Blog and Manifesto

by Henry Farrell on October 18, 2006

Blog: Marc Lynch of Abu Aardvark has set up a new group blog-journal, “Qahwa Sada”:

Why a new blog-journal by Middle East experts? Because Middle East studies specialists have a phenomenal amount of quality knowledge about the Arab and Islamic world… Many are out there in the region, seeing things happen and talking to people over a sustained period of time. But they often have trouble getting that knowledge out into the public realm. Part of the problem is that there just aren’t nearly enough of the right kind of outlets. Academic journals are not well suited to getting information and analysis out to a wide public, and many have yet to adapt to the internet era. Blogs are wonderful, but not everyone wants one or has the time to run one. … That means that debate is too often dominated by people with, shall we say, a less empirically rich or theoretically sophisticated understanding of the region. Qahwa Sada aims to fix this market failure by providing a public forum for Middle East studies specialists to talk about what they know.

Manifesto: Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin have written a forthright (and in my view, excellent) “manifesto”: for liberalism in the US, as a response to Tony Judt’s accusation that US liberals have been supine in the face of the conservative onslaught over the last several years. Those who aren’t allergic to signing these things on principle should seriously consider signing it – it isn’t the usual pablum. A lot of people whom I respect have signed up already (Yochai Benkler, Josh Cohen, Robert Dahl, Margaret Levi and Charles Tilly to name a few).

Brighten up your Day

by Kieran Healy on October 18, 2006

“A new Bravia Ad”: No, not the bouncy balls one. A new one. Via “Alan”:

Fraud Balloon Pops

by Kieran Healy on October 18, 2006

“Following up on yesterday’s post”:, David Kane’s unfounded accusations have been removed from the front page of the “Social Science Statistics”: blog. SSS blogger Amy Perfors “apologises for the error of judgment”: and says they removed the post because the “tone is unacceptable, the facts are shoddy, and the ideas are not endorsed by myself, the other authors on the sidebar, or the Harvard IQSS.” Good for them. IQSS Director “Gary King”: also “comments briefly”: on the matter.

I refuse to use that word, but …

by John Q on October 18, 2006

I’m using a blog to beg for help on a minor point.

The Wikipedia article on pscyhological egoism, which draws on the e Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, includes

Finally, psychological egoism has also been accused of using [[circular logic]]: “If a person willingly performs an act, that means he derives personal enjoyment from it; therefore, people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment”. In particular, seemingly altruistic acts must be performed because people derive enjoyment from them, and are therefore, in reality, egoistic.. This statement is circular because its conclusion is identical to its hypothesis (it assumes that people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment, and concludes that people only perform acts that give them personal enjoyment).

I’ve added the claim, based on memory that “This objection was made by William Hazlitt* in the 19th century, and has been restated many times since then”, but Google only produces reference to a previous occasion on which I made the same claim. Can anyone point to a good citation of Hazlitt on this, or to any other versions of this argument from the 19th and 20th centuries?

* Not Henry Hazlitt, a 20th century economist who endorses the circular argument described above.

Racism, Still Not Dead

by Belle Waring on October 18, 2006

From today’s Washington Post, an interesting paper by Vanderbilt economist Joni Hersch on the correlation between skin color and economic success among recent immigrants. (Pdf here.)

Immigrants with the lightest complexions earned, on average, about 8 to 15 percent more than those with the darkest skin tone after controlling for race and country of origin as well as for other factors related to earnings, including occupation, education, language skills, work history, type of visa and whether they were married to a U.S. citizen.

In fact, Hersch estimated that the negative impact of skin tone on earnings was equal to the benefit of education, with a particularly dark complexion virtually wiping out the advantage of education on earnings….

Hersch based her results on 2,084 men and women who participated in face-to-face interviews for the federally funded 2003 New Immigrant Survey. All of the respondents had been admitted to lawful permanent resident status during the seven-month period, May to November 2003. As part of the survey, interviewers also rated the skin tone of each individual on an 11-point scale ranging from zero to 10, with 10 representing the darkest possible skin color and zero the absence of color, or albinism.

