From the monthly archives:

June 2007

Annals of Personal Responsibility

by Kieran Healy on June 30, 2007

So checking the post today I found a letter addressed to my son, inviting him to apply for a Citibank Platinum Select Mastercard. Up to 40,000 American Airlines airmiles included! I’ve had a chat with the little guy about it (I still call him the little guy — corny, I know, but other Dads will understand), and he won’t be signing up, partly because it’s a bad deal (18.24 percent variable rate, annual fee after the first year), but mostly because he is six and a half weeks old.

Neat new Google Maps feature

by Eszter Hargittai on June 29, 2007

Maps don’t always give you the best known route to a destination. Now you can tell Google Maps what alternate route you want to take simply by dragging the blue line that indicates directions to another road. Here’s my rerouting of an Evanston-Chicago route that maps always tell you to do by going out to the highway, which is not necessarily the most efficient. (Of course, in that case, you could also just click on the “Avoid highways” button in the upper-left corner, but that still doesn’t give you the best route.) Another change seems to be that clicking on “Link to this page” now gives you a highlighted link right below it ready to be copied.

I understand that some other maps may have already had this feature. But I don’t think other maps are nearly as user-friendly as Google Maps so this is good news. Also, for those not following developments in this realm, the service also has My Maps now, which means that you can create maps with various markers, save them, and share them with others. This is very useful when numerous people ask you for touristy suggestions about the same place over and over again. You have to have a Google Account to use My Maps. Just click on the My Maps tab right below the Google Maps logo.

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iPhone watch

by Kieran Healy on June 28, 2007

I was able to pick up an iPhone early through a local contact at Apple, and I have to say it’s really something. No of course I wasn’t able to do that — who do you think I am? Besides, I already have a phone on a relatively new contract. But I was in the Campus Bookstore here at the U of A and, while briefly down in the computer section, I heard store employees field two calls from people asking whether it would be possible to buy an iPhone there tomorrow, and whether there would be an educational discount on them. The guy in the store replied with more than a trace of sadness that they weren’t carrying the phone because it was only available at Apple Stores and AT&T outlets. He didn’t know about the educational discount. I was only there for about five minutes and clearly these weren’t the first two calls they’d had about this today.

I won’t be buying one anytime soon but, like I “said before”:https://crookedtimber.org/2007/06/04/iphone/, it seems to me that the iPhone is going to be a success for Apple, and will probably provide a large kick in the ass to other cellphone manufacturers in the process. Criticism of the iPhone — and general backlash against the widespred interest amongst consumers — has been brewing for some time now. “John Gruber”:http://daringfireball.net/ has been keeping track of “some”:http://daringfireball.net/2007/06/straws_grasping “examples.”:http://daringfireball.net/2007/06/iphone_high_water_mark

Having read a bunch of the iPhone Naysayers, I’m struck by how much they miss the point of what Apple is trying to do with the device (in addition, I find myself wondering what the qualifications for becoming an IT Industry Analyst are, exactly).

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EU negotiations outcome

by Henry on June 28, 2007

I should really have blogged the outcome of the Treaty negotiations before this, but haven’t had time to comb through the fine print of the agreement. Three points though that are pretty clear. First, as discussed in my earlier post, the presumption of the member states that this can and should be shoved through on a nod and a wink is both unwarranted and likely to do long term damage to the EU’s legitimacy if it succeeds. See further “Glyn Morgan”:http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article2701067.ece on why the UK in particular should have a referendum:

The ethical rationale for an EU referendum is even more important than the political rationale. It is not healthy in a democracy for people to believe – as they will, if there is no referendum – that the political classes are a rule unto themselves, heedless of public opinion, and eager to remove from the political agenda fundamental constitutional issues. It doesn’t matter that the current proposals change little, and much of what they do change is in Britain’s interest. It matters that people, rightly or wrongly, believe that the EU has gone too far, too fast and without their proper consultation. For that reason alone, Britain needs a referendum.

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Taking care of Turquoise

by Eszter Hargittai on June 28, 2007

I don’t seem to be doing too well playing rock, paper, scissors over on Facebook so I’ve decided to focus my energies on taking care of my adopted turtle Turquoise. It’s good prepartion for when I’ll get a real turtle likely in the near future (unlike some turtle plagiarists, it’s a plan I’ve had for a while).

