From the monthly archives:

August 2010

Conservatives Offer Compromise on Ground Zero Mosque

by Michael Bérubé on August 18, 2010

Conservative leaders issued a series of statements today to try to resolve the growing tensions over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” planned for lower Manhattan.

“We’re being cast as opponents of religious freedom,” said blogger <a href=””>Pamela Geller</a>, “and that’s not fair.  We’re just saying that this is a highly sensitive matter and a very important place for us.  We’re all about freedom.  And to prove it, we propose that the location of the Ground Zero mosque should be dedicated, instead, to a Museum of Danish Mohammed Cartoons.  We were very pro-freedom when those cartoons were published, and we think it would be appropriate if the site were to serve as a memorial to that watershed moment in the history of freedom.”

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Forum Futures 2010

by Harry on August 18, 2010

Forum Futures 2010 just went online. It contains summaries/write ups of the presentations made at last year’s meeting of the Forum on the Future of Higher Education. My own contribution, on ethical leadership in higher education, which will contain no surprises for people who have been reading what I’ve been saying about higher ed issues over the past year or two, is here. More interesting are this contribution on a remarkable technology for improving learning outcomes in math science and stats classes, and this piece by Sandy Baum on fairness in college admissions (which is a partner to my own contribution).


by Chris Bertram on August 18, 2010

Highly recommended – Ajami, a film largely set in a part of Jaffa in Israel. Ajami is from the Tarrantino/Crash/Amores Perros school of multiple overlapping narratives shot from different points of view. It is basically unscripted and uses non-professional actors and improvisation. The movie concerns an Arab family in the Ajami neighbourhood who are engaged in a feud with a Bedouin clan. Drug dealing, a disappeared Israeli soldier and his relative in the police, romantic entanglements across the Jewish/Arab and Muslim/Christian divides are the other elements in the mix. I think that’s about all I can say about content without spoiling the plot. Politics are there, inevitably, but largely by implication – the film isn’t shouting a message at you. Get to see it if you possibly can.

Australia will elect a new government (more precisely, will probably re-elect the current Labor government) on Saturday. Although I promised I would say something about this, the whole business has been too depressing for words. The government has offered nothing but weaselly spin doctoring, and the Opposition has been even worse, playing to anti-refugee xenophobia, and offering nothing but slogans and bribes. In the forty years in which I’ve had some political awareness, I can’t remember anything as bad. [1]

A year ago, I would have thought it impossible that we would be reduced to this.
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Libertopia, with asterisks

by John Q on August 14, 2010

As I was reminded in comments last time, snarking about libertarians is not a very productive substitute for writing well-argued posts about The Way Forward for Social Democracy, or writing my nearly-due examiners report for that PhD thesis, or revising my article on climate change on discounting, or getting the yard under control. But if I was capable of responding to that kind of reasoning, I wouldn’t be a blogger would I. So, in lieu of something useful, here’s a thought that occurred to me.

Among the more plausible candidates for an Actually Existing Libertopia, the US in C19 (with asterisks) is pretty prominent. Also, on the basis of fairly thin historical evidence, the Iceland of the sagas. It seems to me that these examples have one crucial point in common that hasn’t received much attention
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Political philosophy and the left (part 2)

by Chris Bertram on August 14, 2010

The second part of Stuart White’s excellent interview with Edward Lewis over at The New Left Project is now out, covering basic income, republicanism, equality and liberty. Check it out.

Not going Galt

by John Q on August 12, 2010

Henry’s post linking to Charlie Stross reminded me of one I was planning to do on the question – why has there never been a serious attempt at a real libertarian utopia? Most other utopian ideologies have inspired at least someone to attempt a practical implementation. On the face of it, libertarianism seems ideally suited to the belief in a fresh start, with no messy pre-existing claims. All sorts of ideas have been floated – island buyouts, sea-steading, co-ordinated moves to New Hampshire and so on, but none has gone anywhere. The only explanation I’ve seen, that libertarians are too independent and ornery to organise a utopia doesn’t convince me.

Thinking about the discussion we had though, it strikes me that there is a simple explanation: Actually Existing Libertarianism (see below) offers a better economic deal for nearly all libertarians than any feasible version of Galt’s Gulch. Once you do the math on going Galt, it’s not hard to see why no self-respecting libertarian would actually do it.

