Refusing gongs

by Chris Bertram on December 22, 2003

Yesterday’s Sunday Times printed “a long list of people who had refused honours”:,,2087-939310,00.html from the British government. An interesting list including Michael Oakeshott, H.L.A.Hart, Isaiah Berlin and Gilbert Ryle. I also scrolled down the list to see if the reason the most successful manager in English football history had not been knighted was that he’d turned them down. No such luck — they never even offered (even though two managers from an inferior team have been honoured).

Big tent politics

by Daniel on December 22, 2003

Via email, I discover that there is something out there called the Libertarian Green National Socialist Party, operating under the slogan that “National Socialism is neither leftist nor rightist; it is naturalist, and inherently environmental.”

Though their choice of URL does rather give the game away.

Actually Existing Terrorism Futures

by Daniel on December 22, 2003

Always nice to be able to test an idea in a live application … It’s worthwhile remembering in any discussion of “terrorism futures” that nobody was ever really proposing to offer contracts on any specific terrorist events; the proposed “Policy Analysis Market” (which claims on its website that it’s going to launch in March; sadly there is no currently existing futures market which allows me to bet that it won’t), was always going to be about betting on general indices of global political stability. For example, one might think it would be useful to have a futures market which gave finer-grained information about the risks to the US than the Department of Homeland Security’s Threat Level Indicator; not just whether today’s threat was “yellow” or “orange”, but whether the risk was growing or falling.

One might think that, but one would be wrong. In actual fact, it is possible to trade futures on the US Homeland Security indicator at So, since the threat level was raised from “Yellow” to “Orange” over the weekend we can go to the tape and see whether the traders there had any advance steer on this movement. Did they?

[click to continue…]

Getting it right

by Henry Farrell on December 22, 2003

Yet another post in the “we right-wingers are smarter because we say we are” genre, this time from “Alex Singleton”: at the Adam Smith Institute. Singleton puts forward the self-evidently preposterous argument that the blogosphere is dominated by the right wing because the blogosphere favours reasoned argument, leaving leftwingers (who are good at chanting slogans and spouting jargon, but lousy at reasoned thought) in the lurch. Weak stuff, which is barely worth jousting against. Indeed, the post effectively furnishes its own refutation; it advances a thesis which is based on

* One unproven (and “probably false”: generalization – that the blogosphere is dominated by the right
* One preposterous claim – that the most successful bloggers are those who are most adept at reasoned argument. The exceptions to this rule are too many and various to require explicit mention.
* One tendentious and silly piece of polemic – that leftwingers, unlike rightwingers, have no real arguments.

If this is the sort of reasoned debate that the Adam Smith Institute thinks will help the right to prevail on the battlefield of ideas, then more power to them. But of course, it isn’t an argument as such. Rather, it’s a sort of intellectualized gut-rumbling, a tarted up set of prejudices without any factual basis. Just the sort of nonsense that you might expect from a jargon-spouting, sloganeering leftist in other words.

Inequality in America

by Chris Bertram on December 22, 2003

“Paul Krugman in the Nation”: :

bq. The other day I found myself reading a leftist rag that made outrageous claims about America. It said that we are becoming a society in which the poor tend to stay poor, no matter how hard they work; in which sons are much more likely to inherit the socioeconomic status of their father than they were a generation ago. The name of the leftist rag? _Business Week_ …

Le foulard islamique

by Chris Bertram on December 22, 2003

Those following recent French debates about the proposal that the ostentatious display of religious symbols in schools should be banned, may find “this article from Le Nouvel Observateur”: by sociologists Jocelyne Césari et Jean Baubérot enlightening. As they point out, French law is actually rather close to the liberal view of these matters. But there is a mismatch between what French law requires — as reflected in successive decisions of the Conseil D’Etat — and a commonly held view of the principle of secularism which charges the state with the aggressive promotion of Enlightenment rationalism. It all seems a little odd from this side of the English Channel. I had a conversation with a French researcher last year who declared herself shocked to have seen a newsreader on the BBC wearing a small crucifix round her neck. I had to say that I’d never noticed such a thing, wouldn’t have cared if I had, and that I’m sure that most British people wouldn’t notice: in a country with an established church hardly anyone cares about religion.

One oddity of the French media’s representation of this issue: the controversy centres on the common Islamic practice of women covering their hair with a headscarf. Of course, in some Islamic societies rather more is covered: women are veiled or enclosed in outfits like the burqua. The French secularists object to schoolgirls wearing headscarves that cover their hair — and the word “foulard” is appropriate here — but often the press reports refer to the “voile” and sometimes this is absurd. So the the caption to photograph accompanying “this article”: (again from the Nouvel Obs) reads “Lors de la manifestation des femmes voilées” but the women in the picture are _not_ veiled.

Favourite films of all time

by Chris Bertram on December 22, 2003

Norman Geras is running one of his polls again. The latest one is for “favourite films of all time”: (deadline January 18th). So get over to “Normblog”: and cast your votes (up to ten). Here are mine, in no particular order except that the first on the list is my all-time favourite (with All About Eve probably my second choice):

The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut)
All About Eve (Joseph L Mankiewicz)
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
The Third Man (Carol Reed)
The Maltese Falcon (John Huston)
The Tenant (Roman Polanski)
Boyz N The Hood (John Singleton)
Diva ( Jean-Jacques Beineix)
Lift to the Scaffold (Louis Malle)

I adopted a private one-entry-per-director rule, though, which limited my Hitchcock nominations, and I was really conflicted about which Louis Malle film to choose (Milou en Mai gets one aspect of France so right). And I’m puzzled that Stanley Kubrick didn’t end up on my final list.

Ten Day Turnaround

by Kieran Healy on December 22, 2003

Well, that was fast.

Thanks to John Quiggin

by Kieran Healy on December 22, 2003

Many thanks from everyone here at Crooked Timber to John Quiggin for being our guest for the week. You can read all of his CT posts on our newly-instituted Guest Blogger Archives, and of course be sure to make his own blog a regular read if it wasn’t already.

Incidentally, while setting up the guest archive I removed the calendar that used to live in the top left corner there. I did this on the sudden conviction that it served no useful purpose on a group blog that reliably has more than one post a day. But if the outcry from the calendar-loving public is strong enough I can of course restore it.

An enjoyable visit

by John Q on December 22, 2003

My week as inaugural guest blogger on Crooked Timber has come to an end. It was a lot of fun, with a (largely) new audience and a new way of blogging. I enjoyed the interplay with other members of the group, which is a kind of interaction subtly different from that of comments threads. I also started wondering about the unexplored territory between group blogs and online magazines like Salon and Slate, and whether there are technical improvements to blog software that would enable some of this territory to be colonized, but I didn’t get very far with this.

So thanks everyone for having me, and please come to visit.