I posted the other day about the [UK government’s proposal to ban charities from using government funds to try to influence policy](https://crookedtimber.org/2016/02/06/the-uk-government-moves-to-purge-the-public-conversation-of-unwanted-voices/). Many commenters thought “nothing to see here, no big deal”. Now it appears that the clause applies quite generally to organizations receiving government grants, [stating](https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-new-clause-to-be-inserted-into-grant-agreements):

>The following costs are not Eligible Expenditure: Payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action.

The [implementation guidance](https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/498271/Implementation_Guidance_for_Departments_on_Anti-Lobbying_Clause.pdf) then includes the following:

>Q12: Where departments use third party organisations (either public, private or
charity sector) to administer grants on their behalf, will the clause need to be
included in the T&Cs between the third party and the grant recipient?
>A: Yes. Departments will need to ensure that the clause is included in all grant agreements that the Department
ultimately funds, subject to exceptions signed off by Ministers. This guidance should be shared as necessary.

Unless ministers grant specific exceptions then, government grants to bodies like the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research to conduct research into policy, must not aim to “influence legislative or regulatory action”. The same would go for university-based researchers in receipt of government money vie HEFCE or the Research Councils. Still more absurd than this is the picture that emerges when the clause is combined with the government’s own “Impact Agenda” which forms part of its “Research Excellence Framework”. Under this, university researchers who apply for grants are required to demonstrate “impact” which may include influencing government policy, but it will now be a contractual condition that you may not do this thing that you must do.

Given that this is so irrational, I’m tempted to conclude there must be a misunderstanding here. The alternative is that the clause will be enforced selectively against bearers of unwelcome news.

(Alerted to this by Martin O’Neill on FB).

Today’s WTF moment brought to you by the legal department

by Eszter Hargittai on February 8, 2016

There are plenty of absurd trademark cases out there, but I feel like this one is hitting new levels of crazy.

It [Delaware North] even trademarked the phrase ‘Yosemite National Park’ for use on T-shirts, pens and mugs, making one wonder why a private company should have exclusive rights over the name of a national treasure.

This LATimes story has the context.

I have graded 300 undergraduate papers about why Plato’s Republic is stupid. Not the book itself, but the plan of Plato’s hypothetical city. Even when I offer students four, five, six different essay topics, some instinct almost always compels them to take on the plan of the city and how evil, impossible, tyrannical, nonsensical, cruel, absurd, dysfunctional, and doomed they think it would be if put into practice.  So, when I read The Just City and its sequels, I couldn’t stop thinking about that instinct, those papers, and how one of the great wishes these books grant is the wish of anyone who teaches Plato to see a more mature and developed examination of the same question.  The tragedy of student papers is that the authors have only a week between first meeting the giant mountain of mind-bending ideas that is Plato’s Republic and having to write about it.  Even the best can’t get past the first glance reaction because it is a first glance reaction.  Which is why my favorite way of going through The Just City is to review my mental list of the standard undergraduate reactions to the Republic, and look at what Jo Walton, a Plato veteran who has chewed on the same problem for years, can do. [click to continue…]

The English columnist Nick Cohen had [a piece on immigration in yesterday’s Observer](http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/06/liberals-harsh-truths-help-refugees-syria). For those who don’t know his work, Cohen is a former left-wing radical journalist who has now renounced “the left” for its supposedly regressive views and who, post-epiphany, lashes “liberals” and others in the pages of the Spectator and Standpoint. A Paul Johnson for a new generation.

His latest effort is full of his trademark jibes that “the left” is soft on Putin, together with swipes at stock figures such as the “no-platforming student dogmatist”. But let’s leave the fluff and the fury aside and concentrate on the substance of his piece.
[click to continue…]

It’s a gas

by John Holbo on February 8, 2016

I think it unlikely that Kasich will get elected and reunite Pink Floyd, to play “Money”. But it would be a scene rich in irony.