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Semiformalishmaybe

CEAC 31 July 2012

The usual commentary and news:

  • Human trials are set to begin for a technique to repair spinal cord injury; if this is successful we may see a route for people with spine-injury paralysis to regain lost function. I wrote a bit more about this on my G+ stream.
  • A bit more on the continued mishaps of Romney overseas. A slightly guilty pleasure to report on this, I admit.
  • CSGroupId%3Aapproved%3A179528366BF809A604F426CD0F60E3B9&CSUserId=94&CSGroupId=1 clash. This has been a difficulty faced by Occupys all over the place, as Occupy has tried to claim everywhere from its anarchosocialist roots to the American Center as its domain, but has not managed to reach a consistent position on Libertarians. As some background, the Free State Project was an attempt by Libertarians nationwide, noticing that NH has a fairly low population, to pick a US state, move in en-masse, and dominate their politics. It wasn't received too well by NHers, and half-fizzled (as Occupy is now; activism is hard to sustain). As Libertarians aim to "purify" our system by eliminating cronyism, the partial-message-similarity between them and Occupy has led some of them to try to get involved (also with the Tea Party). The issue is, while crony capitalism is adored by nobody, the idea of a "purer" capitalism, with no safety nets or infrastructure, is also pretty awful (perhaps worse), and so Occupy has generally tried to keep Libertarians at arm's length WRT any cooperation/collaboration. This is pragmatic, but it's hard to make such decisions stick in an anarchosocialist-led movement; anything that's hard to explain or that requires expertise/savvy usually won't float. This, I think, is why anarchosocialist methods can't work (at least without a healthy respect for expertise and some willingness to be individually bound by consensus as needed) for broad society; they may avoid many kinds of corruption for free, but at the cost of the ability to decide things. (Going too far in the other direction, e.g. using methods of Democratic Centralism, is also harmful)
  • Britain is preparing to name and shame tax advisors that suggest schemes that are unlikely to withstand an audit. While I think this is a positive step, I would like to see it used more broadly; it should be used widely as a means to raise awareness of PWC/EY/other accounting firms and their clients, and tax collection institutions should have some flexibility in shutting down tax dodge schemes without legislative approval when they amount to loopholes.
  • Pleased to see Britain assert secular marriage law as having precedence over religious marriage law.
  • Google's in a bit of trouble for failing to delete wireless information it collected in the UK against privacy laws. It was ordered to delete that information by a court about a year and a half ago; failing to do so will probably expose them to heavy fines.
  • Battles continue in Syria; the regime continues to fall apart, but the military is strong enough that, in a small country, it's hard for the rebel armed forces to keep a hold on any territory, and nobody else is helping much.
  • An activist has taken to walking around topless in NYC to raise awareness of a law that lets her do so wherever men can do the same. I don't really mind that; I don't mind even full nudity and think it's reasonable that society as a whole can decide to allow or deny that and property owners can likewise set more restrictive policies. I do mind when the ability of the latter is denied in semi-private places; I think it is reasonable and should be permitted that someone running an event might choose to ban erogenous zone display, and I think it's obnoxious that she's filing complaints against yoga studios for not having policies she likes.
Two bits of commentary worth commenting on:
  • I think this post about an Amnesty International arms control effort is dead wrong. It neglects that there are differences between nations in terms of what they are willing to do with their weapons and to whom (the latter is particularly off when he asks "what else would the weapons be use for?"). I think we'd be right to be concerned that the west often fails to live up to its ideals, and perhaps to want nonwestern countries the ability to retaliate against unjust attacks (like, say, if Israel were to threaten Iran, not that that would ever happen), but an examination of the situation in Syria (and other dictatorships in general) might give us a reason to comfortably decide that some countries are more likely to badly misuse weapons. The author's attempt to frame this in racial/colonial terms is not helpful.
  • I disagree with this LA Times editorial; I believe the standard it suggests would be cumbersome enough that it would leave our hands effectlvely tied in dealing with militant groups overseas that are waging a new kind of armed conflict. Anything from Drone Strikes to covert military action needs to be available on short notice; I would be open to a form of oversight that could remain discreet and rapid, but a court order is the wrong standard and some standing policy for dealing with nameless militants needs to be in place.
  • And one bit of commentary just worth a mention as bad: this editorial by Andrew Hacker, a professor of Political Science at CUNY, where he argues that teaching algebra to everyone is a waste of time. It's full of fail.
This bit on crow intelligence is pretty cute.
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