Comic Disaster Relief

by Kieran Healy on October 11, 2004

Today my University is carrying out a “Disaster Preparedness Exercise”:, simulating “campus and community crisis responses” in the face, I think, of a series of imaginary industrial explosions. The “Physical and Atmospheric Sciences”: building was evacuated, but so, unfortunately, was “Social Sciences”: They didn’t do that one on purpose, though. Industrial accidents, even imaginary ones, seem much more likely to happen in PAS. The only chemical present in dangerously high quantities in Social Sciences is caffeine. Nevertheless the building has been shut down since 8am, the power is off, police tape is everywhere, guards are posted and fake victims with fake injuries seem to be wandering around. At least, I think the guy with the bandaged leg was faking. Maybe I should have given him a kick to make sure. From talking to the cops and listening to the radio chatter, my theory at the moment is that the power failed in Social Sciences, possibly as an accidental byproduct of the fake disaster, and now not only can they not figure out how to turn it back on again, everyone is so busy tending to fake victims and cleaning up non-existent industrial waste that there are no staff available to fix the problem. So, in effect, the hypothetical crisis has managed to generate a real one.

It’s just as well that it’s only an exercise. I was out in the parking lot with everyone else for an hour, waiting in vain to be allowed back in. It’s bad enough that we were all allowed to hang around by the doors, breathing in putative anthrax or notional dirty bomb fallout. But then a flatbed truck carrying large flammable and quite real gas cylinders came up the driveway and parked behind the fire engine to make a delivery to the chemistry department. About ten minutes after that, two forty-foot tractor trailers pulled in to deliver props and stage equipment to the Centennial Hall theater. They might have been full of anything. If the Trojan Horse itself arrived at the main entrance to the University today, I swear a fat guy in a day-glo vest would have waved it through saying, “Just hurry it up there, we’re trying to co-ordinate an imaginary emergency here.”

History of ideas

by Henry Farrell on October 11, 2004

Cosma Shalizi “informs us”: that the 1973-74 edition of the Dictionary of the History of Ideas is “online”: Cosma provides pointers to some of the more interesting articles, and notes in passing E.P. Thompson’s dictum that ” to any rational mind, the greater part of the history of ideas is a history of freaks.” While you’re there, be sure to check out his unique take on “Friday cat-blogging”:

Kerry on Education

by Harry on October 11, 2004

I realize that hardly anyone votes on education issues in Presidential campaigns, so this may be only of academic interest, but I’ve been looking at the Kerry campaign’s plan for education (k-12, I don’t know much about higher education policy issues), and thought I’d give my tentative take on them for what its worth. There’s some good and some bad and some obscure. Just to demonstrate my non-partisanship I’d say much the same of Bush’s promises and, believe it or not, of Bush’s record – in fact, my suspicion is that if you really cut through the detail of the two programs the most significant thing in both is the same thing – promises of a great deal more Federal funds – promises that I happen to believe in both cases, but which don’t really bring me deep joy.

Anyway, the first thing to note is the one thing that is not an issue here, despite Kerry’s promise in the NEA TODAY that ‘you will never see a voucher proposal coming from my office as President’, is vouchers and choice. (Sorry, the interview doesn’t seem to be online, but I assume that the quote doesn’t need verification!) Both campaigns mention choice, and Kerry is on board with the right kind of charter programs, but Bush downplays choice, understanding that his important constituencies don’t care much about it. Vouchers, in particular, are not going to win votes for the Republicans, because floating voters, and most existing Republican voters, have no interest in them, and because the people who are interested – urban Black voters – are not about to defect to the Republicans over the issue.

Kerry’s website was revamped after the convention, and the most peculiar, not to say ludicrous, promise – that the Feds would make sure every teacher has voicemail – was removed. This is to Kerry’s credit, but I admit that it still worries me a bit that anyone could have even thought it up, let alone thought that it was something to make public as a priority.

On to the main points.

