Friday, September 12, 2008

Working on a chain gang?

Take the example of the bailout/takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the United States.

In America Fox News, so denounced as statists by so many libertarians, had many critical voices on Monday September 8th. On Neil Cavuto's "Your World" show both M. Malkin and Bob Barr (who are very different from each other on so many political issues) both laid in to the corrupt statism. And Mr Cavuto also did so. The next day (Tuesday 9th September) Ron Paul was on the show - continuing the attack. Later on the 8th of September the Brit Hume show (although Mr Hume himself was away) Ed Crane of the Cato Institute was on denouncing the bailout/takeover. There were, of course, other voices and perhaps to let Fannie and Freddie go bankrupt would have been even worse than what the government did - but this is not my point.

My point is that there was no dissent in Britain - from any media source. The BBC did not even report in its main news shows that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were created by the government and run by political cronies. The leftist Independent newspaper gloatingly declared that President Bush had "torn up years of lassez faire polices". The claim that there has ever even been a "lassez faire" policy in the United States under President wild spending Bush is such a blatant bit of agitprop that it is hard to know how to respond to it.

And the so-called 'Conservative' newspapers? No dissent anywhere - at least none I could find. In fact the Daily Mail was demanding something similar for Britain.

George Lakfoff calls this stuff "framing". Samizdata's Paul Marks wants to know if he is living in a communist country.

Somewhere in Highgate cemetry I imagine a coffin is spinning uncontrollably.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Fact of the Matter, doesn't matter

Now, though, facts seem irrelevant, at least to the campaigns. “I think we may have had an impact earlier in the campaign,” says Viveca Novak of, “but now we don’t seem to be having much of one.”

Slate on the End of Facts.

When a politician says something, the assumption is that it adheres, however loosely or distantly or illogically, to the truth. This week has shown that assumption to be hopelessly naive.

Fears mount that writers may be drinking less

There seems to be this funny idea going around that a successful writer is “professional”– in demeanor, in dress, in temperance. I’m horrified by that idea, if only because one of the central reasons I first entered this profession was that none of these things would be required of me.

Writers: let the contemporary nomad know about the number of alcohol units you consume per day.

...writing's on the wall

The tendency to falsely link cause to effect – a superstition – is occasionally beneficial, says Kevin Foster, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

These are the stories we tell around the campfires, that sort of thing? Maybe there's not so much of it these days.

"Once you get to things like avoiding ladders and cats crossing the road, it's clear that culture and modern life have had an influence on many of these things," says Foster.

"My guess would be that in modern life, the general tendency to believe in things where we don't have scientific evidence is less beneficial than it used to be," he adds.

I wonder whether is like “The CBS Evening News” — an icon from another age that serves an aging and declining audience, despite regular efforts at remodeling.

Asks the NYT.

In search of search

In the next 10 years, we will see radical advances in modes of search: mobile devices offering us easier search, Internet capabilities deployed in more devices, and different ways of entering and expressing your queries by voice, natural language, picture, or song, just to name a few. It’s clear that while keyword-based searching is incredibly powerful, it’s also incredibly limiting. These new modes will be one of the most sweeping changes in search.

Now this is really interesting. From Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience... Google.

Privacy, what privacy?

Fitbit, a startup based in San Francisco, has built a small, unobtrusive sensor that tracks a person's movement 24 hours a day to produce a record of her steps taken, her calories burned, and even the quality of her sleep. Data is wirelessly uploaded to the Web so that users can monitor their activity and compare it with that of their friends.

Fitbit here

Story from Technology Review.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trust Again

Two prestigious institutions, the Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute, want to do something about that and have teamed up to create the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.

Earlier this week, the commission held a forum at the Google campus in Mountain View. I was invited because over the past year I've been conducting the Next Newsroom Project, where with money from the Knight Foundation I've been trying to design "the newsroom of the future." (Any suggestions?)

The discussion during the daylong session ranged all over the map. But one key theme came up repeatedly that I think should top the commission's agenda:

In a world where everyone is becoming a publisher, how can a community find information that it can trust?

Read on at Mercury News.

Freedom at a cost?

At yesterday's RIN Freedom of Information workshop an interesting position from Dr. Harriet Jones.

As FOI is implemented over time, it becomes harder and harder for hard-pressed officials to fulfil FOI requests within the legislated time limit. Those obligations take priority over the systematic review of records being transferred to national archives, an extremely important task which gets hopelessly de-prioritised. Inevitably, standards suffer, and neither process is satisfactory, so that researchers end up waiting so long for requests to be filled that they stop using FOI; and the quality of the records that end up getting transferred to archives deteriorates.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information said that around 100,000 FOI requests are made a year.

But surprisingly few academics are doing so, said Professor Duncan Tanner of Bangor University. Does that mean most historians are either working on 30 year old history - or working on partial information sets about more contemporary issues?

The Campaign for Freedom of Information blog is here.

