Gender and Blogging

by Kieran Healy on December 17, 2004

With one “pretty bad tempered thread”: going strong and evidence of “another one”: tipping over into trolldom, it may not be worth worth adding to the “already extensive body of commentary”: about the gender gap in blogging. But fools skate without paddles on thin ice near the edge of volcanoes, etc. I hope we can keep things civil.

[click to continue…]

More on the Status Syndrome

by Harry on December 17, 2004

Bill Gardner has another, more lengthy, post on Michael Marmot’s The Status Syndrome. He quickly reviews the evidence for Marmot’s thesis that there is a social gradient in health. Marmot is pretty persuasive (to Bill and me anyway) that the social gradient in health is not explicable by appeal to the idea that healthier people move socially upward. What is more conjectural is Marmot’s claim that the explanation lies in the fact that people who find themselves lower down the social scale have less ‘autonomy’. Bill explores what autonomy might mean in this context.

I’m again disallowing comments, in an authoritarian manner, to force you to discuss it at Bill’s blog.

Honorary Ladettes R Us

by Belle Waring on December 17, 2004

OMG! It’s recently been brought to my attention that I’ve only written one post for CT this whole month! That’s, like, totally weak! Under our new posting rules, I’m going to be bringing my A game, every single day. “No Scrubs” is going to be playing in my cubicle 24-7. And if I slack off, dsquared is going to subject me to ferocious Welsh discipline, of the sort handed out at the gloomy Welsh “public” school he attended starting at age 3. (I can’t go into it here, but it involves leeks. And that white jack thingy from bowls.) Let’s see…um…there must be something out there on the interweb. Here we go, something funny a straight white guy said!:

I’m glad the press is having a dance party with this, because God knows the Democrats are frozen at the steering wheel. I just saw a segment on MSNBC (which has been all over the Kerik story today, bless Rick Kaplan’s cyborg heart) pitting a Republican strategist against a Democratic one, and the Democratic spokesman–who goes by the name of Michael Brown–seemed to have washed down his weeny pills with warm Ovaltine. Instead of kicking Kerik and Giuliana between the uprights for three points, Brown fretted that vetting process for cabinet candidates was “going to far,” and that we were in danger of discouraging people from public service. Oh no, we wouldn’t want to discourage philandering, pocket-lining, deadbeat no-show bully-boys like Bernard Kerik from having the opportunity to muck around with our civil liberties in the name of “national security” and hold bigshot press conferences. I mean, if that sort of thing were to continue happening, people might start mistaking the Democrats for an opposition party and thinking that the press has an adversarial role to play, and we don’t want that to happen, it might actually lead to signs of life in that mausoleum we call the nation’s capital.

This Michael Brown wouldn’t even criticize Alberto Gonzalez for botching the background check and vetting of Kerik. I don’t understand the self-emasculation of so many Democratic strategists, what they’re afraid of, why they concede so much in advance. Give them an opening, and they close it like a silk kimono, ever so demure. What are they in politics for, the professional grooming tips?

You know, James Wolcott could be totally gay. I’m agnostic on this front. I know, I’ll ask one of my male co-bloggers! They know so much stuff, it’s awesome. Guys? Oh, and, does anyone want a coffee?

“The real threat the the life of the nation”

by Chris Bertram on December 17, 2004

From Lord Hoffmann’s remarks in “the judgement by the House of Lords”: (PDF, 102 pages) that the British government “is wrong to detain foreign terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial”: :

bq. This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community….

bq. [S]uch a power in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.

Heimat revisited

by Chris Bertram on December 17, 2004

A few months ago I expressed interest in seeing Edgar Reitz’s series Heimat again. It was finally released on DVD (in the UK) in mid-November and I was lucky enough to get the 6-disc set as a birthday present this year. It is nineteen years since I first watched it, and just watched the final, eleventh, episode of the 925 minute epic last night. It didn’t disappoint me at all. From the first scenes, when Paul Simon, returning from the 1914–18 war, walks back into the village of Schabbach, I was entranced. Many of the characters, often played by people who had never acted before and never would again, have a quite wonderful presence. Nearly everything is understated and done in an apparently matter-of-fact manner. Yet Reitz manages to reveal continuities of character over very vast stretches of time, as well as having the characters whom one is drawn to admire in one period of their lives turn into ogres in others. Of course, the Nazi period dominates the central part of the series and Reitz is very good at showing a range of reactions to it: Katharina, the matriarch, is the most hostile, after she witnesses the arrest of her communist nephew, and she is willing to confront the odious and evil Wilfried, the local SS-man. In between are characters like Eduard, a somewhat naive man who is pushed by his ambitious wife, the ex-prostitute Lucie, into becoming the Nazi mayor. The constant threads are Maria, born in 1900 whose life we trace from early adulthood to her inheritance of the matriarch role, to her death, and Glasich, the narrator and village drunk, always there with comment, but never doing much. And Paul is always there as a presence or as an absence….

I don’t want to spoil the experience by giving more plot details here. I think it one of the most wonderful filmic meditations on love, time, ageing, family, tyranny, kindness, place, restlessness, forgiveness, memory, …. Everyone should watch Heimat, several times.

Available on “a region 2 DVD in the UK”: , in a rather nice set with accompanying book. North Americans will have to get a multi-region player and a TV capable of displaying PAL, or wait. The “complete script”: is available online (in German).

The Wisdom of Crowds who don’t check facts

by Daniel on December 17, 2004

Let’s try and step on this canard before it grows wings … Oliver Kamm is quoting some writer at Fortune saying something that ain’t true about election betting markets.

The reputation of exit polls was perceptibly if unfairly damaged by the US presidential election. But, as a writer in Fortune magazine points out, another predictor was unambiguously accurate. This was the electronic predictions market: the various websites allowing punters to place bets on the electoral outcome.

As anyone who was watching the CT Election Night Special will know, this just isn’t true. The election markets, on the big day, were more or less exactly as bad at providing us with predictive information as were the exit polls. I think that we may have been the only place recording the intraday fluctuations on the prediction markets (which were massive), so maybe it’s important to summarise the facts.

[click to continue…]

Milton Friedman on social democracy

by John Q on December 17, 2004

Milton Friedman has a piece in the Hoover Digest, reprinted in The Australian making the point that, even though many fewer people nowadays professes belief in socialism than did so in 1945, the general movement of policy since the end of World War II has been in a socialist direction, that is towards an expansion in the share of GDP allocated to the public sector. He draws a distinction between ‘welfare’ and the traditional socialist belief in public ownership of the means of production, seeing the former growing at the expense of the latter.

From a social-democratic perspective, I’d put things differently. There are large sectors of the economy where competitive markets either can’t be sustained or don’t perform adequately in the absence of government intervention. These include human services like health and education, social insurance against unemployment and old age, production of public goods and information, and a range of infrastructure services. In all these sectors, governments are bound to get involved. Sometimes, the best model is private production with public regulation and funding, and sometimes it is public ownership and production. The result is a mixed economy.

Over time, the parts of the economy where competitive market provision is problematic have grown in relative importance. By contrast, agriculture, the archetypal competitive industry, has declined in relative importance as have mining and manufacturing, areas where governments have usually performed poorly.

The result is that the ideological swing towards neoliberalism has done little more than slow a structural shift towards a larger role for government.