From the monthly archives:

October 2005

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.

More from la Repubblica

by Henry on October 26, 2005

_La Repubblica_ has another “story”:http://www.repubblica.it/2005/j/sezioni/esteri/iraq70/sileita/sileita.html today on the role of Italian intelligence in feeding bogus evidence on Niger to Hadley and others in the US and elsewhere. There’s one key piece of new information. UK intelligence claimed to have evidence independent of the forged documents, which showed that Iraq had indeed been trying to obtain uranium in Niger. According to _La Repubblica_:

bq. This “evidence” has never been brought forward … “If it ever were brought forward,” said a source in Forte Braschi to _la Repubblica_, with a smile, “it would be discovered, with red faces, that it was Italian intelligence collected by SISMI at the end of the 1980’s, and shared with our friend Hamilton McMillan.”

As best as I can piece this together, the timeline that _La Repubblica_ is arguing for goes as follows. Italian intelligence collected [genuine] information that Hussein was trying to obtain raw uranium at the end of the 1980’s, before the First Gulf War. This information was stored by the branch of Italian intelligence dealing with weapon proliferation issues. When the invasion of Iraq was imminent, this information was brought out from the archives, and bundled together with fake documents in order to make the latter look more legitimate. This dossier was then circulated to UK and US intelligence. The latter didn’t bite at first, causing the director of Italian intelligence to use back channels to Hadley and to Wolfowitz via Ledeen. UK intelligence did bite, either then or later. UK intelligence later claimed that it had a source of intelligence independent from the faked documents saying that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium. However, according to _La Repubblica_ the ‘independent’ source was also from Italian intelligence, and related to efforts by Hussein’s regime to obtain uranium _in the 1980’s_. Hence, it was for all intents and purposes irrelevant to the question of whether Hussein was trying to obtain uranium in post-sanctions Iraq.

Again, this should be taken with a considerable pinch of salt, until and unless there’s independent confirmation. There’s clearly a backstory to this – someone in Italian intelligence with his own agenda is leaking like crazy. There’s a word in Italian – _dietrologia_ – for the science of shadowy manipulations in the background which never come to light – it’s a national pastime. But it raises some troubling issues – and not only for US politics. At key points, the _La Repubblica_ narrative contradicts the claims made in the Butler Report. What did UK intelligence ‘know’ about Niger, and when did they know it?

Small-World Affiliation Networks

by Kieran Healy on October 26, 2005

Speaking of “website gadgets”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/10/26/map-of-ct-readers/, yesterday I tried out “Library Thing”:http://www.librarything.com, a service that lets you catalog your books online. Think of it as “Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com for your books. About 70 percent of the books in my office are already in a “Delicious Library”:https://crookedtimber.org/2004/11/13/delicious-monster/ catalog, which Library Thing can import, so I uploaded the lot. Like Delicious Library, the most obviously useful feature of a catalog is as yet unavailable — namely, the ability to do a full-text search on the books you own. Something like Amazon’s Search Inside. Maybe in the future there will be a way for applications like this to talk to Search Inside or “Google Print”:http://print.google.com/.

In the meantime, Library Thing lets you explore an affiliation network. You’re tied to other users through ownership of the same books, and in your “profile”:http://www.librarything.com/profile.php?view=kjhealy you can see who overlap the most with. It turns out that the user I’m closest to none other than “Chris Brooke”:http://users.ox.ac.uk/%7Emagd1368/weblog/blogger.html, of the Virtual Stoa. “He”:http://www.librarything.com/profile.php?view=chrisbrooke and I share 38 titles. This may partly be a size effect, as Chris has more than three times as many books cataloged as I do. But it may also index up our relative closeness in “Blau Space”:http://icc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/13/1/263. Further evidence of affinity in tastes comes from the fact that “Chris’s photo”:http://www.librarything.com/profile.php?view=chrisbrooke and “mine”:http://www.librarything.com/profile.php?view=kjhealy come from the “same source”:http://www.planearium2.de/flash/spstudio.html.

Map of CT readers

by Eszter Hargittai on October 26, 2005

Some things I only post on my own blog thinking that they probably have limited appeal. However, now that this has been picked up by several others I’m thinking that perhaps it’s worth a CT mention.

Frappr uses Google Maps to present the locations of people who share some type of affiliation. Frappr maps can have whatever theme you choose. I created one for Crooked Timber readers. You can add your own location (with or without photo plus a short message). Despite what it may seem like at first, non-U.S. locations are supported as well.

So far I’m the only one on the map. I’m heading to bed now. It would be cool to have the map populated with all sorts of CT readers (and writers:) by the time I wake up.

UPDATE: Thanks for the many additions, keep on pushing those pins onto the map! A few logistical notes: If you’re not in the US then be sure to click on “Not in the US? Click Here” below the “Zipcode” field. You will then have to enter both city and country. (And yes, it does hte curious thing of assuming that your city is in a county with the same name even if it isn’t (e.g. Budapest, Budapest, Hungary), but so it is.) Although it looks like you are required to leave a Shoutout, try leaving some spaces or a hyphen if you’re not inspired to leave a message. That should work.

