aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Academic Freedom again
Michael BÃ©rubÃ© spoke on Saturday to the annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors. The text of his remarks is rich and important reading. A brief excerpt from the intro:
Academic freedom is under attack for pretty much the same reasons that liberalism itself is under attack. American universities tend to be somewhat left of center of the American mainstream, particularly with regard to cultural issues that have to do with gender roles and sexuality: the combination of a largely liberal, secular professoriat and a generally under-25 student body tends to give you a campus population that, by and large, does not see gay marriage as a serious threat to the Republic. And after 9/11-again, for obvious reasons-many forms of mainstream liberalism have been denounced as anti-American. There is, as you know, a cottage industry of popular right-wing books in which liberalism is equated with treason (that would be Ann Coulter), with mental disorders (Michael Savage), and with fascism (Jonah Goldberg). Coulter’s book also mounts a vigorous defense of Joe McCarthy, and Michelle Malkin has written a book defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two. In that kind of climate, it should come as no surprise that we would be seeing attacks on one of the few remaining institutions in American life that is often-though not completely-dominated by liberals.
Meanwhile, nemesis David Horowitz, featured prominently in the speech - “Horowitz was a member of the extremist fringe thirty years ago when he was hanging out with late-model Black Panther Party crackpots, and he’s a member of the extremist fringe now. He’s merely exchanged fringes.” - was on Larry King yesterday defending Ann Coulter:
HOROWITZ: I think that Ann has done is a service. And I don’t think people understand it, obviously, at all. There’s a great human—there’s a great human tragedy. There’s also a political argument. It wasn’t Ann who crossed the line. It was these widows who crossed the line. They have called Bush a liar. They have accused him of being responsible for 9-11. And then you want to say --
KING: Hold on, Georgette. Don’t speak --
HOROWITZ:—then you want to say, well, hold them harmless. They can go out and call the president a liar and make him responsible for all these deaths, but you can’t respond to them. That’s her point --
And she, and he, are free to express it.
Peer to Patent
The US Patent System was designed to encourage innovation and science by granting special rights to ideas that were novel, useful, non-obvious and well-specified. Unfortunately the system has devolved in to one granting patents on things that already exist, are trivial or useless. Furthermore companies have figured out how to use “the system” to prevent innovation by patenting competitive ideas so they will not be developed. Others seek patents similar to existing ones for the sole purpose of litigating with anyone having patented success.
Part of the problem is that the system relies on overwhelmed, inexperienced and underpaid patent examiners. Since their determinations are final and not subject to review by the agency itself, their rulings have far-reaching implications. Modern technology has proven that collective intelligence is highly effective in solving these problems. Beth Noveck outlines her proposal to revamp the existing patent system using proven techniques like collaborative filtering and peer review.
It’s a great idea. Eminently reasonable. Sponsored by IBM! I still am not optimistic that we’ll ever make it happen. Here’s the Peer to Patent Project website.
Hm. I’ll have to try this:
[A] new form of self-expression that connects people through visual symbols (personal tags). Our mission is to give you a fun and easy way to create these symbols that tell your story, let you decide how you want to share them, and use them to connect with people anywhere in the world.
How do I use Mikons?
1. Sign up to establish your unique login ID and password.
2. Use the Mikon MachineÃ¢â€žÂ¢, our cool vector drawing tool, to create the symbols that tell your story. You can design from scratch or remix other graphics to build your personal set of Mikons.
3. Publish your Mikons and choose how you would like to share them, possibly with your family, friends, and co-workers; or you can always keep them private.
4. Connect with other Mikoners, search for people with similar Mikons, join a community, email a fellow Mikoner, view your friends list and much more!
Helmet laws & drug laws
You know, I think it’s downright stupid to ride a motorcycle without a helmet but I don’t give one whit about passing a law to make you wear one.
I don’t want to use the state to save you from yourself (hence my stand on drug laws*) but I do think the state has an interest in your behavior if that behavior impacts me (hence my stand on drug laws*).
* Linked quotes from former chief of the Seattle Police Department Norm Stamper in the LATimes last year, “I don’t favor decriminalization. I favor legalization, and not just of pot but of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth, psychotropics, mushrooms and LSD.”
Online predator stats
I have finally gotten around to reading Henry Jenkins (co-director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT) and danah boyd (PhD student at the School of Information, University of California-Berkeley) on the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006.
I’ll have much more to say once I finish and digest the full interview, for now here’s danah on the distortion of statistics:
The media often reference a Crimes
Against Children report that states one in five children receive a
sexual solicitation online. A careful reading of this report shows
that 76% of the unwanted solicitations came from fellow children.
This includes unwanted date requests and sexual taunts from fellow
teens. Of the adult solicitations, 96% are from people 18-25; wanted
and unwanted solicitations are both included. In other words, if an
18 year old asks out a 17 year old and both consent, this would still
be seen as a sexual solicitation. Only 10% of the solicitations included
a request for a physical encounter; most sexual solicitations are
for cybersex. While the report shows that a large percentage of youth
are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences online, there
is no discussion of how many are faced with uncomfortable or offensive
experiences at school, in the local shopping mall or through other
mediated channels like telephone.
Although the media has covered the
potential risk extensively, few actual cases have emerged. While youth
are at minimal risk, predators are regularly being lured out by law
enforcement patrolling the site. Most notably, a deputy in the Department
of Homeland Security was arrested for seeking sex with a minor.
The fear of predators has regularly
been touted as a reason to restrict youth from both physical and digital
publics. Yet, as Barry Glassner notes in The Culture of Fear,
predators help distract us from more statistically significant molesters.
Youth are at far greater risk of abuse in their homes and in the homes
of their friends than they ever are in digital or physical publics.
RELATED: Salon on MySpace or OurSpace:
The past few years have seen an explosion in the number of schools taking to the Web to find out what students are saying and doing. And punishment has followed, from a Pennsylvania school that suspended one student for creating a parody MySpace profile of his principal to a California school that suspended 20 students simply for viewing one student’s MySpace profile, which contained threats against another student. And some public school systems, like Illinois’ Community High School District 128, are even taking steps to monitor everything their students say on sites like MySpace.