From the monthly archives:

August 2005

Even more on Katrina

by Eszter Hargittai on August 31, 2005

I really appreciate Ted’s offer to motivate/thank people for donating to relief agencies. I encourage everyone to donate what they can. In case the suggested $100 is too much for some, I thought I’d offer an incentive/thank you for smaller donations. If you give $35 to the Katrina fund of a relief agency then I will send you (restricted to US addresses*, I’m afraid) a copy of my parents’ book Symmetry, a Unifying Concept. It’s a nice book filled with hundreds of wonderful pictures. I will also add a unique thank-you card not available in stores.:)

If you would like both a CD from Ted and the book then why not donate at least $135?

Send me a note at [email address removed and retired due to end of offer & spam] letting me know that you made the donation and when. Be sure to include your mailing address.

Offer ends when I run out of books. I’ll update this post when/if that happens.

UPDATE (9/2/05 4:45pm CST): I can take requests from five more people so if you were inspired by this offer then please act soon.

UPDATE (9/2/05 6:33pm CST): This was quick. I’m afraid I have to end the offer now. I will be shipping 35 books to people across the U.S. next week. Thanks to all for the many generous donations!

*If you live outside the US and make a donation, I can send a book on your behalf to a US address you specify (gift for a friend?).

Katrina and the economy

by John Quiggin on August 31, 2005

People are already wondering what effect Hurricane Katrina will have on the US economy. So far, most of the discussion I’ve seen has focused on very simplified Keynesian or GDP-based views of the economy, in which the resources that go into rebuilding New Orleans and the surrounding regions count as a net addition to economic activity.

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More Katrina

by Ted on August 31, 2005

If you make a donation of $100 or more to the American Red Cross or another hurricane-relief charity, and you live in the United States, I will burn and send you a custom mix CD.

Email me at ted.barlow+katrina@gmail.com. Include:

– a receipt, or just your word. (If you’ve already donated, that’s fine. If you donated through your employer, and they’re matching funds, even better.)

– your address

– your music preferences. If you hate/ love a certain genre, if you’re hoping for more/less obscure stuff, or you want an uptempo/downtempo mix, I’ll do my best to accomodate you. Left to my own devices, I’ll probably pick a lot of rock, soul, and hip-hop.

Offer ends in the unlikely event that I can’t keep up with the volume.

Craig’s List for Katrina victims

by Eszter Hargittai on August 31, 2005

Numerous people are turning to community site Craig’s List in an effort to find information about family and friends from the New Orleans area and also as a means to reach out to victims with offers of help. People from across the country are offering free housing. If you know of victims who left and are stranded in various parts of the country, the notices on the site may help them out. Of course, as with all such things, one needs to proceed with caution.

It’s sad to see, however, that even these sites are not immune to spam.

Just On The Other Side

by Belle Waring on August 31, 2005

In the Washington Post today, humor:

Tierney, of the Institute of World Politics, identified five groups: ANSWER, Not in Our Name, Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, and MoveOn.org. He said these groups “come from the Workers World Party” and are an “umbrella” for smaller groups, such as the “Communist Party of Kansas City” and the “Socialist Revolutionary Movement of the Upper Mississippi.” Of the last two, he said, “I’m just making these up.” [oh, that’s all right then–ed.]

Tierney singled out Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq and who camped out at President Bush’s ranch this month to protest the war. “I’ve never heard of a woman protesting a war in front of a leader’s home in my life,” he said. “I’ve never heard of anything quite so outrageous.”

Wow, that’s funny, because I’m sure I’ve heard of at least one or two things more outrageous than that, in the history of humankind, ever…wait. Did he say “a woman”? Fuck it: it’s on now, commie. Don’t mess with American Pride.

Unrelatedly, for those who wanted to re-enter the fray, a new post at John and Belle Have a Blog about who, exactly, is a big pussy. Bonus vagina dentata action! (Teeth not included.) Speculations as to my anxiety about how anonymous men on teh intarweb will no longer find me attractive welcomed! (If by “welcomed”, you mean “I’m laughing about the probable size of your penis.”) Post away, kids!

