From the monthly archives:

November 2003

Waugh to Retire

by Harry on November 26, 2003

Just thought I’d register a Brit’s regret at Waugh’s decision to retire as captain of Australia. It is hard to know whether he is the greatest captain Australia has had, or whether he has just been lucky to have under his command the greatest test team in history. I’m in the ‘Anyone But England’ camp except when England plays Australia, when my principle of supporting the underdog gets the better of my anti-patriotism. But watching Australia the past few years, against just about anyone, has been sheer bliss. And Waugh’s quiet battle against the increasing and grotesque commercialism in the international game, even if it has been carried out in a spirit of patriotism, has made him almost as much of a hero as his captaincy.

More on late starting

by Chris Bertram on November 26, 2003

In “a post yesterday”: about the later age at which academics get proper jobs nowadays, I focused on how this means that academics now have fewer children later (or none at all). But there’s another consequence of the way the job market and accreditation process have changed: pensions. Academics here in the UK still have a final salary pension scheme (which is nice). The scheme assumes to that to receive a full-value pension (50 per cent of final salary) you have made 40 years worth of contributions. I’ve even met some academics — appointed at around age 23 in the 1960s — who’ve managed this. But those who have entered the profession late (and burdened with debt) from the 1990s onwards, at age 30+ will _never_ pay in their 40 years (given retirement at 65) and will therefore receive a lower income in their old age. I’ve assumed in this post that the system is the UK one, but obviously the point generalises beyond final-salary schemes. Those who earn proper salaries later (and are debt-ridden) will not contribute so much towards their pension — especially if they are trying to bring up a delayed young family! — and will suffer in their retirement.

Cloning and Mitochondrial Disease

by Brian on November 26, 2003

In his paper “Dolly: The Age of Biological Control”, Ian Wilmut suggests one interesting use for cloning technology. In that paper Wilmut basically opposes what we normally think of as reproductive cloning. (In a recent paper with Glenn McGee he has slightly softened his attitude.) But he thinks the following procedure, which as far as I can tell would be illegal under current anti-cloning legislation, would be entirely appropriate if provably safe. I agree with Wilmut, and I think there’s a very strong argument for amending the legislation to ensure this procedure is permissible.

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Cloning and Adoption

by Brian on November 26, 2003

One of the central issues in the cloning thread has been whether infertile couples should adopt rather than use new technologies like cloning. So far I’ve been content to run with the line that even if it would socially advantageous for the couple to adopt rather than clone, they should have a legal right to clone, because they should have the legal right to have children from their own genetic stock. But perhaps I was too quick to accept the virtues of adoption. Stephen Coleman, in Should Liberals Ban Reproductive Cloning? argues that adoption may have flaws of its own.

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Cooking week

by Eszter Hargittai on November 26, 2003

For those celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to share some tried-and-true recipes. I’m an especially big fan of the pecan pie recipe. In addition to the dishes on that list, I will also make a batch of peanutbutter bars courtesy of Laura’s family (one of the Lauras who sometimes posts in the comments).

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Race for funds

by Eszter Hargittai on November 26, 2003

This map should be of interest to those who are curious about financial contributions to the US presidential candidates.. and those who like to compare numbers and dissect graphs. Be sure to try out both county and state-level illustrations. And don’t miss the differences in scale of contributions depending on the candidate. [via Neat New Stuff]

More on free speech at Toronto

by Henry Farrell on November 26, 2003

“Jacob Levy”: has a long and thoughtful response to my “post”: yesterday, which does an excellent job of getting at the underlying issues. I’m not sure if the controversy is quite as unconnected to controversies over free speech as Jacob argues that it is. But his analysis, and solution, offers a good, intellectual foundation for the common-sense solution that U of T adopted even if the issue is (as Jacob acknowledges) messy around the edges.

