Conservative Copyfights

by Henry Farrell on April 18, 2005

The Washington Post has a piece on the battle between “family friendly” editors who sanitize films for conservative family consumption and film directors, which poses some interesting political questions. On the one hand, I reckon that leftwingers should be supporting conservatives on principle in this fight. As I wrote at the beginning of this year (in one of the worst-titled posts of all time), there’s a strong argument that conservatives should have the right to ‘remix’ bits of the culture that they don’t want to consume. Why shouldn’t they be able to take the sex out of Hollywood movies that their kids watch (just as leftwingers might want to protect their kids from rampant consumerism)? On the other, there are clear costs to this:

Family Flix, which claims to have the toughest standards, removes “sexual innuendo,” including suggestions or depictions of homosexuality. It recently edited “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” an animated film with a PG rating, to eliminate a scene in which a male starfish character sings and dances while dressed in fishnet stockings and high heels.

I’m strongly attracted to what might be called, for want of a better term, BoingBoing socialism. That is, I buy the argument that some of the key goals of the left can best be achieved through maximizing individuals’ control over the conditions of their consumption (and, by extension, maximizing their ability to remix and re-produce cultural goods). But what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Empowering people to make cultural choices we might ‘like’ is also going to empower them to make choices that we might dislike too – to separate themselves from what many of us would consider to be a minimal shared social consensus on homosexuality. There are some extremely vexing questions about the appropriate relationship between the common culture and dissenting sub-cultures like the one that Christian conservatives have very successfully created, a difficult balance to be struck. As individuals’ ability to remix their cultural consumption increases, so too will these questions become more urgent. At the moment, I don’t have any very good answers to them.

Apathy Rul

by Daniel on April 18, 2005

And still they come … another mySociety project, aiming to kick some life into the carcass of democracy in the UK. Give up guys, it’s dead, that’s what I say.

No seriously. is a laudable effort, allowing those of us who really really don’t think voting is worth bothering with to differentiate ourselves from those who merely don’t understand the question, can’t be bothered or (surprisingly many) didn’t realise that there was an election on. You can record your reason for not voting for posterity. Don’t be put off by the fact that a lot of the putative reasons on the website look a bit pathetic; there is going to be some proper analysis of the reasons (I’ve apparently signed up to hand-classify a hundred, so make yours interesting), so the unsystematic ones will tend to cancel out. So if you’re intentionally not voting (even if live in Birmingham or Blackburn and thus suspect that you will end up voting Labour by post anyway), pop along to notapathetic and tell the world why.

I had sort of promised to put this link up last week, but well, you know.


by Henry Farrell on April 18, 2005

Howard Kurtz’s blog round-up points to this small gem of insight on the estate tax, from blogger and University of Nebraska law professor, Rick Duncan.

Of course, the Democrats played the Marxist class-warfare card and said this legislation would only help the dirty, stinking rich. Actually, it is a very egalitarian law that ensures that no one will pay death taxes. What is wrong with equal treatment?

Duncan finds himself in some interesting intellectual company. If I’m not mistaken in my recollection, Karl Marx himself was fond of quoting Anatole France’s not-dissimilar observation that “[t]he law in its infinite majesty, prohibits rich and poor alike from stealing bread and sleeping under bridges.” (I fear however that Duncan, unlike Marx and France, believes himself to be making a serious argument).

I had to share this detail from the Family Research Council’s webpage for their book Getting It Straight:What the Research Shows About Homosexuality:

Chapter 6: Is There a Link between Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse?

· A study of 229 convicted child molesters in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that “eighty-six percent of offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.” (emphasis added)

(W. D. Erickson, “Behavior Patterns of Child Molesters,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 17 (1988): 83.)

I’m reminded of Kieran’s classic question, “Why are so many of the closets I open full of my clothes?”


by Ted on April 18, 2005

Dwight Merideth, “The GOP Is Robbing Us Of Our Christian Heritage”:

Since 1969, Republican Presidents have appointed 211 Judges to the Circuit Courts. Democrats have appointed 122. Since 1969, Republican Presidents have appointed 813 trial Judges to the District Court bench while Democrats have made 508 such appointments.

