This one really deserves a longer post but let me just note that the lawyer and politician Mogens Glistrup, founder of the Progress Party, has died. Whether or not you liked his politics, his impact on Danish politics in the 1970s onward was huge.
That I’m not exactly in favour of Lex Orwell, aka the legislation giving the Swedish FRA1 carte blanche to snoop into all kinds of electronic communication, should hardly be a surprise. But how should you protest against the law?
Our old friend Albert O. Hirschman noted that there are three main forms of communication between political leaders and the general public – exit, voice and loyalty. Leave aside loyalty, we have the exit and voice options to consider.
The problem with the “exit” option in politics is that it only works in the longer time-span – as in: After the next election. In Sweden that will come in September 2010 and we can be sure that FRA and the government is betting on the general public forgetting all about the issue. Just as with CCTV cameras – once the public has gotten used to indiscriminate surveillance, it will stop protesting. And in any event there will be other issues on the agenda.
In a way the 2009 European Parliament election looks more promising, if the Pirate Party decides to run a campaign. The problem here is of cause that the EP elections are what we PolSci types call second order elections. There have been endless numbers of upsets in EP elections which have never translated into national politics. In any event: The prospect of being de-selected usually has a restraining effect on politicians.
Economic exit looks a more promising strategy: IT companies have warned that they would move operations out of Sweden and while the Conservatives have been busy promoting themselves as the new workers’ party, business interests could still be expected to have some leverage in the party. On the other hand, we have to see specific actions which could motivate the government to reconsider its position.
Then we have the “voice” options. That the Swedish blogosphere went postal made little impression on politicians – perhaps reflecting that parties do not take blogs seriously – while the belated coverage in traditional media probably helped in bringing the issue on the public agenda.
Using old-skool instruments like demonstrations has an ironic edge to it, and public demonstrations always – without exception – get hijacked by a lunatic fringe. Swedish tabloid Expressen used mailbombings which in all likelihood angered MPs rather than inspiring them to reconsider their errant ways. And sure as hell, some moron had to write a letter to an MP claiming to know where she lived – not that difficult to figure out in Sweden – and threatening to hack into her bank accounts. With friends like that, do you really need enemies?
Maybe the best solution simply is a defensive one: To encrypt all of one’s electronic communications. I’m sure serious terrorists already do this.
Oh and one more thing: Swedish coverage of MPs stances with regard to the Lex Orwell have focused on the possible impact of voting for individual candidates. Let me just note that a) Sweden from my Danish perspective does not have an electoral system which in earnest allows for voting for individual candidates but a slightly modified list system and b) we shouldn’t expect effects to be on the level of the individual MP (who still has to get nominated by his or her party) but on the parliamentary party as a whole.
- FRA is an acronym for Försvarets Radioanstalt, the Armed Forces Radio Surveillance Agency [↩]
Ralph Gomory and William Baumol explain the difference:
More concretely, when the United States trades semiconductors for Asian t-shirts, for example, that is trade in the narrow sense. And we concur with the most basic theoretical conclusion that this exchange clearly benefits both countries. But when Intel properly pursues the interests of its shareholders by building a multi-billion dollar semiconductor plant in China rather than the United States, a shift in comparative productive capability suddenly occurs. Globalization is not simply free trade; it is trade plus shifting productivity. We have not sent China consumer goods, but the capability to produce more effectively.
No, really. New York Times has more:
WASHINGTON — The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.
The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Some methods were used against a small number of prisoners at Guantánamo before 2005, when Congress banned the use of coercion by the military. The C.I.A. is still authorized by President Bush to use a number of secret “alternative” interrogation methods. […]
It is a sign of the crazy times that Unfogged has the link.