As I've ambled round the streets of the Twin Cities the last week the stark differences between different streets in how much shoveling has gone on is really quite amazing. On some blocks it's clearly a social disgrace to not have a clear sidewalk, on others it seems no-one can be bothered, and in yet other places there are some delinquent apartment owners who haven't ridden herd on the maintenance man to earn his wages.
One of the bad neighborhoods is the area round Otis Avenue and Riverwood Place in St. Paul. It's the area just back of Eastcliff, where the esteemed President of this institution lives. The houses there are big, and they mostly have two cars in the driveway. So, they're rich. And they don't shovel. Most of the sidewalks, even today, after a week of thawing, were still covered in sheets of ice. Here's a thought if any residents of that area are reading this -- if you can afford the big house and the big car, you can afford to pay the teenage kid to shovel if you can't be arsed doing it yourself. There were some houses where the owners had clearly shoveled the driveway, but not done the sidewalk. Those people truly deserve to slip on the ice someday.
In that same neighborhood is the Living Word Church and Outreach Ministries, who have collected enough money to have their own parking lot. They also don't shovel. In a just world they'll go to hell for their sins.
I was going to (may still) get together a longer, possibly somewhat self-indulgent post, about blogging, and the internet and what I see its benefits, costs and effects for our lives as ... and then I read Tim Burke's post which says a lot of what I was thinking. But not everything. I rarely play any computer games, let alone online ones. And I've only looked at Justin Hall's links.net once.
My own thoughts might come in February. Until then, the semi-real writing of grant and fellowship applications ...
Why did it take so long for the widely known Nigerian e-mails to be updated with the names of fictitious former Iraqi officials? I received my first one today ... (below the fold, if you're interested)
MR. CHEUNG PUI
Hang Seng Bank Ltd
Sai Wan Ho Branch
Let me start by introducing myself. I am Mr. Cheung Pui director of
operations of the Hang Seng Bank Ltd,Sai Wan Ho Branch.I have a
obscured business suggestion for you. Before the U.S and Iraqi war
our client Major Fadi Basem who was with the Iraqi forces and also
business man made a numbered fixed deposit for 18 calendar months,
with a value of Twenty Four millions Five Hundred Thousand United
State Dollars only in my branch. Upon maturity several notice was
sent to him, even during the war early last year. Again after the
war another notification was sent and still no response came from
him. We later find out that the Major and his family had been
killed during the war in bomb blast that hit their home.
After further investigation it was also discovered that Major Fadi
Basem did not declare any next of kin in his official papers
including the paper work of his bank deposit. And he also confided
in me the last time he was at my office that no one except me knew
of his deposit in my bank. So, Twenty Four millions Five Hundred
Thousand United State Dollars is still lying in my bank and no one
will ever come forward to claim it. What bothers me most is that
according to the to the laws of my country at the expiration 3
years the funds will revert to the ownership of the Hong Kong
Government if nobody applies to claim the funds. Against this
backdrop, my suggestion to you is that I will like you as a
foreigner to stand as the next of kin to Major Fadi Basem so that
you will be able to receive his funds.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE:
I want you to know that I have had everything planned out so that
we shall come out successful. I have contacted an attorney that
will prepare the necessary document that will back you up as the
next of kin to Major Fadi Basem , all that is required from you at
this stage is for you to provide me with your Full Names and
Address so that the attorney can commence his job. After you have
been made the next of kin, the attorney will also fill in for
claims on your behalf and secure the necessary approval and letter
of probate in your favor for the move of the funds to an account
that will be provided by you. There is no risk involved at all in
the matter as we are going adopt a legalized method and the
attorney will prepare all the necessary documents. Please endeavor
to observe utmost discretion in all matters concerning this
issue.Once the funds have been transferred to your nominated bank
account we shall share in the ratio of 70% for me, 30% for you .
Should you be interested please send me your full names and current
residential address and I will prefers you to reach me on the email
address below (firstname.lastname@example.org) and finally after that i shall
provide you with more details of this operation.
Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.