If the Federal Judiciary is comprised of a bunch of liberal activists, it is the GOP who put them there.

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, “When Reality Outstrips Irony …”

“It is unfortunate in our electoral system, exacerbated by our adversarial media culture, that political discourse has to get so overheated that it’s not just arguments, but motives are questioned,” Tom DeLay, 4/16/05

“The Democrats’ hateful, moronic comments are beyond the pale, and the Democrats know it, but they don’t care because they have nothing to offer the public debate but rage, resentment and quackery.” Tom DeLay, 12/16/03

Fred Clark, “And have not charity”:

Elimination of the estate tax would result in a decrease in charitable giving of up to 12 percent… For many vital nonprofit agencies on the front lines, a 12-percent drop in charitable giving will mean they have to close their doors.

On the other hand …

There is no other hand.

tbogg, “Ride the wild Bolton Mobius strip….”

John R. Bolton — who is seeking confirmation as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — often blocked then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and, on one occasion, his successor, Condoleezza Rice, from receiving information vital to U.S. strategies on Iran, according to current and former officials who have worked with Bolton.

Matthew Yglesias, “New Depths Discovered”

According to Landay’s sources, the administration only wants reports showing that terrorism is going down, and if the State Departments methods don’t produce that result, then there report just won’t be done. Lovely.

via Pandagon, Inquiry Finds White House Role in Contract

A White House aide was told about potential problems with the Education Department paying a conservative commentator to promote an administration policy but did not prevent the contract from being renewed, according to a new government report.

Via Andrew Sullivan, former Reagan and Nixon speechwriter Jeffrey Hart:

The Bush presidency often is called conservative. That is a mistake. It is populist and radical, and its principal energies have roots in American history, and these roots are not conservative.

Brad DeLong, “Why Oh Why Can’t We Have a Better Press Corps? (I’ve Got to Stop Saying “National Review Has Reached Its Nadir” Department)”

But the point isn’t to provide or critique economic analysis, is it? The point isn’t to inform the readers of National Review, is it? The point is that Paul Volcker–chosen by Republican Richard Nixon’s staff to be Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs, chosen by Republican Arthur Burns to be President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, chosen by Republican Ronald Reagan’s staff to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board–has written something inconvenient for the Bushies inside the White House. And so National Review undertakes the mission of trying to murk the waters with clouds of ink.

And in this squid-like task, actual knowledge of the economy or of economics is a positive hindrance. The less the writer knows, the better.

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution, “No surprise”

And how is this for a laugh?

Reducing agricultural spending by $5.4 billion is [was? AT] a key part of the administration’s plan to cut the federal defict in half. So far, however, the the Senate Budget Committee has agree to cuts amounting to just $2.8 billion.

The Federal deficit is currently over 400 billion.

Union Dues

by Henry Farrell on April 18, 2005

Three links relating to unions and the academy:

A very nice article in Dissent, which I’ve been meaning to link to for a while, setting out the reasons why non-tenure track faculty should unionize.

Teaching assistants at Columbia and Yale plan strike action; the university administration responds with the usual chestnut: “The university’s relationship with graduate students is educational and collaborative. It is not an employer-employee relationship.”

Nathan Newman writes about a new book by Charles Morris, a labour law scholar, arguing that unions have a right to “engage in collective bargaining through a minority union on a members-only basis.” By Newman’s account, Morris “documents that the clear legislative intent of the National Labor Relations Act was to require collective bargaining by companies with minority “members only” unions.” If this original intent can be made to stick (which would be a hard-fought battle, given the current ideological slant of the NLRB), it could transform the US labour relations system.

