From the monthly archives:

June 2006

You Can Say That Here

by Henry on June 27, 2006

It would appear that Tariq Ramadan “has won”: an important victory in his legal battle against his exclusion from the United States.

bq. A federal judge on Friday gave the U.S. government 90 days to act on the visa application of a renowned Muslim scholar who has been kept out of the United States for two years … [I]n forcing the government to make a decision about the scholar, Judge Crotty rejected — sometimes in mocking tones — many government arguments that would have given federal officials broad power to exclude people from the United States without giving any reason. … despite the wide latitude federal officials have to deny visas, Judge Crotty wrote, “it cannot do so solely because the executive disagrees with the content of the alien’s speech and therefore wants to prevent the alien from sharing this speech with a willing American audience.” Further, Judge Crotty wrote: “The First Amendment rights of Americans are implicated when the government excludes an alien from the United States on the basis of his political views, even though the non-resident alien has no constitutionally or statutorily protected right to enter the United States to speak.”

I was a WSJ wage slave!

by Henry on June 27, 2006

I meant to mention Philip Connors’ sharp and funny piece about working for the _Wall Street Journal_ (to be found in the “most recent issue”: of _N+1_, but not available on the WWW) last week, when I was writing about newspapers, editorial policies etc. His description of Bob Bartley, late editorial-page editor for the newspaper:

bq. Bob Bartley, who has since passed away, was among the most influential American journalists of the second half of the twentieth century … He was fairly soft-spoken and his posture was poor. He rarely smiled, but when he did he looked like a cat who’d just swallowed your canary. His abiding obsessions were taxes and weapons. He thought taxes should be cut always and everywhere, except for poor people, and he thought Americans should build as many weapons as possible … Bartley was appalled by the very idea of poor people. In fact, he’d once said he didn’t think there were any poor people left in America – “just a few hermits or something like that.” (This quote can be found in the _Washington Post_ Magazine of July 11, 1982.) On this issue, Bob Bartlley was the intellectual heir of an old American idea expressed most succinctly by the preacher Henry Ward Beecher: “No man in his land suffers from poverty unless it be more than his fault – unless it be his _sin_.” For Bob Bartley, the agrarian pictures of Walker Evans and the homoerotic pictures of Robert Mapplethorpe were morally equivalent. Both depicted human beings in a sinful state of filth and degradation, and such images had no place in an American museum.

Annotated maps

by Eszter Hargittai on June 27, 2006

As you may have noticed by now, I like maps. In fact, geography was the only elective I took in high school, two optional years in addition to the two required (no, I didn’t go to high school in the U.S. as you are likely able to guess from that info). Those classes included lots of material of less interest to me (e.g. leading mineral producers in the world and what shrubs grow in the tundra), but we also got to look at maps a lot, which was the main reason I was hooked.

Image Hosted by Free image hosting*

Given these interests, I was excited to find Quikmaps this morning, a service that lets you annotate Google Maps, save them, go back and edit them, and in the meantime post them on your Web site. There have been other related services (GMapTrack comes to mind), but none have managed to do this as well as Quikmaps. I have been using Wikimapia for some map annotation purposes, but it’s not so good when the locations you are specifying have limited appeal. The one problem with such independent little upstarts is you never know how long they’ll be around (e.g. GMapTrack is nowhere to be found) so it’s not clear how much time and effort one should spend creating maps.

Nonetheless, if you want to explain to someone how to find you or want to annotate your favorite locations (or just restaurants) in town, this seems like a very helpful service.

UPDATE 11:30am CST: The site is down, but the “quikmaps guy” has posted a note on Digg to say he’s working on getting it back up asap. In the meantime, you can at least take a look at the homepage on duggmirror.

UPDATE 1pm CST: It’s working now here.

[*] I have purposefully avoided embedding a map here. I don’t want CT page loads to be too taxing on the Quikmaps site. It should be busy enough dealing with the digg effect .

