From the monthly archives:

July 2007

A genuine right to part-time work

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 25, 2007

Judith Warner wrote a “column”: in yesterday’s NYT (unfortunately behind the pay-wall) on the need to make part-time work genuinely available for all American workers. She argues that study after study shows that up to 80% of mothers, both those holding jobs or caring at home, want to work part-time, but that currently only 24% do so because “part-time work doesn’t pay”:

Women on a reduced schedule earn almost 18 percent less than their full-time female peers with equivalent jobs and education levels, according to research by Janet Gornick, a professor of sociology and political science at City University of New York, and the labor economist Elena Bardasi. Part-time jobs rarely come with benefits. They tend to be clustered in low-paying fields like the retail and service industries. And in better-paid professions, a reduced work schedule very often can mean cutting down from 50-plus hours a week to 40-odd — hardly a “privilege” worth paying for with a big pay cut.

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by Scott McLemee on July 24, 2007

It is a dark day for American journalism. Rick Perlstein alerts me that the Weekly World News — paper of record for “stories about aliens, Satan, giant pigs rampaging through the Georgia woods, Nostradamus-like prophets, time travel, and, of course, Bat Boy” — is going under.


During the run-up to the Iraq War, it was a Weekly World News reporter who blew the lid on Saddam’s program to clone dinosaurs for use as weapons of mass destruction. Other tabloids have their social function of course, but none was ever half so fearless.

In the words of perennial WWN columnist Ed Anger, “I’m madder than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.”

Harry Spoilers and the Something of Something Else

by Kieran Healy on July 24, 2007

Quite dull for the most part, I thought. Should have been c. 300 pages long. Backstory inserted by way of newspaper articles and book excerpts or what have you is tedious. But you knew all that from Books 4, 5 and 6. Did I mention there are *spoilers* below the fold?

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Jacob Levy doesn’t like progressives

by Henry Farrell on July 24, 2007

Jacob Levy’s “beginnings-of-a-response”: to Linda Hirshman’s piece on Rawlsianism as the root of all evil seems to me to be a fair bit off-target (this, from “Matt Yglesias”:, is much better).

I recommend and second Marty Peretz’ reflections on the replacement of the word “liberal” with the word “progressive” over at The Spine. … At a somewhat different level of abstraction: “progressive” as a concept is tied up with a partly-inchoate philosophy of history that I’d have thought long since discredited. It doesn’t share in Marxism’s rigid determinism; but it does always tell a story in which one’s own side in political disputes happens to be the side of the future and the march of events. That tied together the racist imperialism of the Progressive Era, its anti-constitutionalism, and its technocracy: we enlightened white Americans with university degrees and a sense of good order and planning will drag non-white people, the uneducated, the messy chaos of the economy, and an archaic governing structure based on archaic ideas on the limits of state action into the future. Liberalism as such doesn’t believe it will necessarily win. Liberalism a la Isaiah Berlin and Judith Shklar, and behind them figures like Montesquieu and Tocqueville, is deeply inflected with a sense that freedom might be precarious, and the humane and human accomplishments of liberal politics might be precarious. The liberal sense of history is not necessarily pessimistic, but it shares none of progressivism’s certainty.

Jacob’s jibes about racist imperialism aside (it wouldn’t exactly take much effort to drag up some of the more sordid bits from the history of classical liberalism), his argument seems to me to rest on a false comparison. When Jacob talks about progressivism, he talks about it as a political movement; when he talks about liberalism, he talks about it as a tradition within political theory. This rather predetermines his conclusions; if your political ideals are thoughtfulness, recognition of limits etc, it’s … unsurprising that political theorists are going to come out looking better than politicians and political commentators. If you set up a fairer comparison, say by contrasting whatever tendencies there are towards overweening triumphalism among progressive political commentators with whatever tendencies there are among soi-disant liberal commentators, I suspect you’d arrive at a quite different set of conclusions (there seemed to me to be _rather a lot_ of liberal triumphalism about the march of history and dragging non-white people and archaic governing structures into the future going around a few years ago; I’m not hearing so much of it now for all the obvious reasons).

England under water

by Chris Bertram on July 24, 2007

The Guardian has “a photo gallery”: of the floods. (And Chris Brooke “has some pictures of Oxford”: .) The excellent Bottle Rockets have their song “Get Down River” available for “download”: from their website.

Johan Hari reviews Nick Cohen

by Chris Bertram on July 24, 2007

Johan Hari has “reviewed”: Nick Cohen’s _What’s Left?_ for _Dissent_ . It is well worth a read.