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From Vincent Scully’s introduction to Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture: “This is not an easy book. It requires professional commitment and close visual attention, and is not for those architects who, lest they offend them, pluck out their eyes.” Two pronouns clash in too slight a clause, like two travelers crashing in too tight a doorway, who, lest they perchance have been switched by them, check whose piece of luggage is whose. Ahem. The Fascist octopus, lest it … aw, this is too hard.


by John Holbo on August 10, 2010

What a world. You go and write a too-long post in which you raise the obviously impossible possibility that someone might argue that gay marriage is like cigarettes – i.e. you can get cancer second-hand – while apologizing for the sheer, silly disanalogousness of the analogy. And then Jonah Goldberg comes up with the brilliant idea that if you support gay marriage on libertarian grounds [as Glenn Greenwald does] … why then how can you support anti-smoking legislation? Riddle me that! [click to continue…]

Trans Europe Express

by Chris Bertram on August 10, 2010

Ok, now I’ve got that in your heads for the rest of the day, let me do a bit of blegging/moaning. I’m off to a conference in the Ruhrgebiet later this month and, feeling vaguely guilty about my carbon footprint, decided to go by train. It wasn’t all that easy to get a good deal online. The best way of planning a route and buying a ticket is from the “Deutsche Bahn”: website, but instead of getting a price and a ticket you have to purchase blind (having supplied your credit card details and agreed to pay!), only later getting a “er, here’s what it will cost, is that ok with you – phone us” email. DB have now mailed me a set of tickets (starting in Bristol) which I anticipate causing “interesting” conversations with the conductor between Temple Meads and Paddington. I now have to work out and pay for a route from Leuven to rural station in Normandy on a Sunday: SNCF, SNCB and DB all give me totally different accounts of which trains are running and when. So one national company might sell me a ticket for a service in another country which the domestic operator claims doens’t exist. So why, oh why ….

Why oh why isn’t there an integrated, user-friendly pan-European booking service for continental rail travel, selling tickets at prices that compete with the airlines? Until someone makes this happen, we’ll all be burning a lot more carbon than we need to.

This plush interior will not stand

by Michael Bérubé on August 8, 2010

Newt Gingrich, distinguished professor of history and reigning intellectual heavyweight of the Republican Party, explains how <a href=>crafty Muslims are trying to exploit the ignorance of liberal American elites</a>:

<blockquote>The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site — where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks — is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.  For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to the <a href=>Chrysler Cordoba</a>, a car made famous by a foreign kind of Mexican man who touted its un-American “soft Corinthian leather.” […I]n fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of soft Corinthian leather.  It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.</blockquote>

Well, at first I thought Newt had to be kidding, but then I did some historical research, and guess what?  He’s completely right!  Check out the Islamomexicanian accent and music that was used to sell “this small Chrysler” to an unsuspecting American market:

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Little Apache!

by John Holbo on August 8, 2010

You probably think I have a thing for boxers from the early 20th Century? I have a thing for the Library of Congress’ photo sets. Here’s another boxer, Charles “Little Apache” Ledoux:

I like the way the angle on the corner and extra high wainscoting makes it look like “Little” might indeed be only 24″ tall. He is awesome. I want Charles “Little Apache” Ledoux, ‘the two-foot terror on two feet!’ fanfic. I want serialized boys weekly tales to amaze and uplift!

Other photos of boxers in the same room. (You can click around.)

Anthony Judt has died

by Henry Farrell on August 7, 2010

I have not seen any online obituary yet, and am about to get on a flight to Ireland (so will not be able to update this for 24 hours or so).

Reflections on the Walker decision

by John Holbo on August 7, 2010

I just read the Walker decision. Let me pick on something Orin Kerr has written which seems to me confused, or at least problematic. I’m going to get all philosophy about ‘rational basis’, and Kerr will really just be an occasion for discussion … but first the law background. [click to continue…]

I took up guitar in my middle-age some months ago. I’m teaching myself. I think that’s working out ok. But I have a question for you lurking shredders and orthopaedic medical professionals in the CT commentariat. My fretting fingers work thusly. I can make a nice A-shape chord with my pinky, which has learned to bend back at the top joint in an accommodating sort of way. But my ring finger refuses to bend back. At all. I can’t even get it a few degree back past straight, so I can’t even cover two strings, let alone three. (That whole ‘just let the high E be deadened’ kludge doesn’t work for me. I can’t get the B. One lousy note isn’t going to cut it as an A-shape chord.) So my pinky is getting a lot more A-shape barring work than is, I think, standard for his sort of finger. Yes, some people have real problems. My question is whether there is any healthy and effective way to train my ring finger to ‘break at the joint’. Intuitively the way to do it would be like learning the splits. A bit more each day until you’ve got it. But maybe I’m just going to give myself arthritis for my troubles if I try to become double-jointed where I wasn’t born to be. I’ve asked a few guitarists who have offered variations on ‘you don’t need to be able to bend your joint back, dude, just figure out how to sort of do it with what you’ve got.’ But, with all due respect, I suspect most guitarists can get their top joint to bend back at least a few degrees past straight. All my other fingers do, just not the ring finger. Discuss.

Guitar players: how far back do the top joints of your barring fingers bend? How long did it take you to get it there, if you happen to remember?