Pessimism

by John Quiggin on August 30, 2006

This NYT piece by Adam Cohen starts with the observation that Americans are feeling pessimistic about the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and so on, then jumps to a recent work on philosophical pessimism by Joshua Dienstag, whose basic argument is summarised in this sample chapter. As Cohen says, pessimism in this sense is not a gloomy disposition, but a worldview that “simply doubts the most basic liberal principle: that applying human reasoning to the world’s problems will have a positive effect.’ Cohen concludes “Part of Mr. Bush’s legacy may well be that he robbed America of its optimism “.

But if optimism holds that applying reasoned analysis will have a positive effect, the experience of the Bush Administration merely illustrates the point that the converse is also true.

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Yglesias

by Henry on August 30, 2006

Matthew “Big Number of Blogs”:http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2006/08/dont-whine-fight.html Yglesias is “consolidating his efforts”:http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2006/08/a_new_hope.html at a revamped “MatthewYglesias.com”:http://www.matthewyglesias.com. Update yer blogrolls accordingly.

Review: The Idea of a European Superstate

by Henry on August 30, 2006

This review is a year late – the delay is thanks to the birth of our first-born, the urgency of getting my own book into a fit state to be submitted to publishers, and repeated and extended fits of procrastination. I hope to be starting to review political science books more regularly from here on in, with a particular focus on books that touch upon areas that I do academic work on (EU politics, the politics of the Internet and e-commerce, institutional theory, trust), or that are topical for one reason or another. Some of these books are likely to be of interest to the general CT reader, some not.

Glyn Morgan, _The Idea of a European Superstate: Public Justification and European Integration_ (Princeton University Press 2005), review beneath fold. “Powells”:http://www.powells.com/partner/29956/s?kw=glyn%20morgan%20european%20superstate. Amazon.
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Getting the Counterfactual Right

by Kieran Healy on August 30, 2006

In the course of a “silly piece”:http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20060830/opcom30.art.htm boosting Joe Lieberman against the loud but ineffectual online hordes, Bruce Kluger says:

If this wasn’t enough to drain the effervescence from the blogger bubbly, America’s noisy Web wags were dealt an even more sobering blow 10 days later when Snakes on a Plane opened nationwide to a decidedly flat $15.3 million box office. Before its premiere, Snakes had been the latest blogger darling, as swarms of online film geeks prematurely crowned it the summer’s big sleeper. This hyperventilating fan base even convinced Snakes’ distributor, New Line Cinema, to up the movie’s rating to R, to ensure a gorier, more venomous snake fest. But all that clapping and yapping couldn’t put enough fannies in the seats.

But what’s the right counterfactual here? I think it’s that _Snakes on a Plane_ is a cheap B-Movie that, in the absence of the jokey attention it got online, would have gone straight to DVD and never come close to the top of the box office for even a single weekend. If anyone was suckered by the “mythology of the blogosphere” it was New Line Cinema, who clearly had convinced themselves that they had another _Titanic_ on their hands. (Maybe they had — just the wrong one.)

DiePod III, Die Harder

by Maria on August 30, 2006

Within a week of eachother, both my and a younger sister’s re-conditioned ipods have died. This was my third. After a year’s solid service, my first (they’ve all been 20 gig clickwheels) deteriorated over a couple of days before completely crashing. I sent it to a crowd in Kentucky who promised to either fix it or replace the hard drive. But not before they’d posted me an ipod ambulance to send it in, completely mislabelling it so I spent 3 months arguing with DHL over a customs fee of 45 Euro for said empty box. With its new drive, my little ipod zombie struggled on for another two months. Ipod no. 2, a secondhand job, is probably still working. But last time I saw it was tucked into the seat-back pocket on a Singapore Airlines jet. A week ago, ipod no. 3 upped and produced a black screen of death. After a stern talking to and a 24 hour time out, I sat it into its little charger only to pull it out 10 minutes later because of the sharp smell of burning. Now I truly understand what a meltdown is. So, no more ipods for me. Nor for my sister Annaick, who was on no. 2. That is, until the prospect loomed of an 8 month trip with no music.

What to do? I’m leaning towards a SanDisk, hoping the flash memory might be less likely to ignite. And figuring anything that avoids iTunes control-freak closed standards and copy controls is a good thing. Annaick’s considering a nano, but open to something with a non-proprietary format that can be more easily updated while on the road. She’s checked out Zens, but their distinguishing feature seems to be the ability to die the week their 1 year warranty expires.

Then there’s the mp3 player / mobile phone dilemma. Is this a hybrid device whose time has come? I lost my tri-band phone on a trip a few months ago (bit of a pattern, that) and replaced it with a cheap and cheerful Nokia that doesn’t work outside GSM land. If I spend enough $$$ for a posh new phone that works in the US, might I just as well buy something that plays mp3s as well? Might I even be less phone-phobic and likely to turn it on if it did nice things like play music while I run?

Questions, questions. Answers would be welcome, and sneering or ribaldry for a repeat ipod offender will be taken on the chin.