One billion links

by John Quiggin on April 1, 2005

I wasn’t watching it tick over, and I missed the party but Technorati just passed 1 billion links, of which this blog accounts for 311. Here’s the Technorati Top 100, including Crooked Timber at #59.

I don’t know exactly what to make of this number. A link can be anything from part of an extended debate to a cut-and-pasted item on a blogroll. Still, its obvious that the blogosphere is still growing rapidly and in all dimensions. There’s some more data, here , herehere

Democracy Arsenal

by Henry on April 1, 2005

Democracy Arsenal, the blog of the Security and Peace Institute, looks to become a valuable source of center-left commentary on international affairs. What’s even more interesting is that the blog precedeth the Institute. That is, there isn’t any SPI presence on the WWW yet, and the links from the Democracy Arsenal blog that should lead to the Institute don’t have a URL. The blog page does tell us that the Institute “supports fellows, sponsors research and convenes foreign policy conferences and meetings.” Now, obviously, it’s a lot easier and faster to set up a blog than it is to create a new institution – this could just be an issue of timing. But I can’t help wondering if this is a new, and rather interesting hybrid organization- a blog with associated institutional trappings (speaker series etc), rather than a traditional think tank which perhaps has a blog as an afterthought (if it has a blog at all). Certainly, the fact that they went to press with the blog before the Institute itself was ready for primetime suggests that the blog is going to play a central role in the final arrangement.

I’ve been reading Michael Lind’s Up From Conservatism, which started me thinking about a justification for affirmative action for conservatives that even the most red-bloodedly partisan liberals ought to be able to get behind. Lind, a former conservative himself, is pretty grumpy about the lack of debate within the conservative movement. By his account, conservatives are allowed a little leeway for free thinking before the Republican magisterium has pronounced on an issue, but after that they’re expected to parrot the accepted line or find themselves excommunicated. Probably a bit of an exaggeration, but I’d imagine that there’s some truth to it too. The interesting bit is Lind’s argument about the source of this discipline. Because most prominent conservative intellectuals are in think tanks, they’re vulnerable to the threat that if they stray too far from the flock, their cushy think tank position will be axed, their funding from conservative foundations will dry up, and they’ll be cast into the outer darkness. Thus, they have a strong incentive to keep their disagreements with the prevailing Republican wisdom to themselves.

Lind’s thesis has some interesting implications when you compare the sad plight of Heritage and AEI Senior Fellows with the cosy situation of tenured lefty academics. The former are required to toe the party line or lose their livelihoods; the latter can say whatever the hell they want and still keep their jobs. So here’s the kicker: the obvious way to encourage more dissent in the ranks of conservatism is to liberate as many conservative wonks as possible from the golden handcuffs of the Scaife Foundation by offering them comfortable tenured positions at prestigious universities. We can then expect conservative thinkers to become as quarrelsome, disputatious and inclined to carp in public about their political leaders as their left-wing equivalents, if not more so, as they give free rein to their natural tendencies towards spleen, orneriness and gouty irritation with politics. How about it?

Bupe

by Ted on April 1, 2005

Wired Magazine has a fascinating story about buprenorphine, a heroin detox drug that offers significant promise for recovering addicts. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine (or “bupe”) doesn’t produce a high or low, and it’s almost impossible to abuse it. As a result, it can be dispersed in large quantities. (Methadone clinics generally only deliver one dose per day, which must be consumed on the spot.) Recovering addicts using bupe don’t have to deal with the sedative quality of methadone, and don’t have to schedule a visit to a clinic every day. Unlike methadone, it doesn’t show up on a urine drug test. All of these factors should significantly ease the reintegration of ex-addicts into the work world.

Despite the improved technology, bupe hasn’t been much of a success. Regulation has been bungled, and the relevant parties simply don’t have the incentives to promote a new, improved treatment. Methadone clinics are afraid that they’d lose money if methadone users got on bupe. GPs are afraid of bringing a new population of ex-addicts into their offices. A set of idiotic regulations prevents clinics from dispersing more than a pill a day, and bans even giant health care providers from taking more than 30 cases. The patent holder isn’t a pharma company, and doesn’t have the interest or expertise to promote the new drug. In fact, the protagonists of the article are a pair of treatment specialists who are promoting the drug freelance.

Well worth reading.

A Personal Stake in the Issue

by Kieran Healy on April 1, 2005

From a “local news report”:http://abclocal.go.com/wls/news/040105_ap_ns_birthcontrol_orders.html in Chicago:

bq. Governor Rod Blagojevich today filed an emergency rule with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office requiring birth control prescriptions be filled without delay at pharmacies selling contraceptives. Under the rule, if the contraceptive is not in stock, the pharmacy must order it or, if the patient prefers, transfer the prescription to a nearby pharmacy. If the pharmacist does not fill the prescription because of a moral objection, another pharmacist must be available to fill it. … Blagojevich is a result of a Chicago pharmacist recently refusing to fill orders for contraceptives because of moral opposition.

