Oiling palms

by Henry on December 14, 2005

Following swiftly on Gerhard Schroeder’s decision to accept the chairmanship of a “pipeline consortium owned by Gazprom”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/23e9ee86-6906-11da-bd30-0000779e2340.html, “this”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/e4c849c0-6c87-11da-90c2-0000779e2340.html is rather creepy.

bq. Donald Evans, a close friend of president George W. Bush and the former commerce secretary, met president Vladimir Putin of Russia last week but refused to be drawn on growing speculation that he had been offered the chairmanship of Rosneft, Russia’s state-controlled oil company. A person close to Mr Evans on Tuesday confirmed the meeting with Mr Putin but refused to comment on a report by Russia’s Kommersant newspaper that he had been offered the job ahead of Rosneft’s expected initial public offering next year. The appointment of a former high-ranking Bush administration official to the top ranks of a Russian oil company would generate shock waves in Washington.

World Values Survey

by Henry on December 14, 2005

I’ve just discovered when poking around for some figures that you can now analyse data from the “World Values Survey”:http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/ online. This is a very neat tool, not only for political scientists and sociologists, but for anyone else who’s interested in getting basic information on attitudes in different countries to politics, society and religion. You don’t have to be a stats wizard to play around with the numbers. As far as I’m aware, the Survey is outstandingly the most comprehensive database of its kind.

In other news, Sam Rosenfeld points in comments to an interesting “response”:http://www.emergingdemocraticmajorityweblog.com/donkeyrising/archives/001317.php to the Bartels paper that I “blogged”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/12/12/not-in-kansas-anymore/ a couple of days ago. According to David Gopoian and Ralph Whitehead, whether Bartels is right depends on how you define the white working class, and Bartels, by their books, is working with a non-standard definition. Bartels talks a bit in the paper about definitional questions, but it would be interesting to know what his counter-response would be.

Bush’s Paradox

by John Holbo on December 14, 2005

Bush on the war: “Whether or not it needed to happen, I’m still convinced it needed to happen.”

Maureen Dowd, on this bit from the interview [sorry, NY Times select]: “The Bubble Boy can even contradict himself and not notice.” It does seem like a deeply irrational thing to say, yet it clearly is not a contradiction, per se. In fact it seems like a disjunctive variation on Moore’s paradox. Bush’s version (inadversion, rather) is perhaps rather interesting. “Whether or not P, I believe P” has the same truth-conditions as “I believe P”. So one can turn any of one’s own belief statements into a Bushian bit of madness without impairing its truth. (Just try it at home.)


Bonus points for working in the following lines from the interview:

Bush: “I’m interested in the news. I’m not all that interested in the opinions.”

Brian Williams: “So what is truth, Mr. President?”

Getting back to the paradox, I think the proper diagnosis of the peculiarity of Bush’s statement must run as follows. For Gricean reasons, you wouldn’t preface a belief statement with a tautology, in this way, unless you meant to conversationally implicate the irrelevance of one question to another. (That’s not adequate, and there’s got to be a better way to say it.) Example: ‘whether Bush sincerely believes the war was a good idea or not, I believe the the war was a bad idea.’ That’s completely coherent. (It also highlights the inadequacy of my brief gloss: obviously I don’t think Bush’s mental state is totally irrelevant to an assessment of the wisdom of the war plans. But I think the question about the war plans can be answered without settling that other thing.) Anyhoo, to complete the thought: what is odd about Bush’s statement is that he is conversationally implicating that facts about P are irrelevant to/do not determine his beliefs about P. An epistemic bubble, yes, but not a logical contradiction.

Saddam’s capture anniversary

by Chris Bertram on December 14, 2005

Today it is “exactly two years”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/14/newsid_3985000/3985287.stm since the capture of Saddam Hussein. I’d have expected the insurgency to have calmed down a bit in the interim. It doesn’t seem to have happened.

Firefox show and tell

by Eszter Hargittai on December 14, 2005

Lifehacker Editor Gina Trapani is hosting a holiday giveaway around the topic of efficient desktop uses. She has created a group on photo-sharing site Flickr for people to post annotated pictures of their desktops: Lifehacker Desktop Show and Tell. The idea is to see how people maximize this work space for productivity. I like the idea, but it seems to me that there are alternative ways of going about this. After all, how often do you even look at your desktop? I don’t look at it much. My default screen is Firefox.

So I propose an alternative: Firefox Show and Tell. Unlike Gina, I don’t have goodies to give away, but if you are interested in taking part regardless then share your annotated screenshots of your Firefox screen in the Firefox Show and Tell Flickr photo pool. I find that most productivity tools I have on my computer are embedded into Firefox anyway so it seems like an appropriate focus. Perhaps reliance on one’s desktop – or lack thereof – depends on the operating system. (No, I am not proposing we get in an OS fight over this.) In any case, I think Gina is right that there is much to learn from how other people have optimized their settings for various applications so sharing could be helpful.

If you don’t have a Flickr account, you can create one for free. To add a photo to a group pool, first visit the group page (here in this case) while logged in as a Flickr user. To the right will be a big bold link “Join this group?”, click on that. On the next page confirm that you want to join the group. Next, head to the photo you want to add to the group. While viewing the photo’s page, click on the “Send to Group” icon toward the left above the image. Then choose the group to which you want to post the picture. This may sound complicated, but it should be pretty painless once you have an account and are looking at actual pages instead of following this abstract description.

Maybe Gina at Lifehacker will consider sending some goodies to helpful screens from this photo pool as well.:)