Helping Hurricane Victims, Cont.

by Ted on August 30, 2005

My lovely fiancee alerted me to this, from Houston’s alternative rock station, The Buzz:

Starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday, we’ll be taking song requests for cash to help residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We’re dusting off ALL our records, ’cause anything goes!

Here’s the price list:
$30 – Buzz Songs
$60 – Non-Buzz Songs
$80 – Way off The Buzz Path (example: Barry Manilow)
$200 – Local Bands

You say it … and pay it … we’ll play it!! Call 713-212-5945 to place your request.

For the first time ever, The Buzz is appointment radio. Assuming that it’s funding a legit charity, I’m so doing this.

Helping Hurricane Victims

by Kieran Healy on August 30, 2005

No doubt you know this already from many sources, but it is easy to donate money to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. To donate online to the Red Cross, click here or call 1-800-HELP-NOW. Right now the situation down there continues to deteriorate. I hope “this sort of thing”:http://www.cnn.com/2005/WEATHER/08/30/katrina.neworleans/index.html doesn’t become widespread:

bq. The city had no power, no drinking water, dwindling food supplies, widespread looting, smoke rising on the horizon and the sounds of gunfire. At least one large building was ablaze Tuesday.

My (limited) understanding of the logistics of this thing is that, the Iraq war notwithstanding, the National Guard of Louisiana and Mississippi should in principle still have about 50-60 percent of its manpower available for call-up. It looks like a good chunk of them may well be needed. The more residents they evacuate the better, too. It’s not so much the dead bodies that pose a threat of disease, it’s the waste produced by survivors (and debris) when there’s no clean water to be had.

Teaching Adam Smith

by Kieran Healy on August 30, 2005

This semester I’m teaching _Sources of Sociological Theory_ to undergraduate majors, a course I’ve taught several times before. After a crash course on the state of Europe and America prior to 1780 or so (100% guaranteed to make historians come out in at least hives, and possibly trigger fits), we’ve started reading Adam Smith. It’s always a pleasure to teach Smith as a social theorist. For one thing, he’s a clear enough writer (certainly compared to, e.g., Weber) and more importantly his central insight about the possibility of decentralized co-ordination always catches students by surprise. Even though students are all exposed one way or another to the rhetoric of free enterprise, free trade, market capitalism and what have you, in my experience even talented undergraduates have to work a bit to really see the power and elegance of Smith’s vision of a complex, co-ordinated division of labor. I do a few classroom exercises (based on ideas from Mitch Resnick and Tom Schelling, amongst others) to bring out the problem of co-ordination, the many ways it can fail, and the distinctive qualities of markets as a solution. (Though, as Schelling notes, not all cases of distributed co-ordination are markets, just as not all ellipses are circles.)

Although Smith is often presented as the champion of the individual, and opposed to thinkers who emphasize social structure or the state, it’s immediately clear when you read him that Smith was as much a “discoverer of society” — that is, of the idea that the social world is a human product consisting of myriad interlocking relationships dependent on specific institutions and human capacities — as any of the other theorists typically recognized as founders of modern sociology. His treatment of the problem of the division of labor also provides a platform to understand the others. Marx is much easier to understand once you know a bit about Smith, of course, but so are Durkheim’s ideas about social solidarity and the nonrational foundations of contractual exchange. And much of Weber’s work on the origins of capitalism was conceived explicitly with Smith in mind.

Lifehacker goodies

by Eszter Hargittai on August 30, 2005

I’ve been very busy over at Lifehacker. A friend of mine says it’s like “quirky academic meets Martha Stewart”. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s a reasonable description of what I’ve been up to. Here are some posts I put up in the past couple of days. I will have a roundup of all the free downloads later in the week. If you can’t wait, feel free to check out the site directly.

General tips

GMail/Flickr tips

The Republican War on Science

by Henry on August 30, 2005

A review of Chris Mooney’s _The Republican War on Science_ available from Powells “here”:http://www.powells.com/partner/29956/biblio/0465046754, and Amazon (deprecated) “here”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?link_code=ur2&camp=1789&tag=henryfarrell-20&creative=9325&path=tg/detail/-/0465046754/qid=1125410511/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1?v=glance%26s=books%26n=507846.

