by Kieran Healy on December 21, 2006

I’m sure you’re all tearing your hair out with frustration or worry, so I apologise for not posting much. For the past week I have been on a very tiny island on the south end of the “Rangiroa”: atoll, in French Polynesia. No internet access there. Also no electricity.

In other news, it turns out that if you write a book called “Last Best Gifts”: then the website for it gets a _big_ surge in hits from Google searches in the weeks before Christmas, but not because people are suddenly interested in the topic.

The empirical basis of the Green Lantern theory

by John Q on December 21, 2006

The idea that winning wars is a matter of willpower (what Matt Yglesias calls the Green Lantern theory of geopolitics) has been getting more and more attention as the situation in Iraq deteriorates.

At one level, the triumph of will theory is immune to meaningful empirical refutation. Whenever a nation loses a war, it can be argued that, with more willpower it would have prevailed. The one exception is where the nation is utterly destroyed, in which case, there will be no one interested in observing the failure of will.

There is, however, a specifically American version, which can be given some kind of empirical support. Until Vietnam, the United States had, at least according to the official accounts, never lost a war. The willpower theory holds that this loss was due to domestic weakness rather than defeat on the battlefield, and that subsequent failures of US forces in Lebanon, Somalia and elsewhere represent “Vietnam syndrome”.

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Gift guide: charitable giving

by Eszter Hargittai on December 21, 2006

Last in this season’s gift guide series are some ideas for charitable giving. If you celebrate any of the season’s gift-giving holidays, it’s getting to that point where it is too late to order anything for delivery and soon you won’t have time to run out and buy something either. What’s left? You could make a charitable donation on behalf of the people on your list.

I am sure there are the usual suspects on everyone’s list, either charities that are the first to gain mention during any crisis, ones automatically associated with the holidays, or ones you donate to annually and so it is likely that you reach for your checkbook this time of year with specific organizations in mind. For example, we here at CT have a history of supporting causes such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation since their mission is so closely aligned with what we do.

But in addition to the usual suspects, how about considering some lesser known charities? Is bigger always better in this realm?

Recently, I stumbled upon an interesting site called the Darfur Wall.

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Poetry and Powers

by John Holbo on December 21, 2006

Our Scott has unleashed impressive versificational forces (here and here). In comments, Adam Roberts suggests we try to get The Crooked Timber Littel Booke of Political, Philosophical and Scientifik Limerics out by X-Mas. I am duty-bound to report that I have already written A Philosophical Abecedarium, if somehow you managed to miss it back in 2002. I invite new contributions. (I’ve got two ‘k’s, so I might as well have dupes for the others.)

And let me take this opportunity to continue my occasional series of comics recommendations. In this thread, everyone piped up with faves, but no one mentioned Powers, by Bendis and Oeming. It’s more or less a cop procedural, with the protagonists as ordinary human officers responsible for investigating ‘Powers’-related crimes. You can imagine how that might get amusing. The hard-boiled dialogue is just great. And, in fact, you can read the entire first story arc – Who Killed Retro Girl? – here. (The navigation is a bit confusing. Most of the apparent links are just for jokey decoration. Click on the little ‘click here’ button in the Retro Girl box at the top. That takes you here. Then click the small, ochre ‘full daily page archive’ button on the left. Then pull down the little pull-down thingy to start at the beginning, rather than with today’s offering – which is p. 110. Whew! Now you just keep clicking ‘next’ through all 110 pages. You probably would have figured that out yourself.) Some of the pages are more full-featured, with links to pages of the original script, sketches and such. For fanboys.

The first year of the series – a whopping 450 pages worth – is available very cheaply: Powers, vol. 1 [amazon]. Good deal.