Monsoon Season

by Kieran Healy on July 23, 2007

Top: View of the University of Arizona and the Santa Catalina mountains, summer day. (My office is on the top floor of the building in the lower right foreground.) Bottom: View of the University of Arizona and the Santa Catalina mountains, summer monsoon. It’s just finishing up now.

I’ve written on this in the past (as has John, and Jim Henley, and it’s been in the New Republic), but the situation is now urgent as well as serious – there is a very grave danger that the UK is preparing to sell its local employees in Iraq down the river, and the time to do something about it is now.

Iraqi interpreters used by the British Army and CPA South have already been hunted down by death squads. The British forces in and around Basra are no longer really sufficient to protect themselves, let alone their employees, as Channel 4 news details.

There really is no way of keeping these people safe while they are in Iraq, and they need to be kept safe. Quite apart from what one would call a “debt of honour” (the phrase is somewhat pompous, but accurately describes the situation), it never makes sense to get a reputation for abandoning one’s friends. Therefore, the Iraqi staff used by the British in Iraq need to be given asylum in the UK, along with their families.

This is not the current policy of the UK. The Home Office has simply suggested that Iraqis put at risk by their work for the British “register with the appropriate UN refugee agency”, joining the mountain of 2 million-plus refugees and IDPs already caused by the war. This simply isn’t good enough; the safety of Iraqis who are marked out as traitors by the insurgency can’t be guaranteed in the refugee camps either.

Denmark has already done the right thing, giving asylum to all 200 Iraqis who worked alongside their forces. The vast majority of the people concerned are already fluent English speakers and number only a few thousand, so we are not talking about a huge burden on the UK’s asylum system here – certainly nothing like the scale of the Ugandan Asian asylum operation, which is itself generally recognised to have been a massive net positive for the British economy and society.

British readers of CT ought to write to their MPs to ask them what they plan to do about this problem. It is best if you can write an individual letter, perhaps based on the set of bullet points over the fold, but if not, then the form letter on Dan Hardie’s blog is better than nothing (Update: the entire form letter is now also below the fold, after a burst of realism about how many readers you lose per click). I’ve also emailed my small set of contacts in the media about this story – as the links above show, to a large extent the “MSM” is already working on it, but anything we can do to keep it on the front pages will help. American readers of CT, well I guess you probably need to be thinking about how to organise something similar when your politicians start doing the same thing.

(other CT authors – can we leave this one up at the top of the page during Monday UK daytime please?)

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Simpsonize Me

by Kieran Healy on July 22, 2007

Simpsons Kieran Simpsonize yourself by uploading a headshot, providing a few variables, and (allegedly) having it automatically converted. You can tweak the image afterwards. JamesJoyner thinks it’s lame. Here I am — I’ll leave the veridicality of the representation for others to judge. The site is a bit finicky, perhaps because it’s overloaded with users. If you get it to work, post a link to yourself in the comments.

Funny with a serious twist

by Eszter Hargittai on July 22, 2007

Chris Uggen posted this video a few days ago:

I added a link to it on my daily links list where Liz Losh saw it and then included it in a blog post “Just Say Know” discussing all sorts of parody videos and sites related to drug use including the artist-created fictional drug Web site Havidol, and this video:

These are some great parodies. Work in the field of health communication looks at the effects of health campaigns, but tends to focus on serious ones. I wonder what type of work may be going on in the domain of parody viral videos online for similar purposes.

Robinson in Space

by Chris Bertram on July 21, 2007

Many years ago … it must have been ten years, I watched “Patrick Keiller”: ‘s pseudo-documentary “Robinson in Space”: on TV. It stayed with me, though, frustratingly, I forgot the title and therefore from time to time rummaged around my collection of old videotapes trying to find “that film”. The other day I was visiting my son and it turned out that his flatmate had the DVD of Robinson together with its precursor “London”: (in “a set issued by the BFI”: ) , so I borrowed them and watched again. They are curious works: very quiet and somewhat mannered. Against a backdrop of national decline (how the Zeitgeist — though not the reality — has changed in ten years!) Charged with investigating the “Problem of England”, Robinson and his companion (the narrator) tour a combination of literary sites, docks, prisons and so forth whilst the viewer is treated to a deadpan recitation of facts about history, politics, import-export statistics and other trivia — including that England is the leading producer of rubber sheeting of the type necessary for S&M orgies. (The quietness combined with the sequence of images and literary allusions has a slightly Sebaldesque flavour.) The journey (or journeys) supposedly retrace the steps of Daniel Defoe’s _Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain_ .Keiller depicts a land without public space or political virtue but one where beauty and morality take second place to turning a profit. Recommended.

