Fat Hominid

by Daniel on June 6, 2008

There’s a paper to be written at some point on the economics of fad diets (I suspect that it already exists and that there’s a 90% chance it’s dreadful). I personally believe that they’re potentially a rich source for the self-organising systems literature and a good case study of how irrational and somewhat self-destructive beliefs spread through proselytisation (a subject which one might think of quite important general interest in these troubled times). My sketch model of something like the Atkins Diet or cabbage soup detox or whatever would go as follows, on the assumption that the spread of these trends through the population is based on about 10% fundamentals and 90% bubble.
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Collective Action and Racial Segregation

by Henry on June 6, 2008

A few years back, Kieran “wrote about”:https://crookedtimber.org/2004/02/04/walking-to-school/ how Schelling type tipping point arguments have often been used to ‘explain’ patterns of racial segregation.

bq. lovely as these models are, we know empirically that many phenomena that can be formulated as tipping processes do not, in fact, happen in that way. Neighborhood racial segregation, for instance, has historically been actively enforced and collectively sustained, and is not simply the unpleasant byproduct of innocuous choices. Similarly, social movements that successfully propagate ideas or initiate collective action tend not to rely on contagion but are usually very well organized.

I was reminded of this when I read Rick Perlstein’s “post”:http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/meaning-box-722 on how neighborhood segregation was enforced in post-war Chicago.

bq. You could draw a map of the boundary within which the city’s seven hundred thousand Negroes were allowed to live by marking an X wherever a white mob attacked a Negro. Move beyond it, and a family had to face down a mob of one thousand, five thousand, or even (in the Englewood riot of 1949, when the presence of blacks at a union meeting sparked a rumor the house was to be “sold to niggers”) ten thousand bloody-minded whites. In the late 1940s, when the postwar housing shortage was at its peak, you could find ten black families living in a basement, sharing a single stove but not a single flush toilet, in “apartments” subdivided by cardboard. One racial bombing or arson happened every three weeks…. In neighborhoods where they were allowed to “buy” houses, they couldn’t actually buy them at all: banks would not write them mortgages, so unscrupulous businessmen sold them contracts that gave them no equity or title to the property, from which they could be evicted the first time they were late with a payment.

Rick argues in _Nixonland_ that anxieties about open housing were one of the main reasons that so many white ethnics turned Republican. The post uses letters from constituents to Senator Paul Douglas to back up this claim. Go read.

Via Ken MacLeod, the latest from Donald MacKenzie, financial sociologist to the stars, on the current kerfuffle[1] and on the social nature of market liquidity.
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The Great Library of Tlön

by John Quiggin on June 6, 2008

Via Tim Lambert and Matt Nisbet a study in the journal Environmental Politics (here, but unfortunately paywalled) shows that, since 1972, at least 90 per cent of the books that have been published disputing mainstream environmental science have been produced by rightwing thinktanks or authors affiliated with such thinktanks. Symmetrically, at least 90 per cent of the rightwing thinktanks in the study contributed to this literature.

This study is an important contribution to our understanding of the emerging parallel universe which has almost completely absorbed the formerly Earth-based Republican party[1] and its networking of supporting thinktanks, media outlets and blogs. It helps to explain the otherwise surprising fact that higher levels of education make Republicans more, not less, ignorant and deluded. With their beliefs on scientific, economic and political issues derived from the Great Library of Tlön, every book they read, talk show they listen to and blog they browse actively reduces their knowledge of the real world. [2].

fn1. Represented most notably on Earth by Abraham Lincoln, but on Tlön by Jefferson Davis.
fn2. If any Tlön based readers have access to this blog, please apply your polarity reverser. Educated Tlön Democrats are more likely to hold the deluded notions that their planet is roughly spherical, billions of years old and subject to significant climatic effects from human action. Tlön social democrats are even likely to believe that income inequality is increasing and that the market-based health system of Uqbar is less then perfect.

Death to the Internets

by Maria on June 6, 2008

I am SO over the bloody Internet. First of all, if we didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be on the wrong side of the planet, jetlagged and knackered from getting up at 4am for bloody conference calls, dealing with an email inbox full of shitbombs, and helping to ‘coordinate the DNS and unique identifiers’ all bloody day when I’d much rather be in bed reading a dreary French novel about failed relationships (is there any other kind?).

Secondly, I wouldn’t just have gone onto Facebook and found out at least 2 of my siblings are planning to vote against the Lisbon Treaty, and then gone to the Irish Times to certify that, yes, the zeitgeist has turned on Biffo after 4 short weeks, and the No votes are now in the lead. WTF???