Monthly Archives: December 2005

In Praise of Wonkery

Angry Bear, that most excellent economist, sums up a bloggish debate that apparently broke out while I wasn’t looking. Seems that there’s otherwise sensible people out there who argue that there’s little if any point in bloggish wonkery at this moment in US history because no one in power cares about facts anyway.

A better argument for the “no facts please, we’re American” point of view might have commented on the need to break through the right-wing financial and ideological dominance of mass media (and I don’t just mean Fox, I mean a New York Times that thinks it is 1944 and FDR is President).

But even the strongest form of that argument is wrong. Angry Bear goes to the trouble of working up wordy justifications for, well, justifications, and does the usual nice job. But I’m afraid my view on this is quite simple, some may even say simplistic:

The truth may not always set you free, but there is no real freedom without truth.

Academics, wonky bloggers, muckrakers, we all play our small parts in the Experiment that is democracy.

So, how’s the experiment going this year?

Posted in Blogs | Comments Off on In Praise of Wonkery

‘Little Red Book’ Story is a Hoax

Remember that story about the grad student who asked for Mao’s Little Red Book and got an investigation instead? I didn’t blog about this when it first hit the blogosphere because the complainant was anonymous, and it lacked any confirmation. Plus I couldn’t figure out how the feds would get hold of the list of ILL requests (librarians are about as good about privacy as anyone gets). And, sure enough, the whole thing is a hoax.

The NSA story, however, is not a hoax.

Posted in Civil Liberties | Comments Off on ‘Little Red Book’ Story is a Hoax

Today’s Strange Fact

The New York Review of Books: FAQ: About the electronic edition:

Q: If the entire contents of the archives were printed on one line, at the same size type used in the Review’s print edition, how long would that line be?

A: 255 miles, or about the same distance as New York City to Kennebunkport, Maine.

(But I refuse to try to calculate how many miles of type I’ve read.)

Posted in Completely Different | 1 Comment

Patriot (Act) Games

As far as I’m concerned, all the coverage of the congressional games about how many months in the temporary extension of the Patriot Act (complete with controversial bits) ignores the aspect which interests me most. Take, for example, this Washington Post article, House Passes One-Month Extension of Patriot Act. Nowhere does it mention that the Senate’s move from a three months to a six months struck terror into the ranks of both parties in the House.

It’s possible of course that the article doesn’t mention this terror because it does not exist, but I bet it does. It’s only logical. And that explains why the House GOP has cut the extension to one month: because they are afraid of their constituents. And it explains why the House Democrats have meekly gone along: because they are afraid of their constituents too.

See, six months from expiration brings us to June, which uncomfortably close to the next congressional election. The GOP doesn’t want hard questions being asked them about ‘why did you vote to spy on me, Congressman’. But the House dems don’t want attacks about ‘why did you vote against catching terrorists’ or the like. So both parties in the House have decided it’s in their self-interest to get this over with as fast as possible.

They two parties represent different groups of areas, so it’s theoretically possible that both parties are broadly right about their own constituents. But that would be weird indeed.

It is far more likely that one of these parties is wrong about what their voters think. Which? I think here, the Democrats are wrong: the GOP has much more to lose on this issue. The six month extension struck me a brilliant stroke by Reid et al, another sign that he’s running rings around Sen. Frist. I’m sorry to see it being reduced to a month; the only bright spot is that with the holidays, and the NSA scandal, that may not help matters for the GOP much at all.

Posted in Politics: US: 2006 Election | 3 Comments

Is Round Two of the Crypto Wars Upon Us?

Last week I sent off a book review in which, among other things, I fretted about a possible second round to the Crypto Wars. (See my papers on the Clipper chip and its aftermath for info about round one.)

Although I believed what I wrote, I did worry, as I often do, that maybe I was being a little alarmist. Now this:

Symantec refuses to sell audit tool outside the US | The Register: Symantec has stopped selling a password auditing tool to customers outside the US and Canada, citing US Government export regulations.

The Reg says Symantic confirms this block is due to government regulations, but won’t give details. So we don’t know if they’re being over-cautious … or were leaned on.

Posted in Cryptography | Comments Off on Is Round Two of the Crypto Wars Upon Us?

Deconstructing a ‘Professional Fan’

I always enjoy watching brains at work, even when a ferocious intelligence is deployed to deconstruct a MasterCard advertisement. Look in as Grant McCracken picks apart Peyton Manning: the man and the brand.

Posted in Kultcha | Comments Off on Deconstructing a ‘Professional Fan’