1. Apart from being a mensch and a savvy tactician who managed to score major victories for the liberal wing of the Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens did a great deal to defend free and open markets, as Tim Lee explains at Cato:
Copyright: Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion in the 1984 case of Sony v. Universal, the case in which the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the VCR by a 5-4 vote. The decision, which today is known as the “Betamax decision” after the Sony VCR brand, made possible the explosion of digital media innovation that followed. When the recording industry tried to stop the introduction of the MP3 player in 1997, the Ninth Circuit cited the Betamax precedent in holding that “space shifting” with your MP3 player is permitted under copyright’s fair use doctrine. The iPod as we know it today probably wouldn’t exist if Sony had lost the Betamax case. Justice Stevens also wrote an important dissent in the 2003 decision of Eldred v. Ashcroft, in which he (like the Cato Institute) argued that the Constitution’s “limited times” provision precluded Congress from retroactively extending copyright terms.
This strikes me as hugely important. I’m particularly impressed by his Eldred dissent. Tim also notes Stevens’s heroic role in fighting against software patents. Read the whole thing.
2. George Packer has written a terrific post on his encounter with Tariq Ramadan.
Weisberg had asked me at the outset whether I thought Ramadan said different things to different audiences, and whether I thought he evaded hard questions about the conflicts between the open society and fundamentalism. On the first, I said no—he has no hidden agenda, he’s an open book, and it’s essentially moderate. On the second, I said I wasn’t sure and hoped to find out. By the end of the evening, I knew the answer.
3. Check out this Metropolis interview with William Mitchell of the MIT Media Lab on reinventing the automobile.
Detroit always emphasizes getting into your car and traveling seamlessly to your destination. What they don’t mention? You have to park the damn thing at both ends. Private-automobile parking sucks up an immense amount of valuable urban real estate. It’s heavily subsidized, and the costs are hidden. We discuss that extensively in the book. Traditional automobiles sit around 80 percent of the time doing nothing. With mobility-on-demand systems, the automobile is useful all the time.