From the monthly archives:

October 2003

Gender genie

by Micah on October 31, 2003

Continuing on the lighter side of things, this “program”:http://www.bookblog.net/gender/genie.html claims to predict an author’s gender based on a writing sample. I tried it with a sample of my own over 500 words long and it succeeded. But it failed for some entries on this blog. Only slightly more surprising, it also failed when I tested the last page of Susan Moller Okin’s “Justice, Gender, and the Family”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0465037038/qid=1067612573/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-4232913-8425456?v=glance&s=books and the first two pages or so of Catherine MacKinnon’s “Toward a Feminist Theory of the State”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0674896467/qid=1067613684/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/103-4232913-8425456?v=glance&n=507846. It might be interesting to test some longer samples, but my hunch is that this algorithim will usually predict male for samples in the genre of philosophical writing.

Watch out for the cereal killer

by Eszter Hargittai on October 31, 2003

There are lots of serious issues to ponder these days, but we shouldn’t forget about Halloween, which comes with its own set of challenges. One such challenge is finding a fun yet easy costume.

One year I cut up some cereal boxes, colored parts of them red with a marker, made some paper knives and plastered these all over the clothes I was wearing. I forget whom to credit with that but I thought it worked well. Nothing like a cereal killer on the loose.

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Libertarianism without inequality (3)

by Chris Bertram on October 31, 2003

Below the fold are some reactions to chapter 3 of Michael Otsuka’s “Libertarianism without Inequality”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0199243956/junius-20 (previous installments “1”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000687.html and “2”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000722.html ). Mike is giving a paper — “Skepticsm about saving the greater number” — “in my department this afternoon”:http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/Philosophy/Events/deptsems03.html , so I wanted to get some thoughts down independently before they became contaminated by conversation with him. As always, comments are welcome from anyone who is either reading or has read the book.

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Michael Howard

by Chris Bertram on October 31, 2003

Michael Howard, the soon-to-be-leader of the British Conservative Party is clearly a man who is trying to reinvent himself. Chris Brooke of the excellent “Virtual Stoa”:http://users.ox.ac.uk/~magd1368/weblog/blogger.html reminds us of “one of the key paradoxes about the man”:http://users.ox.ac.uk/~magd1368/weblog/2003_10_01_archive.html#106759949225059957 : that the child of an asylum seeker has promoted policies under which his own father would have been denied entry to the UK. Tom Watson MP “lists some of the reasons why Howard was once so reviled”:http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/archives/001071.html.

VRWC

by Kieran Healy on October 31, 2003

That would be the fifth Rugby World Cup of course, which is being played down here in Australia and has, I’ve noticed, generally escaped commentary in the blogosphere. But any game where France walk all over the U.S. can’t expect much love in the strongholds of blogging. Here at CT we have a strong representation from the Six Nations, though I don’t know how many of them (if any) are rugby fans. Here’s an update on what’s happening, including details of how the left-wing solidarity of Crooked Timber might be overwhelmed by the false gods of Nationalism.

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League tables

by Chris Bertram on October 31, 2003

There’s much to amuse in David Cohen’s “survey of education journalism”:http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/columnist/story/0,9826,1074093,00.html in today’s Guardian. Those of us who are fed up with league tables evaluating and ranking university departmant can take heart from one published by Canada’s Globe and Mail which awarded high marks to some nonexistent institutions: York’s medical school and the medical and law schools at Waterloo. The methodology does seem somewhat suspect:

bq. According to the market research firm responsible for the rankings, the results had been based entirely on student responses to an online survey on issues such as the quality of teaching assistants, class size, availability of courses and the library services at their colleges.

Political compass

by Chris Bertram on October 31, 2003

“Brian Leiter”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/000399.html and “Larry Solum”:http://lsolum.blogspot.com/2003_10_01_lsolum_archive.html#106748057295088488 have been posting about the political compass test. “Brian”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/000415.html#000415 finds the rightist bias of law professors depressing and expresses hope that more of the blogosphere’s philosophers will take the test (including me). So here goes. And yes, unsurprsingly, there I am in the “bottom left-hand quadrant”:http://www.digitalronin.f2s.com/politicalcompass/questionnaire.pl?page=printable_graph&X=-4.88&Y=-6.36 . I’m not sure about the company I’m keeping, though. George Orwell, Tom Paine and even Joseph Stiglitz and the Dalai Lama I can live with, but Naomi Klein and Tariq Ali? This chart needs another dimension.

Darkling planes

by Henry on October 31, 2003

On the one hand, Bruce Sterling “waxes lyrical”:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.11/view.html?pg=4?tw=wn_tophead_9 about the weirdness of dark matter in WIRED this month. On the other, Jacques Distler “links”:http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/archives/000242.html to the rather more skeptical (and funnier) “Dark Matter Flowchart”:http://www.astro.umd.edu/~ssm/mond/flowchart.html. We blog; you decide.

Dept of Fair and Balanced

by Kieran Healy on October 31, 2003

David Bernstein, who has been relentlessly flogging his book via his Volokh posts over the last few weeks, complains about NPR:

bq. TYPICAL NPR ‘BALANCE’: I listened to part of the “Kojo Namdi Show” on WAMU, Washington, D.C. today. The promos said there would be three women Jerusalem residents on the phone, one Christian, one Moslem, and one Jew, talking about their daily lives. … [T]he Christian and Moslem [were] Palestinian spokespeople who had clearly undergone extensive media training … And the Jew? An extreme leftist who … seemed unwilling to defend Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation. … Kojo did try to note that none of the political movements represented in the current Palestinian government believe in non-violent resistance, but he backed down when the Palestinians objected. Disgusting.

