From the monthly archives:

September 2006

Yahoo! Hack Day

by Eszter Hargittai on September 30, 2006

Taking advantage of my Silicon Valley location this year, I decided to go check out Yahoo! Hack Day (it’s actually a two-day event so I’ll be back for more today). I doubt that there are too many CT readers who would participate in something of this sort, but if you happen to be there today, do let me know.

Hundreds of people showed up for the opportunity to spend a day adding functionality to various Yahoo! products such as Flickr, Upcoming.org and now even Yahoo! Mail. The demos of these creations will be this afternoon (Saturday) where we’ll get to hear 90-second descriptions of the hacks. It sounds fun and exciting especially to someone like me who’s such a fan of some of Yahoo!’s products.

The event organization so far has been impressive with clear directions, plenty of parking, fast registration and some fun swag. Yesterday was filled with various presentations culminating in a pizza dinner and then a live concert. I finally met Lifehacker Gina Trapani in person and hung out for a while. This was fun since despite having written for Lifehacker in the past, we’ve never met in person.

The surprise of the evening was the Beck concert (see a recent interview in Wired as to why he was an especially appropriate selection for this event). The performance included puppet versions of all the artists projected onto the screen behind the stage. It was great. You can find photos of the concert on Flickr (mine, others’) and there’s also a Yahoo! video not of the concert, but of the Beck puppet’s visit to Sunnyvale. Google gets most of the attention for being a fun place to work, but Yahoo!’s campus seems quite fun as well, something I already noted when giving a talk there two years ago.

What Waterboarding Looks Like

by Henry on September 29, 2006

“David Corn”:http://www.davidcorn.com/archives/2006/09/this_is_what_wa.php posts the pictures which I’ve copied below of a waterboarding apparatus, and a painting of the process by a former prisoner, taken from a Cambodian “museum that documents Khymer Rouge atrocities.” Yes, that’s right. The current administration is out there on torture together with the fucking Khmer Rouge. Who, according to Corn’s correspondent, “like so many brutal regimes–made waterboarding one of their primary tools for a simple reason: it is one of the most viciously effective forms of torture ever devised.” I’d like to think that torture apologists (a couple of whom occasionally infest our comments sections) would be deeply ashamed – but I suspect that they’ve lost the capacity for shame long ago, if they ever had it to begin with.

waterboarding device

waterboarding device alternate view

waterboarding painting

Jake in a Box and on the Box

by Harry on September 29, 2006

If I have any regrets (apart from not having played enough cricket) among the biggest must be indolently passing up the opportunity to wander down the Iffley Road to watch Jake Thackray play in a pub sometime in the mid-1980’s. I still can’t imagine what I was thinking; the cover price was something like 2 quid, and it didn’t even require staying out late (something I was slightyl less averse to in those days anyway). Now the chance is gone forever. But a while ago Jake In a Box (UK) arrived. All four EMI albums, plus reams of extras (Live Performance (UK) is, I’m told, on its way). I’ve been playing it ever since.
(NB: bob mcmanus should be sure to read on)

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demoralize, v|diˈmôrəˌlīz|

by Kieran Healy on September 28, 2006

*1*. _trans_. To corrupt the morals or moral principles of; to deprave or pervert morally.

bq. The Senate approved legislation this evening governing the interrogation and trials of terror suspects, establishing far-reaching new rules in the definition of who may be held and how they should be treated. … The legislation … strips detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court and broadly defines what kind of treatment of detainees is prosecutable as a war crime. … The legislation broadens the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in this country as well as those in foreign countries, and also anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense. It strips detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of a habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials, which have looser rules of evidence than the courts. It allows evidence seized in this country or abroad to be taken without a search warrant.

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Parents’ Rights

by Harry on September 28, 2006

I see that Adam Swift is giving an interesting-looking paper on “Parents’ Rights and the Value of the Family” at the UCL political theory seminar next month. All right, I’m being coy, we co-authored it, but since I never directly post anything on my own non-existent web page, I wanted to encourage people who might be interested to read it.

Babi Yar

by Maria on September 28, 2006

Yesterday in Kiev there was a commemoration at Babiy Yar, the infamous gorge in which tens of thousands of Ukraine’s Jews were murdered by the invading German army in 1941. (Later on in the occupation, Babi Yar was also used to massacre gypsies, other Ukrainians and Russian prisoners of war.) President Viktor Yuschenko and the presidents of Israel and Croatia all gathered for an event attended by thousands of Ukrainians. A quick taxi ride turned into an hour-long odyssey as traffic all over the city was at a standstill for hours as the scale of the commemoration was so huge.
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Bizarro World Thucydides

by Henry on September 27, 2006

“Sandy Levinson”:http://balkin.blogspot.com/2006/09/thucydides-weighs-in.html quotes from Thucydides.

