Notes from a small iPod

by Ted on April 19, 2004

* Listening to “Appetite for Destruction“. I wasn’t much of a metalhead, but it’s still a terrific album. It’s noteworthy that in a genre known for showboating drummers and extended drum solos, their drummer is the very opposite of a showboat. (A “tugboat”, maybe?)

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Preferred Modes of Domination

by Kieran Healy on April 19, 2004

Adam Kotsko comments in a thread about “smoking in public”:

bq. All the various smoking bans are simply further evidence of the repressive nature of postmodern biopolitics.

Which is fair enough. But my first thought was that I might prefer the repressive _methods_ of postmodern biopolitics to those of, say, modern or feudal biopolitics. I’m just saying.

Dealing with rejection

by Henry on April 19, 2004

An interesting topic of bar-room discussion at the Mid-West – the peculiar psychology of rejection at elite universities. Several of the top universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton etc) are notorious for how rarely they give tenure to assistant professors in the social sciences and humanities. Smart young people come to the university as assistant profs, teach for several years, are refused tenure _en bloc_, and depart for other jobs, usually at less prestigious institutions. The tenured professors in these places have usually come from outside – they’re nearly all recruited at a senior level from other universities (sometimes including former rejectees who have done well in the meantime). This creates a very strange atmosphere among junior faculty – they all know that the odds are against them getting tenure, hope that they will be among the rare exceptions, and point with admiration to the few who have managed to buck the system. What’s even more intriguing is the story of those professors who get rejected by an elite university and expelled into the outer darkness, but are then invited back to tenured jobs in the same place a few years later. Anecdotal evidence over beer suggests that a surprisingly large percentage of them accept the offer from the place that rejected them, even when they have other, more attractive offers from equally prestigious universities. If there’s a psychological mechanism to explain this, it’s one that goes against my expectations – _ex ante_, I would have predicted that people would take some pleasure in rejecting offers from places that had previously rejected them. Revenge, after all, is a dish that’s best served cold. Instead, quite a number of people seem to have a different set of motivations. So what’s going on?

The friend of my enemy is (x)

by Ted on April 19, 2004

Prince Bandar enjoys easy access to the Oval Office. His family and the Bush family are close. And Woodward told 60 Minutes that Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election – to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day.

60 Minutes, “Woodward Shares War Secrets”, 4/18/04

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That Liberal Media

by Brian on April 19, 2004

We all had a bit of a giggle at the foolish anti-war sloganeers who insinuated that the Iraq invasion was done simply to try and get lower oil prices. So it’s a bit of a shock to find out that one of the things the White House bargained for before the war was “lower oil prices”: in the run-up to the election.

The issues involved here seem to be simply scandalous. A foreign, and for all intents and purposes hostile, government is informed of our war plans before the Secretary of State is. And when that government agrees to help, the help is delivered in the form of partisan assistance in the electoral cycle, rather than say military support that might lead to fewer of our troops being killed. So you’d expect the liberal media to be jumping all over the story. And with the new fancy 24 hour news cycle, 16 hours after the story breaks would be like plenty of time to do that. So it’s again a bit of a shock to find how “little coverage”: the story is getting. Only 21 stories worldwide, only 9 of them in America, and the vast bulk of them wire stories. (Including some from those lefty news outlets Bloomberg and Forbes.) Yep, that liberal media.

I win my bet …

by Daniel on April 19, 2004

Back in December I wrote:

“[…] 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)

Historical note; it didn’t.

BTW, for those who care about that sort of thing, while we’ve expressed plenty of scepticism over the marginal value of election betting numbers in the past, they are probably no worse than polling numbers and available with greater frequency. Bush is currently more or less holding steady on IEM, but weakening on Tradesports. Note that these two figures are not directly comparable, as the IEM contract is for vote share while the Tradesports one is “winner take all”.

