Refocus on the Family

by Ted on July 2, 2004

Edward at Obsidian Wings points to an ad from Focus on the Family. It contains a large picture of a sad child, and expresses the concern that children raised by gay parents will grow up without both a father and a mother, and encourages readers to contact their senators to support the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Edward points out, quite rationally, that the vast majority of children who don’t have both a mother and a father are in that position because their heterosexual parents have split up, or never were together. If being raised by both a male and female parent is important enough to change the Constitution, surely it’s important enough to ban divorce.

A few questions remain…

[click to continue…]

Laura at “Apartment 11d”:http://apartment11d.blogspot.com/2004_06_01_apartment11d_archive.html#108847109152995261 posts on the blogosphere as a space for debate:

bq. is the blogosphere a public space, like the New England townhall meeting? Is it a place where individuals can debate ideas and policy proposals and have some impact on political officials?

Perhaps it should be neither. The most attractive ideal for the blogosphere that I’ve come across is in sociologist Richard Sennett’s brilliant, frustrating shaggy-dog of a book, “The Fall of Public Man”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393308790/henryfarrell-20. Sennett is writing about the eighteenth century coffee-house as a place where people could escape from their private lives, reinventing themselves, and engaging in good conversation with others, regardless of their background or their everyday selves. They could assume new identities, try out novel arguments usw. This kind of polity doesn’t so much conduct towards a shared consensus, as allow the kinds of diversity and plurality that Iris Marion Young (who’s heavily influenced by Sennett) talks about in “Justice and the Politics of Difference”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691023158/henryfarrell-20.

I’m quite sure that eighteenth century coffee houses weren’t actually like that (unless you were bourgeois and male) – but Sennett’s arguments are still helpful in understanding how the blogosphere differs from a New England townhall. Like Sennett’s patronizers of coffee shops, bloggers don’t usually know each other before they start blogging, so that it’s quite easy for them to reinvent themselves if they like, and indeed to invent a pseudonym, or pseudonyms to disguise their real identity completely. This has its downside – “some bloggers”:http://apartment11d.blogspot.com/2004_06_01_apartment11d_archive.html#108854101450715172 take it as license for offensive behaviour – but in general, if you don’t like a blog, you can simply stop reading it, or linking to it. The blogosphere seems less to me like a close-knit community (there isn’t much in the way of shared values, and only a bare minimum of shared norms), and more like a city neighborhood. An active, vibrant neighborhood when things are working; one with dog-turds littering the pavement when they’re not.

The wrong man

by Ted on July 2, 2004

A Florida Division of Elections database lists more than 47,000 people the department said may be ineligible to vote because of felony records. The state is directing local elections offices to check the list and scrub felons from voter rolls.

But a Herald review shows that at least 2,119 of those names — including 547 in South Florida — shouldn’t be on the list because their rights to vote were formally restored through the state’s clemency process….

State elections officials acknowledge there may be mistakes on the list but insist they have built in safeguards to make sure eligible voters are not removed by local election offices. They say they have warned election offices to be diligent before eliminating voters, and have flagged possible cases in which voters on the list may have regained their rights….

Of the 2,119 people who obtained clemency, 62 percent are registered Democrats, and almost half are black. Less than 20 percent are Republican. Those ratios are very close to the same in the list of 47,000 voters who the local elections officers are supposed to review and possibly purge from the registration rolls.

As it turns out, justice delayed is, in fact, justice denied. The list was released yesterday, and the Miami Herald has already found this. I feel a case of the shrill coming on.

Via Body and Soul.

Who dares question the great OZ?

by Ted on July 2, 2004

The White House has contacted the Irish Embassy to complain about the Irish journalist, Carole Coleman, who interviewed President Bush last week. (via Radley Balko)

“‘The White House rang Thursday evening,'” said Irish embassy spokeswoman Síghle Dougherty. ‘They were concerned over the number of interruptions and that they thought the president was not given an opportunity to respond to the questions.'”

Said Dougherty: “They were mostly troubled by what they said was the way the president was ‘talked over.’ “

I’d imagine that most regular blog readers are aware of this interview. (Here’s the transcript; here’s the video, starting around 15:00.) You can judge for yourself about whether Bush was given the opportunity to respond to questions.

She asked tough questions about the mounting death toll in Iraq, the failure of U.S. planning, and European opposition to the invasion and occupation. And when the president offered the sort of empty and listless “answers” that satisfy the White House press corps – at one point, he mumbled, “My job is to do my job” – she tried to get him focused by asking precise follow-up questions.

