All Power to the Second-Life Soviets!

by Scott McLemee on September 26, 2007

The struggle to build a revolutionary vanguard party of the workers and peasants has never been easy here in the United States. The line of march is tortuous, the peasants rowdy, and it often happens that a group must split. Usually one of the resulting entities will keep the original name, while the other will assemble a new one from the standard combinatoire. (As Dwight Macdonald explained when the Socialist Workers Party begat the Workers Party, “Originality of nomenclature was never our strong point.”)

Once in a while both groups will lay claim to the orginal name, however. The usual practice in that case is to distinguish them by adding some identifying term in parentheses. And so the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back), which publishes a newspaper called Fight Back, is distinct from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Red Star). The latter refers not to the name of its journal but to the rather well-turned logo found on its homepage.

Within the past few days, an organization known as the Communist League has undergone mitosis, which nowadays means that each of the by-products has a website. I have examined the statements by each faction, but am still no wiser about the issues that require a tightening of ranks in the leadership of the workers and peasants. Yet it is clear that one side is ahead in the fight for hegemony — the one with the Cafe Press store offering very cool Communist League merchandise.

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by Henry Farrell on September 26, 2007

This “bloggingheads segment”: features one of the nastiest political slurs that I’ve seen in a while: David Frum engaging in a public episode of histrionic soul-searching about how he and his fellow conservatives have made Mark Schmitt (Mark Schmitt! ! !) into Charles Lindbergh. The background can be found in a previous “bloggingheads debate”: where Mark politely pointed out that it was difficult for liberals like him to fully embrace the public commemoration of September 11, however they felt about it privately, because of the way that these commemorations had been politicized by Bush and Giuliani. This apparently was sufficient to brand Mark (who is a friend of mine) as the modern incarnation of a notorious isolationist Hitler-fancying anti-Semite. I’m not sure precisely why this particular slur is “so attractive”: to soi-disant conservative ‘public intellectuals’ – but the ease with which people like Goldberg and Frum reach for it in order to smear people whom they simply don’t agree with suggests that they are (a) vicious and deranged (b) dishonest, or (c ) some combination of the above.

Publish You’re Squarish

by Henry Farrell on September 26, 2007

Via “Dani Rodrik”:, this nifty piece of “free software”: for academics, which munges data from Google Scholar to figure out your citation counts, various indices of influence etc. Hours of fun for your inner Bourdieuvian.

Also of interest to sociologists of academia, this post by “Sean Carroll”: on how pathetic academics can be when they’re asked to disclose their ‘guilty pleasures.’

Here’s the thing: the Chronicle of Higher Education asked a handful of academics to divulge their guilty pleasures. … I was one of the people they asked, and I immediately felt bad that I couldn’t come up with a more salacious, or at least quirky and eccentric, guilty pleasure. I chose going to Vegas, a very unique and daring pastime that is shared by millions of people every week. I was sure that, once the roundup appeared in print, I would be shown up as the milquetoast I truly am, my pretensions to edgy hipness once again roundly flogged for the enjoyment of others. But no. As it turns out, compared to my colleagues I’m some sort of cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Caligula. Get a load of some of these guilty pleasures: Sudoku. Riding a bike. And then, without hint of sarcasm: Landscape restoration. Gee, I hope your Mom never finds out about that. But the award goes to Prof. McCloskey, who in a candid examination of the dark hedonistic corners of her soul, managed to include this sentence:

bq. Nothing pleases me more than opening a new textbook.

My interpretation is different than Sean’s – given Deirdre McCloskey’s well publicized gender change some years back, I suspect that her anodyne response is a calculated ‘screw you’ to prurient CHE readers hoping for something shocking or salacious. But Sean’s basic point still stands. I’m as bad as any of the respondents if not worse – my guilty pleasures are nothing more exciting than science fiction and fantasy novels with garish covers – but if anyone else has more interesting pleasures to confess in comments (nonymously or anonymously), go ahead.

Burma: a real place

by Chris Bertram on September 26, 2007

I don’t have a lot to say about Burma, except that, naturally, I’m in favour of democracy and human rights and against tyranny. I’ve vaguely followed the career of Aung San Suu Kyi over the years, and I might even have signed some petition a long time ago (I can’t remember). Here at CT we have two past hits for “Burma” and tow for ‘Myanmar”. Despite its place in the biography of George Orwell, a recent search on a “decent left” website the other day revealed very few mentions, most of which were in the “whatabout” category. But now Burma is a real place again, and will inevitably escape from its role as not-somewhere, worse-that-somewhere-else, and its walk-on part in blogospheric games of “will-you-condemn?”. So given my ignorance, and our pool of well-informed readers, this post is a bleg: what is happening, where will it lead, and what should we read? So far I’ve found “this piece”: by Aung Zaw on OpenDemocracy. Other recommendations?

Update: I should have thought of “Jamie K’s blog”: as a good place to start, he has links to Burmese bloggers.


by Scott McLemee on September 26, 2007

My column today is a very basic introduction to Zotero. As noted there, the release of Zotero 2.0 is a thing to look forward to — it will, among other things, allow you to store your searches, annotations, etc. on a server, rather than your computer, which will have all sorts of benefits. But it’s not clear when that will happen.

People have pointed out that the enhanced version faces two potential problems: storage space and intellectual-property issues (regarding ownership and control of stored material, mainly). I asked one of the directors of the project, Dan Cohen, about that. Unfortunately he only got back to me after the column was done. But here’s his response:
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Unsubscribe yourself

by Chris Bertram on September 26, 2007


(via “Chris Brooke”: )