From the monthly archives:

June 2004

According to the blog Non Prophet, James Dobson’s socially conservative activist group, Focus on the Family, has included Michael Moore’s home address in their daily email to supporters.

What legitimate purpose could this possibly serve? What have Moore’s neighbors, wife and daughter done to merit the danger that FOTF have foolishly put them in? Simply disgusting.

UPDATE: Several commentors have noted that this hasn’t been independently confirmed, which is fair. I’m calling Focus on the Family this morning to see if they can confirm or deny it; stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This is for real. I’ve just spoken to a representative of Focus on the Family who has confirmed that Focus on the Family did, indeed, give out Moore’s home address. The person that I spoke to didn’t want to be quoted. I’ve asked the media relations department to see if they have any comment that they are willing to make, and I’ll update with any comment that they have.

Jacob speak, you listen

by Ted on June 30, 2004

Jacob Levy is doing an admirable job (here, too) of trying to answer the question: Did the Administration veto plans to attack the terrorist Zarqawi, or his base in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, prior to the beginning of Gulf War II, because the presence of a genuine terrorist in Iraq was too useful for their case to give up?

It seemed too dark to believe at the time. If there’s any reason not to believe it, I’m sure that Levy will get to it. So far, he hasn’t.

New book on Social Inequality

by Eszter Hargittai on June 30, 2004

Shameless plug: there is a new book out on Social Inequality edited by Kathryn Neckerman and published by the Russell Sage Foundation. The volume brings together recent research from the various social sciences on the topic of social stratification. I am often frustrated by how common it is for researchers to ignore papers by others on topics relevant to their work simply – or so it seems – because the researchers are in other fields. One nice aspect of this volume is that it features research by sociologists, political scientists, economists and demographers alike. The shameless plug has to do with the fact that I co-authored (with Paul DiMaggio, Coral Celeste and Steven Shafer) one of the chapters called “Digital Inequality: From Unequal Access to Differentiated Use”.

[click to continue…]

Science and the Arts

by Henry on June 30, 2004

From Mike “M. John.” Harrison:

bq. The difference between Berkeleyism and superstrings is that the latter will eventually test out or be chucked on the rubbish heap of ideas that looked good but weren’t good. The project of science differentiates itself from the projects of philosophy or religion, or even politics, precisely by the size of its rubbish heap.

Discuss.

Like living with a six-year-old

by Ted on June 30, 2004

PETER: I, uh, I don’t like my job. I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.
JOANNA: You’re just not gonna go?
PETER: Yeah.
JOANNA: Won’t you get fired?
PETER: I don’t know. But I really don’t like it so I’m not gonna go…
JOANNA: So what are you going to do about money and bills?
PETER: Y’know, I never really liked paying bills? I don’t think I’ll do that either.

Source: Republican Party Platform

How much room for compromise is there with the legions who lose their minds when they hear this:

Many of you are well enough off that … the tax cuts may have helped you,” Sen. Clinton said. “We’re saying that for America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

For this, she’s called a Marxist. Excuse me, but isn’t “taking things away from you on behalf of the common good” an unflowery but straightforward description of taxation? I don’t see why this description should be remotely controversial. I don’t like paying taxes either, but what, exactly, is the other option? Is anarcho-libertarianism on the ballot?

[click to continue…]

Unfondly Fahrenheit

by Henry on June 30, 2004

I saw _Fahrenheit 9/11_ last night, and like “Kevin Drum”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2004_06/004229.php, wasn’t greatly impressed. Not because it was one-sided or took cheap shots – in fact the cheap shots were pretty good (at least the funny ones were). The problem was that the movie’s underlying premises were completely incoherent and padded out with some pretty weak speculation. There were several conspiracy theories jostling for room – Bush as tool of American big business, Bush as catspaw of Saudi oil interests, Bush as lackey of the security establishment, Bush as cigarette industry flunkey, Bush as dimwitted doofus, and so on. While they weren’t incompatible, precisely, there wasn’t much of an effort to draw them together, or, in most cases to provide real evidence to back them up. The footage, all in all, was vastly more entertaining (and sometimes enlightening) than Michael Moore’s commentary on it.