The president complained five times during the course of the interview about the pointed nature of Coleman’s questions and follow-ups – “Please, please, please, for a minute, OK?” the hapless Bush pleaded at one point, as he demanded his questioner go easy on him.

A few questions:

1. What the hell is the Irish embassy supposed to do about it?
2. Why would the White House decide that the benefits of this action possibly outweigh the negatives involved in keeping the story alive?
3. … unless this supposed to be a warning shot at the American press,letting them know that the President is not to be the subject of serious interviews?
4. Will the press be so cowardly as to play along?

There’s this sense of how dare you question them. And that is the thing that I almost find more appalling than the decisions that they make. Because I can accept incompetence, but I cannot accept self-righteous incompetence.

Jon Stewart

UPDATE: Jesse Walker has more, and the Poor Man does a good job of summarizing the general issue.

ANOTHER UPDATE: One of my betters has more on this. Thanks to antirealist.

Anthony Buckeridge

by Harry on July 2, 2004

I only noticed this thanks to a comment from otto below, but Anthony Buckeridge, author of the Jennings books, died on June 28th, aged 92. He received a very belated OBE a few years ago, of which I know he was very proud. There are two obituaries here and here. The books, mysteriously, went out of print about a decade ago, but have come back into print recently. You can even get the scripts for the radio plays (but not, of course, the audio, which the BBC has almost certainly lost) at David Shutte books. As a kid I would wait impatiently for the opportunity to go to the bookshop in Aylesbury and then look longingly at the shelf of Jennings books thinking about which to buy next. They are, as the Guardian obit says, brilliant:

bq. Buckeridge wrote carefully and well, and often with style; each hilarious episode takes the narrative forward with an expertise usually associated with more famous authors – it is no coincidence that PG Wodehouse was one of Buckeridge’s literary heroes. He may have written about a more innocent, decent and ordered world than our own, but the essential character of a young boy remains as true today as it was 50 years ago.

I’ve been reading them aloud recently to my 7 year old daughter who, despite being an American gurl, is rivetted by them, as she should be. Timeless classics. And Buckeridge was always one of us, as Mrs Thatcher would have said. Only not one of her one of us, if you see what I mean.

Those who would like to express condolences to Mrs Buckeridge should send them to this address:

Mrs Buckeridge
c/o David Shutte,
‘Waterside’ 119 Sussex Road
PETERSFIELD : Hampshire : GU31 4LB, UK.

Beethoven sonatas online

by Chris Bertram on July 2, 2004

The BBC has made “Artur Pizzaro’s complete Beethoven sonatas”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/classical/pizarro/ available online, together with interview, critical notes etc. Fantastic!

Double standards

by Chris Bertram on July 2, 2004

I see that the “Poor Man already covered this”:http://www.thepoorman.net/archives/002866.html . No matter, it is worth the repetition. “Krugman on responses to Farenheit 9/11”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/02/opinion/02KRUG.html :

bq. There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration’s use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?

Adapted to Reality?

by Kieran Healy on July 2, 2004

Brian has already “critiqued Christopher Peacocke’s argument”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002108.html#comments that a belief in our capacity to accurately represent the the external world is justifiable _a priori_ by appeal to the mechanism of natural selection. Accurate representations of the world are selected for, so (Brian summarizes) “we probably get basic things right most of the time.”

Brian’s the philosopher, so he’s better able than me to spot the big problems in the argument. (He was selected by graduate school for this.) An additional one strikes me. Elsewhere in the world of arguments from natural selection we find arguments that practices like religion or a belief in God are also fitness-enhancing for a whole bunch of reasons and thus likely to be selected for. But the people who make these arguments do so to explain why religious beliefs are useful fictions, not to show that they therefore accurately represent facts about the world. So while Peacocke’s argument seems plausible as long as we restrict ourselves to the contemplation of tables, contemplation of the varieties of religious experience seems to cause him some problems. Of course, you can say that while accurate representations of the world are selected for in the case of the perception of tables, inaccurate representations are selected in the case of perception of divine entities. But then “basic things” and “most of the time” start to do an awful lot of work in the argument, distinguishing what we get right from what we get wrong starts to look much harder, and the seemingly elegant _a priori_ bridge effected between reality and representation by means of natural selection seems shaky. That’s the problem with arguments from adaptation. They’re a bit too adaptable.

