Blog paper

by Henry on July 21, 2004

The paper that Dan Drezner and I have been writing on political blogging is now fit, more or less, for human consumption – it’s available “here”:http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~farrell/blogpaperfinal.pdf. We’re going to present it at APSA where we’re organizing a “panel on blogging”:http://www.apsanet.org/mtgs/program/program.cfm?event=1431368. We’re grateful for comments, suggestions and criticisms – this is only a first draft.

The key arguments of our paper:

(1) Blogging is politically important in large part because it affects mainstream media, and helps set the terms of political debate (in political science jargon, it creates ‘focal points’ and ‘frames’). Note that we don’t provide an exhaustive account of blogs and politics – some aspects of blogging (fundraising for parties, effects on political values in the general public), we don’t have more than anecdotal data on. There’s plenty of room for other people to do interesting research on all of this.

(2) Incoming links in the political blogosphere are systematically skewed, but not according to a “power law” distribution, as “Clay Shirky”:http://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html and others have argued of the blogosphere as a whole. Instead, they follow a lognormal distribution.[1] We reckon that the most likely explanation for this is that offered by “Pennock et al.”:http://modelingtheweb.com/pennock-pnas-2002-weblinks.pdf – they argue that not only do the ‘rich get richer’ (i.e. sites that already have a lot of links tend to get more), but that link-poor sites stand a chance of becoming rich too. Late entrants into the political blogosphere can do well as long as they’re interesting and attract some attention – bad timing isn’t destiny.

(3) Because of the systematic skewedness of the political blogosphere, a few “focal point” sites can provide a rough index of what is going on in the blogosphere – interesting points of view on other sites will often percolate up to them as smaller blogs try to get big blogs to link to them, by informing them of interesting stories. Thus, we may expect that journalists and other media types who read blogs will tend to all gravitate towards a few ‘big name’ bloggers as their way of keeping up with what is going on in the blogosphere as a whole.

fn1. For which we’re grateful to “Cosma Shalizi”:http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/ – when we realized that we weren’t dealing with a power law distribution (the log-log relationship looked dodgily curvilinear), he not only suggested alternative distributions and how to test fit, but actually volunteered to do the tests himself.

Would you cut up a book?

by Eszter Hargittai on July 21, 2004

(I promise to get around to that question in this post, albeit in a somewhat roundabout manner.)

Since Kieran has already reserved the right to ask for $50 bills here, I thought I’d ask for something else. Forget bills, they all look the same anyway. I am looking for something more random. I am still in the midst of unpacking some of my things since my move earlier this year and I recently came across my Absolut vodka ad collection. I haven’t looked at it since college when I began (and ended) gathering all the Absolut ads I could find. I have about seventy. By now there are some helpful Web sites for those of us interested in seeing the types of ads the company has featured. I found a few I had not seen before and would really like to have so I thought I’d see if anyone here can help me out.:) These mostly have to do with ads for places where I have lived (e.g. Budapest, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Texas, Geneva, Switzerland) or visited (Paris, Brussels, Jerusalem, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, St.Louis), but also include some others just because I like them aesthetically speaking or because they are funny. I thought I would find listings on eBay, but I’ve only come across a few there and none of them of interest.

But so what’s this about cutting up a book?

[click to continue…]

Shall We Play A Game?

by Ross Silverman on July 21, 2004

How about global biological war?

  • Late last week, Newt Gingrich testified before the House Government Reform Technology Subcommittee on the public health system’s use of information technology to defend against and respond to terror.
  • Yesterday, Tom Ridge engaged in a tabletop exercise with the nation’s Governors, simulating a biological attack on the United States.
  • This morning, President Bush signed into law S.15, the Project Bioshield Act of 2004, which sets aside billions of dollars for the development and stockpiling of vaccines for bioterrorism agents, such as anthrax and smallpox (a/k/a lots of money to Bush’s Big Pharma Buddies).
  • All this, and anonymous rumors of sock stuffing just hours before the 9/11 commission report comes out! How about that.

    Tabletop exercises and Rose Garden signing ceremonies make for pretty decent special effects, but in the case of bioterrorism preparedness, when you look behind the curtain, it becomes clear that the Administration’s committment has very little brains, heart or courage.

    [click to continue…]

    Pandering to the wrong base

    by Ted on July 21, 2004

    Mr. Bush noted: “The enemy declared war on us. Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president. The next four years will be peaceful years.” He repeated the words “peace” or “peaceful” many times, as he has done increasingly in his recent appearances. (emphasis added)

    A few weeks ago, Kevin Drum asked, just what is it that people who support Bush on security grounds think that Bush will do and Kerry will not? Gregory Djerejian at the Belgravia Dispatch answered, in part:

    To Kevin’s query: “(b)ut does anyone think there are any more wars coming up in the near future?”–I’d answer–we’re in the middle of a war right now….

    There’s, er, a lot going on–and I’m not confident that Kerry a) fully gets the stakes and b) will field a national security team that will be up to the challenge.

    I’ve seen some version of this sentiment on a lot of pro-Bush blogs, and I think that it enjoys a lot of support. But how can it hold if Bush has decided to go around making the ludicrous promise that the next four years will be peaceful?

    Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

    Dem Panic Watch

    by Ted on July 21, 2004

    (Ron Burgundy is off tonight.)

    From Radley Balko:

    If you plug the latest battleground state poll results from Real Clear Politics into the L.A. Times’ handy interactive electoral map, the race right now stands at Kerry 322 and Bush 216.

    Charlie Cook, via Mark Kleiman:

    This race has settled into a place that is not at all good for an incumbent, is remarkably stable, and one that is terrifying many Republican lawmakers, operatives and activists.

    Tony Fabrizio of the Republican polling firm Fabrizio McLaughlin & Associates, via Ryan Lizza:

    Fabrizio found that undecided voters in 2004 are overwhelmingly anti-Bush and pro-Kerry. By almost every criteria they look like Kerry voters, according to the memo…

    As the memo notes, “Clearly, if these undecided voters were leaning any harder against the door of the Kerry camp, they would crash right through it.”

    Ruy Teixeira:

    And in the last four Gallup polls, independents are averaging a 14 point margin against Bush. To make up that deficit, Republicans would have to not only equalize their turnout with Democrats–against historical patterns–but actually beat the Democrats by about 4 points as a proportion of voters.

    I don’t think this is remotely plausible. Such a scenario is only possible with high mobilization of Republicans that is not counterbalanced at all by mobilization of Democrats. That just isn’t going to happen this year (memo to Rove, Dowd and loveable ole Grover: we’re not in 2002 any more); to think it might is a complete fantasy.

    UPDATE: From the Washington Post:

    John F. Kerry and the major Democratic Party committees have collectively outraised their Republican counterparts this year, blunting one of the GOP’s biggest and longest-standing political advantages, new Federal Election Commission reports show.

    For the first time since 1992, the Democratic candidate and the national and congressional fundraising committees combined to outraise their GOP counterparts over a six-month span of an election year, FEC data compiled by The Washington Post found. (emphasis added)

    UN Human Development Report 2004

    by Chris Bertram on July 21, 2004

    Via “Norm”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2004/07/un_human_develo.html , I see that the “United Nations Human Development Report 2004”:http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2004/ is out. Most of “the headline coverage”:http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/europe/07/16/norway.best/index.html is about various country rankings in the Human Development Index. Oil-rich Norway comes top, the US is 8th, the UK 12th, and France has slipped to 16th with Germany down at 19th. But, for the high-income nations, this is not particularly meaningful. As the report warns:

    bq. The HDI in this Report is constructed to compare country achievements across all levels of human development. The indicators currently used in the HDI yield very small differences among the top HDI countries, and thus the top of the HDI rankings often reflects only the very small differences in these underlying indicators. For these high-income countries an alternative index—the human poverty index (shown in indicator table 4 and discussed in Statistical feature 1, The state of human development)—can better reflect the extent of human deprivation that still exists among these populations and help direct the focus of public policies. (p. 138)

    So what rankings (p. 151) do we get for high-income countries on the human poverty index?

    bq. 1 Sweden
    2 Norway
    3 Netherlands
    4 Finland
    5 Denmark
    6 Germany
    7 Luxembourg
    8 France
    9 Spain
    10 Japan
    11 Italy
    12 Canada
    13 Belgium
    14 Australia
    15 United Kingdom
    16 Ireland
    17 United States

    Cold comfort for the advocates of the “anglosphere”, “anglo-saxon capitalism” etc etc. one would have thought. No doubt they’ll be posting shrill comments: “It just isn’t trooo!” etc.

    Ministry of Truth

    by Henry on July 21, 2004

    This bit from a NYT “article”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/19/business/19itunes.html?ex=1247889600&en=448e05e01713ce82&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland on iTunes struck me as a particularly noteworthy example of the regurgitated press-release masquerading as analysis.

    bq. Sometime before the end of the year, Microsoft is expected to begin its push into the music download business. Microsoft will attempt to catch up with Apple by deploying its new Windows technology, called Windows Media Digital Rights Management, that will let users more easily transfer song collections from their personal computers to their portable MP3 players.

    “Freedom is Slavery”:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgeorwe141783.html how are ya. “Media DRM 10”:http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/drm/default.aspx has nothing whatsoever to do with making it easier for users to transfer their song collections, and everything to do with making sure that they don’t do things with their song collections that the record companies wouldn’t like them to do. In other words, it’ll make transferring music harder, not easier – if it makes it easier than it already is, then it’s not doing the job that it’s supposed to do. I suppose that you could make some class of a contorted argument that DRM will make record companies happier to flog tunes for portable players etc etc, but that isn’t what the journalist is saying. Sloppy work.

    Congratulations to Eszter

    by Kieran Healy on July 21, 2004

    My fellow sociologist, former office-mate and CT Comrade-in-Arms “Eszter Hargittai”:http://www.eszter.com has won the “National Communications Association’s”:http://www.natcom.org/default.htm G. R. Miller Outstanding Dissertation Award for _How Wide a Web? Inequalities in Accessing Information Online_.