[click to continue…]

… and co-decision with the Council of Ministers applies!

by Henry Farrell on October 11, 2004


I “posted”: a few weeks ago about the bland soggy pap that is EU official art – last week, I found a particularly entertaining and incongruous example of it in the European Parliament’s information center. _Troubled Waters_ is a graphic novel put out by the EP to explain what it does in language that the young uns can understand; it details the adventures of one Irina Vega, crusading Parliamentarian, whose nationality and party identification are left deliberately unspecified.[1] Surely, this is destined to become a kitsch collectors’ item in years to come, if only for the contortions that it goes through in its efforts to reconcile a watered-down and slightly incoherent version of the comic book political thriller (evil chemical companies conspire to pollute the water supply and blacken each others’ names), with the legislative minutiae of co-decision, conciliation and voting in plenary. ‘Immiscibles’ is the technical term, I believe. I’ve scanned a couple of pages and PDFed them for the curious – available “here”: and “here”:


fn1. Although Corkonian and former president of the Parliament, Pat Cox, is clearly identifiable in some of the drawings.

A list of unknown, undistinguished, leftist fanatics

by Chris Bertram on October 11, 2004

I’d come across Stephen Schwartz as TCS’s resident ranter against “Islamofascism” and producer of _ex post facto_ rationalizations for such wise decisions as the Tariq Ramadan exclusion and the Cat Stevens deportation. Now I see that “he’s turned his hand to literary criticism”: . Apparently, the Swedish Academy “have returned to their habit of awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to an unknown, undistinguished, leftist fanatic.” At one point he interrupts himself, mid-rant, to write

bq. But the Nobel Prize is bestowed for writing, and one must therefore address Jelinek’s publications.

Before going on to make clear that his only knowledge is based on a film adaptation of one of Elfriede Jelinek’s books!

Anyway, that list of unknown, undistinguished leftist fanatics ….

bq. scolding lefty turned Nazi-nostalgic Gunter Grass, in 1999; Jose Saramago, a vulgar enemy of religion and former Communist censor in revolutionary Portugal, in 1998; and the repellent Dario Fo, an Italian playwright specializing in denunciations of capitalism, in 1997…. Other Nobel stars have included Claude Simon (1985), a Stalinist who defamed George Orwell; Castro-lover Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982); Pablo Neruda, Stalinist secret police agent (1971); and Soviet plagiarist and propagandist Mikhail Sholokhov (1965).

Incidentally, is “Nazi-nostalgic” Schwartz’s take on _Crabwalk_ ?

Ae Fond Kiss

by Chris Bertram on October 11, 2004

I saw Ken Loach’s latest film, “Ae Fond Kiss”: , last night. Very good it was too. I don’t want to post spoilers, but the film is about a love affair between Casim (Atta Yaqub), a Glaswegian Muslim with a Pakistani background and Roisin (Eva Birthistle), an Irish Catholic schoolteacher. His family, who have arranged for him to marry Jasmin, a cousin he has never seen, and are less than thrilled at his relationship. I thought the depiction of the intergenerational tensions within this Muslim family was terrific. The film works dramatically because Loach is sensitive enough not to play it just in terms of true love versus backward tradition: Casim’s parents aren’t ogres or dictators but caring and engaging characters who are nonetheless bewildered by their children. One of the best films I’ve seen in ages.

[I also saw Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy in “Before Sunset”: . I’d estimate that a third of the audience walked out. I wish I had.]

I could do that. On a bike. Maybe.

by Kieran Healy on October 11, 2004

Speaking of the “nature of excellence”:, my sister-in-law “Sarah Dupré Healy”: ran her first marathon today — the “Chicago Marathon”: She “finished seventeenth”: in the Women’s Race, which is not too shabby, given there were about 40,000 people running altogether. Conditions were windy and she suffered a lot over the last 10k or so, dropping a few minutes off what had been a 2:38 pace. But I think it’s just fantastic that she finished in the Top 20, which is why I’m telling all of you about it.