Nancy Scola

Nancy Scola is a writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Science Progress, Politics Magazine, AlterNet, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Recent Articles

A 21st-Century Fourth Amendment.

Earlier this week, Google, AOL, Microsoft, and other tech companies in the business of storing tremendous amounts of user data joined forces with civil-liberties outfits like the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to push for an overdue upgrade to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Simply put, the crux of the problem with EPCA's antiquatedness is that, written in pre-Web 1986, the law's understanding of digital data is a complete functional mismatch with the way that we actual think about the possession of electronic information today. That's not surprising. Hotmail didn't exist back when Congress passed the statute on "electronic communications." There was no Flickr, no Google Docs. But now, more and more of the e-mails, photos, and documents that we think of as our papers and effects, per the Fourth Amendment, are stored not on our computers in our homes or other domains that the law treats as protected spaces. When we're sitting in our desk chairs, whether our e-...

When a Lesbian Bar Isn't.

Perhaps this is a small quibble. But there's something that rubs the wrong way about about how everyone's talking today about the erotica-themed West Hollywood bar where the Republican National Committee sees fit to spend their money as a "lesbian" establishment. The club Voyeur, as everything seems to suggest, is a spectacle. It's a zoo where you go to see women get it on. This isn't lesbian in a way that has anything to do with actual meaningful attraction between women. There's something telling about the fact that Monsters and Critics' gallery of regular visitors runs the gamut from Brody Jenner to Mickey Rourke . --Nancy Scola

The Caged Birds of Congress.

According to The Washington Post 's Paul Kane , several new and newish senators are starting to look around at the institution they've stepped into, what with its filibuster, holds, and convoluted rules on whether you can hold meetings after lunch. And they've begun to wonder whether the United States Senate circa 2010 is engineered in the way most optimized for this time and this place. They've started to ask questions, for example, about how committee gavels are awarded and, of course, whether the filibuster makes sense. Of course, you have Robert Byrd warning against the enslaving tendencies inherent in thinking through whether procedures like "blue slipping" make sense. And all this talk of institutional reform gets Trent Lott's political wheels a-spinnin'. "Be careful of what you do -- you could have it used against you," the resigned senator warns upstarts like Tom Udall , Jim Webb , and Mark Warner . Let's hope Udall et al. ignore their elders. Riffing off of Rick Hertzberg 's...

A Failure in Communications.

The Hill reports that in response to a probing letter sent from the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, Cliff Stearns , the head of the FCC, Julius Genachowski , revealed that the flawed National Broadband Plan he recently delivered to Congress cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million to produce. That, frankly, is a considerable sum for a government report like this. Some $4 million of that went to pay 78 temporary staffers, some who worked for the full eight months that the 360-page report took to produce, and others who only served at the commission for part of that time. Genachowski described that cadre of temporary feds as drawing its numbers from the ranks of "consulting firms, law firms, investment firms and operating businesses, as well as non-profits and other organizations." Reading the report, one suspects that it's not accidental that Genachowksi listed consultants first. But that's neither here...

Tomorrow's USA: Super Competitive with Yesterday's Australia.

I'll admit to being surprised at the warm reception that greeted the National Broadband Plan's arrival . There are grumblings that the Federal Communications Commission kinda snookered the press reaction by releasing an executive summary that seemed ambitious and provocative, coloring initial reactions to the report itself. But once you dig into the policy details of the report, it becomes clear that what the authors delivered to Congress doesn't have the comprehensiveness or ambition to really give America the broadband boost it badly needs. Check out this chart, for example, showing how the U.S.' new target for universal availability of broadband by 2020 compares around the world: The report praises a 4Mbps download goal as "aggressive" and "one of the highest universalization targets of any country in the world." But a couple things complicate matters. First, and this one's a biggie, is that if you check the date column of the chart you'll notice that the U.S. goal is for a decade...