Darfur again

by John Quiggin on October 27, 2005

Until fairly recently, it seemed as if the worst of the tragedy of Darfur was over. The Sudanese government appeared set to rein in the terrorist Janjaweed militia, the rebels seemed willing to negotiate and the international community seemed finally to be taking some action.

But in the last few months, things have gone from bad to worse and ethnic cleansing on a large scale has resumed. There are lots of reports at Passion of the Present

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Rockefeller deadline November 1st

by Harry on October 27, 2005

The LSR Fellows program at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University has set its application deadline one month earlier than in the past – Nov. 1st. So if you are thinking of applying you should get a move on. My sense, from people who’ve done it, is that it is a fantastic experience.

We Can Do Better Than Maggie Gallagher

by Belle Waring on October 27, 2005

Either my charitable nature has overwhelmed me, or my desire for someone to fight with whose arms I don’t have to prop up and swing around myself. It is easy to pin straw men to the mat, but it lacks something, somehow. Anyway, I have written the most convincing anti same-sex marriage post I could muster on my personal blog. Please comment there.

Cronies’ cronies’ cronies

by Henry on October 27, 2005

Cosma Shalizi makes a very interesting “research proposal”:http://www.cscs.umich.edu/%7Ecrshalizi/weblog/386.html – how could we measure the extent to which cronyism allows incompetents to land plum jobs in the Bush administration?

bq. What’s wanted — but what the journalists don’t provide — is a study where one builds the network of Presidential cronies, cronies’ cronies, cronies’ cronies’ cronies, etc., and then asks questions such as: How likely are close cronies to be named to government positions? How much influence does position in the network — centrality, say, or distance from the President — have on the likelihood of getting a government job? How likely are cronies to get jobs for which they are not qualified? Is position more important for incompetent cronies? Many people have asserted that networks of influence and social connection are important to how the modern GOP works … but nobody seems to have really studied this thoroughly. To do it right, you need to carefully define what you mean by “crony”. Since, ultimately, the whole species forms a single human web, you want to only consider ties which are actually meaningful indicators of political alliance and, still more, of nepotism and cronyism. Also, you want to set out your criteria carefully and rigidly before collecting data, otherwise there’ll be a lot of temptation to manipulate things as you go along, and the result will be closer to Lyndon LaRouche than to Randall Collins (or even Malcolm Gladwell). … Once you have people in the network, we need to see whether they’ve been named to government positions (not necessarily confirmed, just named), and whether they met the legally-defined norms of competence for those positions … to really do this right, we’d need to do it all over again, not just for the current administration, but for another one as a control — the Clinton administration, say, or Bush’s father; Reagan or earlier is probably too far back. This seems to be the only way to answer questions like whether this administration is more centralized than its predecessors, or more likely to nominate incompetents. … Even without doubling our workload by doing a comparative study, however, simply seeing the network of cronies would let us answer some interesting questions. Who really are the most central members of the network? Are they people with formal positions of authority? Are they people you’ve ever even heard of? Or are they comparatively little-known fixers with huge address books, but no officially constituted authority?

Sounds like an excellent research proposal, even if, as Cosma suggests, it would require teamwork and lots of money. As he says, nobody’s doing this. Political scientists tend not to do sophisticated network analysis (more for reasons of disciplinary history than anything else, I suspect – certainly not because networks are irrelevant to politics). Check out also Cosma’s ferocious and enormously entertaining new “book review”:http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/wolfram/ of Stephen Wolfram’s opus from a couple of years back.

Go Chicago!

by Eszter Hargittai on October 27, 2005

Given that I’m a proud Chicagoland resident, it’s only appropriate to send a shoutout to the White Sox and their fans even if I’m not necessarily much of a baseball fan and despite the fact that I live north of the north side.* CONGRATS! It’s fun to see all the excitement conveyed in some of the photostreams on Flickr. Sorry, Ted. (This weekend we can forget about all this and focus on the Northwestern-Michigan football game. Go ‘Cats!)

*If I was a baseball fan and given where I live, I’d have to be a Cubs fan. Every time I go downtown I go right past Wrigley Field so it’s hard not to feel more allegiance to that team. And while I realize some Cubs fans are as bitter as can be about the White Sox victory, that’s not me.

Lawson on Cameron

by Harry on October 27, 2005

Here’s a piece in today’s Guardian by Neal Lawson (the chair of Compass) arguing that Labour has something real to fear from a Cameron victory, and, more interestingly, that a smart unblinkered Tory (if Cameron is one) could reforge a kind of modern one-nation Toryism.

The bigger threat is that Cameron could outflank New Labour on the left. This would not be so hard, given the space that Blair’s march to the right has left vacant. On civil liberties, for example, it would be easy for Cameron to appeal to a progressive centre disenchanted with New Labour’s reactionary approach. In addition, Cameron and his Notting Hill crowd instinctively understand the “wellbeing agenda” and could play to the many voters who yearn for a better quality of life. Even on social justice, it would be possible to recreate a modern form of one-nation Toryism. At the last election New Labour was outflanked on the left by the Liberal Democrats. In four years’ time we could be outmanoeuvred on the left by the Tories.

Conjectural, obviously, but also interesting. Obviously Brits will be more interested than anyone in this, but Americans who read David Brooks’s column on Sunday, in which he praised Cameron for learning so much from that great conservative leader George W Bush, might also learn something. Or perhaps you already knew that Brooks doesn’t know anything about British politics.