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…]