Well no wonder he’s taking the lead on this.

The Minuteman Project

by Kieran Healy on April 1, 2005

Here in Tucson, people are watching with interest — and some trepidation — as volunteers for the “Minuteman Project”:http://www.minutemanproject.com/ roll in to “Tombstone”:http://www.cityoftombstone.com/ (yes, it really exists — and it’s even cheesier than you imagine), about seventy miles southeast of town. I’m not sure why they’re rallying there rather than in “Sierra Vista”:http://www.ci.sierra-vista.az.us/ or “Bisbee”:http://www.bisbeearizona.com/, which are a lot closer to the border. There’s a lot of very open land down there, and of course plenty of border-crossing going on — and a lot of other legitimate activity besides. If things go smoothly, then the Minuteman people will spend a few days hanging out and camping in the Sonoran desert, not cause anyone any hassle, and have their stunt create a bit of national news coverage. On the other hand, any one of a number of things could go wrong. If some of the Minutemen — who are showing up from all over — are clueless about managing in the desert, they might get lost or hurt. If some of them are excitable, they might provoke a confrontation with an immigrant, despite the project’s “stated intention”:http://www.minutemanproject.com/SOP.html not to do so. The potential for confusing and possibly dangerous encounters with the border patrol (or even local residents or hikers or what have you) shouldn’t be discounted, either. And of course there’s always the chance that some of them will run into some drug smugglers.

All in all, I think the chances are better than not that nothing too serious will happen — they’ll probably just get in the way of the Border Patrol. On the other hand, paramilitary or militia organizations always find it difficult to control the hotheads in their ranks. Chris Simcox, the project’s leader, is aware that a single unpleasant incident will tar the Minutemen for good, and so the official site oscillates uneasily between “cowboy rhetoric”:http://www.minutemanproject.com/pdf/poster3.pdf and quasi-military talk of “standard operating procedures”:http://www.minutemanproject.com/SOP.html. Of course the Minuteman Project doesn’t have much in the way of Standard Procedure because it’s not a stable institution. The best they can hope for is that the people who show up for this aren’t nutters who want nothing more than to dress up in camo gear and take pot-shots at people.

A little respect

by Ted on April 1, 2005

I’ve got to take Juan Cole to task for what reads like a rather antagonistic misunderstanding of the pro-life philosophy:

Anti-abortion activism is essentially patriarchal. It insists that the woman’s egg, once fertilized, is immediately a person and that the woman loses control over her body by virtue of being impregnated by her husband’s sperm. It is men who dictate to the woman that she must carry the fertilized egg to term, must be a mother once impregnated by a man. For extreme anti-abortionists, even a woman who has been raped or is in danger of losing her life if she tries to give birth must be forced to bear the child. A rapist can make a woman be a mother whether she likes it or not, because his maleness gives him prerogatives not withdrawn by his mere criminality.

I’m pro-choice, but that’s just not a good representation of the other side. People who are opposed to abortion generally have a pretty simple reason. They believe that life begins at conception, and that there’s no bright-line moral distinction between a baby and a fetus. Therefore, we should extend the same considerations re: life to fetuses as we do to babies. It’s not hard to understand. Again, I don’t agree with it, but if you believe that a fetus has a soul- more precisely, if you believe that God told you that a fetus has a soul- it’s not hard to see why you’d be so motivated to ban abortion. There’s definitely overlap between individuals who are opponents of abortion and individuals who don’t respect women, but there’s nothing “essential” about it.
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Email space race

by Eszter Hargittai on April 1, 2005

Yahoo! recently announced that they will increase the size of their free email accounts to 1 GB likely as a response to Google’s GMail, which gives users that much space. But GMail seems to be ahead of the game even as Yahoo! is still just preparing for the increase. Today, on the first anniversary of the launch of GMail, Google announced that they will continue to grow the size of GMail accounts beyond 2GBs. They have a nifty little counter on the GMail homepage that shows the increase of the mailbox size. (If you’re a GMail user and are always logged in, you’ll have to log out to see the number.) There’s also a cute little infinite-plus-one figure. As you watch the number grow, you can quench your thirst with some Google Gulp (in beta, of course).

UK university fees

by Chris Bertram on April 1, 2005

The Times Higher Education Supplement “is leading with the story”:http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2020705 that the British government — having recently introduced student fees of £3000 pa but having promised (as a sop to the opposition) to keep them capped until 2010 — has been pushing senior figures in the sector to campaign for the abolition of the cap. Not that they’ll need much persuading to do that, of course. Whether or not you agree with the principle of fees, a government that pursues its secret policy by galvanising opposition to its publicly declared policy might be thought to be acting a little unethically.