State Imposed Religion II

by Henry on April 15, 2005

Rabbi David Saperstein condemns Frist’s telecast in exactly the right terms – as an attack on religious freedom.

The telecast is scheduled to take place on the second night of the Passover holiday, when Jews around the world gather together to celebrate our religious freedom. It was in part for exactly such freedom that we fled Egypt. It was in part for exactly such freedom that so many of us came to this great land. And it is in very large part because of exactly such freedom that we and our neighbors here have built a nation uniquely welcoming to people of faith – of all faiths. We believe Senator Frist knows these things as well. His association with the scheduled telecast is, in a word, shameful.

I can only applaud. Via Atrios

Papal Betting Update

by Daniel on April 15, 2005

Just to calm down some of the latest round of breathless boosterism about prediction markets (to be fair, the Tierney article is actually quite interesting, but breathless boosterism is what it is), I thought I’d provide my usual financial service to the CT community by putting on the green eyeshade, firing up Excel[1] and seeing if the prices are “all that”.
[click to continue…]

Friday Fun Thread

by Ted on April 15, 2005

The Onion had a fun pair of articles recently, singling out bad scenes in great movies and great scenes in bad movies. We can play, too. My picks:

Great Scene, Bad Movie:

A Guy Thing

It’s a deeply mediocre romantic comedy with an extremely dodgy premise: Jason Lee takes home a dancer from his bachelor party (Julia Stiles) who turns out to be the cousin of his fiancee (Selma Blair). Hijinks ensue. When a movie begins with the hero attempting to cheat on his fiancee, and ends (SPOILER ALERT, LIKE YOU COULDN’T GUESS) with the hero leaving her at the altar, I didn’t find it nearly charming enough to overcome the ill-will it generated.

However, it does have a very funny scene in the middle. Through the magic of the internet, I don’t have to describe it; you can watch almost the whole scene here, by watching both clips 4 and 5.

Bad Scene, Great Movie:

It’s A Wonderful Life

I love It’s A Wonderful Life. But what’s up with the scene in which we learn that, if George Bailey had never been born, his wife would have been a spinster! With glasses! Who works at the library! Oh, the humanity!

Your picks?

PoliticalSurvey 2005

by Chris Bertram on April 15, 2005

How many surveys can one man produce? “Yet another Chris Lightfoot effort”:http://www.politicalsurvey2005.com/ , which places you on two axes: “crime and punishment, internationalism” (where I’m apparently “very left-wing”) and “economics, etc.” where I turn out to be a “centrist”. Again, rather Britocentric I’m afraid. (You can see my position “here”:http://www.politicalsurvey2005.com/scripts/quiz?s=AAGBHBEFDBAEABEEEDAABCCBDDBBDDBDBCBEBBBDDA . ) (Hat tip: Robin Grant – who is collecting results over at “perfect.co.uk”:http://www.perfect.co.uk/2005/04/political-survey-2005 )

Cheats beware

by Chris Bertram on April 15, 2005

Essays from essay banks are “crap”:http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2020840 , according to the THES :

bq. Students who think they can beat plagiarism detection software by paying an internet ghostwriting service to produce bespoke essays may want to think again, writes Phil Baty. An experiment at Loughborough University, in which students bought essays from internet services that write one-off pieces of work to order, found that they were of poor quality, sometimes riddled with mistakes and unlikely to earn more than a third or lower second-class grade. …

bq. The lowest-marked essay was by Essays-R-Us (www.essays-r-us.co.uk), which charged £205 and produced work that barely scraped a third, with 42 per cent. Professor Oppenheim said the essay had basic errors and suffered from “appalling” English. … The best essay was delivered by Degree Essays UK (www.ukessays.com) , part of Academic Answers Ltd, which is registered at Companies House. The service described itself as “the best essays and dissertation service in the UK” and said its essays were “guaranteed to be of a 2.1 or a first class standard”. However, Loughborough gave its essay 56 to 58 per cent – a lower second.

(via “Black Triangle”:http://blacktriangle.org/blog/ . )

State Imposed Religion

by Henry on April 15, 2005

Bill Frist’s telecast in which he appears with a clatter (right collective noun? would clangour be better?) of Republican-friendly fundamentalists to denounce filibusters of conservative judges as an attack on “people of faith” is unsurprisingly getting a lot of play in the left-blogosphere. But it strikes me that both this and the bungled Republican attempt to make political hay from the Terry Schiavo case provide open ground for a strong Democratic counter-attack. There’s good reason to believe that Frist’s move is a sign of weakness rather than of strength. If this Washington Post article is correct, Frist is pushing the nuclear option not because he thinks that this is a good issue for the Republicans, but because he fears that he won’t stand a chance of getting the Republican nomination in 2008 unless he has the religious conservatives on his side. Going to war over the filibuster is a very risky manoeuvre. The Republican party tried to use the Schiavo case to drum up public support in preparation for this fight, but it backfired. They now find themselves in the worst of both worlds – a general public which is suspicious of Republican efforts to rig the judicial system, and a conservative base which is fired up, and demanding that the Republicans ram through conservative judicial nominations to prevent anything like the Schiavo case from happening in future.