That Time of Year

by Kieran Healy on June 26, 2006

“Scott Eric Kaufman”: has a “bad case”: of “summer vertigo”:


by Belle Waring on June 26, 2006

As a young girl I was an avid reader of Stephen Potter, especially the peerless Lifemanship. I also re-read Thackeray’s Book of Snobs many times, for the not particularly compelling reason that it was the only interesting book in my brother’s room at my grandmother’s house. (I say “not particularly compelling” in spite of the manifest excellence of the book, which is hilarious, but rather because we had a library on the second floor.) These two books did much to make me the cynical, frivolous person I am today. The thing is, I was convinced, at an early stage, that there really was a Lifesmanship organization at 681 Station Road, Yeovil, and it was a hazy dream of mine that I might travel to England and join at some time in the future. By the time I was 10 I think I was starting to suspect this was never to be (and, in my defense, I never imagined that I might actually meet, say Odoreida.) But I have always wondered, is there supposed to be something particularly funny about Yeovil? I gather that it’s a real place and everything. Is it a really boring place? A thrilling town full of laffs and hilarity? What?

Open Holland v Portugal Thread

by Kieran Healy on June 25, 2006

_Update_: Argh. Sick as a parrot. Topic for discussion: How can the country which gave the world Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci, Caravaggio, etc, produce such a supremely cynical, grind-it-out national football team?

_Update_: This is now the Italy vs Australia thread. Come on Australia!

Because the world cries out: WTF?? I count _fourteen_ yellow cards so far. This is looking pretty good for England.

Dim Bulbs

by Kieran Healy on June 25, 2006

Seems “the Brights”: is are back in the blogs. “Lindsay Beyerstein”: provides an unconvincing defense. One of my first posts on CT was about The Brights and I’ve reproduced it below the fold. I don’t find it plausible that the “Bright” label should be offensive to religious believers, nor am I “uptight” (in Lindsay’s words) about it. Rather, while the term denotes a set of beliefs I’d broadly subscribe to, it connotes a bunch of dweebs in anoraks.
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All I can say is wow. “David Brooks”: channels “Jeff Minter”: in the _New York Times_ today.

bq. The Keyboard Kingpin, aka Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, sits at his computer, fires up his Web site, Daily Kos, and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way.

Squadrons of rabid, venom-spitting command-lambs. As I said. Wow.

(thanks to bad jim for alerting me to this in “comments”:

England vs Ecuador

by Kieran Healy on June 25, 2006

The English pundits are split between those who think the main enemy is Sven-Goran Eriksson and those who think it is the weather. Ecuador not so much. Counting references to the “searing heat” and “fierce humidity” could make for a drinking game of some kind. On the “BBC page”: for the game we see the following already, an hour before kickoff:

bq. “”It can’t be ruled out that Sunday in Stuttgart could be the hottest day of the World Cup – it’s going to be a scorcher,” said ARD television weatherman Joerg Kachelmann. … captain David Beckham citing the heat as one of the factors behind their poor second-half performance … worrying news for England, with temperatures in Stuttgart potentially climbing to 35C during the game. … The weather forecast is proving worryingly accurate. … The sun is beating down relentlessly as the temperatures soar. … It’s unbelievably hot in Stuttgart as England fans arrive in their droves. … They have already been forced to endure fierce heat with the temperature already 32C and expected to get hotter by kick-off time. … *A glimmer of hope for England*: a few patches of cloud – *cirrocumulus if I’m not mistaken* – have suddenly appeared. England will pray they grow in number, and quickly.”

Cirrocumulus to the rescue! Sven, in fairness, isn’t making that excuse: “With concerns mounting over the impact the climbing temperatures could have on England’s prospects, coach Sven-Goran Erikson insists his side will not be preoccupied by the weather.” None of the pundits seem to have bothered to check how hot it gets in Ecuador. Obviously, pretty hot in places (the coast) seeing as its at the equator. But as every fule kno lots of Ecudaor is high up in the mountains. According to “this page”: (and also “Wikipedia”: the climate in Quito is pleasant, with high temperatures getting up to a not-very-scorching average maximum of 70F/19C. So I imagine the Ecuadorean counterpart to Gary Lineker is also saying “Phew, what a scorcher!”

