Sorry this has been a few days in coming, I’ve been tied up. So anyway, is he going to jail or not? My summary advice to both sides would be, don’t get your hopes up. I am getting a clearer picture of what actually went on between 1999 and 2001 with respect to Galloway, Iraq and oil, but there is still a big murky patch of uncertainty. I would also submit that Galloway is correct on one important point; despite the great big smile all over his face on the news, the Presidential hopes of Senator Norm Coleman are probably dead and buried and can’t be redeemed by getting Galloway – the secret is out that he is a flat-track bully who falls apart under pressure and anyone facing him in a debate from here to the end of time will know that. But anyway, what is the new news in the Senate Report [1]?

[1] Actually the majority (ie Republican) staff report from the committee but I do not think this detail is important.
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by Kieran Healy on October 30, 2005

I just finished reading Doormen, by “Peter Bearman”: It’s a study of the residential doormen who work in the building’s of New York’s Upper West and East sides. A fairly restricted topic, to be sure, but the book is a small gem: the kind of sociology that takes a particular job and investigates it in a way that derives quite general lessons even as it delves into the specifics.

Appropriately, _Doormen_ was featured in the New Yorker recently, though the article didn’t convey the flavor of the book all that well. To get a better sense of it, you can “read an excerpt”: from the chapter about the twists and turns surrounding the all-important Christmas bonus. In _Micromotives and Macrobehavior_, Thomas Schelling remarks that “not all ellipses are circles,” meaning that not all systems of interdependent, decentralized interaction are markets. He uses the example of people trapped in a cycle of Christmas-card sending. Figuring out the bonus is one of life’s ellipses, too, though a more complex one:

The optimal position for each tenant in the bonus sweepstakes is right at the top of the pile, but within close range of the others’. Little is gained from being in the middle; aside from avoidance of the bottom. The bottom quartile of the distribution is obviously exactly where tenants do not want to find themselves. The dilemma is that it is impossible to know how to position oneself without learning about the expected behavior of the other tenants. And this is why, around Thanksgiving, tenants start to position themselves to learn what their fellow tenants are intending to do. Eventually, they will have to start talking.

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Here’s Your Reading List, Tony

by Tom on October 30, 2005

I’ve just picked up Brian Barry’s new book, Why Social Justice Matters, and despite having very high expectations based on the man’s track record, I’m not in the least disappointed so far. Barry’s work always combines extraordinary clarity and patience in argument with enviable command of the relevant chunks of social science. ‘Why Social Justice Matters’ is no exception – the chapters on the effects of growing inequality in the US and the UK on the health and education of the worst-off are fantastically useful distillations of what I presume are massive literatures. I shall hope to blog about some of Barry’s ideas about responsibility when I’ve mulled them over properly.

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Sophie Scholl

by Chris Bertram on October 30, 2005

I went to see “Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage”: (film website “here”: ) last night, and came away with ambivalent feelings about it. On the one hand, it is good to see this extraordinary moment of heroism get a cinematic treatment, but on the other, it didn’t work especially well as a film. The film is supposedly based on Gestapo transcripts — but can it be true that Scholl and her interrogator engaged in lengthy speechifying against (and in defence of) the Nazi regime? These were the sort of exchanges that might work well in a stage play, but seemed stilted and artificial on the screen. There was also the matter of the film’s focus on Sophie as an individual rather than on her brother Hans when, from the point of view of their heroism, there seems little to choose between them. That seemed to exploit a tacit assumption that there was something specially noble about a woman resisting rather than a man. The film was good in bringing out their religious convictions, and the importance they had in motivating their acts. Certainly a film very much worth seeing for its moral and political qualities, but perhaps not for its aesthetic ones.

Pogrom meme

by Chris Bertram on October 30, 2005

I got quite a bit of flak in “comments last week”: for using the word “pogrom” to allude to the parallels between the rumour-driven riots in Birmingham and the persecution of Jews in 19th-century eastern Europe. Insofar as “pogrom” suggests some kind of official sanction, the word probably had slightly misleading connotations. But I see that both the “conservative columnist Theodore Dalrymple”: and the “Observer’s Nick Cohen”:,6903,1604791,00.html have also noticed the echoes. Dalrymple wrote:

bq. The rumour that a 14-year-old black girl had been caught shoplifting by a Pakistani shopkeeper in the Lozells area of Birmingham, and subsequently raped in revenge by a score of his compatriots, is highly reminiscent of the blood libels that used to sweep through Tsarist Russia at the end of the 19th century and led to vicious pogroms.

And comments:

bq. Of all the paradoxes of the situation, none is greater than that the Muslim traders of Lozells, among whom an unthinking anti-Semitism is probably widespread, should now find themselves in the position of the petty-trading Jews of Tsarist Russia, Moldavia and Romania.

And Cohen refers to Dalrymple and then generalizes the the work of Amy Chua:

bq. In World on Fire, published two years ago and which deserved far more attention than it received, Amy Chua showed how globalisation had created an explosion of racism in the anti-semitic tradition. The new wave of capitalism had raised the living standards of ordinary people by a little and the rich by a lot, her argument ran. The supporters of free markets and democracy thought everyone was benefiting and hadn’t noticed that their ideas helped fuel resentments in those countries where ethnic minorities dominated business.

Thoughts that are outrageous on Crooked Timber on Monday, are conservative talking-points by Wednesday and the conventional wisdom of the “decent” left by the following Sunday. Maybe I should be worried about that!