The women Prospect left out

by Chris Bertram on July 2, 2004

“The Guardian has reacted”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/gender/story/0,11812,1252410,00.html to the sex imbalance of Prospect’s list of 100 “British” public intellectuals (“previously discussed here”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002069.html) , with a list of women whom they might have included.

The Republican case for inflation

by John Quiggin on July 2, 2004

In keeping with the CT tradition of bringing you tomorrow’s talking points today, I thought I’d look a bit further than the current election campaign and consider the implications of a Bush victory. On past form, there’s no reason to suppose that a second term will lead Bush to abandon his tax cuts, or to propose any significant net reduction in expenditure. At least not when there’s an obvious alternative, that only a few shrill Democrat economists and some incredibly out-of-date Republicans would ever object to. The US government has at its disposal and endless source of costless wealth – the printing press that turns out US dollars. Hence there’s no need to do anything tough like raising taxes or cutting Socil Security benefits. The only problem is that, according to some economists, reliance on the printing press as a source of government finance is likely to cause inflation.

As a first line of defence, the views of these economists can be criticised. There are plenty of Keynesian critics of monetarism who’ve pointed out that there’s no simple or automatic relationship between the money supply and the rate of inflation, and probably there are some who’ve been incautious enough to deny that there is any relationship at all. In any case, in the new era, the dynamism of the US economy is such that everyone wants to buy US dollars as fast as the Treasury can print them (ignore any recent observations on currency markets that might suggest otherwise).

Still, these are only delaying tactics. What will really be needed is a set of talking points showing that inflation (properly referred to as price appreciation or something similarly positive) is actually a good thing. In the hope of bringing the debate forward a bit, I’ve advanced a few.

[click to continue…]

How Not to Be a Darwinist

by Brian on July 2, 2004

I’ve been reading Christopher Peacocke’s “The Realm of Reason”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0199270724/caoineorg-20?creative=125581&camp=2321&link_code=as1, and I was rather struck by one of the moves in it. Unless I’ve really badly misinterpreted what he says in Chapter 3, he thinks you can come to justifiably believe in, and perhaps even know the truth of, theories of natural selection by looking really hard at a kitchen table and reflecting on what you’re doing.

[click to continue…]

Public Sociologists

by Kieran Healy on July 2, 2004

I agree with Brayden. In a year when the theme of the ASA’s annual meeting is “Public Sociologies”:http://www.asanet.org/convention/2004/themhome.html, it’s appropriate that the winner of the ASA’s dissertation award is a “Blogger”:http://brokengoalie.typepad.com/kickasswomen/2004/07/brian_g_kicks_a.html. Congratulations to “Brian Gifford”:http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~hptp/rwjf_scholars.htm#BG and also co-winner “Greta Krippner”:http://www.soc.ucla.edu/faculty.php?lid=2399&display_one=1.

Rabies via Organ Transplant

by Kieran Healy on July 2, 2004

The Centers for Disease Control report that “three people have died from rabies”:http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r040701.htm contracted after receiving transplants that originated with the same donor. The donors lungs, liver and kidneys were recovered. The lung recipient died during the transplant of unrelated causes. The recipients of both kidneys and the liver died of rabies. In their “more detailed investigation”:http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm53d701a1.htm of the events, the CDC report that the donor

bq. as an Arkansas man who visited two hospitals in Texas with severe mental status changes and a low-grade fever. Neurologic imaging indicated findings consistent with a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which expanded rapidly in the 48 hours after admission, leading to cerebral herniation and death.

Rabies has about a three-week incubation period, and the three surviving recipients were re-admitted to hospital between 21 and 27 days after their transplants, where they died. Regular readers of CT know that one of my main “research interests”:http://www.u.arizona.edu/~kjhealy/vita.php3 has been the social organization of exchange in human blood and organs. In particular, I’ve looked at how the logistical underpinnings of the procurement system “drive variation”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/files/drafts/alt-org.pdf in rates of donation, and argued that it’s a mistake to frame the debate about organ donation in terms of stylized images of givers versus sellers. In other words, whether the process is industrialized matters more than whether it is commodified. Often, it’s only in tragic cases like this that this logistical aspect is brought to light. Of course, that doesn’t mean I think highly rationalized organizational systems are a necessarily a bad thing. Just take the CDC itself, and its remarkable “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”:http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/, which tracks what people are dying from this week in the United States. The MMWR was where the earliest signs of the size of the “HIV disaster”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/files/papers/ts.pdf became apparent to the epidemiologists, though alas not to the blood banks or the Reagan administration.