This is pretty wild.
I have met Senator Patrick Leahy in person several times and owe him a personal debt of gratitude. Over the years I have been impressed by how he has conducted himself in politics. He is, however, dead wrong in his introduction of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) act together with Senator Orin Hatch of Utah and sadly also co-sponsored by New York’s Chuck Schumer. COICA essentially establishes Internet Blacklists and gives ISPs immunity when they enforce the blacklists, meaning you can’t sue your ISP for suppressing a site that is on the blacklist. The current version of the bill proposes two separate blacklists: one that can be added to only by courts and another that can be added to by Attorney Generals. Sites would be added, according to the bill, if they are dedicated to infringing activity, such as making lots of copyrighted material available for download.
Everybody should read this great summary of the bill and why it is a bad idea. After reading that I would encourage you to sign the petition to stop the bill (on the same page). I also encourage everyone to check out this powerful view of who has been lobbying in support of COICA. If you have been paying attention to this set of issues, the name of the bill will also ring a bell. With its use of the word “counterfeits” it is clearly linked to the equally misguided international effort known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which I have decried previously.
Now just to give you some idea of how incredibly bad an idea this is. Imagine a future conversation between Attorney Generals and oh say Craigslist. AGs: “We’ll have you added to the Blacklist” CL: “We are not infringing any copyrights” AGs: “You can fight that in court - *after* the entire country has lost access to your site.” The power of threatened law suits alone was enough to get Craigslist to shutter its perfectly legal adult services section — now imagine the change in the balance of power if there is a way to eradicate a site from the Internet.
If you care about freedom and democracy you do not want to give the government a wholesale way to shut down access to sites on the Internet. The potential downside from abuses of such as system far outweigh the upside to copyright holders. We badly need an Internet Bill of Rights that codifies basic notions of freedom of access so that we don’t have to fight this fight over and over again.
Takes 4 seconds. Do it.
Neal Stephenson - Mother Earth Mother Board
Love Stephenson. He obviously wrote this article for the December 1996 Wired while doing research on the history of undersea data cables for Cryptonomicon.
Diego Velázquez, Maria Teresa of Spain, 1652
The princess Infanta Maria Teresa, a subject of my Habsburg project, had a dowry of roughly 500,000 French Écus (according to Wikipedia). Her arranged marriage to (double first cousin) King Louis XIV, the “Sun King”, was a highly important union. France and Spain had been endlessly fighting during the Thirty Years’ War, and this marriage was supposed to symbolize peaceful relations. Yet although Maria Teresa and Louis the XIV eventually married (after Philip IV dragged his feet on the issue), the debt was never paid. Spain blamed this on previous wars, they were strapped for cash.
This is curious, as King Philip IV was happy to build the Buen Retiro Palace and seemed to spend money freely amassing over 4,000 art works from all over Europe during his reign. So why the dowry default?
I asked my husband, Felix, to crunch some numbers. What would the princess be worth today? Was she so expensive Spain really couldn’t afford to pay the French? Baffled, he went to Twitter and threw out the question:
Tweeps, help me! What is 500,000 French ecus, circa 1650, in today’s dollars?
After over 12 hours, many smarty-pants folks, like Tony Fratto, weighed in. It was a puzzling question which had responses like this:
Mr_Sterling: @felixsalmon The entire island of Manhattan sold for 60 Dutch guilders in 1625. The value of 500,000 ecus in 1650 is thus the whole planet.
Of course, the Lenapes got screwed in this deal. I believe they also received some oyster shells and furs on top of the sale - so that’s not weighing apples with apples.
Davis_Seth: @felixsalmon 1 pre-Revolution ecu = $25 in 2006 money according to Wikipedia. So 500,000 = $12,500,000
At some point last night, a lot of people come to $12,500,000 by looking at the Wikipedia page for Écu and getting the math wrong. $12.5 million for the princess? For Spain? No way. It had to be more.
TonyFratto: @felixsalmon Just back of the envelope: ecu = 5-6 livres; 1 livres = 1 lb of silver. x today’s price of silver.
BnkrChick: @felixsalmon 2 lbs of bread in 1650 = 1 livres, via @tonyfrato 1 lb silver = 6 livres = 1 ecu. something like this, but too many variables.
EpicureanDeal: @alea_ @felixsalmon Yet many things one can obtain now—longer, healthier lives, eg—were literally unobtainable and priceless in 1650.
True. Especially when we’re talking Habsburgs, they were inbred and dropping like flies at the time - the mortality rate was off the chart. However, the princess was an exception and owned up to her responsibility to France. She lived to be 45 years old, and of her six children who mostly died in infancy, her first son actually survived her and went on to rule both France & Spain.
EpicureanDeal: @alea_ @felixsalmon A sounder comparison would be to compare dowry as a % of 1650 GDP then adjust to today. Prob much more than $64 mm.
EpicureanDeal: @alea_ @felixsalmon Then comparison becomes “how much of everything available can I buy with this” in 1650 and now. Makes more sense.
EpicureanDeal: RT @alea_: @EpicureanDeal i am guessing about 1% of french gdp, est. roughly 300 mln livres and 6 livres to 1 ecu cc: @felixsalmon
So there you have it, and it looks like @alea_ worked it out with EpicureanDeal. Felix figured 1% of GDP of France is somewhere around 3 billion dollars today. Could Spain afford to pay 1% of France’s then GDP as a dowry? Spain’s GDP had to be worth more than France, the Habsburgs owned almost 3/4 of Europe at the time. I put out a Tweet:
black_von: @alea_ @EpicureanDeal @felixsalmon If the princess was worth 1% of France’s GDP, then what percentage was she of Spain’s GDP? (circa 1650)
@alea_ RT @black_von: probably a bit less in terms of Spain’s GDP, but don’t have number handy
Basically as I thought; the princess was worth less than 1% of Spain’s GDP. Now, if anyone can tell me why a father would default on his daughter’s dowry, when it’s only less than 1% of his country’s fortune and is meant to instill peace across the land after the worst war in European history up to that point - let me know. I’ll update this page as answers come in.
I love a good inflation calculation.
Peggy Liu, chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, a nonprofit group working to accelerate the greening of China.
From Thomas Friedman’s NYT op-ed about China’s recent developments in addressing climate change versus our lack thereof.