Big Brother is watching you on Facebook

by Chris Bertram on July 20, 2007

I have very clear memories of my last day of finals at Oxford in 1981. I was all set for my Moral Philosophy exam and was about to make my way down to the Examination Schools from the King’s Arms (where I had lunched) when I ran into occasional CT commenter Chris Y. When I told him I planned to celebrate afterwards in the traditional style (champagne sprayed across the pavement etc) he became very angry with me and lectured me sternly on the effect that I would have on “ordinary working people” on their way home. As it turned out, my then girlfriend met me outside with a multicoloured spliff (that’s my NuLab “confession”:;jsessionid=0KYEC0LHF5AGDQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/07/20/nsmith120.xml out the way …) and I went off to celebrate more discreetly. These days it seems that the Proctors (university police) “are scanning the Facebook pages of Oxford students”:,,2128263,00.html and fining the offenders for their post-finals excesses. Students thus detected may be unable to graduate until they have paid up.

bq. Proctors emailed third-year mathematics and philosophy student Alex Hill with links to photographs of her on Facebook on Friday. “I have been charged by the proctors for breaching rules and being ‘disorderly’, on the basis of photographic evidence from Facebook,” she said. “Somehow the proctors have accessed my photos on Facebook and cited them as evidence of my misconduct, and I am being summoned to a disciplinary hearing.” “I don’t know how this happened, especially as my privacy settings were such that only my friends and students in my networks could view my photos. “It’s quite unbelievable and I am very pissed off, [I] just hope that no-one else gets ‘caught’ in this way.”

Privilege without End

by Kieran Healy on July 20, 2007

To echo “Sandy Levinson”: and “Eric Rauchway”:, “Is it a constitutional crisis yet?”

The death of social democracy: greatly exaggerated

by Henry Farrell on July 19, 2007

Vernon Bogdanor has a “review”:,,25346-2647303,00.html of Sheri Berman’s _The Primacy of Politics_ (which we ran a “seminar”: on last year) in the TLS, Large parts of the article are good and perceptive, but Bogdanor also seems to be using the book to make his own, rather odd claims.
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Rediscovering Intelligent Design

by Kieran Healy on July 19, 2007

Here is a likely poorly-specified question for biologists, prompted by wanting to buy Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us and then reading a story about genetically modified mice. Weisman’s book asks how the world would change and what of us would survive if humans were all wiped out overnight or just disappeared by something (a virus, the Rapture). The premise is unlikely (something that kills people — all people — but leaves the rest of the world standing) but intriguing.

So I wondered, what if, long, long after our disappearance, some other species arose on earth at least as intelligent as us and eventually started doing evolutionary and molecular biology. Let’s say they have a working theory of evolution much like our own. Now say for the sake of argument that a bunch of transgenic organisms produced by humans have survived and prospered in the interim. So our future biologists find things like a bacteria that produces insulin, or a plant that secretes insecticide, or rice that is high in beta carotene, or more exotic stuff as needed.[1]

I’m wondering, would such organisms even present themselves as empirical anomalies? (That is, how much would you have to know about genomes and evolution for them to seem odd?) And if they did seem odd, how would they be explained? That is, would the evidence of their intelligent design by a previous, now-extinct species be clear? You can see that I’m just irony-mongering here. Would some Arthropod-staffed functional-equivalent of the Discovery Institute point its claw at some of these organisms, saying they were anomalies that could only be explained by the intervention of a divine intelligence? Would Charles Crustacean find a story that could account for their evolution by natural selection? I’m particularly interested in whether the artificial provenance of transgenic organisms would be clear on internal evidence alone. I don’t know anything about this stuff, so probably the answer is “Yes” for reasons obvious to experts. But if it weren’t …

From the sound of Weisman’s book, though, internal evidence wouldn’t be all that was available. Our putative Arthropod successors would likely be able to conjecuture as follows: “The lost civilization who did this is probably the same one responsible for leaving those giant goddamn piles of steel-belted rubber rings and miscellaneous plastic items piled around the place.” To which someone would no doubt reply, “Come off it, no organism that spent its time making rubber tubes and piling them up in giant mountains would have ever been smart enough to figure out genetic engineering.”

[1] It occurs to me that rice requires a lot of cultivation to prosper, but there aren’t any humans to take care of it. Hence, “insert example as needed.”