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”: 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”:, and Amazon (deprecated) “here”:

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.
[click to continue…]

Siberia calling!

by Chris Bertram on August 30, 2005

Wow! Just had my first “Google 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.