If you’ve got it, flout it

by Kieran Healy on March 16, 2006

From “BBC News”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/ just now:
I suppose it means the same thing, to all intensive porpoises.

Inequality and American Democracy

by Henry Farrell on March 16, 2006

The current issue of _PS: Political Science and Politics_ has a “symposium”:http://www.apsanet.org/section_651.cfm on inequality and American democracy, collecting together various responses to the “report”:http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/taskforcereport.pdf and book issued on the topic by the American Political Science Association’s taskforce. There’s a lot of valuable commentary and empirical data in there; also well worth reading are the accompanying critical papers on “inequality and American governance”:http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/governancememo.pdf and “inequality and public policy”:http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/feedbackmemo.pdf. A lot of meat in there, including the below graph drawn from Larry Bartels’ “paper”:http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/PSJan06Bartels.pdf . It shows income growth by income level under Democratic and Republican administrations from 1948 to 2001. The solid line shows how families at the 20th percentile (lowest), the 40th percentile etc have done under Democratic adminstrations, the dotted line how they’ve done under Republicans. The difference is startlingly obvious. Under Democratic administrations, growth has been fairly egalitarian, ranging from 2.6% average growth for the poor at the 20th percentile to 2.1% for the rich at the 95th percentile. Under Republican administrations, the rich have done about as well as under Democratic administrations, but the poor at the 20th percentile have only seen .6% income growth. As Bartels says:

bq. Are partisan differences in the economic fortunes of American families really this stark? The arithmetic calculations from the Census Bureau data are straightforward. Their political significance can only be gainsaid by supposing that the apparent pattern is the result of a massive historical coincidence. Elsewhere, I have provided extensive checks on the robustness of the partisan disparity evident in Figure 2, including comparisons based on alternative economic units, time periods, and income definitions, statistical controls for historical trends, nonparametric tests, and the like ( “Bartels 2004”:http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/income.pdf ). It seems hard to escape the conclusion that, over the past half-century, Republican presidents have been consistently bad for the economic health of middle-class and poor people.


Geekier than geeky

by Eszter Hargittai on March 16, 2006

You may have to be a pretty particular breed* to appreciate the following, but I can’t be the only one in the CT crowd. I found this Web 2.0 or Star Wars Character quiz quite entertaining. I scored 33 and while it is probably a sign of something positive that I didn’t score higher, I was still a bit disappointed. My point range gets the following recommendation: “As your doctor, I recommend moving out of your parents’ basement.” The whole thing is quite amusing, try it. Don’t look at the score chart until you’ve taken the quiz, you don’t want to spoil that part of the fun.

[*] The original post said “bread”, which should explain some of the comments.

Favorite tech writing?

by Eszter Hargittai on March 16, 2006

The University of Michigan Press is putting together a volume called The Best of Technology Writing 2006. The editorial team is soliciting suggestions for pieces, including blog posts.

[W]e’re asking readers to nominate their favorite tech-oriented articles, essays, and blog posts from the previous year. The competition is open to any and every technology topic–biotech, information technology, gadgetry, tech policy, Silicon Valley, and software engineering are all fair game. But the pieces that have the best chances of inclusion in the anthology will conform to these three simple guidelines:

    1. They’ll be engagingly written for a mass audience; if the article requires a doctorate to appreciate, it’s probably not up our alley. Preference will be given to narrative features and profiles, “Big Think” op-eds that make sense, investigative journalism, sharp art and design criticism, intelligent policy analysis, and heartfelt personal essays.

    2. They’ll be no longer than 5,000 words.

    3. They’ll explore how technological progress is reshaping our world.

The resulting publication will be available both in book form and online.

Hop on over to digitalculture.org for more information and to submit your nominations.

The traditionality of modernity

by John Q on March 16, 2006

As was pointed out in the comments to my karate post, the observation that most traditions are invented is getting somewhat traditional itself, going back as it does to the exposure of the Donation of Constantine as a forgery.

So maybe it’s time to turn all this around, and make the point that we are now living in a society that’s far more tradition-bound than that of the 19th Century, and in some respects more so than at any time since at least the Middle Ages.

[click to continue…]

Oh, “Little Curies” Was Taken?

by Belle Waring on March 16, 2006

I watch a lot of kids TV with my two girls. A lot. Like, you, hypothetical bourgeois CT reader, think I am a bad parent type of a lot. This is in part a consequence of a happy development: 24-hour cable channels offering ad-free, age-appropriate kids shows. To say that these shows are better than the ones I watched when I was young doesn’t begin to bridge the vast chasm which looms between the Higglytown Heroes and Jem and The Holograms (which remains, however, totally outrageous. And in fairness I watched that show when I was much older than my kids are now. Which is all the more embarassing, really.) But one’s mind tends to wander when a previously viewed episode of Stanley comes on. (Warning: an instrumental version of the Stanley theme song will play. Interestingly, the original version played on the show is performed by the BahaMen, of “Who Let The Dogs Out” fame. Or, perhaps more accurately, not interestingly.)

So, I have been wondering about the gender politics of these shows. Let’s take the new offering: Little Einsteins. This show has obviously been put together by a crack team of well-meaning educational consultants. The opening credits for the show have the Little Einsteins explaining that the music from this epsiode is by Camille Saint-Saëns, and the images are provided by Paul Gaugin and Hokusai. But they refer to him as Katsushika Hokusai. On the kids show. That’s not even really his first name, it’s some kind of toponym, but whatever. It’s not like I’m totally ignorant about Ukiyo-E, but I had never heard this before. It’s a very random thing for 4-year-olds to know.

The Little Einsteins have to navigate around the problems they encounter by referring to a map on which the directions are encoded as various musical themes. So then they offer (phantom) choices to the viewer, à la Dora The Explorer: was this a crescendo? No, the music got quieter! And so on. So, the cast: there are two boys and two girls. One boy is black, the other white. One of the girls is asian-ish, and the other white. This is all fine and dandy. But who is the captain of the team? The white boy. Why? No, really why? (Or on Stanley, sure, he’s got some little black twin sidekicks, but when you get right down to it it’s all about Stanley and his British fish (also male.)) Now, there are also shows with female leads, such as Dora and Jojo’s Circus. (Though in the former case they’ve had to come up with Diego, even more boring than Dora herself. And all her friends are boys except Issa the useless iguana.)

No, the thing I don’t understand with Little Einsteins is, since it’s an absolute given that the creators had all kinds of earnest meetings about the ethnicity of the characters etc., what was the motivation to just revert to ordinary filmic conventions and make the white boy the leader? I sort of imagine them feeling, well, me made enough concessions in putting the asian chick in, so… Finally, if the Little Einsteins ever get in any real trouble that little black guy is toast. (This just reminds me of watching Final Fantasy. When the one big black marine sacrificed his life for the white guy and his magic scientist girlfriend I thought “even a digitally animated brother can’t catch a break.” Although the most egregious example ever was in that movie Mimic about scientist Mira Sorvino inventing giant bugs. The noble black subway worker who just met these people 10 minutes ago sacrifices himself by going out to lure giant bugs to eat him alive, and he does so by banging a sledgehammer on the subway tracks while singing old Negro spirituals, I shit you not.)