There’s a real story to be told about how Bush took a country to war on mostly bogus premisses; while bits of that story did come out here and there in the movie, they didn’t properly connect, because the whole was so shoddily put together. As Kevin says, _Fahrenheit 9/11_ uses innuendo to connect Bush and the Saudis in just the same way that Bush himself used innuendo to connect Iraq and al Qaeda. It reminded me still more of Glenn Reynolds’ blogging – the same weird blend of weakly sourced conspiracy theories and gross political prejudices. I still reckon that the lead-up to the Iraq war deserves a good, savage, biting, funny documentary – but it should be made by someone who’s more honest and intelligent than Michael Moore.

Chucking your grass-cuttings over the fence

by Daniel on June 30, 2004

Daniel Drezner is busy having his head turned by a book called “The Power of Productivity”, written by someone who used to run the McKinsey Global Institute. I have a number of horses in this race in the form of personal prejudices:

1. “Productivity” is almost always used in economic rhetoric in contexts in which it is, quite strictly, meaningless.
2. The McKinsey organisation has a record as lang’s yer arm when it comes to taking uses of the word productivity from one context (specifically, the context of flogging management consultancy services) and trying to apply them in another (specifically, the making of windy public policy pronouncements).
3. The belief that the collection of lots of anecdotes from individual industries creates a “pointillist picture” which is a substitute for general equilibrium analysis is one which has been the source of large amounts of avoidable error in the past.

And a quick glance at Drezner’s review reveals that this book looks like a fine example of the genre (for example, it appears to be pushing the line that “services” generate “much less pollution than manufacturing”, in which context I note that waste management, airlines, and road freight are all services).

But for the time being, I’m only interested in one particular point on the picture which has been bugging me for a while; the idolatry of Walmart.

[click to continue…]

In Order to Destroy the Village, We had to Sue it

by Kieran Healy on June 30, 2004

Eugene Volokh gravely considers the danger that a number of people designated by the government as enemy combatants — or rather, a number of Al Qaeda agents, or rather, 50,000 “alleged enemy soliders”:http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2004_06_28.shtml#1088468085 of some foreign power — might avail of “Rasul v Bush”:http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/terrorism/rasulbush021902pet.html and file an avalanche of habeas corpus writs claiming they aren’t really enemy soldiers.[1] Thus, he fears, one of the fundamental tenets of the rule of law, affirmed this week by the Supreme Court, becomes a _deadly weapon in the hands of our litigious enemies_. I see a mini-series, _Stalag Law_, set in the not-too-distant future. In a nation suffocated by _habeas_ writs inappropriately filed by malicious captured soldiers from their hotel-like detention centers, a tiny remnant of the 82nd Airborne Paralegal Division fights to clear the appalling backlog of cases …

“Brad DeLong”:http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004_archives/001109.html and (more appropriately) the “Medium Lobster”:http://fafblog.blogspot.com/2004_06_27_fafblog_archive.html#108855830432918424 have already given this the treatment it deserves. I just want to add that this is the same Eugene Volokh who “declared himself unwilling”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002017.html to discuss the topic of actual lawyers employed by an actual government of the United States searching for a “legal rationalization”:http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=04%2F06%2F07%2F0988582 for actual “torture”:http://www.discourse.net/archives/2004/06/apologia_pro_tormento_analyzing_the_first_56_pages_of_the_walker_working_group_report_aka_the_torture_memo.html that members of that administration actually authorized. Look, “like I said”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002017.html, blog about whatever you want. But here’s a hypo for you: Let’s say that you’re a respected legal scholar with “strong”:http://www1.law.ucla.edu/~volokh/#GUNCONTROL “interests”:http://www1.law.ucla.edu/~volokh/#RELIGION in the “protection”:http://www1.law.ucla.edu/~volokh/#SPEECH of individual freedoms from the dead hand of the state. And let’s say that your government is found to have tortured people. And let’s say that its lawyers produce threadbare rationalizations saying that’s no big deal. And let’s say that in response you avoid the topic because it’s disgusting and because “if I had a choice in how to invest my scarce time, I’d rather not invest it here.” And let’s say that, instead, you choose to focus on the possibility that a captured foreign army might sue its way to victory within the U.S. courts. What conclusions might your readers draw given such (admittedly far-fetched) circumstances?

fn1. “Your honor, I swear, I have no idea why all 50,000 of us are dressed in similar uniforms.”

