From the monthly archives:

March 2005

Making Men into Fathers

by Kimberly on March 31, 2005

While people often view the work-family question through the lens of women’s equality and employment, in some European countries the focus is on how to get men to do more housework and child care. This is nothing new in Scandinavian countries, many of which replaced their maternity leave programs in the 1970s with gender-neutral parental leaves. As sociologist Barbara Hobson details in her edited volume, Making Men into Fathers, the Swedish government also developed an informational campaign in the 1970s to encourage men to be more active in parenting. One of the most famous images from the campaign featured the well-known Swedish weight lifter, Hoa-Hoa Dahlgren, cradling an infant. More recently, the Dutch government ran a similar television ad campaign, showing a father and his children sitting around a table when the mother appears and hands her husband a plate of meat. A voice meant to be that of the son then says, “Who is this man cutting the meat?” as text flashes that says, “Men are as indispensable at home as they are at work.”

Increasing men’s parenting time also has informed Dutch policies that give all workers the right to request part-time hours from their employers. One goal of the policy is to encourage both parents to work part-time and split caregiving duties at home. So far, few parents are actually living this model; in 2003, only six percent of couples with young children had both parents working part-time. Nearly 75 percent of employed Dutch women work part-time — the highest rate of part-time work in the western world. Still, the ideal is out there.

Ultimately, the focus on men is an attempt to maintain the lengthy leaves and flexible work-time that parents cherish while mitigating the disproportionate effects of these policies on women. These efforts are not only revealing of the gender egalitarian discourse around parenting in many European countries, but also of the importance parents place on having time to care for their own children. Few policy-makers advocate cutting parental leave or the availability of part time work. Instead, they have adopted the goal — rhetorically if not substantively — of making men into fathers.

The next sideshow will be M.I.A., the musician whose debut album irresponsibly, cynically flirts with terrorism and the Tamil Tigers. It’s a dumb, easy-to-understand storylet, centering on a pretty woman with an album to sell. It’ll allow cultural conservatives to bash the media, ressentiment conservatives to bash hipsters on the coasts, and national-defense conservatives to bash her lyrics. Straying conservatives, stunned at the unprincipled recent clown show in the Republican leadership, will rejoin the flock after being shocked by the cherrypicked quotes from Democratic Underground. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess that she was grown in a vat by TownHall.

I predict that Michelle Malkin will be one of the first out of the gate on this one, followed closely by National Review. O’Reilly will be demanding to know why she’s afraid to do his show by next Friday. Wizbang will employ the macro that hits popular left-wing blogs, notices how few have denounced her, and wonders why we don’t all move to Terrorvania because we seem to love it so much. The woman that Glenn Reynolds will declare to be “the authentic face of the modern Left (for real this time)” will be on the cover of Time in three weeks. The right will get to enjoy a few weeks of red-faced fury, and the controversy will make M.I.A millions of dollars.

Range time.

Real and virtual weapons

by John Quiggin on March 31, 2005

I’ve been interested for a while in the extra-game markets for items like weapons, spells and so on created in online games. This story involves two Chinese gameplayers who acquired a highly valuable virtual sword. One of them borrowed it and sold it for about $1000. The other player went to the police without result, and eventually confronted his partner, and in the ensuing argument, pulled a knife and stabbed him to death. It’s sad that this happened, but the most interesting aspect for those not directly involved is the question of whether the seller had committed a crime, and if so what. The following discussion is based on very limited knowledge and legal expertise, so feel free to correct me.

Even if this was a real sword, I doubt that the police would have become involved in the dispute because it was jointly owned, so only a civil action would have been available.

More generally, if the law does become involved in this kind of dispute, it’s unlikely that ordinary property law is the right place to look. Even if your virtual castle may look like genuine, it isn’t real estate. It’s the product of a contract between you and the game’s operators. In many cases, that contract forbids outside resale of items, so your rights are pretty limited. But even in a game like Entropia which encourages such things, your rights over virtual items are defined within a set of rules created by the game operators. If, for example, they arbitrarily confiscated virtual land for which you had paid, your remedy, if any, would be under contract law or (in particularly outrageous cases) the game operators might be prosecuted for fraud.

