Ever since the 19th century, one of the points of convergence between the free-market right and the socialist left has been that the most important freedom under capitalism is the freedom of contract. Whatever its other problems, the market is the one sphere where the rights of man obtain. As Marx put it in Volume 1 of Capital: [click to continue…]

Responding to the unsurprising disclosure that the US is spying on its EU partners in trade negotiations, and the evidence that quite a few European countries are doing the same, the NY Times editorial page strikes a pose of blase cynicism, mocking Henry Stimson’s observation that “gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s mail”. In the view of the NY Times, and, it would seem, of most other commentators, this is the way of the world, and only a fool would refuse to play the game.

A couple of observations on this

* Even more than with standard espionage, it is obvious that this kind of eavesdropping can only work if it is unsuspected, which is obviously not the case. The alleged sophistication of the advocates of spying is at about the same level as that of teenagers who have just discovered Ayn Rand.

* In circumstances like this, the most effective, and most time-honored, way of cheating is not eavesdropping but bribery. Officially, at least, bribing foreign officials is a serious crime under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, legislation passed under the Carter Administration and roughly contemporaneous with the original, relatively restrictive, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, arising from the work of the Church Committee. But, on the reasoning used to justify the evisceration of FISA, even in its application to supposed allies, it’s hard to see how support for FCPA can be sustained. I wonder if the NY Times shares this view.

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by Daniel on July 6, 2013

So a while ago on Twitter, I saw this storify by @KateDaddie, talking about ethnic minority representation in the British media, in the context of this article by Joseph Harker in the British Journalism Review. As I am a notorious stats pedant and practically compulsive mansplainer, my initial reaction was to fire up the Pedantoscope and start nitpicking. On the face of it, it is not difficult to think up Devastating Critiques[1] of the idea of counting “#AllWhiteFrontPages” as an indicator of more or less anything. But if I’ve learned one thing from a working life dealing with numbers (and from reading all those Nassim Taleb and Anthony Stafford Beer books), it’s that the central limit theorem will not be denied, and that simple, robust metrics with a broad-brush correlation to the thing you’re trying to measure are usually better management tools than fragile customised metrics which look like they might in principle be better. Anyway, Kate asked me to come up with a simple probability model to give an idea of what sort of frequency of #AllWhiteFrontPages might be considered odd, and this is the way I went about it. This is being crossposted to the new Media Diversity UK blog.

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CT-p5213julyHalf a year ago, I invited CT readers to join me in a photo project: a photo a week on a preset theme. Dozens of people were involved at first with about twenty still active half a year later. As with related photo projects, in addition to the photo experiences, the social component has been rewarding as well.

Up front I made a decision that all themes would be adjectives and I’d go through the alphabet, which conveniently maps on to a 52-week calendar if we cycle through it twice. Bubbly, endless, obsolete, twisted and xylographic are some of the themes we’ve tackled over the past six months. It’s been eye-opening to see people’s different interpretations of the themes. It’s been fun to be reminded of the different environments in which people live (we have participants from several countries), what they tend to encounter in their daily lives, what inspires them, what poses more or less of a challenge. As an aside, it’s also led me to improve my vocabulary.

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