The way to fight back against this isn’t to make arguments about the corruption of the political process. This is the deeper problem – but it’s an abstract one, and unlikely to resonate. There’s a much more straightforward case against the Republicans. Their attempt to bend the judiciary to their will is really about building the foundations of a state-imposed religion. It’s an effort to impose religious norms on people’s private and family lives. More precisely: it aims to take complex decisions out of the realm of the family, and make them subject to the rule of judges who are expected to kowtow to the whims of lawmakers, regardless of their constitutional duties. The United States of America was founded by Dissenters, Unitarians and others who had fled from the tyranny of state-sponsored religion in Britain. As a result, one of the core American values is freedom of religion, and the maintenance of an open space in which people can pursue their own faiths and beliefs, free of interference from the state.

Every time that Republican legislators start talking about the attack on people of faith, Democrats should counter by saying that Republicans are trying to forcibly shove a state-sponsored set of religious values down people’s throats, and to prevent people from making their own decisions in the light of their own values and beliefs. They should point again and again to the outrageous statements made by DeLay, Cornyn and others during and after the Schiavo case – and use the Schiavo controversy as an example of the sort of decision that Republicans would like to take out of the hands of families, and hand over to judges. There’s a real argument to be made that it’s the Republicans rather than the Democrats who are attacking “people of faith,” by trying to impose a one-size-fits-all set of religious values through rigging the judicial system. It’s an argument that might even appeal to a few Christian fundamentalists, since they’ve been on the receiving end of similar treatment in the past. As Godfrey Hodgson tells us, the current resurgence of fundamentalism in American politics is in part a reaction against efforts by the state to ban home-schooling in an earlier era. The Democrats (I should note that I’m not a Democrat myself, but am on their side in this fight), should be hammering home this argument again, and again, and again.

As far as I know the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy is the first online journal in moral philosophy. The first issue has interesting-looking contributions by Raz, Gideon Yaffe, and John Brunero. The team has obviously put a lot of work into providing authors with the assurance that this is as permanent as paper. In the editorial policy they say:

The Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy website has been designed by the Annenberg Center at the University of Southern California and is maintained by the Center for the indefinite future. The website is guaranteed by a double back-up system, and it is designed to accommodate future upgrades and modifications. The journal is fully committed to maintaining the website and its entire database for the indefinite future and has taken every possible measure to that effect.

This is a pretty good guarantee, and authors may find the idea of having their work completely available instantly to anyone with a modem very appealing.

Don’t worry, be creative

by Eszter Hargittai on April 15, 2005

Before I link to yet another advertisement for your amusement, I thought it was worth noting the interesting twist in some of us actually seeking out and making conscious decisions to view ads. Aren’t consumers supposed to hate advertisements? Isn’t the great fear about TiVo and similar devices that audiences skip over all the ads? That may be the case if the commercials are horrible, which many of them are. But the fact that people voluntarily visit sites that feature ads suggests that there is room for advertisements in our world. They just need to be good enough to capture our attention. Remember the Honda commercial called Cog? Talk about creative. I personally liked the Get Perpendicular Hitachi flash movie to which I posted a link yesterday (although that may be a bit too geeky for some). The Ad Forum hosts thousands of ads from across the world (although only a small fraction seem to be freely accessible). Again, some of them are creative enough that people will voluntarily go to the site to check them out. Here are some recent popular ones: Frogger and The Banana. So dear advertisers, instead of getting upset about new technologies how about getting creative?

I’ll take this opportunity to give a shout-out to David Krewinghaus to whom we are grateful for our cool header banner. Some of his work exemplifies well what I am talking about above.

UPDATE: I had also meant to post a link to the video depicting the shot made by Tiger Woods the other day. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll understand the connection to this post once you view it.

Preferential voting for Britain ?

by John Quiggin on April 15, 2005

I was thinking about Chris’ post on tactical voting and I was struck by the thought: Why hasn’t Labour introduced preferential (single transferable) voting in Britain? Readers will probably be struck by the alternative question, Why should Labour introduce preferential (single transferable) voting in Britain?

My first is that this would be an improvement in democracy, both for individual constituencies and for the country as a whole. Although no voting system is perfect, preferential voting is much more likely to produce an outcome that reflects the views of the majority of voters than is first-past-the-post.

I don’t suppose that an argument like this will cut much ice with the Blair government (or most incumbent governments), so let me move to the second point. Labour would almost certainly benefit from this shift, at the expense of the Tories. It seems pretty clear that Labour would get the bulk of LDP preferences, as well as those of the Greens and minor left parties. The Tories would pick up preferences from UKIP (but this group looks like a flash in the pan) and the far-right (but this is a small group, and there are disadvantages attached to such preferences, especially if, say, the BNP demands preferences in return).

It’s true of course that the biggest benefits would go to the Liberal Democrats, since their supporters would not have to worry about ‘wasted votes’. But even here, there’s a hidden benefit for Labour. Sooner or later, there will be a hung Parliament, and the price of LDP support will be full-scale proportional representation. If Labour introduced preferential voting without being forced to, it would not only cement LDP support but would greatly weaken the case for PR.

The remaining objection is that of additional complexity. This can be overcome, in large measure by adopting the optional preferential system, where voters can indicate as many or as few preferences as they choose.