Of course, all this could change. There’s nothing to stop governments creating new categories of virtual/intellectual property. But, as with intellectual property in general, intuitions based on standard (rival, excludable) private goods aren’t likely to provide a good basis for thinking about such things[1].

There’s more discussion at TerraNova where this kind of issue has been debated before.

fn1. Despite what the RIAA says, copying a CD is not the same as stealing a car, for the obvious reason that no-one has been deprived of the data on the CD.

Tales of irony

by Ted on March 31, 2005

Fametracker has a hysterical bit[1] placing odds on the brilliant twist ending of M. Night Shyamalan’s next movie, in which Paul Giamatti finds a sea nymph in the building’s swimming pool.

My favorites:

The sea nymph leads Paul Giamatti to an enormous statue of Aperaham Lincoln: 25 to 1

It turns out Paul Giamatti is trapped on a planet of sea nymphs, who’ve actually “discovered” him — who’s the sea nymph now?: 17 to 1

[1]Or does it?

Open call

by Ted on March 31, 2005

Non Prophet notices that Focus on the Family is pushing Hugh Hewitt’s Blog, and apparently encouraging its members to start their own socially conservative blogs. The interview in the link is little more than Hewitt’s usual “righties rule, lefties drool” schtick. It’s interesting, however, that they think that it’s helpful to their movement to have a bunch of brand new right-wing blogs. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging people to start blogs, but it isn’t immediately obvious to me how this would help a movement.

I suspect that, to the extent that this is helpful, it’s more about creating a community of activists than it is about the blogs in and of themselves. I strongly suspect that a person who starts and maintains a political blog is likely to end up significantly more involved as an activist (volunteering, donating, making calls and emails to politicians and media) than the same person would be if he hadn’t started one. Someone who starts a blog sees current events differently, for better or worse; even a mildly partisan blogger can’t help looking for angles, comments, or points to score. Plus, blogging puts a person in contact with a bunch of like-minded people on their best, funniest, most intelligent behavior. (Present company excluded, of course.)

In any case, it can’t hurt, and new bloggers can use some encouragement. This is a rambling way of saying that newish bloggers should feel free to send me a link to a post that you’re proud of. I’ll post a link roundup of the ones that I like sometime next week.

For now, let me recommend Finnegan’s Wake. Although the authors have the boorish manners of Yalies, it would probably be a pillar of the left-wing blogs if it had been started in in 2002.

Burger Queen

by Kieran Healy on March 31, 2005

“Snort”:http://www.sumama.com/misc/911_tape.wma. (Via “Pangadon”:http://www.pandagon.net/mtarchives/004875.html).

I know this doesn’t sound healthy, but I’ve, I’ve … started a blog: a literary studies group blog. It’s called the Valve and it just got turned on. I’ve written a whopping great Holbonic inaugural post, a rewrite of themes I’ve hashed out before: blogging, academe, literary studies. (Some folks might say I’m repeating myself. I do hope I’m improving myself.)

I’m probably going to lighten up at J&B and Crooked Timber for a time and focus on this new project. Just so you know where to reach me. Please drop by and link to us and all that desirable stuff.

Middle East Studies in Columbia

by Henry on March 31, 2005

The ad-hoc grievance committee set up to investigate charges of classroom intimidation and anti-Semitism in the MEALAC program at Columbia has issued its report. From a quick read, its main findings are:

(1) That there is no evidence of anti-Semitism in the program, and that one of the professors who has come in for the most criticism (Joseph Massad) has repeatedly made it clear that anti-Semitic views are unacceptable in class.
(2) That of three documented incidents, one shows evidence of a professor (Joseph Massad) going “beyond commonly accepted bounds” in criticizing a student, one falls into a gray zone (it isn’t clear that the professor knew he was interacting with a Columbia student), and one is probably in large part a misinterpretation by the relevant student of what the professor said.
(3) That Massad repeatedly used a “tendentious and highly charged vocabulary in class”, but demonstrably encouraged discussion between vigorously opposed viewpoints in the classroom, to the point that many students complained that he “allowed a small but vociferous group of fellow students to disrupt lectures by their incessant questions and comments.” Massad further maintained a consistently respectful attitude to students outside of class.
(4) That Columbia has serious institutional problems – it provides no good channels for either students or professors to express political grievances about teaching etc. It handled this controversy poorly. This is in large part what allowed outside groups (Campus Watch, the David Project) to become interlocutors. Outside auditors disrupted classes, tried in one instance to videorecord a class, and contributed to a general feeling of being watched and constrained that inhibited the free flow of ideas. One student stated that “she was afraid to defend her views in the classroom ‘for fear of attack from students but also from reporters who may continue their investigations of our school undetected.'” The report also deplores the behaviour of “faculty [who] were apparently prepared to encourage students to report to them on a fellow-professor’s classroom statements. ”