Unfortunately, you can only earn munny to feed your pet by having your pet pet by someone else or petting other people’s pets. (That’s not as hard to say three times fast as it may seem at first read…) And it turns out that despite having over 150 friends on Facebook, only three of them have (fluff)Friends, one because I asked him this morning. So this is a request that if we are linked on Facebook (or should be since we know each other) then can you please come over and show Turquoise some affection? Thanks!

Anyone wondering why I would spend time on Facebook has to understand that it is imperative for the legitimacy of my research to familiarize myself with these services. It’s a sacrifice, but all in the name of science.

I should add that I have been thinking about a more substantive post concerning Facebook and hope to get around to it one of these days. Lots going on there, it is spreading like wildfire way past college students, and there are some understandable reasons for that. More later. It’s time to check in on Turquoise now.

The Key to All Mythologies

by Scott McLemee on June 28, 2007

Liberal Fascism, the forthcoming opus by Jonah Goldberg, has undergone a subtitle change, as perhaps you have heard. Formerly it warned of “The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton.” Said temptation will now run “…From Hegel to Whole Foods.”

The delays in publication must have been necessary given the burdens of fresh scholarship demanded by this broadening of scope.

The pub date at Amazon is December 26, which is not the part of the season when trade publishers bring out books they are going to push very hard. Somebody at Doubleday probably had the same thought recently expressed elsewhere:

I assume Frederick Kagan, Bradley Schlotzman, and Jonah’s mom are already getting complementary copies; Dinesh von Souza will probably do his patriotic duty; which leaves – ? A mule train a half-mile long will have to be rounded up to ship the remainder of the edition to the respectively vice-presidential and presidential libraries of Dan Quayle and George W Bush, where they will serve to fill out the echoing bookshelves and glut the hungry silverfish.

Hint to Goldberg: Make it a little more “campaign friendly.” That’s where dropping Hillary from the subtitle is probably going to hurt you some. How about “The Totalitarian Temptation from Dialectics to the Democratic Candidates”? Plus you’d get that extra alliteration — a real bonus, catchiness-wise.

Well That’s Not Good

by Scott McLemee on June 27, 2007

At Minor Tweaks, Tom Bartlett runs through a list of “Things you don’t want to hear from the Apple tech guy”:

— “Can you hold please? I need to ask my supervisor a question.”

— “Huh. That usually works.”

— “Did you back everything up?”

— “Wow. Hmm.”

— “Can you hold again for me?”

— “See, right now, your computer doesn’t know it has a hard drive.”

— “Ai-yi-yi.”

Somewhere in Scandinavia, the computer simulation of an IKEA saleswoman is giggling.

I’ve got mail

by Michael Bérubé on June 27, 2007

I have <a href=”http://www.thecommonreview.org/fileadmin/template/tcr/pdf/berube61.pdf”>an essay</a> (.pdf) in the latest issue of <i>The Common Review</i>, on Harry Potter and my younger son’s adventures in the world of Hogwarts. But never mind me– the real news is that this is apparently the week for Azar Nafisi Football, Round Two!

On Monday, as I returned from my brief family vacation, I was greeted by the arrival of the latest issue of the <i>American Quarterly</i>; its lead essay, by John Carlos Rowe, is entitled “Reading <i>Reading Lolita in Tehran</i> in Idaho.” If you’ll recall Hamid Dabashi’s <a href=”http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2006/797/special.htm”>critique</a> of Nafisi from way back in ‘06 (elaborated later in the year in <a href=”http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=10707″>this interview in Z</a>), Rowe writes, as he explains at the outset, “to work out the scholarly and historical terms that are often lacking in Dabashi’s more strictly political analysis.”

“Nevertheless,” he adds,

<blockquote>even as I wish to distinguish my approach from Dabashi’s, I want to agree at the outset with his conclusions. Although I do not think that there is a direct relationship between Nafisi’s work and U.S. plans for military action in Iran, I do think Nafisi’s <i>Reading Lolita in Tehran</i> represents the larger effort of neoconservatives to build the cultural and political case against diplomatic negotiations with the present governmentof Iran.</blockquote>

I’ll get back to Rowe’s essay in a moment, but first, here’s yesterday’s arrival in the mail: the <i>Common Review</i>, with my little essay– as well as an essay by Firoozeh Papan-Matin, defending Nafisi from Dabashi! Comme c’est curieux, comme c’est bizarre, quelle coincidence!

