Skip Gates arrested

by Henry Farrell on July 20, 2009

“The Boston Globe”:

bq. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling. Police arrived at Gates’s Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had “no idea who he was messing with,” the report said.

bq. … Counter has faced a similar situation himself. The well-known neuroscience professor, who is also black, was stopped by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect as he crossed Harvard Yard. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification. That incident was among several that ignited criticism from black students and faculty, highlighting the prejudices that many black students say they continue to face at Harvard.

Open Left at Demos

by Harry on July 20, 2009

Demos’s Open Left project is unveiled today, first with a series of essays on the Demos blog by the likes of Billy Bragg, Alan Simpson, Polly Toynbee, Phillip Collins and Jon Cruddas [1], and second with an event tonight at the Commonwealth Club. The essays were written in response to a series of questions, including “What is it about your political beliefs that put you on the Left rather than the Right?”, “How would you describe the sort of society you want Britain to be?” and “What one or two changes would make the biggest difference to bringing that about?” It’s headed up by James Purnell (whose own answers to the questions are here), who characterizes it as a three year project “to revive the ideas and direction of the Left at a time of economic and political upheaval”. More essays will be added throughout this week (I’ll link to mine when it goes up). Although one of the commenters correctly observes that the cast of characters is almost exclusively Labour, rather than more broadly left, it is nevertheless a reasonably eclectic group within Labour so far, and I think it’ll be interesting to see Purnell and Collins, for example, in dialogue with Simpson, Cruddas and Toynbee, and more interesting still if the project reaches beyond Labour ranks (I’m not Labour, but I don’t count). Thoughtful CT readers, commenters, and contributors might help further the discussion by going there and commenting.

[1] His wikipedia page suggests that Cruddas visited my department for a while in the 1980’s, in which case he is probably the second most eminent former visitor we’ve had — according to department legend, this guy once shared an office for a whole semester with my retired but excellent colleague Dennis Stampe.

Meet The New Face of the Anti-Trade Agenda

by Henry Farrell on July 20, 2009


I was talking to a friend in the trade policy world this weekend, who told me that he understands that Canada will indeed be taking a “WTO action”: seeking remedy for the EU’s ban on the importation of seal products, imposed because of the perceived cruelty of clubbing baby seals to death so as to get their skins off intact. Apart from the innate merits of the underlying argument (which you can discuss in comments to your heart’s content), this should (unless Stephen Harper loses his job in the meantime and the new government loses interest) really, really have some interesting effects on debates over world trade and globalization. Screw the turtles – when anti-WTO protest groups are able to run full page newspaper ads with adorable baby seal cubs, they’re going to be in a truly excellent position to wage public relations war. All the more so when the Canadian counterposition (that the seals are killed humanely) turns on the legal requirement that the baby seals should have stopped blinking before the hunters start skinning them. Perhaps Stephen Harper should have applied similar attention to the current state of the Doha round – I don’t see it moving around very much at the moment, but it does still blink occasionally. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be the _coup de grace_ for trade liberalization this decade and the next (which does not, of course, mean that it would be the most important explanatory factor if trade liberalization grinds to a halt, merely one of the significant immediate causes).

Will today’s innovations stop future innovations?

by Eszter Hargittai on July 20, 2009

This excellent piece by Jonathan Zittrain explains very nicely the potential downsides of how cloud computing is developing these days. (“Cloud” here refers to having all our data reside out there on others’ machines instead of on our own devices.)

A few quotes, but as we like to say, read the whole thing.

The crucial legacy of the personal computer is that anyone can write code for it and give or sell that code to you — and the vendors of the PC and its operating system have no more to say about it than your phone company does about which answering machine you decide to buy. Microsoft might want you to run Word and Internet Explorer, but those had better be good products or you’ll switch with a few mouse clicks to OpenOffice or Firefox.


The iPhone’s outside apps act much more as if they’re in the cloud than on your phone: Apple can decide who gets to write code for your phone and which of those offerings will be allowed to run. The company has used this power in ways that Bill Gates never dreamed of when he was the king of Windows: Apple is reported to have censored e-book apps that contain controversial content, eliminated games with political overtones, and blocked uses for the phone that compete with the company’s products.


When we vest our activities and identities in one place in the cloud, it takes a lot of dissatisfaction for us to move. And many software developers who once would have been writing whatever they wanted for PCs are simply developing less adventurous, less subversive, less game-changing code under the watchful eyes of Facebook and Apple.

On a related note, this post seems like an appropriate occasion to link to this great cartoon, which the artist created over 10 months ago.

England go 1-up

by Chris Bertram on July 20, 2009

England “win the second test”: (the first time they’ve beaten the Australians at Lords since 1934), thanks to some awesome bowling from Flintoff, and some very dodgy umpiring. Open thread below.