Books about the politics of science policy and other complicated policy areas have a hard time doing justice to the politics and the technical aspects both; they usually emphasize one and underplay the other. On the one hand, many journalistic accounts ham up the politics, and underplay the analysis, documenting the atrocities, one after another after another. Raw outrage supported by anecdotes gets partisans’ juices flowing, but it’s not likely to persuade the unpersuaded, or provide any good understanding of how to solve the problem (other than to kick the bums out, which is a start, but only a start). On the other, there are books that do an excellent job of discussing the underlying policy issues, but that lack political zing. Marion Nestle’s _Food Politics_ is a good example; it provides a nuanced (and utterly damning) account of how the technical processes of food regulation have been corrupted by special interests, but it’s written by a policy wonk for policy wonks. There’s lots and lots of technical nitty gritty. The good news is that Chris Mooney’s book pulls off the difficult double act of talking about the politics in a fresh and immediate fashion while paying attention to the underlying issues of institutions and policies, and does it with considerable aplomb. _The Republican War on Science_ is written with an eye for a good story, but it still has a real intellectual punch. There’s an underlying argument as to _why_ the relationship between science and politics is in a parlous state. While I think that there’s an interesting piece missing from this argument (on which more below), it links the very different issues of science politics under the current administration (regulation, intelligent design, global warming, stem cell research) into a more-or-less coherent narrative.
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Siberia calling!

by Chris Bertram on August 30, 2005

Wow! Just had my first “Google Talk”:http://www.google.com/talk/ conversation. I’m sure most of you are old hands at this voice-over-internet stuff but it was my first time. Set it up, invited some friends and then up pops a mate from Novosibirsk (equipped with headset) for a chat, as if he was just down the road. It works, it’s simple and easy to use. Fantastic.

Something Near Enough

by Kieran Healy on August 29, 2005

My friend Karen Bennett blurbs Jaegwon Kim’s new book, Physicalism, or something near enough. The back cover, though, is careful to introduce Karen’s endorsement by saying only, “Advance praise for _Physicalism_.” Presumably some sharp-eyed editor realised it wouldn’t do for people to read “Advance praise for Physicalism, or something near enough.” Round our way, the title is proving to have all kinds of useful applications: “I was on time, or something near enough”, “Childcare, or something near enough”, “A viable constitution for Iraq, or something near enough.” I think it should catch on.

Barriers to entry

by Eszter Hargittai on August 29, 2005

Anecdotally, I still often hear people say (like I did this weekend, or like I’ve read in CT comments) that it wouldn’t take that much for a new company to enter the search-engine market. But we are not in the late 1990s and it would take tremendous resources to enter this market.

The major players at this point are AOL, Ask Jeeves, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!. (Note that in contrast to much anecdotal evidence in the press and among other commentators, Google does not have nearly the market share that many people suggest. I’ve discussed this on CT before.)

Among the above search engines, AOL, Google, MSN, and Yahoo! represent much more than just search engines. They are vast empires of Internet-related products that continue to innovate and introduce new services.

This does not mean that there is no room for innovation. In fact, we seem to be undergoing a second boom these days (somewhat reminiscent of the late 90s, but in a much more realistic manner). Numerous interesting and innovative services have sprung up in the last few years. However, you will notice that many of these are eventually acquired by one of the companies above. Examples: Google’s acquisition of Blogger and Yahoo!’s acquisition of Flickr.

And to be sure, we have even seen new entrants in niche markets of search, for example, the searching of recently added content. Here, Technorati and Feedster come to mind. While offering valuable services – an almost immediate inclusion of blog content in search results – these engines focus on a very small segment of Web content.

It would take tremendous amount of resources in this day and age to even come close to the computation and labor resources that drive the above-mentioned companies and allow them to index Web content at a more general level. It is unlikely that we will see independent new entrants in the near future. If we do, they will likely be acquired by one of the companies above.