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La Repubblica scoop

by Henry on October 25, 2005

As “various”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_10/007414.php “bloggers”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/006827.php have noted, the Italian paper _La Repubblica_ seems to have a “scoop”:http://www.repubblica.it/2005/j/sezioni/esteri/iraq69/bodv/bodv.html on the sources of the famous forged Niger documents, and the role played by the Italian intelligence services. “Laura Rozen”:http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=10506 has a summary article in the Prospect, but there’s some additional detail in the original article. For the benefit of non-Italian readers, I’ve done a quick translation of the relevant bits and put it below the fold. Two health warnings. First – this is a rough and ready translation – I’m not a professional, and there may well be a few inaccuracies (please point them out in comments if you spot them). Second, _La Repubblica_ is, as Italian newspapers go, a trustworthy publication – but like all Italian newspapers, it’s surrounded by a swirl of politics and special interests. I’m obviously not in a position to attest to the veracity of its claims – but at the least, they’re very interesting.
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TV: Human Trafficking

by Eszter Hargittai on October 25, 2005

I’m running around all day today, but no time to wait with this post: I want to recommend Lifetime’s Human Trafficking mini-series. It aired last night (in the U.S.), but the first part will be replayed early this evening before the second part is shown.

The NYTimes quotes an immigration and customs official from the movie:

An ounce of cocaine, wholesale: $1,200, but you can only sell it once. A woman or a child, $50 to $1,000, but you can sell them each day, every day, over and over and over again. The markup is immeasurable.

The movie is well done in many ways, I recommend it.

One question I’m left with is the best ways to educate people, and especially children, about all this. A movie like this is helpful, but it’s not clear how a 12-year-old would deal with it. And then there are areas where showing such a movie is not even an option.

The NYTimes piece has a synopsis of the first part in case you can’t spend four hours on this tonight.

Locke’s First Treatise

by Jon Mandle on October 25, 2005

Locke’s subtitle to his Two Treatises of Government explains the purpose of each of the two essays: “In the Former, the False Principles and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, and His Followers, are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter is an Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent, and End of Civil-Government.” The Second Treatise is by far the more widely read these days. I only recently read the First, and it was not nearly as painful as I feared. In fact, much of it was downright amusing. Locke sets his sights squarely on Filmer’s divine right theory, according to which God gave Adam “Royal authority” which was passed down from father to son until … well, that part’s a little unclear. Anyway, Locke is pretty merciless.

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New Numa Numa

by Belle Waring on October 25, 2005

Via Andrew Sullivan (and Hit and Run) this fine, fine video. You have to watch the whole thing, because it really grows on you. I agree with scruffy hipster Julian Sanchez: “Anyone who can watch this and complain about the pernicious effects of cultural globalization has no soul.” Finally, a Numa Numa dance video for the generation that grew up 30 seconds ago.

Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman

by Belle Waring on October 25, 2005

This is a very fun NYT Science Times article about one Norman I. Platnick, who has “discovered more than 1,200 new spider species, several dozen new genuses and a couple of new families.” In addition, he has been a major contributor to cladistics, “a method of sorting organisms based on the evolutionary features they share, all derived from their closest common ancestor.” I have to say that spiders freak me out; my nightmares often feature the banded-legged garden spiders of my South Carolina youth, totally harmless but swiftly enlarging through the summer to the size of my small spanned hands. Needless to say, equatorial rain forests have got some damn big spiders as well. I can recall an early morning hike through the small remaining section of primary rainforest in the Singapore Botancial Gardens, during which I saw the two biggest spiders of my life in high webs. Like, really big. Much bigger than tarantulas in the Carribbean, say. I spent the rest of the walk with my hand outstretched in front of my face; what if I were the first one along this path? Still, I have always been willing to catch even big wolf spiders under a glass, then slide a piece of paper beneath it, and throw them outside. I hope the arachnidae appreciate that. And hey, at least I don’t live in Australia! (This reminds me of the Terry Pratchett novel The Last Continent. Death and his butler attempt to retrieve information about the poisonous creatures of “Four Ecks” and are nearly crushed under an avalanche of books. Once they have decided to ask about the non-lethal animals a single sheet comes fluttering down from a high shelf, bearing the legend: “some of the sheep”.)

Greedy whingeing doctors

by Chris Bertram on October 25, 2005

Today’s Guardian has “this”:http://education.guardian.co.uk/students/tuitionfees/story/0,12757,1600221,00.html?gusrc=ticker-103704 :

bq. Doctors today called for a change in the law so that graduate medical students do not have to pay fees of up to £3,000 a year upfront.

Which to my mind sits somewhat ill with “this”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4373519.stm :

bq. Accountants believe average GP pay will burst through the £100,000 barrier this financial year for the first time.

Just to emphasise, that’s _average_ GP pay.