From the monthly archives:

August 2006

Got a few seconds?

by Eszter Hargittai on August 27, 2006

Then click here.

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Ann Coulter’s new book Godless: The Church of Liberalism is a rollicking read very tightly reasoned and hard to argue with. After all, the progressive mind regards it as backward and primitive to let religion determine every aspect of your life, but takes it as advanced and enlightened to have the state determine every aspect of your life. Lest you doubt the left’s pieties are now a religion, try this experiment: go up to an environmental activist and say “Hey, how about that ozone hole closing up?” or “Wow! The global warming peaked in 1998 and it’s been getting cooler for almost a decade. Isn’t that great?” and then look at the faces. As with all millenarian doomsday cults, good news is a bummer.

Worst Mark Steyn column ever. This is a job for … distributed mockery. Take it away!

It’s good to suffer pain

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 26, 2006

I recently heard some figures about the number of Dutch women who receive spinal puncture anaesthesia when giving birth. The figure would be around 15 percent. This is probably the lowest percentage among all affluent countries. According to the same newspaper article, in Belgium the figure would be 70%, as it is probably also in many other European countries.

The exact figures don’t matter: this post is about the remarkable low percentage of women who receive spinal puncture anaesthesia in the Netherlands. I think these low figures are a scandal. Why? Because in the Netherlands most women have effectively no choice to give birth with effective painkillers. The figures are not low because there is no demand; rather, the figures are low because there are so many barriers,  that it is effectively impossible for most women to choose to give birth without suffering immense pain. [click to continue…]

Against Gay Marriage

by Harry on August 25, 2006

Can anyone point me to a really good article, by someone philosophically sophisticated, which argues against gay marriage? I’d like to teach the topic in a class, and have some good pro-gay marriage resources, but am a bit stumped for anti-gay marriage stuff. I want something that does not rest on religious foundations, or at least doesn’t explicitly do so. If you have a sense of my sensibilities try to recommend something you think I’ll actually like. Oh, and I do have a good paper by my colleague Claudia Card which opposes gay marriage from an anti-marriage perspective, so that side of things is covered.

No kidding. Says so in Achieving Our Country [amazon].

As a teen-ager, I believed every anti-Stalinist word that Sidney Hook and Lionel Trilling published in Partisan Review – partly, perhaps, because I had been bounced on their knees as a baby. My mother used to tell me, with great pride, that when I was seven I had had the honor of serving little sandwiches to the guests at a Halloween party attended both by John Dewey and by Carlo Tresca, the Italian anarachist leader who was assassinated a few years later. That same party, I have since discovered, was attended not only by the Hooks and the Trillings, but by Whittaker Chambers. Chambers had just broken with the Communist Party and was desperately afraid of being liquidated by Stalin’s hit men. Another guest was Suzanne La Follette, to whom Dewey had entrusted the files of the Commission of Inquiry into the Moscow Trials. These files disappeared when her apartment was burgled, presumably by Soviet agents. (p. 61)

So I guess I no longer find it strange, relatively speaking, that Hegel and Schelling and Hölderlin were roommates. (I’ve really got to read The Sociology of Philosophies, which people have been insistently recommending to me [amazon].)

Aus krummem Holze

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 25, 2006

If a book is translated in your mother tongue, but the original was in a language that you understand, would you read the book in translation or in the original language? I (almost) always choose the original, despite that this generally requires greater effort. The reason is simple: many translated works are not able to capture the exact meanings of the original text (especially in the case of non-fiction), or do not breathe the same atmosphere (especially in the case of fiction). Even for single quotes, the original is often better phrased than the translated. But there are exceptions. Take the quote at the top of your screen: as far as I know, it is “Isaiah Berlin’s translation”: of Immanuel Kant’s original. I’ve always wondered how the original sounds, and since I couldn’t figure out myself, I asked “Pauline Kleingeld”:, a Kant Scholar. Here it is:

Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden (Akademische Ausgabe, Band 8, page 23).

For once, the translation beats the original.