I’m prepared to take this report at its face value, especially given that the committee was chaired by Ira Katznelson, who’s a first rate scholar, with a longstanding commitment to intellectual honesty. Others, I suspect, especially those involved in Campus Watch and the David Project, will characterize it as a whitewash. While the report doesn’t address their role directly (it’s concerned with the behaviour of Columbia’s faculty, and with Columbia as an institution), they don’t come out of it looking very pretty. Via Inside Higher Ed.

Policy achievements

by Chris Bertram on March 31, 2005

Oliver Kamm “has a crack at me”:http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2005/03/james_callaghan.html for my judgement that Jim Callaghan & Co. let us in for 18 years of Tory misrule. He struggles somewhat to rebut my claim that Callaghan had not a “single policy achievement worth listing to his credit.” After all, as the convoluted one reminds us, Callaghan

bq. had been undistinguished – failing to devalue sterling early enough; the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1968, which violated this country’s obligations to British citizens in East Africa; and his role in the defeat of industrial relations reform in 1969 …

Never mind:

bq. His greatest single achievement was to destroy Socialism as a serious proposition in British politics.

Not a “policy” achievement exactly, and hardly something for a self-proclaimed socialist (as Callaghan was) to boast about, but still….

Are Children Public Goods?

by Kimberly on March 30, 2005

Critics often assert that parental leave, public child care, and other family support programs force society to pay for people’s private choices. If parents do not want to bear this burden, they should not have children in the first place, rather than foisting the costs onto everyone else. Nancy Folbre, an economist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, counters these claims by arguing that children are like public goods. While parents bear most of the costs of raising children, to the extent that children grow into productive, tax-paying citizens, they create positive externalities that benefit the rest of society. People who contribute little time or money to the raising of children essentially free-ride on the parental labor of others. As she wrote in the American Prospect a few years ago:

“[Children] grow up to be taxpayers, workers, and citizens. The claims we collectively enforce on their income will help finance our national debt and fund Social Security and Medicare. Even if all the intergenerational transfers in our tax system were eliminated, leaving all us baby boomers to rely on our own bank accounts in old age, we would need to hire the younger generation to debug our computers and help us into our wheelchairs.”

To those who say having children is a private choice, much like deciding to get a pet, I’ve heard Folbre trenchantly respond, “Yes, but will your golden retriever pay for your Social Security?”

Should we be scared of Uncle Sam ?

by John Quiggin on March 30, 2005

This poll showing that 57 per cent of Australians thought US foreign policy to be as great a threat as that of Islamic fundamentalism provokes a variety of thoughts. I happened to read the poll results on the same day as this NYT story about Maher Arar, whose ‘extraordinary rendition’ has been covered in detail at Obsidian Wings.

There are various ways of assessing threats, and most Australians rightly regard terrorism as an overstated danger. But, as far as terrorism is concerned, there can be few instances more horrible and terrifying than the kidnappings and televised beheadings we’ve seen in Iraq. There are, however, equally awful things going on that are not televised, and that are carried out by the United States government.

An unknown number of people have been kidnapped, then shipped to torture chambers in unknown locations. We’ve found out about this from cases like that of Maher Arar, who was eventually released after his captors gave up on the idea that he was a terrorist, but it’s likely that in most cases, the victim simply disappears and is never seen again. Arar was in transit through the US when he was grabbed, but there have been similar kidnappings in Italy, Sweden and Macedonia and of course, countries like Iraq and Pakistan are free-fire zones.

As with quite a few of the worst policies of the Bush administration, the practice of extraordinary rendition apparently began under Clinton, but has been greatly expanded by Bush[1].

