From the monthly archives:

December 2005

Alternative frenzy of renown

by Chris Bertram on December 15, 2005

“Pootergeek has a post”: on using “Google’s blogsearch”: as an alternative to Technorati. For full instructions follow the link to his site, but meanwhile “here’s the search set up for Crooked Timber”:

Nagel’s Atlas

by Harry on December 15, 2005

A.J. Julius posted an earlier version of this paper on his website a few months ago, and I’ve only just got around to blogging it. It is a crisp and powerful critique of Nagel’s recent defence of the claim that the scope of justice is limited by national boundaries (free content). Julius makes the same foundational assumptions as Nagel and shows, elegantly, that the boundaries of justice are nevertheless….well, global. I’m a big fan of Julius’s work, so I might be a bit baised, but I think its terrific. Forthcoming in Philosophy and Public Affairs, presumably in the issue after the one that’s just been announced, so get it while its hot, as Larry Solum likes to say.

Shawcross and frivolous conceits

by Chris Bertram on December 15, 2005

I wasn’t going to post about “last night’s BBC Newsnight”: (still watchable for a few hours) which staged a mock trial of allied conduct in the “war on terror”. Clive Stafford Smith, the advocate for the prosecution, was simply in a different class from his opponent John Cooper. Via “Oliver Kamm’s site”: I learn that William Shawcross was invited to take part in the programme and declined, apparently because the “trial” format would constitute a trivialization of serious issues. As Shawcross puts it:

bq. A ‘courtroom’ pastiche is a fashionable but frivolous conceit …. The allegations about “rendition” need a thorough investigation and merit the closest attention of Newsnight, but a ‘trial’ will do nothing in that regard.

But commenter Max Smith at DSPFW “reminds us”: that Shawcross had no such qualms two years ago when “he appeared”: as an advocate in a similar televised “trial” on the war (on Channel 4). I’m sure that losing by 2 to 1 in that debate had no impact on his general view of the merits of such devices.

Update: Kamm has emailed me to say that “frivolous conceit” is a phrase of his making rather than Shawcross’s. Others seem to have also read the passage in Kamm’s post as a direct quotation rather than as Kamm summary of Shawcross’s communication with him. The basic point stands, presuming that Kamm’s summary accurately reflects Shawcross’s thinking.

Council proposes, Parliament disposes..

by Maria on December 15, 2005

… and Brussels imposes.

Or not. Ireland – or rather the Irish Dept. of Justice – is threatening to legally contest the traffic data retention directive passed (with disgraceful ease) by the European Parliament (EP) this week. The directive will force internet service providers and telcos to store at their own cost all the traffic data of their users in case it is ever required by government agencies. Using the well-worn ‘national competence’ argument, the Irish government is arguing that the EP had no right to decide about data retention in the first place. The argument runs like this; Ireland should retain its veto in sensitive justice matters, and should not be told what to do by the European Commission and EP. This is a very disingenuous argument on the face of it, and rather perplexing when you dig deeper.
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Iraq Votes

by Kieran Healy on December 15, 2005

Iraqis “vote for their first post-Saddam, full-term parliament”: today. As I write this it’s just before 7am in Arizona, but I’m sure some warbloggers are already up and about, compiling evidence of indifference to freedom and democracy amongst anti-war types.

My own view on the long-term prospects hasn’t changed much since “last January’s elections”: If the goal is a viable multi-party democracy, then in the short-term the election should be free and fair with a clear winning coalition, which ideally would then lose the next election and peacefully hand over power. Back in January I thought it looked like this:

It’s often said that the key moment in the growth of a democracy is not its first election but its second, because—as Adam Przeworski says somewhere—a democracy is a system where governments lose elections. The question planners need to be asking is what are the chances that Iraq will be able to do this again in four or five years without the presence of U.S. troops and with the expectation that whoever wins will get to take power. This partly depends on whether some functioning government can really be established within the country, and partly on whether the U.S. wants a working democracy in Iraq (with the risks that implies) or just a friendly puppet state. … Unlike thousands of desk-jockey warbloggers, I don’t have any expertise in Iraqi politics. But it seems to me that if Iraq is going to succeed as a democracy then it has to consolidate itself in something like this way. A continued heavy military presence by the U.S. won’t help this goal, because it won’t do anything to legitimate the government as an independent entity. … The current prospects are not good at all, especially with respect to the continuous attacks on the new police force and the efforts to systematically eliminate the nascent political class. The fact that Iraq has a lot of oil and was formerly a brutal dictatorship doesn’t help much either. … Cases of successful transitions in resource-rich nations are few.

This time around, as before, voting will probably go reasonably smoothly (by Iraqi standards I mean: there will probably only be a small number of attacks and deaths), and this counts for a lot. I think the main problem will be the protracted round of post-election negotiations between the various blocs. If it’s anything like January’s election, we might not see a government for months. Another drawn-out tussle between the two or three biggest slates will do little to consolidate the legitimacy of the election or the institutions of government, especially seeing as the occupying power has a strong interest in seeing their favored groups win. An outcome like that will just continue to raise questions about the viability of the state itself, while doing little to change the day-to-day round of violence.


President Bush said yesterday he is confident that former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is innocent of money-laundering charges, as he offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations or by rumors of fading clout inside the White House.

Now help me finish this thought by providing links to ALL those occasions when the President has not been so forthcoming. Mr. Google gives pretty good hits in response to “Bush won’t comment on ongoing investigations”.

