Torture of a different kind

by Kieran Healy on May 13, 2004

Remember to watch the “Eurovision Song Contest”: this weekend. If you have no idea what this is, you can read my “primer on the subject”: from last year.

*Update*: Never let it be said that the tools of empirical social science are not abused on this website. I decided to see whether my prejudices about the geopolitics of the Eurovision were empirically confirmable. To this end, I dug up data on voting patterns in the Eurovision from 1975 to 1999. (From a B and B in “Stirling”:, too. If only all social science data were this easily available.) Confining ourselves to a group of countries who competed during (almost) all these years, we can aggregate their voting scores into a directed graph representing their preferences for one another’s songs over the years. Given that Eurovision songs are (to a first approximation) uniformly worthless, we can assume that votes express a simple preference for one nation over another, uncomplicated by any aesthetic considerations. We then abuse the tools of network analysis to see how the voting patterns cluster. And to think “Drezner”: got published in “Slate”: for calculating a “correlation coefficient”:

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Alan Gewirth dies

by Chris Bertram on May 13, 2004

The philosopher Alan Gewirth has died, “according to Jacob Levy over at the Volokh conspiracy”: . Like Jacob, I’m astonished to learn that Gewirth was 90 years old. I’ll add obituaries to this post as they appear. “Washington Post”: , “University of Chigago Press Release”: .

India speaks

by Chris Bertram on May 13, 2004

Amid all the bad news, we should celebrate the fact that in the world’s largest democracy “the forces of secularism have triumphed and those of communalism have been defeated”: Congress is far from perfect, but it is a great deal better than the alternative. Sonia Gandhi may well become the world’s best Italian prime minister as a result (not that the competition in that field is all that stiff).

Tragic choice averted

by Chris Bertram on May 13, 2004

Some months ago I bought tickets to this Saturday’s performance of “The Valkyrie at English National Opera”: , having failed to notice that it clashed with “the last day of the football season”: . Not only did it clash, but the first act would begin at half-time. So I faced the prospect of sitting through the incestuous romance of Siegmund and Sieglinde whilst in a state of anxiety about the score at “Anfield”: . Happily, “thanks to”: Southampton third-choice goalkeeper “Alan Blayney”: , I can relax and enjoy myself as nothing now hangs on the Liverpool–Newcastle match. Thanks Alan! Now I only have the club “selling-out to the Thai Prime Minister”: to worry about.

Alex Cora

by Brian on May 13, 2004

I just watched one of the craziest at bats I’ve ever seen in a baseball game. Alex Cora, one of the weakest hitters in baseball, was facing Matt Clement, a pretty good pitcher. After the count ran to 2-1, Cora fouled off 14 consecutive pitches. After the first 7 the commentators were talking about how absurd it was to see all these consecutive foul balls. By 14 they didn’t even have any cliches left. The really surprising thing was that almost all the fouls were close to the lines – hardly any of them went into the stands.

Then on the 18th pitch of the at bat, Alex Cora, in one of the toughest parks to homer in in baseball, hit one into the bullpens beyond right field. Long at bats are fun to watch, but they often end anti-climactically. But Alex Cora hitting a home run, that was a nice ending. I do feel bad for the Cubs fans, because they seem cursed this game, but I’m pretty pleased I got to see something like that.

Bad Apples Also Grow in Afghanistan

by Belle Waring on May 13, 2004

This NYT article about reported abuses in Afghanistan similar to those at Abu Ghraib is worth reading in full. But this in particular struck me, because the US military is frankly admitting to abusive procedures as a matter of policy:

Mr. Siddiqui [a former Afghan police colonel detained by US forces for 22 days] said he was stripped naked and photographed in each of the three places he was held. Sometimes, as in Bagram, it appeared to be part of a detailed identification procedure.

There he was photographed full length, naked, from the front, back and two sides, he said. Something was inserted into his rectum during that procedure, he said, but he does not know what it was or why it was done. “I was feeling very bad,” he said.

General Barno [commander of US forces in Afghanistan] said that this may have been to search for hidden items, but that the practice of strip searches and fully naked identification photographs was being reviewed and changed. “We’re concerned as well about the cultural impact of doing that,” he said.

Oh, you are, are you? How thoughtful. “Fully naked identification photographs”? Is that so we can spot the terrorists when a big group of naked Afghanis come running towards us? “I remember him, strawberry birthmark on the right buttock, dresses left. Take him out, boys.” WTF? WTF!!?? What the hell is happening to my country?