Censors 0, Librarians 1: Neil Gaiman weighed in, a while back, about the controversy over whether or not libraries should stock this year's Newberry winner; parents might object because it has one rude word. Not even a naughty word, but just a rude one. Neil is understandably not sympathetic. But the best part of that debate came a ways into it, when he got forwarded one of the coolest letters I've read in a long time, from the manager of the Seville Community Library in Medina County, Ohio, about her own staff's run-in with blackmailing censors. See Neil Gaiman, "The Last Word," 2/28/07.
Socialized Defense: The other day I drew a very close parallel between our current privatized health care system in America and our only partially privatized police force. A little while before that, I pointed out the evolution from our original privatized fire protection system to our current model, and why we'd be idiots to go back. Tuesday, Slate.com's Timothy Noah completed the trifecta with a parable about what a privatized military would look like: "Would You Privatize Defense?" I think the best part of that is where, having shown why it would be a dumb idea, he also shows why if we ever did try this dumb idea Americans would swear up and down that our patchwork system of mercenaries and insurance-company militias and employer security forces was "the best in the world." Reading it, I was reminded wryly of Vernor Vinge's short story, "The Ungoverned."
Forbidden Lore about Iraq: Also from Slate.com, on Wednesday Jacob Weisberg did a great job of laying out four indisputable truths that you will not hear any major candidates for office, or any mainstream journalist, utter about the war in Iraq:
- The war was a mistake.
- The Iraq war veterans are victims as much as heroes.
- The lives lost in Iraq have been lives wasted.
- America is losing or has already lost the Iraq war.
Oh, No, They Didn't? This showed up on a couple of blogs I read today: Thomas Scoville and Hughes Hall's "The Metrosexual Tarot." I quit tarot deck collecting cold-turkey, but I would maybe be actually tempted to buy this one if it gets printed. It's simultaneously silly and extraordinarily well done.
Privacy Means Being Ignored, No? One of my personal mottos is from the movie Sneakers: "SeTec Astronomy." It's an anagram for "Too Many Secrets," and the macguffin of the film was a universal decryption chip and the idea of releasing such a thing on the world. And when we started wallpapering the world with cameras, I felt no fear because face it, if you think you have any expectation of privacy in a public place, you're deranged. Nor did I panic when everybody started carrying camera phones everywhere, and so far, both the ubiquitous CCTV cameras and the ubiquitous cellphone cameras have brought down a lot of bad people, including not a few corrupt politicians and brutal cops who could never have been brought down any other way, without doing any perceptible harm. But the comfort with which I confront the idea of a world without privacy (as long as rich people have no more privacy than I do), the comfort with which I've long joked about "the Brad FAQ" and about being "the best documented man on the Internet," may make me just ahead of my time. An article in a recent New York magazine argues that my attitudes have become the norm among those younger than 25 or so ... and why they, and we, might be right to think that what we get in exchange for our (probably unsustainable anyway) privacy is absolutely worth it: Emily Nussbaum, "Say Everything: Kids, the Internet and the End of Privacy," New York, 2/12/07. Slate.com's Emily Yoffe wrestles with the same questions in "Facebook for Fifty-Somethings," 3/8/07.