Libertarians for social democracy ?

by John Quiggin on June 25, 2006

Several commenters on this post about the asymmetry of the case for and against war made the suggestion that, if I applied similar reasoning to domestic policy I would come out with libertarian conclusions. So can I be a libertarian social democrat?

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A Confederacy of Dunces?

by Kieran Healy on June 24, 2006

Listening to the reports about the Miami “Seas of David” alleged terrorist cell, I couldn’t help returning to the thought: what did these jackasses really think they were doing? The fact that they were seeking to establish contact with Al Qaeda (rather than being part of that organization from the beginning) was one red flag. The rather mixed bag of plans was another. The odd cultish overtones yet another. “Jim Henley’s reading of the indictment”: suggests further grounds for suspecting that these guys were less evil terrorist geniuses and more greedy idiots.

Nicholas and William

by Harry on June 24, 2006

My daughters gave me Nicholas Again (U.K.) for Father’s Day (an institution of which I faintly disapprove for no reason that I can articulate) and promptly, if rather ungracefully, asked me to read it to them. It is fantastic. Short, tautly written stories, translated beautifully (into American, not British, English), every single one of which made us all laugh outloud (the 9 year old and I for slightly different reasons than the 5 year old, I think). Everything is told from Nicholas’s perspective, but of course your child knowlingly sees it in part from an adult perspective, and can just see the problems he can encounter before he encounters them. I suspect my wife gave permission for the gift because the author is Goscinny, who is responsible for the success of my kids’ and my campaign to persuade her that comics can be literature (via Asterix). Yesterday my 9-year-old had a brainwave — she pointed out that if the book was called Nicholas Again that probably means that there is a Nicholas. So we’re onto that next.

Now, Nicholas will only make you laugh out loud. If you want to read the kids a book which will, at least on occasion, make you laugh uncontrollably you might want to try Just William. William is 10, and the stories are, again, beautifully constructed and tersely written, and not infrequently achieve the level of high farce. William’s failure to become popular in America (though successful everywhere else) has always bemused me — I have yet to meet an American who didn’t love the books once they’ve been introduced to them, and I’ve met enough 10-year-old Americans to know that William is not a uniquely English type. (So I find it much easier to understand why Enid Blyton has not been successful here, and I used to find it easier to understand why Jennings has not made it big until the Harry Potter phenomenon made it clear that portraying minor English public school-life was no barrier to success in the American market).


by Henry on June 24, 2006

According to the _New Republic_, the threat to the Republic isn’t Islamofascism any more, it’s “blogofascism”: Lee Siegel explains:


At the end of my post yesterday, I wrote, “The blogosphere’s fanaticism is, in many ways, the triumph of a lack of focus.” … All these abusive attempts to autocratically or dictatorially control criticism came about because I said that the blogosphere had the quality of fascism, which my dictionary defines as “any tendency toward or actual exercise of severe autocratic or dictatorial control.” … insults, personal attacks, and even threats. This truly is the stuff of thuggery and fascism. … Two other traits of fascism are its hatred of the processes of politics, and the knockabout origins of its adherents. Communism was hatched by elites. Fascism was born along the drifting paths of rootless men, often ex-soldiers who had fought in the First World War and been demobilized. They turned European politics into a madhouse of deracinated ambition. … In a 2004 article in The San Francisco Chronicle, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga told a reporter …

bq. “I believe in government. I was in El Salvador in the late ’70s during the civil war and I saw government as a life-and-death situation,” he said. “There was no one to root for. The government was a corrupt plutocracy and the rebels were Maoists. The concept of government is important.” …He also remembers watching footage of the Solidarity movement in Poland. He was 9, and he asked his father what that was all about. His father, a furniture salesman, said, “It’s just politics.” The future blogger said, “Tell me all about it.”