As far as I’ve seen so far, all of the victims in this cases have been Muslims. If that comforts you, perhaps you ought to read Martin Niemoller

As long as extraordinary renditions and similar practices continue, Australians are right to regard at least some aspects of US foreign policy as a threat comparable to that of Al Qaeda.

An update In comments, Katherine observes, correctly I think, that arguments about moral equivalence are counterproductive. As she says ‘“Are we better or worse than Zarqawi and Bin Laden” is the debate people like James Inhofe and George W. Bush want us to have. ” So, I shouldn’t have said “equally awful” above. But what is being done is awful, and such things are contributing greatly to the fear of US foreign policy I referred to.

fn1. Supporters of the Clinton Administration might usefully think about this the next time they are tempted to take a small step on the slippery slope of curtailing civil liberties. Supporters of the current Administration might want to give some thought to the likelihood that the practices they are now defending or assiduously ignoring will sooner or later be directed by Hilary Clinton, who might well choose to use them against the vast right-wing conspiracy linked, at its extremities, to Oklahoma City (the apparent starting point of extraordinary rendition) and to terrorist attacks on abortion clinics.

Benchmarking

by Chris Bertram on March 30, 2005

I know that FrontPageMag (and everything Horowitz-related) is bonkers. But I wasn’t really prepared to see I face I know staring out at me. Today they have “a piece attacking Brendan O’Leary”:http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=17538 , political scientist at UPenn, formerly of the LSE. I’ve know Brendan since we were undergraduates together in the late 70s. For most of the time I’ve known him he has been gently chiding me from the right for my “infantile leftism”. He’s been an advisor to top Labour politicians on Northern Ireland, always on the side of moderation. Now Brendan is a “leftist” and a “terror apologist”. Well, as I said, I knew that Horowitz was crazy, but it is helpful to have a marker against which to judge just how crazy.

Update: One small thought – Brendan’s reputation in the UK is such that he could sue FrontPageMag for libel in London. He’d stand every chance of success and some serious damages.

2nd update: the full text of the remarks that FrontPageMage characterize as “terror apology” are “online”:http://www.upenn.edu/almanac/v48/n04/OLeary.html for all to inspect.

On being super-rich

by Chris Bertram on March 30, 2005

I don’t feel rich. In fact, I know a lot of people who are richer than I am. Many of them live in my street; some of them work in my department. But when I take “the GlobalRichList test”:http://www.globalrichlist.com/index.php I come out well into the the top 1 per cent of earners in the world. That’s right, well over 99 per cent of the world’s population earn less than I do. Matthew Yglesias “wrote the other day”:http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2005/03/superinequality.html about income distribution in the US and the psychological mechanisms that mean that people misperceive their own place in that distribution:

bq. This extreme inequality at the top does a lot to explain, I think, why you see a lot of people who make more than 85-90 percent of the population refusing to think of themselves as rich. Once you enter into the Rich Zone, you start coming into contact with people who are way, way, way, way richer than you are. If you run into somebody who has twice — to say nothing of 10 or 100 — times your earnings, it’s hard to think of yourself as rich. After all, you’re closer to making $0 and being out on the streets than you are to making what he makes.

And this is all the more true for the global distribution of income, where our place in the local distribution makes us radically misperceive our position in relation to the vast majority of humanity (my ex ante guess would have put me in the top 5 or 10 per cent — but the top 1 per cent!). My guess is that most active bloggers and journalists (in the developed world) are in that top 1 per cent also. One effect of this is that the blogosphere casually trades in assumptions about what is normal, where those assumptions are just a projection of what is normal for that top 1 per cent.

Animal rights

by Chris Bertram on March 30, 2005

My colleague Alison Hills has “an op-ed piece on animal rights in today’s Guardian”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1447866,00.html following the recent publication of her book “Do Animals Have Rights?”:http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1840466235/junius-21

Joining up the dots II

by Kieran Healy on March 29, 2005

“Like Henry”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/03/29/joining-up-the-dots/ and “Max”:http://maxspeak.org/mt/index.html, I got a bit of a laugh out of the “Left Business Observer’s plots”:http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/FreedomIndex.html of the Heritage Foundation’s “Freedom Index.” I think the LBO are right to be skeptical of the index. But maybe the scatterplots they show sell it a bit short.

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