Conservatives in academia

by Chris Bertram on February 18, 2004

Just a pointer: be sure not to miss John Holbo’s post on “conservatives in academia”: and Belle Waring’s memoir of “one she knew”: in the Berkeley Classics Department.

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away

by John Q on February 18, 2004

Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, in today’s Australian

But, of course, if the international community knew early last year what it knows now about Saddam’s WMD programs, there would have been less debate in the Security Council about the appropriate action. Kay’s report shows that removing Saddam was the only way the international community could be assured that he would no longer threaten anyone with WMDs. Far from unstuck, the WMD case is proven.

Saddam’s Black Book

by Daniel on February 18, 2004

I didn’t think this was going to be a difficult question to answer, but it’s stumped me, so I’m asking for help.

Is there any authoritative source (for fairly low standards of “authoritative”; as the title suggests, I’m looking for something no worse than the Black Book of Communism) telling us how many people Saddam Hussein killed and when?

[click to continue…]

“Twenty or thirty years ago…”

by Chris Bertram on February 18, 2004

I was at a meeting the other day where the question of “normal” boy and girl behaviour came up. I mean by this what girls and boys, especially teenagers, take to be normal behaviour for those of their own and the opposite gender. I _don’t_ mean what they ought to do. The opinion was voiced by others present that these norms had shifted appreciably in the last twenty or thirty years. Wearing makeup, for instance, they thought, was far more acceptable for boys today that for boys “twenty or thirty years ago”.

Since I was myself a teenager thirty years ago, I think I can say with some authority that this is mistaken, at least for the UK. Sexual intercourse was, as we know, “invented in 1963”: , and by the early-to-mid-1970s glam-rock in the shape of David Bowie and Marc Bolan had made all kinds of flirting with cross-dressing and ambiguous gender identity acceptable for teenage boys. Punk followed almost immediately afterwards. (I’m told that things were different and more backward in the US, which, for James Miller, in his magisterial “Flowers in the Dustbin”: , explains Bowie’s initial lack of success over there — until he toned things down.) But my guess is that, in the UK at least, teenagers were more ready to play with mixed sexual signals in the 1970s than they are today (and have been since the advent of “new laddism” in the 1990s).

My reading of the evolution of teenage mores may, of course, be wide of the mark. But my point in making it is just to observe how common is the notion of a “dreamtime” about “twenty or thirty years ago” when 1950s moral and cultural norms are supposed to have applied. Probably such standards didn’t obtain in the 1950s either, but people look on the past with a permanently moving horizon before which things were different, everybody was straight, lived in conventional families and playing with sexuality (and indeed being serious about it) was the preserve of intellectuals, poets and German cabaret artistes. It wasn’t like that.

Outsourcing; welcome to the world

by Maria on February 18, 2004

These days, US fears of offshore outsourcing are echoed by European worries about an influx of poor Eastern Europeans when the accession countries join on 1st May. White House economists are pilloried for publicly stating The Bleedin Obvious, and the Daily Mail is convinced Britain will be overrun by Roma. What links these two issues? Fear of competition. Or, as our friends in literary theory might have it, dread of The Other. Suddenly, after 50 odd years of dispensing aid and the omni-prescription of market-opening commitments, liberalisation, harmonisation, free flow of capital, government investment in education and training and all the rest of it, the worst has happened. It worked. (Albeit at great cost, in a limited way, and for the chosen few.)

But instead of gratitude and docility from semi-developed countries like Thailand, India, and the Ukraine, the payback is more competition. They take our jobs whether they emigrate or stay at home. Apocalyptic flows of people and jobs are predicted, all in the ‘wrong’ direction. The cry goes up; ‘something must be done.’ But the real displacement going on is not of people, but of issues.

[click to continue…]

Don’t Be Afraid

by Kieran Healy on February 18, 2004

“Barbara Chamberlain, 79, also of Milwaukee, backed Edwards for the same reason,” the Associated Press reports from Wisconsin, “‘I have hope for him beating you-know-who,’ she said.”

Oh come, Barbara, you’ll just have stop living in fear and come out and say it — “Voldemort.” Now, doesn’t that make you feel better?