Thursday, September 30, 2010

Science Fiction: Less fiction-y all the time.

A mere 20 light years away, a (theoretically) habitable planet.  Now all we need to do is figure out how to get there, and what to take with us.  I'm guessing it is time to start re-reading the Heinlein collection for some pointers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Capacity testing young people.

My contribution to the APSA conference I am attending went off  without a hitch this morning.  I presented a paper I have been working on in which I argue that a) (In)capacity is the only legitimate excuse for excluding citizens from political participation, b) Some young people are capable and excluded, therefore c) we should lower the voting age & institute capacity testing to further reduce the number of people who are wrongly excluded from participation.

I received a surprisingly positive reception from the audience, who largely seemed to like the idea.  A couple of people were concerned about where this would fit within a broader framework of youth inclusion, such as the expansion of civic education and representation, but these issues can I think be addressed with relative ease (maybe a book?!).

Paper here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crazy idea of the day:

Perhaps we should use private military companies to intervene in internal state conflicts when the international community is unable or unwilling to do so?

This suggestion was mooted at a session of the APSA conference I am currently attending, and seemed not to be taken as completely crazy by many of those in attendance.  I found this odd, as there are a number of immediate issues that spring to mind.  Firstly, there is an accountability problem.  Who gets the blame if things go wrong?  Are PMCs able to be charged with war crimes?  Secondly, such companies will want to do this for profit... I would have thought that profiting on war is likely to be a bad thing.  Thirdly, do we really want to be encouraging and legitimising mercenaries?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stewart, Colbert and some hope in the US.

This seems worth posting about.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are hosting rallies in Washington.  Hopefully they will upstage Glen Beck's tearfest.  Politico is styling it the Democrat's October surprise.  Charli Carpenter at LGM ponders the Locke/Demosthenes effect appearing between these two, and I have to say, I wouldn't be too sad if that result came out of all this.

India and the Commonwealth Games.

I have mixed feelings about this issue. On the one hand, it is already obvious both from the way in which the media is covering the issue, and from the mood of the Australian public, that if the games do not go ahead, it will be a catalyst for criticism of India and Indians generally, rather than for specific recriminations against the incompetence, corruption and neoptism of the government and organisations responsible for overseeing the development of the Games village and associated facilities.

On the other hand, it might actually do some good for there to be real consequences for letting your corruption, incompetence and nepotism get so bad that you squander a huge chance to prove you can host an important international event effectively. At this stage, the Indian government seems to be in a lose lose situation. Even if they do manage to avoid the complete disaster that would be a result of the games being called off, they have proven incapable of providing basic security; there is pictorial evidence of the use of child labour in an attempt to rush the completion of the project, and two separate construction failures (plus the threat of more) have left a pall of doubts hanging over the integrity of the entire venture.

Oh, and there are already athletes withdrawing due to personal safety concerns, with the backing of their respective national teams for doing so.

Of all the concerns, the unabashed use of child labour is the one that leads me to think that the games being cancelled would be the right thing to do.  It is one (very bad) thing to pretend not to notice flagrant violations of children's rights when they go on in relative obscurity, it is another (much worse) thing to have photographs of child labourers engaged in finishing your games venues splashed across the front pages of international media, and then to not engage in some serious and meaningful criticism of that government for this blatant disregard of fundamental moral norms.