by Daniel on November 28, 2006

I’ve just noticed that we haven’t had a specific post on the Litvinenko poisoning, despite the fact that it’s an interesting subject. I don’t really have anything to say on this, except that I would point out that this is a good refutation of those self-consciously “level-headed” types who like to believe that “most suspicious things are a case of cock-up rather than conspiracy”, that “you can’t put together any big plan without someone talking about it” or that there is something intrinsically weird or tin-foil-hattish about assuming that political ends of one sort or another are often advanced by illegal means. The most interesting thing about this case to me is that whoever is responsible for killing Litvinenko (and I suppose that the truly “rational” point of view of the non-conspiracy-theorist might be that the polonium got into his sushi by a series of coincidences), they will almost certainly get away with it. All of the main suspects are simply too geopolitically important in one way or another to ever be charged with or punished for anything as simple as murder. Informed opinions solicited, the other sort welcomed, try not to libel anyone please.

MCI Customer Service Hell

by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2006

“Sean Carroll”: writes about his miserable experience with Orbitz customer service, comparing it to the Hell’s Embassy scene in _Perdido Street Station_ where the suave tones of the demonic ambassador are accompanied by a disturbing echo from below “in the appalling shriek of one undergoing torture.” Which reminds me that I promised myself last week, after enduring 2 hours in customer service hell with MCI, that I would blog about it so as to warn anyone else considering signing up with the company to avoid them like the plague. [click to continue…]


by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2006

I’m up on Bloggingheads again, “this time”: with Dan Drezner, for those as wants to watch.

Hey, hi, do my work for me, will ya?

by Eszter Hargittai on November 28, 2006

As we know from recent CT discussions if not from our own inboxes, many people are not very good at communicating requests to strangers. My frustrations over this – being the recipient of such messages several times a week – have led me to write a piece on how best to approach a stranger with a request over email published today at Inside Higher Ed.

Often enough we are faced with a question that can best be answered by someone else, possibly a complete stranger. The upside of the Internet is that we can quickly contact folks without much effort. The downside of the Internet is that people can contact us without much effort. [..]

Given people’s limited amount of time, how can we ensure that our inquiring e-mail is not simply relegated to the recipient’s trash folder?

Descriptive subject line
Polite point-of-contact
Succinct statement of the message’s purpose
Brief introduction of yourself
Acknowledging other attempts at finding an answer or solution
Restatement of question
Gratitude for assistance

.. all done briefly.

See the piece for details. Of course, one problem is that the people who are most likely to write pathetic notes are the least likely to read an article of this sort. But at least for those who care, perhaps this can offer some helpful pointers.

Russian dolls II

by Maria on November 28, 2006

Last week, having wondered about how Europe should approach a resurgent Russia, I asked for recommendations of books and other sources that may give some insight into Russia today, and into relations with its former satellite states. Then I disappeared off for the weekend and neglected the comments of what became quite a long thread.

So, for people who are just as curious as me, or who, in one commenter’s rather flattering put-down, wish to have the correct talking points for glamorous euro dinner parties, here are some of the suggestions CT commenters shared: [click to continue…]