Conscientious Objectors

by Belle Waring on April 18, 2005

I’m sure others have suggested this, but doesn’t there seem to be a great job opportunity available in those American states which carve out (as some are considering) a “conscience exemption” for pharmacists who do not wish to fill prescriptions for birth control or emergency contraception? Just get certified as a pharmacist, hired at Walgreen’s, and then reveal that you are a Christian Scientist and it is against your religion to dispense any medicine at all. Then just sit back, read chick magazines, and eat expired candy while the money rolls in. “I’d like to fill this perscription for an asthma inhaler?” “Sorry, ma’am, that’s against my religion.” And you can’t get fired! Awesome.

Want One

by Harry on April 18, 2005

I saw Rufus Wainwright singing on stage in 1984, with Martha and their dad, at one of those free concerts the GLC used to put on. You couldn’t tell at the time that he was going to be a huge star, but I mention seeing him then occasionally when I want my cool students to think that I am not quite as uncool as I usually like to seem. But now Want One

is the featured album on Stuart Maconie’s show. Frankly, I still find it a bit nerve-wracking to hear a voice that is almost Loudon’s singing songs like Rufus’s, and it prevents me from being a true fan. If, though, there’s anyone here who hasn’t yet heard him, he’s brilliant.

Oxyrhynchus Papyri Deciphered

by Belle Waring on April 18, 2005

This is one of the most exciting things to have happened in a long time. Scientists using a new photographic technique have made amazing strides in deciphering the famed Oxyrhynchus papyrii (the contents of an Egyptian trash-heap). Apparently, just in the last few days, they have discovered previously unknown writings by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod, and Lucian, as well as a long epic passage from Archilochos. It’s not particularly likely that you’ve ever had a look at how much Archilochos there is in the world, but let me tell you: ain’t a whole lot. Not even one complete poem, if memory serves. (Oxford’s Delectus ex Iambis et Elegis Graecis has all the details.) From the Independent:

The previously unknown texts, read for the first time last week, include parts of a long-lost tragedy – the Epigonoi (“Progeny”) by the 5th-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles; part of a lost novel by the 2nd-century Greek writer Lucian; unknown material by Euripides; mythological poetry by the 1st-century BC Greek poet Parthenios; work by the 7th-century BC poet Hesiod; and an epic poem by Archilochos, a 7th-century successor of Homer, describing events leading up to the Trojan War. Additional material from Hesiod, Euripides and Sophocles almost certainly await discovery.

Oxford academics have been working alongside infra-red specialists from Brigham Young University, Utah. Their operation is likely to increase the number of great literary works fully or partially surviving from the ancient Greek world by up to a fifth. It could easily double the surviving body of lesser work – the pulp fiction and sitcoms of the day.

Go Mormons! (Now if only you could find those darn gold plates and diamond spectacles!) I know every Classics scholar and enthusiast in the whole world is waiting with bated breath…
On the other hand, this Scotsman headline is enthusiastic but misleading: “‘Lost’ classical manuscripts give up their secrets after 9,000 years.” What’s 7,000-odd years among friends, after all?

Make your own Tory poster

by Chris Bertram on April 18, 2005

The British Conservatives have been covering the country with horrible posters asking questions like “How would you feel if a bloke on day-release [from prison] attacked your daughter?” Some enterprising character has now produced a design-your-own-Tory-poster website. Here’s my own feeble effort:

Vampire Tory poster

(via Nick Barlow)

Avian flu

by Chris Bertram on April 18, 2005

Avian flu sounds pretty nasty, and a pandemic would be a disaster. But John Sutherland, “writing in the Guardian”:,3604,1462141,00.html , is in the grip of statistical confusion when he asserts that it could kill 70 per cent of the population. As I understand it, the virus kills 7 out of 10 people that it infects, and the number infected is far below 100 per cent. Moreover, the 7 out of 10 figure may well be an exaggeration, since people who recover and don’t die are less likely to be be included in the figures than those who do. The WHO “impact assessment”: isn’t encouraging (2 to 50 million dead, but could it be worse than that). I’m sure we have some epidemiologists among our readers. Any thoughts?