Dealing with the Parliament

by Henry on June 21, 2004

If you believe the conventional wisdom in transatlantic policy circles, a Kerry administration won’t make much difference to EU-US relations. Kerry would differ from Bush more on style than on substance: Europe and the US would still be divided on the important security and economic issues. Whether this argument is true or not (personally, I’m dubious), the transatlantic relationship is likely to enter a period of turmoil regardless of who occupies the White House. The reason: the increasing interest and involvement of the European Parliament in international affairs.

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Bargains at Night Shade Books

by Henry on June 21, 2004

“Night Shade Books”:http://www.nightshadebooks.com/index.html, one of the best small press publishers around, is running a special offer until midnight tomorrow – order three or more of their books, and you’ll get a discount of 50%. I’d especially recommend M. John Harrison’s extraordinary novel, The Course of the Heart, and his short story collection, “Things that Never Happen”:http://www.nightshadebooks.com/harrison.html, which I’ve “blogged about”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000322.html previously; NSB has also done very nice reprints of Dunsany’s “Jorkens stories”:http://www.nightshadebooks.com/dunsany.html.

Are private schools charities?

by Harry on June 21, 2004

An interesting think piece from Mike Baker, the BBC’s always interesting Education correpondent (for some reason the BBC insists on having a correspondent in place for many years so that he actually knows something about his topic, I can’t think why). The (UK) government is proposing a bill on which private schools might have to do something charitable in order to earn charitable status (which, as Baker implies, basically operates as a subsidy to parents who would simply find more money for the higher fees if charitable status were removed). Currently the main charitable activities of private schools are inexpensively making some facilities available to the wider community and providing scholarships to children many of whose parents could already afford the fees, and who are selected on the basis of ability (so that their presence is a benefit, not a cost, to the full-fee-paying children).

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Ahead of next week’s federal election in Canada, Michael Geist has a revealing piece in today’s Toronto Star that compares the positions on Internet/technology issues of the main Canadian parties. The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa and Digital Copyright Canada surveyed the Liberals, NDP, Conservatives and Greens on their views on IP protection, file-sharing, open source, identity cards and use of Internet materials in education. The results are not what a classic right-left divide might predict.

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Crooked Timber’s Greatest Hits

by Kieran Healy on June 21, 2004

In the course of the recent “great database fiasco”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002042.html, I took a look at the history of traffic to this site. The AWStats program gave me a the number of unique visitors for every day from our launch last July through to June 16th this year. I was interested in which posts had made the biggest splashes. Now, if I just looked at the posts that got the greatest number of visitors, there would be a bias towards posts from later in the year, because we get far more visitors these days than six or ten months ago. How can we get a fair estimate?

It’s possible to statistically “decompose”:http://www.jos.nu/Articles/abstract.asp?article=613 a time series into three components. First, there’s the _seasonal_ component: in this case, it’s the regular ups and downs caused by what day of the week it is. Generally, traffic will dip every weekend, regardless of how many visitors we’re getting on average. The average number of visitors from week to week net of the seasonal ups and downs is the second, _trend_ component. This has grown consistently over the year. And finally there’s the _remainder_ or “irregular” component, which is whatever spikes and dips are left over once seasonal fluctuations and the underlying trend are accounted for.

The nice picture above shows CT’s unique daily visitor series decomposed in this way, with the raw data at the top and the three components underneath. (You can also get this figure as a “higher quality PDF file”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/files/misc/ct-decomposition.pdf [only 34k].) As you can see, the trend is one of healthy growth. These days we typically get about seven to nine thousand unique visitors a day. But what about those spikes in the lowest panel? Which posts brought in the crowds? *Read on* for the Top 10 list. The punchline is that, even though we’re known for being a bunch of “pointy-headed academics”:http://www.matthewyglesias.com/archives/week_2004_01_25.html#002424, the out-of-the-ballpark hitters on our roster are not the ones with Ph.Ds.

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Choosing the Commission’s President

by Henry on June 21, 2004

It’s looking “increasingly likely”:http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/front/2004/0621/1882121801HM1LEAD.html that Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach (i.e. Prime Minister) of Ireland will become the next Commission President. This is a mixed bag. On the one hand, Ahern is a very skilled politician and dealmaker. He played a blinder on the negotiations of the EU’s draft constitution, managing to build a real consensus on top of some very shaky foundations. The contrast with his immediate predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, is substantial – Berlusconi seemed to be more interested in reviving his career as a piano-bar crooner than in actually negotiating (more on this soon). On the other, nobody has ever accused Ahern of having much in the way of a political vision. Arguably, he’s the wrong man for the job – the Commission is supposed to deliver on policy implementation, while driving the EU’s legislative agenda. Ahern is neither an administrator nor a visionary – his very real political skills aren’t the skills that a Commissioner needs to have. My preference would have been either Chris Patten (who Maria also likes – a decent right-winger, who knows how to call a spade a spade) if the member states had wanted someone to galvanize the Commission’s political activities, or Antonio Vittorino if they’d wanted a technocrat to run it well. If Ahern does get the job, I suspect that he’s going to be another in an increasingly long line of mediocre Commission Presidents.

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

by Henry on June 21, 2004

I’ve spent the last few hours doing something that I’ve meant to do for months; going through the academic blogroll to see what updates and changes need to be made. I’ve marked blogs which haven’t been updated in several months as ‘moribund.’ Those which I’m not sure about, I’ve added a question mark to. Some, which seem to have disappeared entirely, I’ve removed from the blogroll. These include “Chun the Unavoidable,” who I’m sort of sorry to see go – the _Invisible Adjunct_ once remarked that he took trolling to a higher level, and I reckon that’s about right. On the other hand, it’s nice to see that “Jeff Cooper”:http://www.jeffcoop.com/blog/ is back – and with what appears to be good news.

I’m sure that there are still some inaccuracies in the blogroll – feel free to let me know, either by comments or by email. Also, I know that I’ve missed out on some new academics in the blogosphere during my month of travelling; if you want to be in the academic blogroll, and meet the “criteria”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000273.html send me an email.

This is an Outrage

by Kieran Healy on June 21, 2004

It turns out that not “one”:http://www.schussman.com/article/771/gadget-mail but two of my students now have “Gmail”:http://gmail.google.com/ accounts and I — I, what sits on their dissertation committees! I what gives them papers to grade! — do not. Appalling. I am investigating whether I can become a co-author on both of their Gmail accounts despite having done nothing to get one of my own. There’s a lot of precedent for that kind of thing.

*Update*: Well, that didn’t take long. Two readers generously emailed with invitations: “Alex Halavais”:http://alex.halavais.net/news/ was first, so I took up his offer. Thanks very much, Alex and “Brad”:http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/. For my next trick I will publicly sulk about not having enough $50 bills.