Oiling palms

by Henry Farrell on December 14, 2005

Following swiftly on Gerhard Schroeder’s decision to accept the chairmanship of a “pipeline consortium owned by Gazprom”:, “this”: 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 Farrell 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”: 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”: to the Bartels paper that I “blogged”: 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”: 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.:)

Dean Gray – American Edit

by Jon Mandle on December 13, 2005

Go read about Warner Brothers’ attempt to shut down a non-commercial mashup of Greenday’s “American Idiot” album. Then go listen to it while you still can. All I can say is that there are a lot of very talented people with a lot of time on their hands – amazing stuff.

A little more on Tookie Williams

by Chris Bertram on December 13, 2005

It doesn’t shock me that Tookie Williams was refused clemency. It saddens me, as do all such executions, but it doesn’t shock me. I can even see things from Schwarzenegger’s point of view: the courts have had their say, the process has come to an end, and the state has determined what the penalty should be. It is difficult for an elected official to use his personal discretion at the last moment. But I “was shocked to read”:,0,4494420.story?coll=la-home-headlines , among Schwarzenegger’s justifications for his refusal, the following:

In addition to arguing that Williams’ continued claims of innocence should be counted against him, the governor made a point of quoting the dedication of Williams’ 1998 book “Life in Prison.”

In the dedication, Williams named 11 people, all of whom had been imprisoned or in custody. Among them were Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid leader; Malcolm X, the black nationalist leader assassinated in 1965; and Angela Davis, the black Marxist professor acquitted of murder charges in 1972.

Schwarzenegger and his aides focused on one name on the list — George Jackson, the author of “Soledad Brother,” a book about life in prison. Jackson was “gunned down on the upper yard at San Quentin Prison” on Aug. 21, 1971, in a “foiled escape attempt on a day of unparalleled violence in the prison that left three officers and three inmates dead,” Schwarzenegger said.

“The inclusion of George Jackson on this list defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems,” the governor said.

I posted a while ago about the British government’s plans to criminalize statements “glorifying terrorism”. Here it seems that if it tipped the balance of Schwarzenegger’s decision, Williams’s dedication of a book to a controversial historical figure, may have cost him his life. A book dedication hardly amounts to an endorsement of all of a person’s attitudes and actions anyway. What can Schwarzenegger have been thinking in including this in his statement?

Knock Knock, Bang Bang

by Kieran Healy on December 12, 2005

“Jim Henley”: points us to “Radley Balko’s”: extensive coverage of the astonishing case of “Cory Maye”: Here is “Radley’s initial post”: on the case; and here are a series of posts of his updating and clarifying the details — “1”: “2”: “3”: “4”: “5”: “6”: “7”: and “8”: (the first and last will tell you a lot). He’s been talking to a lot of people involved in the case. Here’s a link to “a lot of commentary”: by others.

_Update_: I’ve updated this summary to better reflect the facts of the case as I understand them.

I’ll put the details below the fold. I urge you to read them. The guts of it is that Cory Maye is a black man on death row for shooting a white police officer dead. The officer was part of a paramilitary no-knock drug raid which broke down the door of Maye’s apartment at 11:30pm, when he and his young daughter were sleeping. The building was a duplex and the officers had a warrant for Jamie Smith, the person who lived in the other half, and for “occupants unknown” in Maye’s half. It’s not clear that the officers expected anyone to be in that half of the duplex. There’s no evidence that Maye had anything to do with Smith, and Maye did not have a criminal record. When the officers broke in, Maye woke up, took his gun and ran to his daughter’s room. When Officer Ron Jones entered the room, Maye shot him. Jones later died. There is disagreement about whether the officers announced they were the police as they broke in, and what the exact sequence of events was once they were in there. (I don’t think it’s in dispute that Maye really had no reason to expect the police would come breaking down his door at midnight.) Jones was (1) first into the apartment but (2) not part of the SWAT team — he was invited along because he tipped off the Narcotics Task Force about the suspected dealer in the other half of the duplex. He was also (3) the son of a local police chief. Mayes was tried, apparently was not well-represented, and was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

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Not in Kansas anymore

by Henry Farrell on December 12, 2005

I’d somehow missed this “fascinating paper”: by Larry Bartels which “Ezra Klein”: links to today. It uses NES data to argue that the thesis of Thomas Franks’ _What’s the Matter with Kansas_ is completely wrong. Poor white voters have become _more_ likely to vote Democrat over the last few decades. While they’re less likely to identify with the Democratic party than they used to be, the decline in Democratic party ID has been less marked among poor white Democrats than among richer ones, and is entirely attributable to losses in the South in the post-Civil Rights era. Nor, if you look at the preponderance of evidence, is there good reason to believe that poor white voters are more interested in cultural than in economic issues; if anything the opposite seems to be true.

Of course, Bartels’ argument isn’t only discomfiting to Franks; it also undermines the self-justifying claims of right wing pundits who consider themselves, against all the odds, to be populists. The one part of Bartels’ paper that I disagree with is its conclusion, which implies that mistaken Democratic angst over the party’s appeal to poor white voters is what motivates arguments over whether the Democrats need to fundamentally rethink their political message. If I understand Bartels rightly, he’s suggesting that the Democrats don’t need to change what they’re doing. I don’t think that’s true, and indeed it seems to me that some of Bartels’ earlier “empirical findings”: point in the opposite direction. If, as Bartels has previously argued, the general public has a difficult time in connecting public policy with economic inequality, Democrats are likely to succeed to the extent that they can draw these connections in their rhetoric, and show how inequality affects not only the working class but the middle class too. That said, this paper seems to me to be a lovely example of how political scientists and other social scientists should be speaking to broader public debates, by using their expertise to examine whether the fundamental assumptions underlying these debates are fundamentally right or wrong. _And_ it describes Peter Beinart’s arguments as “fatuous.” What more could you ask for?