Dear Ralph

by Eszter Hargittai on June 30, 2004

Please get out of the presidential race.

Visit the site to support one of Nader’s causes if he leaves the race. If he doesn’t, the contributions will be diverted to organizations working directly to defeat Bush (you choose from five options).

On Sovereignty

by Daniel on June 30, 2004

This question comes via Rob Schaap and a letter to the Guardian, but it’s an issue on which I have a sorta-kinda claim to first publication.

The issue is this; does the current “sovereign” Iraqi government have sufficient sovereignty to enter into financial contracts which would be considered binding on future Iraqi governments? In particular, does it have the power to sell state assets, to allocate telecommunications licenses and to incur debts? And if it does, then given that it is not a democratically elected government, but one appointed by two countries (the US and the UK) with substantial economic interests in Iraq, is this not something of a scandal? I’d be very grateful if any readers who know more about Iraq than me could shed some light on this one.

Heimat soon out on DVD

by Chris Bertram on June 30, 2004

Good news. I posted a few weeks ago about the availability of Edgar Reitz’s “Heimat on DVD”:http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000284A56/junius-21 and I’ve just found out that Tartan will be releasing it in the UK in August (Region 2 only, though). As some CT readers may have noticed, I’ve been watching rather a lot of German films recently. I’m getting somewhat depressed, though, by the fact that, though German cinema had a golden age in the 1970s and 80s, the last twenty years have seen a sharp decline in quality. Some directors are dead, of course, and others have taken to producing films in English for Hollywood. My local rental shop, which has “a very extensive range”:http://www.20thcenturyflicks.co.uk/ , has shelves and shelves of French, Italian and Japanese films on DVD but I’ve more or less watched my way through their German holdings. They have some more in store, but mainly on fading VHS tape since there has been no DVD release (at least in Europe). I’d like to think that this is just my perception and that there’s a treasure trove of recent German cinema that I’ve not discovered yet.

Line of the week

by Henry on June 29, 2004

The line of the week comes from “Scott McLemee”:http://www.mclemee.com/id4.html; I’ve put it beneath the fold to avoid trampling on the sensibilities of especially delicate CT readers.

[click to continue…]

Turkey and the European Union

by Henry on June 28, 2004

Jacques Chirac “lambasted”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3848045.stm George W. Bush today for suggesting that Turkey should become a member of the European Union. It’s no secret that the French government would prefer, all things considered, that Turkey not become a member of the European Union, or that a fair swathe of political opinion in other powerful EU member states (such as Germany) is at best luke-warm towards the prospect. Nonetheless, if I were a betting man, I’d lay strong odds on Turkey getting the official nod as a candidate for EU membership before Christmas, and becoming a full member seven or eight years after that.

In theory, any one member state can block Turkey’s membership – new entrants to the EU require unanimous consent from all existing members. In practice, even member states that are hostile to Turkey’s candidacy, such as France, have enormous difficulty in articulating their hostility in public. And for good reason – their objections to Turkey are rooted in some pretty offensive notions about what ‘Europe’ should be (Christian, white). Whenever anyone tries to voice these opinions, they’re liable to get “blasted from all sides”:http://www.euobserver.com/index.phtml?aid=8324. The result is that the opponents of Turkey’s candidacy find it difficult to justify their stance in public – therefore, they’re liable to find themselves being herded into giving their tacit assent to a decision that they would ideally prefer to oppose.

It’s an interesting case-study for international relations theory. As Frank Schimmelfennig observed in his case study of the EU’s earlier enlargement into Central and Eastern Europe, this sort of phenomenon demonstrates the limits of realist theory. Powerful states such as France may find it difficult, or even impossible, to act upon their preferences if they can’t justify their actions with reference to prevailing community norms. It could also have quite profound consequences for international politics. The prospect of EU membership has already demonstrably pushed Turkey into greater respect for civil rights, and a weakened political role for the military. Expect this to continue, and indeed accelerate if Turkey becomes a full member of the EU, just as it did in Spain, Portugal and Greece. And as “John Quiggin”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001356.html said a few months back, a prosperous, stable, fully democratic Turkey within the EU could do wonders for the prospects of democracy in other countries in the same region.

