The black Spartacus

by Chris Bertram on February 10, 2004

Two hundred years after the foundation of the world’s first black republic, “Ian Thomson, writing in the Guardian, hails Toussaint L’Ouverture”:,12084,1134518,00.html . For those who don’t know his story, C.L.R. James’s “The Black Jacobins”: is the place to look. And here is Wordsworth’s poem in full:

bq. Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men!
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon’s earless den; —
O miserable Chieftain! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There’s not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man’s unconquerable mind.

Good Childhood

by Harry on February 10, 2004

Kevin Drum’s seemingly innocent question about why kids don’t walk to school anymore has prompted some interesting discussions about what makes for a good childhood. This is a discussion liberals often like to avoid because they don’t want to appear to be judgmental about other people’s parenting practices, and especially fear accusations of being racist, elitist, or culturally imperialist. For example, the claim that so-called ‘middle-class parenting practices’ (which include talking to your kids, reasoning with them rather than demanding blind obedience, ensuring, if one is divorced, that they maintain contact with their other initial parent) are responsible for success in school is often criticized not for being untrue but for blaming the parents (or the poor, or racial minorities).

But this is one of those areas where we have to make value judgments. We make them personally in our own decisions about how to raise our own kids, because we want to give them better rather than worse childhoods. And we have to make judgments about what makes for a better rather than worse childhoods for policy purposes. One comment in Keiran’s thread noted that new housing developments frequently have no sidewalks. The zoning board, in those cases, has assumed either that it is ok for children to be entirely restricted to private spaces, or that they will be so restricted anyway so why force developers to waste money on sidewalks? It is right to criticize the zoning board (not the developer) for failing properly to incorporate quality-of-childhood issues into their decisions.

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Americans in Europe

by Chris Bertram on February 10, 2004

In partial reply to “Brian Leiter’s (statisticallly supported) claim”: that people are better off living in social democratic nations (Western Europe, Canada …) than in the United States, “David Bernstein of the Volokh Conspiracy writes”: :

bq. I don’t recall any American I’ve met in my entire life permanently settling in Europe….

Well those I know aren’t dead yet — so it may depend on what you mean by “permanently” — but it wasn’t hard for me to get into double figures from people I know reasonably well here in the UK, some of whom have been resident for over thirty years.

En masse resignation of journal editorial board

by Eszter Hargittai on February 10, 2004

Ed Felten reports that the entire editorial board of a journal has quit to protest the high price of the journal. I agree with Ed that it is somewhat surprising this does not happen more often given the increasing price of many academic journals (a topic we’ve discussed here on CT several times). It looks like these computer scientists were able to take this action at least in part because they found a good alternative for publishing a similar journal. Such alternatives may not be quite as obvious in other fields, unfortunately. After all, the ACM is a very established organization with numerous high-quality publications already so it seems like a good candidate for publishing a new journal. The major associations in some other disciplines do not seem to have this kind of infrastructure in place to support such a cause, which may explain why we do not see such en masse editorial-board resignation more often.

A copy of the letter [pdf] that seemed to initiate much of the above is available online. It contains lots of interesting information – including a summary of this informative piece [pdf] – about academic journal publishing especially with respect to cs/math fields.


by Kieran Healy on February 10, 2004

Eugene Volokh “notices an error”: in a transcript. My friend “Bethany”: had a bunch of interviews transcribed professionally for her dissertation and now offers “Transcription Bloopers: 29 Reasons Not to Waste Your Money.”: Choice examples include:

table(fig). {font-weight:bold;center}_|As Spoken|As Transcribed|
|(. 20th century |((. Planting some tree |
|(. Class oppression |((. Fast depression |
|(. Enrich each other |((. Rate each other |
|(. Serbian oral epic |((. Servient oral ethic |

Errors of this sort in transcripts are at the intersection of “Mondegreens”: and the strange phenomenon of the media always happening to desperately misreport stories you know something about personally.

In Defense of Rumsfeld

by John Q on February 10, 2004

US Secretary of Defense has received general derision for the following rather convoluted statement

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know

As I’m giving two papers on this general topic in the next couple of days, I feel I should come to his defense on this. Although the language may be tortured, the basic point is both valid and important.

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Singer vs Bush

by Brian on February 10, 2004

I have a higher opinion of Peter Singer than many philosophers, but I still think this is a bad idea.

bq. The President of Good and Evil: The Convenient Ethics of George W. Bush by Peter Singer

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