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Why are people trying to convince me that Fred Thompson is sexy? A lock for the Republican nomination, OK–I feel that since all the other candidates have some truly fatal flaw, and since ol’Fred has been conveniently out of office during the late unpleasantness of the Bush II era he’ll get the nomination by default. I even think he could make a decent candidate in the general election, but sexy ladies man who’s going to Smoove B my vote by freaking me gently all election cycle long? I think not.

“Fred is a perfect example of chivalry. He’s the kind of man little girls dream about marrying, who opens doors for you, lights your cigarettes, helps you on with your coat, buys wonderful gifts. It’s every woman’s fantasy.” Thompson, who wooed Baroness Thatcher [?!–Belle] during a visit to London last week, is expected to announce officially next month that he is running for president. He is already challenging Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, for first place in polls of likely Republican voters.

Morgan remembers encouraging Thompson to run for president when they were together. “I think he has a great chance of capturing the women’s vote. He’s majestic. He’s a soft, safe place to be and that could be Fred’s ticket. Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us,” she said.

First of all, are women voters, taken as a whole, really so much like retarded kittens in our motivations? And secondly, doesn’t Fred Thompson pretty much look like a basset hound who’s just taken a really satisfying shit in your hall closet? Finally, even if we restrict our field of play to Republicans who have played prosecutors in the later seasons of Law and Order, I would much, much rather have sex with Angie Harmon, even though I’m not gay. Think about it. So, no sale. Via RedState

Thatcherism after Blair

by John Quiggin on June 27, 2007

While there will doubtless be plenty of discussion of Blair’s contribution on his departure, it might be more useful to take a step further back and re-evaluate Thatcher. When Blair took office, he was generally seen as offering Thatcherism with a human face. Thatcher herself was generally seen,as a successful (counter-) revolutionary and aspirants to the Tory leadership were still competing for her mantle.

Ten years later, the picture is quite different, superficially at least. Brown seems much more Old Labour than Blair, and Cameron is eager to be seen as anything but Thatcherite.

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Review: Scott E Page, The Difference

by Henry on June 27, 2007

Scott E. Page, _The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies_ (Princeton University Press). Available from “Powells”:http://www.powells.com/partner/29956/s?kw=Scott%20Page%20The%20Difference, “Amazon”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0691128383?ie=UTF8&tag=henryfarrell-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0691128383.

Scott Page, who’s in the political science department at University of Michigan, has written a book that’s valuable on two levels. First, it provides a more rigorous take on some of the issues that James Surowiecki dealt with in his popularizing book, _The Wisdom of Crowds_. To say that Surowiecki’s book is written for a popular audience of course isn’t to say that it’s bad (to the contrary, see dsquared’s “review”:https://crookedtimber.org/2004/08/19/the-wisdom-of-sticks/), but it certainly doesn’t go to the same kinds of lengths as does Page’s to establish careful definitions, dot terminological i’s, and cross conceptual t’s. Page also goes rather further than Surowiecki in specifying his arguments about group decision making (providing a very good, if individually flavoured, account of the relevant cognitive science literature in the process), which means that he’s able to offer more specific claims than Surowiecki about the circumstances under which groups will or will not be able to beat experts. Second, Page uses this to offer a broad defence of the cognitive virtues of diversity. When the members of a group have diverse sets of mental tools, group decision making (under certain assumptions) is less likely to get stuck at suboptimal solutions, and more likely to arrive at superior ways of doing things. As Jim Johnson “pointed out”:http://politicstheoryphotography.blogspot.com/2007/02/difference.html a few months ago, this means that Page is able to offer a _pragmatic_ defence of diversity practices in hiring, education etc – having a diverse set of points of view in a group means better decision making. [click to continue…]

Life Imitates Ted (again)

by Henry on June 26, 2007

“Norman Podhoretz”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/014829.php on the _National Review Cruise_, 2007.

“Aren’t you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?” Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. “No,” Podhoretz replies. “As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf war one, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran.” He says he is “heartbroken” by this “rise of defeatism on the right.” He adds, apropos of nothing, “There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we’re winning.” The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn’t he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley “a coward.” His wife nods and says, “Buckley’s an old man,” tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.