Indeed. To coin a phrase. Decent people with a concern for standards in broadcasting ought to be appalled. Meanwhile, David says in his next post,

bq. You can catch me on the Rush Limbaugh Show, guest host Walter Williams, tomorrow (Friday) at around 2:05.

Yeah, yeah I know what you’re going to say about the difference between NPR and Rush. And believe me, I fully agree. One has for years received the benefit of a modest public subsidy and so has an obligation to be objective and balanced in all aspects of its broadcasting mission, perhaps even its phone-in talk shows; whereas the other has for years been the platform of a drug-addled, draft-dodging, hypocritical old bigot who spews lies and hatred like a slurry spreader shifts pigshit. You’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry.

Addendum

by Henry on October 30, 2003

A quick addendum to my recent “post”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000738.html on bad academic writing; it turns out that “Steven Berlin Johnson”:http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/movabletype/archives/000103.html was a student of Said. Which is quite an interesting intellectual trajectory. Johnson recalls that Said

bq. was largely responsible — some might say to blame — for importing French cultural theory into the American intellectual scene, particularly Foucault, who obviously had a huge influence on Orientalism. But he always resisted the inane wordplay and self-absorption that characterized so much of American theory in the eighties and early nineties. He absolutely despised “radical theorists” like Judith Butler, for instance. I remember him bristling anytime someone used the word “discourse” in one of our seminars — and I remember thinking at the time that I had first starting using the word myself after reading Orientalism during my freshman year. … on his best days, he was the most charismatic man I’ve ever met in my life — handsome, stylish, impossibly articulate, and surprisingly willing to take a joke at his own expense. (I used to tease him about his being indirectly responsible for unleashing Butler on the world).

The Thernstroms

by Jon Mandle on October 30, 2003

Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom have a new book called No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. I haven’t read it, but their article in the Boston Globe summarizes their arguments. Here’s their concern:

On the first try, 82 percent of white 10th-graders passed [the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System – MCAS], and the figure for Asians was almost as high (77 percent). But the success rate for Hispanics was 42 percent and for blacks 47 percent. Across the nation, the glaring racial gap is between whites and Asians on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics on the other.

This gap is an American tragedy and a national emergency for which there are no good excuses. It is the main source of ongoing racial inequality, and racial inequality is America’s great unfinished business, the wound that remains unhealed. Our failure to provide first-class education for black and Hispanic students is both an educational catastrophe and the central civil rights issue of our time.

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Mark Kleiman points out that Luskin’s threatened suit against Atrios is a blatant attempt at harrassing a critic by threatening to reveal his identity. However, we ought to be equally angry at the National Review if they allow Luskin to pursue the lawsuit while he’s on their payroll.

I agree with Mark. However, he’s got to keep in mind that the original vision that William F. Buckley had for the National Review explicitly addresses this eventuality:

* To stand athwart history yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so;
* To become the premier voice for self-reliance, small government, anti-communism, and the state-sponsored punishment of sodomites;
* To openly stand up for the cultural and intellectual superiority of White over Negro until, say, the 70s or so;
* To eventually hand the reins over to chuckle-headed hacks and legacies whose lack of journalistic principles, knowledge of economics, policy, or basic math, or motivating principle apart from loyalty to the GOP leadership will make this publication a bad joke;
* To one day publish a fantasy about the murder of the only child of a politician that we don’t like;
* To justify, by any means possible, revealing of the identity of CIA agents;
* And to have our writers threaten frivolous lawsuits against people who hurt our feelings

The National Review has brilliantly lived up to his dream.

UPDATE: There’s been a lot of talk about John “Eminem” Derbshire’s Chelsea Clinton column in the comments. I should mention that there was quite a controversy about the column at the time. Check out the classy way that he dealt with it.

Interview with the Moor

by Kieran Healy on October 30, 2003

Via MaxSpeak comes a link to an excellent interview with Karl Marx conducted sometime in the last month, apparently. Karl has lost none of his vitality, despite having been dead for some time. His analysis is as trenchant as his invective is unrelenting. Who is an “insipid, pedantic, leather-tongued oracle of the ordinary bourgeois intelligence” and who is “so easy to comprehend, so stupendously unoriginal, so devastatingly tautological”? Read it and see.

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

by Brian on October 30, 2003

You’ve probably all seen the news that Donald Luskin is now legally stalking Atrios. Through his lawyer (who I’m sad to say is a Brown grad) Luskin wants Atrios to go through his comments board and delete all the posts that could be considered defamatory. I’m not sure it’s possible to defame Luskin, and I’m pretty sure being forced to trawl through Atrios’s comments section is not something anyone should be legally obliged to do. (Isn’t that a cruel, or at least unusual, punishment?)

This looks little better than a nuisance suit, and the most just outcome is that it turns out to be a costly one for Luskin. (Luskin conspiring to keep himself poor and stupid does have a certain artistic quality to it, so maybe the suit isn’t all bad.)

The original legal demand is here, Atrios’s response is here and there’s a list of well-wishers here. I’m pleased to see some conservatives living up to their oft-quoted line about disagreeing with what you say but agreeing with your right to say it. The best comment so far (unsurprisingly) is from Andrew Northrup, with Brad DeLong not far behind.

Stalkin’ Don Brings It On

by Ted on October 30, 2003

So I turned on my computer tonight to read the blogs. I’m afraid that I must have scared my poor fiancee half to death when the steam pouring out of my ears made a loud “toot” noise, as seen in Popeye cartoons.

Atrios posts under a pseudonym, although his real name is Ferdinand Strumpole. I have no business telling him how to run his life. Nonetheless, if I were king, I’d ask Atrios to write the following reply:

Dear Mr. Luskin,

I double-dog dare you to sue me. No, triple.

Sincerely,

Atrios

P.S. Can I still call you a striking failure as a mutual fund manager?

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