Hearsay

Faculty short takes

“Private Manning’s Humiliation”

Professor Yochai Benkler ’94 and Bruce Ackerman, professor at Yale Law School
The New York Review of Books
April 28, 2011

Illustration
Illustrations by Adam McCauley

“Bradley Manning is the soldier charged with leaking U.S. government documents to Wikileaks. He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral. …

“President Obama was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency. He should not merely assert that Manning’s confinement is ‘appropriate and meet[s] our basic standards,’ as he did recently. He should require the Pentagon publicly to document the grounds for its extraordinary actions—and immediately end those that cannot withstand the light of day.”

“Internet Democracy”

Professor John Palfrey ’01
The Economist
Feb. 23, 2011

Illustration

In an online debate on the proposition that “the Internet is not inherently a force for democracy,” Palfrey argued against Evgeny Morozov, author of “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom.” Readers determined the winner, with Palfrey’s position receiving 58 percent of the vote.

“The Internet is inherently a force for democracy. That will not necessarily always be true, but it is the case today, given its present architecture and the way that people use the network. …

“There must be baseline levels of literacy, education, infrastructure and technological skill among would-be protestors, and so forth. With these conditions present, the use of the Internet cuts in favour of democracy.

“The clearest evidence in favour of this premise is that the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, faced with protesters in the streets of Cairo who were actively using social media to co-ordinate and project their efforts on the ground, decided he would shut down the network altogether. …

“The crucial fact is that, when decision-time came, Mr. Mubarak did not seek to use the network to his advantage. He decided that it was better for him, as he sought to cling to power, to take the tools away from the protesters. If the Internet fundamentally somehow favours autocrats over dissidents, Mr. Mubarak would have made a different decision in his moment of crisis.”

“Sometimes, Justice Can Play Politics”

Professor Noah Feldman
The New York Times
Feb. 12, 2011

Illustration

“[W]hen the brilliant, garrulous Justice [Antonin] Scalia hobnobs with fellow archconservatives, he is not being influenced any more than is the brilliant, garrulous Justice Stephen Breyer when he consorts with his numerous friends and former colleagues in the liberal bastion of Cambridge, Mass. …

“It is absurd for conservatives to criticize the cosmopolitan forums where judges from around the world compare notes. And it is absurd for liberals to criticize the conservative justices for associating with people who share or reinforce their views. The justices are human—and the more we let them be human, the better job they will do.”

“China’s Currency Isn’t Our Problem”

Assistant Professor Mark Wu
The New York Times
Jan. 17, 2011

Illustration

“When it comes to lost jobs, the negative impact of China’s currency … is less than one might think. …

“Since China agreed to a more flexible exchange rate last summer, its currency has appreciated a measly 3.6 percent against the dollar. … In going slowly on appreciation, China is giving its exporters time to adjust, thereby limiting job losses. …

“Resolving our economic troubles will depend much more on reinvesting in education, transportation and other government services, basic science and applied research than on forcing China to yield on its currency.”


Next: A Dose of Optimism