Your new girlfriend (seventh iteration)

So in yet another example of mobile success, the service really took off, when Artificial Life released a simplified version, where V-Girl would require less keystrokes and interaction, and more of her "personality" and the gaming experience was on the servers over at Artificial Life, and the individual gamer would more react to V-Girl, that initiate interactions.

From Communities Dominate Brands.

Web optimists and pessimists

At the Technology Liberation Front Adam Thierer suggests a way of categorizing some of the books that shape the current internet debate: those that see it as a force of good, and those that don't.

Many Net optimists have a tendency to paint an excessively rosy picture of the transformative nature of the Net. In the extreme, the optimists seem to imply that the Net is somehow remaking man, altering human nature, and changing the economy only for the better. Among the Net optimists, there’s often a lot of romanticized talk of collective action / intelligence overcoming all barriers to knowledge or progress, and so on.

Check out the full details here.

It's a great primer to the debate.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Today I channel hopped and came upon the point in the show where the actor playing Thomas Cromwell was introducing a new invention - a secret weapon that would win the propaganda war with the Roman Catholics. The printing press (spoken with special stress) - introduced to the show with cries of "by God, what is that?", and other such, from the actors.

Sadly the printing press was introduced to England during the reign of Edward IV - some sixty years before the time the scene was set, so everyone would have known exactly what a printing press was.

Getting angry with the BBC take on Tudor history.

The Facebook News Feed is Two

We are more comfortable sharing our lives and thoughts instantly to thousands of people, close friends and strangers alike.

What the hell happened to my views on privacy and the views of so many others?

Asks Mashable's Ben Parr.

When students woke up that September morning and saw News Feed, the first reaction, generally, was one of panic. Just about every little thing you changed on your page was now instantly blasted out to hundreds of friends, including potentially mortifying bits of news — Tim and Lisa broke up; Persaud is no longer friends with Matthew — and drunken photos someone snapped, then uploaded and tagged with names. Facebook had lost its vestigial bit of privacy. For students, it was now like being at a giant, open party filled with everyone you know, able to eavesdrop on what everyone else was saying, all the time.


The NYT in more Facebook News Feed depth.

How to Review a Forger?

But these aren’t petty or victimless crimes– they are not only crimes against literature and culture, they are also crimes against the very people, businesses, and institutions dedicated to discovering, documenting, promoting, protecting, and preserving for all time the valuable and often irreplaceable artifacts of our civilization.

A research expert on a literary forger.

Newspapers and Trust part 42

So what is this house advantage the Republicans have? It's the press. There is no more fourth estate. Wait, hold on...I'm not going down some esoteric path with theories on the deregulation of the media and corporate bias and CNN versus Fox...I mean it: there is no more functioning press in this country. And without a real press the corporate and religious Republicans can lie all they want and get away with it. And that's the 51% advantage.

Huff-po on why a good candidate isn't winning by a mile.

Open search

By opening its index to thousands of independent programmers and entrepreneurs, Yahoo hopes that BOSS will kick-start projects that it lacks the time, money, and resources to invent itself. Prabhakar Raghavan, head of Yahoo Research and a consulting professor at Stanford University, says this might include better ways of searching videos or images, tools that use social networks to rank search results, or a semantic search engine that tries to understand the contents of Web pages, rather than just a collection of keywords and links.

It isn't all Google.

Although most of it...

The confusion about Google’s identity may not be quite that Manichean, but it does run deep. The company, which today celebrates the tenth anniversary of its incorporation, remains an enigma despite the Everest-sized pile of press coverage that has been mounded around it. People can’t even agree what industry it’s in.

...still is.

From Nick Carr's Rough type.

DNA evolution

...genome sequencing is no longer just a research tool. Anyone with $350,000 to spare and an adventurous spirit can now have his or her own genome sequenced.

The Genetic Early Adopters.


Today, we're launching an initiative to make more old newspapers accessible and searchable online by partnering with newspaper publishers to digitize millions of pages of news archives.

It has to be Google, again.

Word up

But the fathomless cultural complacency of the metropolitan liberal rules this out.

The attitude that expressed itself in response to the Palin nomination is the best weapon in the Republican armoury. Rely on the Democrats to keep it primed. You just have to laugh.

Name that newspaper.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Two takes on convention politics

From Wired.

Politics is the opiate of of journalism and it’s time to go to rehab.

From Buzz Machine.

Deckard's choice of mobile?

According to the Android guys, this is the Google phone.

And it launches this week.

A matter of taste

Although a violent death in Brooklyn, where I live, might have made the front page 50 years ago, The New York Times, the New York Post and The Daily News kept mum on their Web sites. Eventually, The New York Sun carried a notice online: “Man Found Dead in Bathtub.” Although the “police said they recovered knives at the scene,” according to the article, “there is no criminality suspected.”

On reporting death.

Narrowcast news by Virginia Heffernan.

Another magnum, luvvie?

Personally, I find the images thought-provoking and beautiful. They free the fashion world from its ivory tower isolation and allow it to circle ethical issues — without forcing any particular conclusions on the viewer.

Photography, war, and fashion. An interesting post from the NYT.