“Ted Barlow”:https://crookedtimber.org/2003/11/12/todays-activities-on-the-national-review-cruise/ on the _National Review Cruise_, 2003.

4:00 (Lounge 3) Seminar: Dealing with Cognitive Dissonance: Economics

Lie down and relax, as the staff of the National Review explain, in soothing tones, how the massive growth in government spending, net loss of jobs, the steel tariff, and explosive deficit growth during the Bush presidency are all part of a clever, clever plan. So clever. (Featuring ambient mix by Mobius Dick- Glenn Reynolds samples the first Orb album in its entirety and then adds, “Indeed” in a dreamy voice. CDs available.) (Note: Dealing with Cognitive Dissonance: Iraq attracted more interest than anticipated. We will cover WMDs in a special session on Thursday)

Looks like the Thursday session ended up getting delayed again …

I’d prefer an ordinary afternoon…

by Eszter Hargittai on June 26, 2007

Comparing the hills during and after the fire

Just this morning I was contemplating how horrible it must be for the people who suddenly lost their homes in the fire around Lake Tahoe. By the afternoon I was watching firefighters from my office window battle flames on Stanford’s hills.

I was sitting at my desk already unable to work having just received word about the death of Peter Marris, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at UCLA, dear husband of Dolores Hayden who was a fellow Fellow at CASBS this year. The two of them had to end their year at the Center early, because Peter was sick, but I don’t think any of us expected things to escalate so quickly.

Unable to concentrate on work, I turned around to look at the beautiful view from my office. I spotted some big red flames. Soon I realized that a large area around it was completely black with smoke and flames on the periphery. Eventually sirens and helicopters appeared, as did firefighters. Some of the smoke was now white not just black, apparently a good sign. But not all the black smoke disappeared and an hour later there was still much activity. I went to an event and by the time I got back to my office, another hillside was completely black (see the difference in the left area of the two photos above).

How quickly things can change.

Political Science papers

by Henry on June 25, 2007

Ezra Klein “asks”:http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2007/06/economists-in-t.html

This is one of my perennial bafflements, but the lack of suggestions on my request for political science blogs reminds me how odd the robust representation of economists in the blogosphere really is. Between Tyler Cowen, Mark Thoma, Brad DeLong, Max Sawicky, Dani Rodrick, Greg Mankiw, Kash Monsori, the folks at Angry Bear, and all the other econobloggers out there, a fairly broad channel has arisen for publicizing and popularizing relevant economic research in the political sphere. Not so with relevant political science research, even as it it would seem, if anything, more relevant. Why have economists taken to the blogosphere in so much greater numbers, and with so much more apparent success, than practitioners of other disciplines that also intersect with contemporary politics?

and the blogosphere “delivers”:http://www.henryfarrell.net/polsci/, sort of. I’ve set up a blog to link to new political science papers that are likely to be of interest to a general audience (where ‘general audience’ denotes the kinds of people who read Ezra, CT, Dan Drezner’s blog etc). At the moment, it consists of nothing more than abstracts of interesting papers and links to them. I hope over time to do a bit more than that (but not for a couple of months; I also have a book to finish over the summer). This is intended to be somewhat more specifically pol-sci focused than _Political Theory Daily Review_ (now at “Bookforum”:http://www.bookforum.com) but also to appeal to people who aren’t cardcarrying political scientists. Please feel free to email me suggestions for papers to link (I know that there are a fair few political scientists who read CT, including a couple of journal editors; send me stuff and if it’s appropriate, I’ll happily link to it). Such suggestions should include the abstract or other relevant info for the paper, the bibliographical details, and, of course, the URL. Feel free also to make suggestions as to how the site can be improved (it’s rather barebones at the moment, but will get a little prettier over time).

1000 films to see before you die

by Chris Bertram on June 25, 2007

Over the next five days, the Guardian is publishing “their list of the top 1000 films ever”:http://film.guardian.co.uk/1000films/0,,2108487,00.html , in alphabetical order. Naturally, being the Guardian, they manage to screw up before getting past “A” through the shocking omission of “All About Eve”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042192/ , without which no such list can be taken seriously. I’m sure our commenters will spot other similar outrages as the week unfolds.