So he loves government, but hates politics. There’s something chilling about that.

This was silly enough when it was just a back-and-forth of insults and recriminations. But Siegel actually seems, unless I’m misreading him completely, to be advancing a _serious thesis_ about the linkages between leftwing bloggers and fascism. That the netroots crowd are the equivalent of the deracinated young men of the Weimar Republic (note, by the way, the rather unpleasant snobbery of the “knockabout origins” crack), and that Kos has “chilling” autocratic tendencies. I really don’t know what to say in response to this. It’s almost magnificent in its crackpottery. The _New Republic_ used to be a very good magazine back in the day – one of the “little magazines” that really brought literature and politics together. It hasn’t been that for a very long time now, but I still feel a little sad every time I’m reminded of what it’s become.

Social Isolation in America

by Kieran Healy on June 23, 2006

Here’s an “important new paper”: by two former colleagues of mine (just departed for Duke) and one of our grad students here at Arizona. The paper compares the social network module of the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) to the 1985 GSS, the last to include network questions. The key question of interest is this:

bq. From time to time, most people discuss important matters with other people. Looking back over the last six months—who are the people with whom you discussed matters important to you? Just tell me their first names or initials.

The survey went on to probe the respondents about their relationship to the people they mentioned, and the relationship of these people to one another. The new findings are striking: since 1985, the number of people saying there is _no-one_ with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled, rising to about a quarter of the respondents. As McPherson et al say,

bq. The modal respondent now reports having no confidant; the modal respondent in 1985 had three confidants. Both kin and non-kin confidants were lost in the past two decades, but the greater decrease of non-kin ties leads to more confidant networks centered on spouses and parents, with fewer contacts through voluntary associations and neighborhoods. … Educational heterogeneity of social ties has decrease, racial heterogeneity has increased.

The predicted probability of social isolation is much higher the fewer years of education one has. Also. “Young (ages 18–39), white, educated (high school degree or more) men seem to have lost more discussion partners than other groups.”

The observed differences are pretty big, as these things go. Are they real? It may be that the 2004 respondents differed from the 1985 respondents in their interpretation the words “discuss” and “important.” (People might interpret “discuss” as face-to-face discussion, when they may also be pouring out their hearts on a blog somewhere, for instance.) Because of these issues, the authors spend a lot of time investigating the validity of the measure. More interestingly, it may be that we really are observing a shift in patterns of network affiliation. Feel free to speculate in the comments, but also take a look at the paper — it discusses several of the most plausible interpretations of the shift, in addition to documenting the findings.

Stuff and nonsense

by Chris Bertram on June 23, 2006

Just back from going to hear Tony Blair give “a speech”: on the criminal justice system. It was the usual stuff about “rebalancing” the system in favour of the victim, with a lot of noise about the need for “fundamental debate” on principles but no actual discussion of said fundamentals. An important rheorical subtext in the speech was Blair-as-outsider, pitted against the “legal and political establishment”, which is a bit much coming from a legal professional from Derry Irvine’s chambers who has been Prime Minister for the past nine years! There was also a heap of cod sociology, reminiscent of “Henry’s post the other day”: , about how we once lived in nice cosy communities but that this stable order has been swept away by globalisation to be replaced by anomie etc. Blair spoke as if he intends to go on and on, which will be bad news for Gordon Brown if true (but maybe PMs always talk like this).

There was an uncomfortable amount of attention to immigration and asylum seeking in the speech, including this:

bq. Here is the point. Each time someone is the victim of ASB, of drug related crime; each time an illegal immigrant enters the country or a perpetrator of organised fraud or crime walks free, someone else’s liberties are contravened, often directly, sometimes as part of wider society.

I’m quite puzzled by why Blair thinks that the mere entry of an illegal immigrant amounts to a contravention of someone’s liberty.