Redistricting

by Brian on September 20, 2004

“Kevin”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2004_09/004738.php and “Matt”:http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2004/09/gerrymandering.html are talking redistricting, with Matt favouring proportional representation on the grounds that it would introduce intraparty competition into American politics. This is rather odd – it’s only been a few months since the Presidential primaries, which are the most vigorously and open contested intraparty political fights in the world outside of the New South Wales Labor Party. And any experience with internal Labor (or Labour) Party fights does not immediately make one think it would make the world a better place to expand that kind of fighting.

But I didn’t want to make a substantive proposal, just ask a procedural question. To the best of my knowledge there are only two classes of country where the electoral system, from drawing boundaries to determining ballot order to deciding whether there will be recounts and so on, is run by partisan appointees.

bq. Class One: China, Cuba, etc., i.e. countries where it is known in advance how the results will turn out.
Class Two: The United States of America (with the honourable exception of Iowa).

Are there any other countries in Class Two, or is America unique in being a democracy where one of the prizes of victory is getting to be the umpire next time the game is played?

Sadr sharia courts – information request

by Daniel on September 20, 2004

We’ve posted on this one before, but I’m a believer in the vital importance of audit. And it is troubling me somewhat that in carrying out my audit, I cannot find any news reports about atrocities committed by the Sadrists during their period of control of Najaf, which are dated later than 28 August, the day after the siege ended. Reports filed during the course of fast-moving events are often unreliable, and it strikes me as odd that there has been no follow-through at all on this story. Could anyone steer me in the direction of any more information, or is there some obvious reason I’m missing?

More on Positional Goods

by Harry on September 20, 2004

The posts on positional goods give me a lame excuse to link to a paper Adam Swift and I have recently posted on the Equality Exchange. The paper tries to think through the significance of positional goods for distributive principles. Here’s the abstract, in case you want to look any further. Comments welcome (though I don’t promise to respond on the thread, and if comments are really substantive you might want just to email me or Adam).

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Grass in the clouds

by Chris Bertram on September 20, 2004

bq. “If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.”

The “BBC reports”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/3673568.stm that “Brian Clough”:http://www.brianclough.com/ has died. A sad loss after a sad decline. But his “achievements”:http://www.brianclough.com/new_page_4.htm — including back-to-back European Cups with an otherwise unexceptional team — speak for themselves. Bill Shankly said of him “He’s worse than the rain in Manchester. At least the rain in Manchester stops occasionally.” Now he’s stopped forever.

Vendetta against Venezuela

by John Quiggin on September 20, 2004

For those trying to work out whether the Bush Administration’s stated commitment to democracy in the Middle East reflects Wilsonian idealism or just a tactical choice, reflecting the fact that the Administration’s enemies in the region are mostly not democrats, Venezuela provides a useful data point.

Death of the book ?

by John Quiggin on September 20, 2004

The death of the book, like the paperless office, has been predicted so many times that people have given up paying attention. But, for me, at least, it came a big step closer today, at least in one sense, when I downloaded a PDF version of China Mieville’s Iron Council from Amazon.

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Stage Beauty

by Chris Bertram on September 20, 2004

I sometimes wonder about the utility of mentioning films on CT because by the time us Brits get to see them (UK release dates being later than those in the US) they’ve often finished playing in cinemas in the US and elsewhere. But Richard Eyre’s “Stage Beauty”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368658/ , which I caught on Saturday is an exception. Set at the time of the Restoration, it explores the fate of Ned Kynaston, a male actor who specializes in female roles (women being prohibited from performing). When the law is changed, first to allow women on the stage and then to prohibit men from playing them altogether, Kynaston is out of a job. I won’t post spoilers but just say that what we get includes a good deal of exploration of sexual identity and sexuality. And I also laughed out loud (a lot) at some parts and was moved by others. (Sarah from the excellent “Just Another False Alarm”:http://www.rubberring.blogspot.com/ has “more”:http://rubberring.blogspot.com/2004_09_12_rubberring_archive.html#109495045156434120 — but with spoilers).