Demography is Still Not Destiny

by Kieran Healy on August 24, 2006

Via “PZ Myers”:, I see that the idea that liberals are going to be outbred by conservatives has made it to the “Wall Street Journal”: PZ deals with some questions about the growth rates cited in the piece. But of course it’s not just about the math — “liberal” and “conservative” are not exactly stable features of a population with respect to their content. About six months ago “I wrote about a similar claim”: from Philip Longman. Here’s what I said then.

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by Eszter Hargittai on August 24, 2006

No time to comment at length, but I had to post about this since it is a big deal. It shouldn’t have been such a big deal, but it became one and so it’s worth a note: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finally approved over-the-counter access to Plan B (“morning after pill”, emergency contraception) for women 18 and over. More here.

Planned Parenthood is quick to point out that it’s still a problem that those under 18 continue to require a prescription:

While we are glad to know the FDA finally ended its foot-dragging on this issue, Planned Parenthood is troubled by the scientifically baseless restriction imposed on teenagers. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the western world — anything that makes it harder for teenagers to avoid unintended pregnancy is bad medicine and bad public policy.

They’re right. But let’s take a moment to be excited about the progress that’s been made anyway. There are a lot of people who worked on this for years and to them a huge THANK YOU. Again, no time to comment at length, but I wanted to post a brief note to mark the occasion.


by Kieran Healy on August 24, 2006

Now that there’s something like a ceasefire in Lebanon, I think what needs to happen is for Hezbollah to relocate to the DC area and start firing rockets at suburban homes in the region. This would have the advantage of combining two of “David”: “Bernstein’s”: three main interests in life. I imagine gleeful posts about the sudden drop in housing prices combined with dark suspicions over photos of dead realtors being carried out of the rubble. If the rockets could be launched from the safety of campus free-speech zones, we’d have the trifecta.

Draft review of Unspeak

by John Q on August 24, 2006

My draft review of Steven Poole’s Unspeak is over the fold. Comments much appreciated.

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A correspondent in the Middle East

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 23, 2006

Between 1998 and 2003, “Joris Luyendijk”: worked for various Dutch media as their correspondent in the Middle East. He has now written a book about his experiences (as far as I know, it’s only available in Dutch).

Luyendijk, who studied political science and Arabic, lived as a correspondent in Egypt, Lebanon, and East-Jerusalem. One of the main themes of his book is the impossibility of being a correspondent in this region according to the standards that journalists are assumed to aspire to in Europe. With many anecdotes, he shows that the ‘news’ Dutch people are getting about the Middle Eastern countries in the mainstream media is heavily filtered, manipulated, and constrained. It seems plausible to think that if it really is so bad with the Middle East reporting in the Dutch media, it ain’t going to be any better for other countries. Despite that this book is written for a broad readership and therefore aspires to be as readable as possible, it does not offer one simple explanation for this problem. Rather, Luyendijk describes a number of factors. [click to continue…]

Serious Kudos

by Henry Farrell on August 23, 2006

… to “Scott Page”: for somehow getting the Quarterly Journal of Political Science to publish an “article”: discussing the concept of ‘phat dependence.’

Sort of Like the Wisdom of Crowds

by Henry Farrell on August 23, 2006’s “flagging policy”: seems decidedly peculiar to me. [click to continue…]

Is Peak Oil here already ?

by John Q on August 23, 2006

There’s been a lot of discussion about claims that world oil output is going to reach a peak some time soon. If you look at the recent numbers, there’s a pretty good case to be made that world all output has already reached its peak at about 73 million barrels a day, a level reached in mid-2004, and sustained for the past two years.

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The wealth and poverty of nations

by Chris Bertram on August 23, 2006

Jeffrey Sachs, William Easterly (and Bono for that matter) can stop their bitching, Christopher Hitchens has “an explanation”: for a good deal of global destitution:

bq. … the mass murder of people on aeroplanes is a leading cause of poverty.

If only Larry Summers were still in post, he could have offered Hitch a job. (shamelessly stolen from “Marc Mulholland”: ).