Rawlsian humility

by Chris Bertram on June 28, 2004

“Matthew Yglesias on John Rawls”:http://www.matthewyglesias.com/archives/week_2004_06_20.html#003637 :

bq. A Theory of Justice is a brilliant work in many ways, but it’s also — quite obviously — wrong in a number of ways and employs a variety of arguments that are pretty dubious. Any undergraduate can see this, and dozens — if not hundreds — do so every semester. Now it seems to me that a slightly more scrupulous philosopher might have looked at the manuscript and said to himself, “this is a very interesting argument I’m putting together here, but it doesn’t quite work. Better keep on revising.” But instead Rawls put his thought-provoking work out there in the press, attracting decades worth of criticisms, counter-criticisms, suggestions for improvement, and so forth, thus becoming the major figure in postwar political philosophy.

Someone who all accounts agree was a deeply serious, thinker who cared most of all about getting it right (“scrupulous”), is thus dismissed by a blogger as a careless promoter of his own reputation. Contrast John Rawls on reading the history of philosophy:

bq. I always too for granted that the writers we were studying were much smarter than I was. If they were not, why was I wasting my time and the students’ time by studying them? If I saw a mistake in their arguments, I supposed those writers saw it too and must have dealt with it. But where? I looked for their way out, not mine. Sometimes their way out was historical: in their day the question need not be raised, or wouldn’t arise and so couldn’t then be fruitfully discussed. Or there was a part of the text I had overlooked, or had not read. I assumed there were never plain mistakes, not ones that mattered anyway. (“Lectures on the History of Philosophy”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0674004426/junius-20 , p. xvi)

Since my own copy of the first edition of “A Theory of Justice”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0674000781/junius-20 is peppered with silly undergraduate marginal sneers, I shouldn’t be too hard on Yglesias. What of Brad DeLong, though, “who responds approvingly”:http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004_archives/001093.html to Yglesias’s comments by suggesting that David Hume’s Of the Original Contract constitutes an _avant la lettre_ refutation of Rawls? DeLong reveals nothing but his own catastropic misunderstanding (as a number of his commenters point out).

Once again, we must turn to Fafblog for thoughtful political analysis. Giblets considers the various Democratic vice-presidential contenders:

Dick Gephardt. Gephardt would have an amazing pull with loser voters, voters who like losing the House to opposing parties, voters who have a long history of being supported by decrepit and dying labor institutions in failing political campaigns, just people who generally like to lose. He could swing loser states, such as Wyoming or Rhode Island, or put states with a large loser population, such as Nevada or Alabama, into play. The upside to having a Kerry-Gephardt ticket is it would take all those people who go into shock in the voting booth thinkin’ “Oh dear god we nominated Kerry?!” and push them just far enough over the edge with “Oh dear god we nominated Kerry and Gephardt?!” that it would sort of jar them into a feeling of complacent somnambulism that would render them susceptible to voting for Kerry-Gephardt anyway. The downside to this is that such a hypthetical waking sleepstate could also get them to vote for Nader.

This is so, so very true. I’m afraid we must all bow down before the superior nous of Giblets. Gephardt? Gephardt??!! Please, God, don’t let the Democratic party snatch certain defeat from the jaws of potential victory by choosing Dick Gephardt as the VP candidate. Pleasepleaseplease. Anybody but Gephardt. If the DP makes me cast a vote for a Kerry/Gephardt ticket I’m going to…well, crap, just put out like a straight-ticket ho. They could put a can of processed cheese food on the ballot against Bush, and I would vote for it. But I’m not going to enjoy it! And no ticket with Gephardt on it is going to win, ever in a million years! How can this blindingly obvious fact be so clear to Giblets yet obscure to Kerry? Maybe they are just toying with us. Maybe. Then when they pick Vilsack, instead of saying, “who the hell?” we will all just be so grateful they didn’t pick Gephardt that we’ll get all fired up, like, “Hey, that Vilsack, he sure does…have a lot of consonants in his name! Frickin’ awesome!”