Everything old is new again

by Ted on April 12, 2005

When the world was young, I wrote a long post about single-payer health care. As it’s the new hot topic, I’ve reposted it under the fold. Enjoy, or don’t.

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by Kieran Healy on April 12, 2005

Peter Briffa “passes the latest meme thingy”:http://publicinterest.blogspot.com/2005/04/via-peter-cuthbertson-youre-stuck.html on to Crooked Timber. It’s a good job I never became a major celebrity (it was touch-and-go for a while there) because I am useless with these kinds of questions, and celebrities seem to get asked them all the time. I never know what my favorite _x_ (color, food, piece of music, composer, book, whatever) is; I can rarely remember the right answer to the “What’s the last …?” questions; and I can never think up a good response to the “If you only had …?” questions. This one is no different.

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Where does our money go?

by Eszter Hargittai on April 12, 2005

John Maeda has some nice visualizations comparing U.S. tax dollars spent on science vs the arts or the Whitewater/Lewinsky Investigations vs the 9/11 Commission. His source is an article in Parade whose print version apparently has much more info than the online one. [via]

The “man date”

by Eszter Hargittai on April 12, 2005

If there wasn’t such a stigma attached to being gay for so many, would men really have to be so paranoid about catching up with a male friend? It seems like such an unfortunate waste of energy to tiptoe around these situations. Of course, I understand why I can’t simply say “So what if someone thinks you’re gay even if you are not?” given that it may have implications depending on the circumstances. But that is what’s so unfortunate.

What are weblogs good for?

by Henry Farrell on April 12, 2005

“Lee Scoresby” on blogs:

A recent hypertext trail of posts and comments, which I followed from Obsidian Wings to Jane Galt, sparked some thoughts I’ve been entertaining about another paradigm that might be useful for thinking about at least some of what goes down on weblogs. In brief, the idea is that one things good weblog discussions and postings do is to recreate the important experience of late-night collegiate bullshit sessions.

Discuss, with reference to the larger claims advanced in the original post.

Hitch, we hardly knew ye

by Henry Farrell on April 12, 2005

He still believes in progressive taxation; the New Deal; … and, in general, firm and constant opposition to the very frequent efforts of the rich and their agents to grind the faces of the poor. It’s just that he now cordially despises most of the people who proclaim or advocate these things.

Since 9/11, reflectiveness and skepticism have gone on holiday from his political writing. Logic and good manners have also frequently called in sick. “Embattled” is too mild a description of his state of mind; it’s been inflamed. Those who returned different answers than he did to the questions “Why did 9/11 happen?” and “What should we do about it?” were not to be taken seriously. They were Osama’s useful idiots, “soft on crime and soft on fascism,” their thinking “utterly rotten to its very core.”

On and on Hitchens’s polemics against the left have raged, a tempest of inaccuracy, illogic, and malice.

George Scialabba writes Christopher Hitchens’ political obituary for N+1 magazine.


by Chris Bertram on April 12, 2005

I’ve been doing some sums following a conversation last week with Daniel and John Band. Tesco, as is well know have just announced “their fantabulous corporate profits”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4435339.stm . They have “639 stores in the UK”:http://www.ethibel.org/profile/uk/tesco_en.html (OK that figure is a couple of years old), and a UK turnover of £29.5 billion. This gives us turnover per store of just over £46 million. UK higher education has, according to “HESA”:http://www.hesa.ac.uk/ , a turnover of about £15.5 billion and 171 “outlets”, giving us a turnover per store of just over £91 million. Chelsea football club — expected to win this year’s premier league — has “a turnover of £92.6 million”:http://www.givemefootball.com/display.cfm?article=4009&type=1&month=8&year=2004 . All of this gives us the useful equation of

1 average university = 1 top football club = two branches of the leading supermarket.

Make of that what you will.

John Paul the Great ?

by John Q on April 12, 2005

There’s been a lot of discussion of the late Pope, including whether he should be given the appellation “Great”. Historically, the honorific ‘Great’, when applied to monarchs, including Popes, has not meant “Good”. Rather it’s been applied to those who’ve been successful in extending their monarchical power. This is certainly true of Leo and Gregory, the popes currently regarded as Great. Although they’re both called saints, neither of seems particularly saintly to me: rather they were hardheaded and successful statesmen.

In this interpretation of the term, it’s hard to claim greatness for John Paul II. Since he was elected in the late 1970s, the church has lost ground throughout the developed world to secularism, and in Latin America to evangelical protestantism. Although there have been some modest gains in Africa and Asia, they’ve largely been in countries where the church had a strong presence dating back to colonial times.

Claims that the number of Catholics has risen greatly under JPII look dubious to me. This BBC file gives the basis of claims that there are more than 1 billion Catholics, and includes claims for more than 90 per cent of the population of Italy, Poland and Spain, based primarily on baptism. I suspect many of these are either nominal or lapsed.

If there has been growth, it’s largely due to natural increase in Catholic countries. To the extent that anti-contraception teaching has kept birth rates high, I suppose the Pope was partly responsible for this, but the same teaching contributed greatly to the collapse of the church in former strongholds like Ireland.

If you wanted to make a case for greatness for JPII it would be one of a fairly successful defensive action in unfavorable times.

In any case, judging by those who’ve been awarded the title by common consent, beginning with Alexander, Greatness is not a quality I admire much [1]. And if we’re going for Goodness, I think John XXIII would be a more appealing candidate.

fn1. Fielding has great fun with this in Jonathan Wild, the story of the infamous ‘Thieftaker-General’, who became the Godfather of early 18th-century London.