TOTP is Dead.

by Harry on June 20, 2006

Story here. Tony Blackburn here. Don’t know what to say, so I won’t.

Speaking Sociology in Clear

by Henry Farrell on June 20, 2006

“Teresa Nielsen Hayden”: writes about finding an old sociology textbook in a second hand bookstore.

bq. _Bits that are familiar from age to age_: predictably, the book’s big on the idea that, until recently, traditional values held society together and enforced morality; but now that we’ve become an atomized society, other mechanisms of control will have to be found. People say that today, and I remember them saying it when I was a sprat, so it’s nice to find out that they were saying it in 1939. …

bq. The real reason I picked up the book: It discusses stuff you no longer see stated that bluntly. … the real prize was a section that turned out to have been quoted (approvingly) from Harold Lasswell’s Propaganda Technique in World War I. … We really don’t see people saying stuff like that in clear any more. Of course, being me, I’d be happier if we did.

When I read this I immediately thought of Charles Tilly’s work. First, because Tilly’s book, _Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons_ ( “Powells”:, Amazon) is, among other things, about how 19th century worries about the atomization of society have fundamentally shaped the concepts of 20th century sociology. Second, because I think Tilly’s writing is an excellent example of how sociology can speak in clear in both of Teresa’s senses. It’s written in straightforward, uncomplicated English with a minimum of jargon, and is admirably blunt when discussing matters that ought to be discussed bluntly. There’s a good example available online in a slightly iffy scan – his wonderfully brutal short essay, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime”: I also like these lines from his curriculum vitae.

bq. Among Tilly’s negative distinctions he prizes 1) never having held office in a professional association, 2) never having chaired a university department or served as a dean, 3) never having been an associate professor, 4) rejection every single time he has been screened as a prospective juror. He had also hoped never to publish a book with a subtitle, but subtitles somehow slipped into two of his co-authored books.

(there are a couple of other gems in the cv if you’re prepared to dig)


by Brian on June 20, 2006

The domain name under which I keep my philosophy blog and personal webpage seems to have been taken over by a domain name hijacker. (You might wonder how this could happen; there are a few details below the fold.) So I’ve had to move everything around. For anyone who links to those sites, or read them, the domain name is now rather than Similarly the domain name of my email address has changed so it now ends .org rather than .net.
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Bork Bork Bork!

by Kieran Healy on June 20, 2006

Sorry, Chris. At least Stevie Gerrard played well.

The kind of thing you wish were false

by Kieran Healy on June 20, 2006

What a disaster:

One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind’s gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war’s major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda’s chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. … Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda’s go-to guy for minor logistics — travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,” Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.”…

Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. “I said he was important,” Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” “No sir, Mr. President,” Tenet replied. Bush “was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,” Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, “Do some of these harsh methods really work?” Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety — against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, “thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target.” And so, Suskind writes, “the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.”

I can practically hear the little tearing sounds as Jim Henley rips the remaining hairs out of the top of his own head.

Luck and redistribution

by Chris Bertram on June 20, 2006

In “yesterday’s global justice thread”: , commenter Nicholas Weininger made the following comment, which raises a broader set of issues than were appropriate in that discussion, but which I think are worth responding to. Here’s Nicholas:

bq. Chris, I understand that you are framing your argument within the assumption that your arguers accept liberal egalitarianism, but it is still worth pointing out that some of us anti-egalitarians will see in your argument a rather nice slippery-slopish case for our side. To wit: once you start deciding that some things are “just luck” and that that implies it’s legitimate to forcibly redistribute them, there is nothing, however clearly it may be the product of choice and hard work, which is exempt from the depredations of the robbers with badges and good intentions. If liberal egalitarianism really does imply that “inherited social resources” should be taxed away, so much the worse for liberal egalitarianism!

It isn’t entirely clear to me what the central point of Nicholas’s objection is, but there seem to be three components (1) a complaint about “forcible redistribution”, (2) a worry about the indeterminacy of liberal egalitarian theories of distributive justice, and (3) a worry that literally everything might be up for redistribution if we press a radical line about what results from luck.

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