“To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defence . . . and indeed most people are more ready to call villainy cleverness than simple-mindedness honesty. They are proud of the first quality and ashamed of the second.” Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War III, 82, trans. Rex Warner, The Penguin Classics, pp. 209-210.

One of the most deeply weird features of modern political discourse is how some conservative supporters of the Iraq war and associated numbskulls such as “Dan Simmons”:http://www.dansimmons.com/news/message/2006_04.htm cite Thucydides in support of their claims that we’re engaged in an epochal clash of civilizations where moderation amounts to appeasement of an enemy that will enslave us all if we don’t decimate em. I imagine that the appalling Victor Davis Hanson is to blame for most of this. I simply don’t see how one can read Thucydides without coming away with some quite emphatic lessons about the long term costs of imperial arrogance towards one’s political allies, how unnecessary military adventures turn into disasters, und so weiter. Not to mention Thucydides’ depiction of the dangers of cheap jingoism and pro-war demagoguery at home (it would be unfair to describe Glenn Reynolds and company as tinpot Kleons, if only because Kleon actually went out to fight the war that he had touted for).

O Bérubé, O Judge, O Mom and Dad

by Scott McLemee on September 27, 2006

I interviewed Michael Bérubé by phone over the weekend for a podcast now available from Inside Higher Ed. As you might expect, Bérubé is well-spoken. Alas, the gremlins were just as efficient in doing their work, for there is a certain amount of hiss from the phone line. Here’s hoping some people will try to listen past it. My colleague Elia Powers made heroic efforts to remove the noise. I’m told that this made Bérubé sound like a robot. Which, come to think of it, might have been pretty cool: A case can be made for doing all interviews with a Vocoder, à la Laurie Anderson.

As it is, though, we did get in a little bit of “Long Black Veil” as covered in 1985 by Baby Opaque, with Bérubé on drums and Ian MacKaye (in transit between Minor Threat and Fugazi) on vocals. For the full recording, go here.

Word is that suspects are being rounded up for an online symposium on What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? later in the semester. It’s understandable that the book should get the lion’s share of attention. It’s from a trade press. But the other one, Rhetorical Occasions, from the University of North Carolina Press, will be a lot more interesting to many CT readers.

You would be able to see why, had the good folks at UNCP provided the table of contents, instead of this.

The other day, a sociologist I know slightly asked me (and another political philosopher) whether there were any important recent books in political philosophy he should read. We were stumped, and eventually suggested that he read Annette Lareau’s _Unequal Childhoods_ … which is a work in sociology (and not that recent any more). I’ve just used the amazon.com books “power search” feature to look for books in political philosophy published in 2005 and 2005. There are some interesting collections of papers here and there – both on topics and collecting someone’s previously published papers – and there are some goodish introductory books, but there was nothing listed (not a single book) of which it could truly be said that a political philosopher who had not read that book (within a reasonable time) would have neglected to do something that they should have done.

I have a short list of books that nearly made it (none of which I’ve read). The “nearly” books are Matthew Clayton’s _Justice and Legitimacy in Upbringing_ (which I’ve bought but not started), Brian Barry’s _Why Social Justice Matters_, Martha Nussbaum’s _Frontiers of Justice_ and David Schmidtz’s _Elements of Justice_. I’m sure it would be a good thing to read any of those four, but _essential_? I don’t think so. Can commenters make a case for some book published since the beginning of 2005.

Cover Stories

by Kieran Healy on September 26, 2006

Via “Unfogged”:http://www.unfogged.com and “ThinkProgress”:http://thinkprogress.org/2006/09/25/newsweeks-latest-cover-by-geographical-region/, Newsweek’s current cover as it varies by geographical region:

I commend them for sparing the world from “Annie Leibowitz”:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14964292/site/newsweek/. The funny thing is that the graphic is right there “on Newsweek’s own site”:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3037881/site/newsweek/. I went back and looked for others. Here are the covers from the week before last.

War on Science Watch

by John Holbo on September 26, 2006

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.

The report drew a prompt response from Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg D-N.J., who charged that “the administration has effectively declared war on science and truth to advance its anti-environment agenda … the Bush administration continues to censor scientists who have documented the current impacts of global warming.”

via C&L

Hey, someone should write a book about this sort of thing. Maybe give away a companion to the book for good measure. (Admittedly, this report may be premature – the report about the report, that is. The actual Nature article title ends with a question mark, “Is the US hurricane report being quashed?”)

I didn’t mention this in my previous post: Mooney’s book [amazon] is now out in paperback – and cheap! (And it’s got search inside. So if you want to research various figures’ involvement in the debate, you can do so efficiently online.)

