs-up signs.

bq. In an interview with CBS, Staff Sgt Chip Frederick, an army reservist and one of the soldiers charged, said he would not plead guilty … “We had no support, no training whatsoever, and I kept asking my chain of command for certain things … like rules and regulations. And it just wasn’t happening.”

bq. The army’s investigation reportedly shows that military investigators asked untrained reservists to prepare inmates for interrogation, but offered little guidance. Because of the success rate of “breaking” prisoners prepared by the unit now under investigation, they were encouraged to continue their practices, Sgt Frederick said.

This really sounds pretty dreadful. It’s not My Lae, and it’s not on the same plane as what went on under Saddam Hussein. But it’s symptomatic of a more general moral deadening that’s taking place – a willingness to countenance the threat of torture, “the turning over of people to third countries for torturing”:,1284,665939,00.html, and the employment of physical brutality in the ‘war on terrorism.’ People know this is happening – both the “Washington Post”: and “the Economist”: have run stories on this. But there’s no US debate about it that I can see; the stories sank like lead balloons. Even the “Maher Arar”: case seems not to have had any impact in the US beyond a few bloggers, and a scattering of news stories in the back pages. There’s a lot of knee-jerk anti-Americanism among the left, especially in Europe, and an unwillingness to acknowledge the many good (and sometimes utterly wonderful) things that the US has done in the rest of the world. Equally, there seems to be a persistent unwillingness among many Americans to acknowledge the ugly things that are being done in the name of their national security. Perhaps this story – and the actions being taken to punish those who were directly responsible – will help change this. But I don’t have much confidence that it will.