Why should pale people earn more? “I don’t think that any explanation other than discrimination is possible — and I am not one to draw such inferences lightly,” Hersch said in an e-mail. “I am stunned by the strength and consistency of the findings, even controlling for race, even controlling for nationality, and . . . everything that could possibly matter.”

This was true even for white european people; Estonians would apparently sail past swarthy Mediterranean types (not a particular finding from the paper, mind.) In her paper she mentions that among US-born black men there is also correlation between lighter skin and higher wages, but doesn’t say whether among US-born whites there is a premuim placed on paleness. I would be inclined to say not, but then, it seems hard to imagine how this pressure could apply only to immigrants. Rather striking results, though. It’s also easy to see why the nigh-transparent complexions of Irish university profs give them an edge in the US job market.

Defense of Marriage Act Lives

by Jon Mandle on October 18, 2006

When Bill Clinton signed the (offensively-named) Federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, the looming issue was the possibility that the Hawaiian Supreme Court would legalize same-sex marriage. (In 1993, the court ruled that the state needed to show a compelling interest in order to prohibit same-sex marriage.) Since the Constitution requires that “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state,” it seemed that same-sex marriages recognized by one state would have to be recognized by the others. The Act explicitly exempted states from such a requirement. As I remember it, this was the focus of the debate.

But the Act has another implication that I don’t remember being discussed very much. It denies benefits to legally recognized same-sex spouses of federal employees. (There are currently around 1.9 [oops: million, of course] federal civil servants. I don’t know whether this prohibition applies to the additional 10.5 million individuals who are government-funded contractors or grantees.) This includes former members of Congress:

The federal government has refused to pay death benefits to the spouse of the late Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress.

Studds married Dean Hara in 2004 after gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts. But Hara will not be eligible for any of Studds’ estimated $114,337 annual pension because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from recognizing the couple’s marriage.

Meanwhile, in somewhat related news, Eliot Spitzer (who is leading John Faso by a 3-1 margin in the race for NY governor) says that he will introduce legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in NY.

Obvious truths finally stated

by John Q on October 18, 2006

With Blair on the way out, the British military leadership seems to be in open revolt. Following the admission last week by the army chief that the Iraq war had made terrorism worse, there’s this

The invasion of Iraq prevented British forces from helping to secure Afghanistan much sooner and has left a dangerous vacuum in the country for four years, the commander who has led the attack against the Taliban made clear yesterday.

Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 3 Para battlegroup just returned from southern Afghanistan, said the delay in deploying Nato troops after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002 meant British soldiers faced a much tougher task now.

Asked whether the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath had led to Britain and the US taking their eye off the ball, Brig Butler said the question was “probably best answered by politicians”.

Not original, but significant by virtue of the source.

The only reading I can make of this is that the British top brass are desperate for a quick withdrawal from Iraq, as soon as Blair goes, and are applying as much public pressure as possible (even at the cost of violating conventions about military comment on political issues) to ensure that Gordon Brown does not succumb to threats or blandishments from Washington.

Update Brigadier Butler claims he was misquoted

Floating the Fraud Balloon

by Kieran Healy on October 18, 2006

“Daniel wrote a piece”: for the Guardian’s blog saying that critics who wanted to reject the findings of Burnham et al.’s “Lancet paper”: and believe the Iraq Body Count estimate (or similar-sized numbers) were going to have to come out and claim that the paper was fraudulent, “and presumably to accept the legal consequences of doing so.” Well, now “David Kane has floated that balloon.”:

*Update*: Kane’s accusations have been removed from the front page of the SSS blog. In a “follow-up,”: Amy Perfors apologises for the error of judgment and says they removed the post because the “tone is unacceptable, the facts are shoddy, and the ideas are not endorsed by myself, the other authors on the sidebar, or the Harvard IQSS.” Good for them.

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