Like pasting feathers together and hoping for a duck

by John Holbo on September 26, 2006

If you haven’t, you should read this Intel-Dump post, “National Insecurity”. And then read all 154 comments. If every American voter had to read the whole thread (it’s only, like, 30,000 words) I think the Democrats would get about 70% of the popular vote, showing most dramatic improvement in red states. Of course, we would still have no real plan for Iraq, sadly. But accountability starts at home. [click to continue…]

John M. Ford has died

by Henry on September 26, 2006

Making Light tells us that John M. Ford has died. I didn’t know him at all personally, but I loved his work. “The Dragon Waiting” is perhaps his best novel, but some of his short stories are even better. This extract from “Scrabble with God” (stolen from Brad DeLong ) gives some idea of his sense of humour.

I don’t recommend playing with God. It isn’t that he cheats, exactly. But the other night we were in the middle of a game, I was about thirty points up, and He emptied out his rack. ZWEEGHB. Double word score and the fifty-point bonus.

“Zweeghb?” I said.

“Is that a challenge?”

“Well…” If you challenge God and you’re wrong, you lose the points and get turned into a pillar of salt.

“Look outside,” He said. So I did. Sure enough, there was a zweeghb out there, eating the rosebushes, like Thurber’s unicorn.

“I thought you rested from creating stuff.”

“Eighth day, I did. Now I’m fresh as a daisy. You going to pass or play?”

He was also a fine, intelligent poet. Read 110 Stories or the poem quoted in Teresa’s memorial post at Making Light to see how good he could be when he was being serious. But he also had an extraordinary gift for ex tempore verse that was somehow light, complicated, funny and erudite, all at the same time. One of Kieran’s posts on Thomas Friedman helped indirectly inspire this quickie on mixed metaphor and misprision.

Much have I travell’d on the feet of gold,
And many tumbled walls and maidens seen,
Round many horny Africs have I been
Which bards like bosoms in their welkins hold,
Oft of a spare expanse had I been told
That fence-swung Homer looked on as demesne;
Yet never did I breathe its mountains clean
Till I heard Friedman speak out uncontrolled,
Then felt I like some Cousteau of the skies
When a new bubble undermines his ken,
Or sack-like Falstaff, when with precast eyes
He stared at echoes — and his fellow men
Harked back in multitudes like single spies
Silent, past their peak in Darien.

I don’t think that he’ll ever get the recognition that he deserved; his gifts didn’t fit well with his times. But the world feels poorer and sadder today for his absence.

Orange Hangover

by Maria on September 25, 2006

(Cross-posted to Ukraine Study Tour Blog)
It’s amazing how little coverage of Ukraine there has been in the international media in the past few months (with the exception of the ever-dependable Financial Times). After the telegenic euphoria of the December 2004 Orange Revolution had passed, attention focused elsewhere. In TV-land, Ukraine was a simple story with a happy ending; democracy won and the ex-communists were sent packing. Since then, anyone who’s been paying a little attention knows the ‘morning after’ brought a long hangover. President Viktor Yuschenko’s government internally combusted as his Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko walked out. Economic growth stagnated and corruption ran rampant. And in the depths of last winter, a piqued Russia switched off the gas. This spring, a parliamentary election created a three-way stalemate that lasted for months. The pro-Russian Party of the Regions of Ukraine made a convincing comeback (for eastern Ukrainians, it never went away). It was a thumb of the nose to Westerners, including myself, who’d simply assumed that a successful democratic outcome meant victory for the pro-Western parties. For a time early this summer, Ukraine teetered on the edge of a profound split, perhaps even civil war. Sensibly, if belatedly, Yuschenko put US pressure to the side and entered a coalition with his arch enemy, the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich.
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Ukraine blogging

by Maria on September 25, 2006

I’m on a bit of a busman’s holiday. I’m part of a study tour to the Ukraine that involves meeting policy makers, NGOs and media people in Kiev and the Crimea, and deepening international links both ways. So I’ve set up a group-blog for people on the tour and also fellows of the 21st Century Trust to share and discuss what we learn about this amazing country. I’ll be here for the next 10 days and hope to be blogging about it, or helping my fellow study-tourers blog about it pretty much every day. So I’d really appreciate it if you could take a moment to hope over to Ukraine Study Tour Blog and check in on us, leave a comment, or just have a nose around. While I’m here, I’m also going to cross-post here at CT the occasional piece about Ukraine to spread the love around and also entice CT-readers to look a little closer.

Also, while I’m at it, I may as well add that I’ve now been in Kiev for 24 hours and have pretty much fallen in love with it. Salo and black bread washed down with neat vodka may have brought on the most dramatic migraine I’ve had in a while. But now that it’s passed, I can’t help thinking it was worth it. Who’d have thought garlicky lard could taste so damn good?