Monthly Archives: February 2003

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One Union, under [fill in the blank] 

Article 2 of the future European constitution will deal with a statement of European values. According to Thomas Fuller’s report, the constitutional convention is discussing today whether to include a reference to god. I’m sure secular Europe will not include a reference to god. I wonder whether contemporary America would re-confirm the constitutional separation of church and state, given the chance.

Modest declaration  

Anil Dash has received an extremist manifesto, which he reckons needs a good fisking.

We hold these truths to be self-evident. They’re already off to a bad start. Leaving aside the fact that this bunch of clowns doesn’t even identify who the ‘we’ is, their entire premise is based on the idea that their opinions are ‘truths’ that are ‘self-evident’. ‘Because I say so’ isn’t sufficient evidence for anything. Typical liberal tactics.”

Blowing the budget  

Brad DeLong is staring open-mouthed at the Bush budget. “Why would any administration deliberately unbalance the long-term finances of the federal government? Why would anybody want to set up a situation in which the taxpayers one and two generations hence will find themselves stuck with an enormous bill? Why set up a situation in which what HHS and SSA tell potential beneficiaries of programs is radically inconsistent with what the White House and Treasury tell taxpayers about tax burdens?”

Matthew Yglesias has a nice rhetorical line: “The last time a Republican has balanced the budget, the president in question was named Ike. The last time a Democratic president balanced the budget was the last time there was a Democratic president.”

Changed, utterly changed  

The shuttle tragedy prompts Jenny the Librarian to note how our access to information has been utterly transformed.

“After the Challenger explosion in 1986, I read everything I could find about it. I even went so far as to buy and read the US Government’s Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger AccidentÂ… Even then, ‘everything I could find’ wasn’t a drop in the bucket compared to what I’ve been able to read on the internet in just four days. Back in pre-internet 1989, Richard Saul Wurman suggested that there is more information in one daily edition of the New York Times than a 17th-century man knew during his entire lifetime. Tracking what happened to the Columbia just points out to me the difference between 20th-century Jenny and 21st-century Jenny, and it’s only 2003.”

Davos Newbies Home

Bowbrick on weblogs 

Steve Bowbrick takes a sensible line on what works in weblogs in his Guardian column. I hadn’t previously encountered his own weblog, which is well worth a read.

Japan’s demography 

News organisations are generally bad at reporting stories that develop over long periods of time. But few issues are more important than the so-called demographic time bomb. Today’s Financial Times provides valuable insight into what changing demography means in Japan, which faces the most dramatic changes over the next decades.

“The Keidanren calculation only serves to highlight the scale of Japan’s challenge. Its model assumes that Japan will have to admit millions of foreign workers to make up for a 6.1m shortfall in the workforce by 2025. Japan’s history suggests it is far from ready even to contemplate such an influx.”

One more for the good guys 

Kevin Drum has an excellent, concise demolition of the creationists, provoked by the Dini affair at Texas Tech.

Collapse of inconvenience  

“It’s the collapse of inconvenience. It turns out inconvenience was a really important part of our lives, and we didn’t realize it,” says Siva Vaidhyanathan, assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University, in a worthwhile addition to the growing canon of writing on Google.

Schoolboy rules  

I asked a friend who would know whether Bloggus Caesari was a daily translation or a sustained work of the imagination. Imagination, he replied, noting that you can tell because Caesar always wrote in the third person, not the first. He also provided a helpful rule from his school days: “When doing unseen translations of Caesar, if you don’t know a word and it is lower case it is a type of siege equipment, and if it is upper case it is a Belgian tribe.”

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Controlling the vote  

I’m not at heart a conspiracy theorist, but the manoeuverings around polling booth machinery does look worrying. Common Dreams lays out the story. Dan Gillmor makes clear how rotten the technological solution is.

Davos Man? 

The New York Times sums up the downbeat mood in Davos: “It was clear that for now, at least, the policy that matters emanates from Washington, not from the boardrooms of McDonald’s or Microsoft.” Despite the propaganda — from both corporations and anti-globalisation protestors — it was ever thus.