My book released in North America

by Chris Bertram on November 25, 2003

At long last my book “Rousseau and the Social Contract”: is now available from Amazon in North America. (Readers in the UK “can order it”: from

British political culture

by Chris Bertram on November 25, 2003

Would this be possible in anywhere else than Britain? On last night’s Frank Skinner show former Labour Secretary of State for Northern Ireland “Mo Mowlam”: gave an interview in which she attacked Tony Blair for poor judgement. At the end of the show Mowlam (dressed as Cher) performed “I Got You Babe” in duet with veteran porn star “Ron Jeremy”: (dressed as Sonny).

Chick Lit

by Maria on November 25, 2003

Hmm, Henry’s post about genre fiction greats has sparked an interesting aside which I think deserves a thread of its own. Laura says (scroll right down to the end of the comments) that romance novels account for more popular literature sales than just about anything else. They certainly deserve our attention. I think romance, or its sub-genre – chick lit – can show some interesting things about just what it means to ‘transcend the genre’.

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More on tenure and toddlers

by Chris Bertram on November 25, 2003

Kieran’s post immediately below focuses on the different pressures on men and women in academia. That difference is certainly there, but the extraordinary thing is that changes in academia over the past thirty years have exacerbated the pressures at the same time as universities have become more verbally supportive of gender equality, have implemented “family friendly” and “work–life balance” policies, and so on.

Why? It isn’t hard simply to do some sums. Here’s a typical career path in philosophy in the UK, circa 1960:

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Tenure and Toddlers

by Kieran Healy on November 24, 2003

I’ve written before about the way debates about work-family conflict are framed. In general, men with children are not thought to face work/family choices. Alternatives to this way of thinking about it — analyzing the institutions that structure people’s choices, for example — are often dismissed as utopian flim-flam. It’s a good example of how social facts are mistaken for natural facts. Quite sensible people — who know that it’s silly to argue that cloning, contraceptives and representative government are wrong because they are “unnatural,” for instance — can often be found insisting that the Pleistocene Savannah has set implacable constraints on the institutional design of work/family policies in postindustrial democracies. This is not in itself a clearly wrong claim, but, oddly, the particular constraints closely approximate the gender division of labor not of the Pleistocene Savannah but of portions of the U.S. middle class between 1945 and 1960.

I bring this up because I read an interesting report on the impact of children on men’s and women’s careers in academia. There are several ways to put the findings, but here’s one:

Twelve to fourteen years out from the Ph.D., 62 percent of tenured women in the humanities and social sciences and 50 percent of those in the sciences do not have children in the household. By contrast, only 39 percent of tenured men in social sciences and humanities and 30 percent of those in the sciences do not have children in the household …

Tea With Lance

by Kieran Healy on November 24, 2003

Met Lance Knobel yesterday and had a cup of tea. I raise my hand and claim responsibility for the quote about Canberra in the first paragraph of his post this morning. Lance himself tries harder than I did to be charitable to Canberra, and comes up with “it bids fair to make it to the better category of invented capitals.” High praise indeed.

Free speech on campus

by Henry Farrell on November 24, 2003

The University of Toronto has recently had a minor to-do about free speech, and the circumstances under which it can be exercised on campus. A Palestinian group, Al-Awda, which is officially recognized on campus, wanted to book university facilities for a conference on “Palestinian Solidarity.” It required that all people attending the conference sign up to a six point “basis of unity” in order to be admitted. _Inter alia_ they had to sign up to the statement that “Israel is a racist apartheid state,” and that “[w]e support the right of the Palestinian people to resist Israeli and colonialism (sic) by any means of their choosing.” The University told Al-Awda that it could not the conference unless it removed the requirement that all participants sign up to the “basis for unity.” Al-Awda declined to do this, and the University revoked Al-Awda’s booking of the room.

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Cloning (4)

by Brian on November 24, 2003

No argument this time, just a serious question. If cloning is to be banned, that presumably means there will be criminal penalties for creating clones. Who, exactly, should be vulnerable for those penalties? If a couple X and Y decide they want a cloned baby (say with Y’s DNA inserted into one of X’s eggs), and Dr. Z assists with this so clone baby A is born of X, who should be punished for this act of illegal cloning? X? Y? Z? A? (Well, presumably not A.) Any others?

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