Taking Hayek Seriously

by Daniel on April 15, 2004

Big news for people who are interested in that sort of thing: the Hayek-L mailing list, the main online forum for discussion of Hayek, has gone over to weblog format. One health warning I’d make is that the new blog is run by the same guy who runs the PrestoPundit blog, which is in my mind an example of exactly the sort of kneejerk Republicanism-dressed-up libertarianism that I for one take Hayek much too seriously to have any patience with. But the new Hayek blog seems to have kicked off with a couple of good book reviews and Hayek-L was a good mailing list, so I wouldn’t be prejudiced agaisnt them on that ground alone. Good luck to them.

Saddam’s Black Book — update

by Daniel on April 15, 2004

I’ve put off this promised update because up until today, it seemed as if there was nothing to add. The Human Rights Watch/US State Department figures of 300,000 murders in the period 1988-2003, the majority of which occurred during 1988-91, seems to be settled. However, Johann Hari has published an article in today’s Independent which seems to be working on a much higher figure for the other crucial number I was looking for; the likely number of deaths in 2003 if the war had not taken place. Sourced to the Human Rights Centre in Kadhimaya, via the Iraqi Prospects Organisation (a UK-based Iraqi exiles organisation), the claim is that analysis of the Ba’ath Party archives reveals that there would have been 70,000 killings if the war had not taken place.

Update, below fold

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The right of return

by Chris Bertram on April 15, 2004

I didn’t think George W. Bush had the capacity to shock me. But he has with his capitulation to the Israeli right.

I’ve been reading Robert Fisk’s “Pity the Nation”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0233985166/junius-20 , his account of the fate of Lebanon in the late twentieth century. Fisk has been the target of so much blogospherical opprobrium in the last three years, that I almost feel an obligation to explain myself. But whatever Fisk’s recent misjudgements (and there have been a few) “Pity the Nation”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0233985166/junius-20 is a truly great book: wonderfully written, fair, balanced and not seeking to disguise the crimes and failings of any of the protagonists.

Fisk’s book starts, though, not in Lebanon, but with ordinary Palestinian families, displaced in 1948, still guarding the Ottoman or British title-deeds to their properties, still keeping the rusting keys to their houses (often long-since demolished), still longing for their orange orchards and olive groves.

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Blair bereft

by John Quiggin on April 15, 2004

The day before Tony Blair turns up in Washington to give yet another demonstration of support for the mess Bush is making of Iraq, we have the spectacle of Bush and Sharon tearing up the “roadmap for peace”, one of the key elements on which Blair sold the Iraq war to the British Labour Party, and Bush endorsing Sharon’s plans to annex most of the West Bank. It’s hard to imagine that Blair could stand for such a gratuitous insult, but equally hard to imagine him doing anything about it.

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Unusual Hobbies

by Belle Waring on April 15, 2004

Because my sister participates, I have been thinking a little lately about the peculiar practice of military reenactments. That people in America reenact the U.S. Civil War is, I think, pretty widely known, but readers from other countries may be interested to learn that WWII is also very popular. The climate and topography of the East Coast is such that passable locations can be found for many European theater battles, so long as they took place outside of cities or towns. People who live in Michigan could probably reenact evil Soviets vs. Finnish commandoes on cross-country skis, and for all I know, they do. I had thought that WWI was too depressing to attract much interest, but I see now that I was very wrong:

The accurate recreation of such an era of warfare has been no simple task, but on small battlefields around the United States (around the world, in fact) reenactors have created the closest thing possible. These battlefields have trenches, bunkers and yes, real barbed wire. There are grenades and working mortars, as well as machine guns and full-scale over-the-top assaults. Nighttime is punctuated by trench raids carried out under the eerie light of flares and star shells. In the adjacent trench bay, there is the sound of a hand-to-hand struggle, as each side battles for possession of the trench…If this kind of madness appeals to you, if it makes you curious, then you might want to consider reenacting the Great War.

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I read your email

by Eszter Hargittai on April 15, 2004

I used to have a sign up in my office that said “I read your email”. It was just a joke, a geek’s bumper sticker to shock people. But as with so many things, what may seem like a joke or far-fetched idea one day suddenly becomes mainstream reality.

By now I’m sure many people have read about the controversy surrounding Google’s proposed new free email service, GMail. Soon after the company announced the forthcoming new service, privacy advocates started criticizing Google for potential privacy violations. The basic idea is this: the service may scan the contents of people’s email to figure out the most relevant targeted advertisement. One response to the reactions has been to say that people have a choice to use this service. If they are bothered by the practice, they do not have to use GMail. But is it really as simple as that?

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Substitution Effects

by Harry on April 15, 2004

I wonder if anyone can help me. I’m doing some research on Channel One. For those who don’t know Channel One it is a daily newscast for schoolchildren, which is watched in schools. The content is provided to the schools for nothing, and the contracting schools also get a significant amount of televisual equipment for their own use while the contract is in effect. The catch: it broadcasts a 12 minute show, 2 inutes of which are advertisments. Delightful. (Max Sawicky at MaxSpeak
has a nice cost-benefit analysis here). I am interested in it as an example of schools collaborating with corporations in a way that affects the ethos of the school, infusing it with the ethos of the commercial public culture outside the school. But a very minor point that I want to make in the paper is a conjecture that when corporations provide goodies to schools there will be a corresponding drop in the willingness of taxpayers to provide funds. I’m guessing that this happens, eg, when local taxpayers know that a local lottery will provide income to the city or state, and that a substitution effect occurs. My suspicions are increased whenever I describe Channel One to someone and ask them to guess the value of the equipment provided: they MASSIVELY overestimate the value, presumably because they think that any sane person would need to get a hell of a lot of money before they would be willing to force kids to watch commercials. (I’ll put the figure Sawicky and Molnar give below the fold, but even they are pretty certainly overestimating considerably (as they admit)). Rather than conjecture, though, it would be nice to have some empirical evidence of the effect, eg, with respect to a lottery. Does anyone know the literature (or whether there is any) on this?

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Via Chicago

by Henry on April 15, 2004

I’m flying to Chicago for the “Mid West Political Science Association”:http://www.indiana.edu/~mpsa/conferences/conferences.html meeting tomorrow, and will be there until Sunday morning. If any of you spot me wandering between panels, feel free to accost me. Other non-native attendees may also want to check out this “NYT article”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/14/dining/14CHIC.html on eating out in Chicago.