Nietzsche and squirrels

by Chris Bertram on April 19, 2004

The second of BBC Radio 3’s philosophers and places series aired last night, with a broadcast on Nietzsche and Basel (which you can “listen to on the web here”: ). Not as good as the previous week on Rousseau (or so I thought) but still interesting. I hadn’t appreciated what a fearsome teaching routine poor Nietzsche had to undergo, 7am lectures six days a week plus teaching Greek at the local grammar school! Roger Scruton featured prominently on the programme, immediately after Radio 5 had been discussing “his advocacy of squirrel-eating”:,6761,1191383,00.html . (One text message suggested that feeding Scruton to the squirrels would be a better idea.)

Botching the Job

by Kieran Healy on April 19, 2004

Bouncing off of a “column by David Brooks”:, “Matt Yglesias”: and “Patrick Nielsen Hayden”: make the point that supporters of the war can’t run away from the problems of its aftermath just because they personally might have done things differently, because frankly anyone who knew anything about both the Bush administration and the complexities of a war in Iraq could have predicted that it was going to be a mess. That means that post-hoc bellyaching that they didn’t do it my way is a bit beside the point:

bq. David Brooks offers the first of what I think will be many retrospective “I was wrong but I was right anyway”: articles. The implication here is that though Bush may botch everything in Iraq, Brooks was nevertheless correct to have supported the war because he, after all, was not in favor of botching things.

Last July, I said “essentially the same thing”: in the context of the then-crumbling pretext for the war:

bq. Dan [Drezner] can be relied on to have made as well-argued and well-supported case for war as possible, but at this point I really don’t care what it was, for the same reasons the hawks had no time for the “Not In My Name” line. The substance of the _President’s_ case for war is what matters … If that case was built on a series of lies — immediate threat, 45-minutes to deployment, uranium from Niger and all the rest of it — then that _is_ something to get exercised about.

Seeing pundits like Brooks try to wriggle away like this reminds me of a joke that David Lewis makes somewhere, viz, “You say you have a counterexample to my argument, but you must be misunderstanding me, because I did not intend for my argument to have any counterexamples.”

Smoking in Public

by Kieran Healy on April 19, 2004

Ireland’s ban on smoking in buildings other than private homes has been in place for a few weeks now, and appears to be holding. Wandering around Cork and Dublin over the past week, hotels, cafes, shops, and of course bars are all smoke-free. “According to the OECD”:, 27 percent of Irish adults smoked every day in 1998 (down from 34 percent in 1985), which puts Ireland in the middle of the distribution internationally. There seem to have been two main effects so far. First, there are a lot of jokes and complaints about the effects of the ban. For instance, you can tell what those around you really smell like, which has come as a nasty shock to some people. The same goes for bar food. Second, all the smokers have been driven out on the street. You must now run a puffing gauntlet outside of hotels, restaurants and bars. It would be worth checking to see whether there isn’t one of those perverse little public goods effects here, people are now much more likely to encounter a faceful of smoke in _true_ public spaces like footpaths, parks and the like than before.

Economists and sociologists tend to look a bit too hard for ironies of this sort, so maybe I’m overreaching. I still think that the best solution to the problem of smoking as it’s usually defined is the one found in many U.S. airports: a special, glass-walled smoking lounge with seats bolted to the floor, where smokers can go to light up and everyone going by can glance in through the haze at the yellowed wallpaper, the dirty floor and the unhappy looks of the addicts staring off into space, not talking to one another, trying to convince themselves that cigarettes really are “sublime”:

Graduate Students and Technology

by Brian on April 19, 2004

The hackneyed story about technology is that the young are always faster to pick it up than us old folk. So you’d expect in an academic department the graduate students would be the ones leading the way, and the professoriate would be constantly learning tricks from them. And while that’s true sometimes (I had to recruit Paul Neufeld of “ephilosopher”: fame to get started on Movable Type) my impression based on anecdotes as casual observation is that really doesn’t seem to be the general run of things. And certainly there’s lots of things about grad students could learn about technology from computer specialists. This suggests a professional question. How much technical knowledge/ability should we _require_ our graduate students to have.

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