Scientific intimidation

by Henry on August 29, 2005

John McCain and Peter Likins (president of the University of Arizona) write an “op-ed”:http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=nkuneybcibwmoytv16bn8jdr1xybgsx2 for the _Chronicle_ on efforts by Republicans in Congress to intimidate scientists doing research on global warming.

bq. the government cannot craft sound policy unless it can count on scientists to provide accurate data on which to base its actions. (The consequences of spinning or withholding facts can be seen in the lives lost to disease because tobacco companies withheld evidence from Congress and the Food and Drug Administration.) When members of Congress recently began pressuring scientists who have offered evidence of global warming, they broke that crucial covenant. The chairman and another member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, in an apparent effort to discredit the findings reported by three distinguished scientists from respected universities, demanded that the scientists send Congress all of the scientific data they have gathered in their entire careers, even data on studies unrelated to their publications on global warming. … The message sent by the Congressional committee to the three scientists was not subtle: Publish politically unpalatable scientific results and brace yourself for political retribution, which might include denial of the opportunity to compete for federal funds. Statements that such requests are routine ring hollow: Asking for scientific information may be routine, but asking for all of the data produced in a scientist’s career is highly irregular. It represents a kind of intimidation, which threatens the relationship between science and public policy. That behavior must not be tolerated.

I know that McCain has disappointed on a variety of fronts, but I’m still very happy to see him issuing a vigorous and unambiguous denunciation of his colleagues in the House. I’ll have more to say about these issues in my review of Chris Mooney’s book.

APSA Advice

by Henry on August 29, 2005

The annual American Political Science Association meeting is taking place this week in Washington DC. Some spots that CT-reading attendees may want to know about …

Food:

There are several decent restaurants in the Woodley Park neighbourhood, where the conference hotels are located. Of these, the best that I know of is the “Lebanese Taverna”:http://www.lebanesetaverna.com/restaurants/dc/. If you want a real treat, and you’re prepared to walk for 10-15 mins, or hop on the Metro, “Indique”:http://www.indique.com/Indiquemainpage.html (north up Connecticut, or take the Metro one stop to Cleveland Park) is a great nouvelle Indian restaurant – one of the few places inside DC’s city limits to make it into Tyler Cowen’s excellent “guide to ethnic food in the Washington area”:http://www.gmu.edu/jbc/Tyler/cowenethnic17th.htm. Alternatively, you can go south to Dupont Circle – but the restaurants here aren’t as good as they used to be and can be a little pricey. I like “Mourayo”:http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/Profiles/mourayo.html, a Greek place, especially for their “Sappho” dessert (Greek yoghurt, strawberries and honey in a phyllo pastry – yum!). Also good, but expensive, is “Pesce”:http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/Profiles/Pesce.html, which is a little bit off the Circle, on P street, and which specializes in fish. Just across the street is “Pizza Paradiso”:http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/Profiles/PizzeriP.html, which is a lot cheaper and does great wood-burning oven pizza. Expect long lines at lunch time, unless you make it early – the dining area is tiny. Those who are prepared to be adventurous and travel into the suburbs should trust to Tyler’s extraordinary knowledge of the great food to be found in Virginia and Maryland stripmalls.

Alcohol:

I’m not as well up on this as I used to be, but I can heartily recommend the “Brickskeller”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?node=entertainment/profile&id=792636&typeId=5 which is just off Dupont circle, and is listed in the Guinness book of records as “the bar with the largest selection of commercially available beers.” Over 1,000, mostly in bottles. They serve them a little warmer than is usual in the US, but nonetheless tasty for that. The “Childe Harold”:http://www.childeharold.com/, which is close by, is very good downstairs; for a fictional description (thinly disguised), see Elizabeth Hand’s short story, “Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol”:http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/originals_archive/hand/hand1.html.

Bookshops:

Always one of my first priorities when I go to a new city. DC doesn’t have any big bookshop to rival Powells or the Strand, but it does have a superb specialized bookshop that should be of interest to APSA types, “Politics and Prose”:http://www.politics-prose.com/. Excellent on politics and history, as you might expect, but also has a quite superb collection of childrens’ books downstairs (a legacy from the Cheshire Cat, a famous childrens’ bookshop that it took over a few years ago). “Olssons”:http://www.olssons.com/ is also pretty good, if not quite what it used to be – the Dupont Circle branch is probably the best. Secondhand places are a bit hit-and-miss – the Rockville branch of “Second Story Books”:http://www.secondstorybooks.com/ is pretty good, but it’s a long drive from the city.

Additions, corrections etc welcome in comments.