Bradford Plumer and Glenn Reynolds discuss de-institutionalization of people with mental illness. It's the topic du jour in New York, after a homeless, mentally ill person, caused major damage to a subway.
De-institutionalization, and its follow on, caring for chronic mental illness in the community, have been shown to be no worse, on average, for people with mental illness.
But there's the rub. On average. There are still people who will benefit, themselves, from the more sustained, intensive care that hospitals provide. In other words, decision makers (policy and medical) have to be aware of where a patient fits in the distribution. Some people are sicker, and need more care. Others do well in the community.
And for people with mental illness. That's also a key part of the findings. Totally unsurprisingly, the burden of caring for people with mental illness has not been transferred from hospital nurse to community nurse, but also to unpaid family members, friends and neighbours. Few, few studies evaluate those costs; and few evaluate the total social costs of different arrangements for caring for people with mental illness.
On balance, de-institutionalization of people with mental illness was a good idea, but that doesn't mean the implementation of the policy was without flaws.
All of the foregoing is a shameless plug for my forthcoming article in Medical Care Research & Review on economic evaluations of community mental health care.
Interesting article in TNR (subs. only) on Condoleeza Rice's Hegelian view of the world.
A guy called Edward Staines has a neat blog "one more cup of coffee," and has kindly linked to my own. His musical tastes and academic interests [modern history] appear quite similar to mine. Ain't the internet grand?
Edward Staines points out the hilarious "Wallography" post at Early Modern Notes. I'm allowed to find the insults hilarious since I have a Welsh name and Welsh ancestry (essays on the flawed logic of the previous sentence gladly accepted). I was particularly interested in the 1682 discussion of the Welsh language, having labored under people's persistent [English] mispronunciation of my name for the last 30 years ...
Jim obligingly takes a photo of a sign I saw while running today. At mile 15 of the run I thought it was funny. Glad to know others thought so too.
And finally, for a bit of levity, this discussion "How long is the outside lane of a 400m track" at letsrun is pretty funny. For anyone who's wondering "why not just run in lane 1?" the answer is that lane 1 is often closed to prevent excessive wear on the track. (Formulas for the correct answers are here).
The European Dream, by Jeremy Rifkin, has been getting positive reviews around the place, along with Timothy Garton Ash's Free World. Garton Ash is one of the highlights of each week's Guardian Weekly.
The most interesting thing about the Newsweek article was its argument that new democracies are adopting parliamentary, rather than presidential, governments. Here's the interesting part. The author regards America as having a presidential style of government, and writes:
Once upon a time, the U.S. Constitution was a revolutionary document, full of epochal innovations—free elections, judicial review, checks and balances, federalism and, perhaps most important, a Bill of Rights. In the 19th and 20th centuries, countries around the world copied the document, not least in Latin America. So did Germany and Japan after World War II. Today? When nations write a new constitution, as dozens have in the past two decades, they seldom look to the American model.
When the soviets withdrew from Central Europe, U.S. constitutional experts rushed in. They got a polite hearing, and were sent home. Jiri Pehe, adviser to former president Vaclav Havel, recalls the Czechs' firm decision to adopt a European-style parliamentary system .... After American planes and bombs freed the country, Kosovo opted for a European constitution. Drafting a post-apartheid constitution, South Africa rejected American-style federalism in favor of a German model, which leaders deemed appropriate for the social-welfare state they hoped to construct.
This mixes up a lot of variables, but here's the thing. The American system was originally designed to guard against any one element being too strong. Since FDR, however, the Presidency has become much stronger. Add to this, the recent rise in partisan discipline in the House and Senate (especially on the Republican side), and you have a system that is not quite working the way it was meant to.
Moreover, you could still be inspired by the Bill of Rights and yet still choose a parliamentary system. It's also kinda odd to read that "South Africans rejected American-style federalism in favor of a German model," when the last time I looked Germany was itself a federal system. There's no conflict between federalism and the welfare state, as anyone who has traveled to Canada, Germany or Australia in the last sixty years will know. Not to mention (here's the kicker) that South Africa is a federal system, too.
Federalism in this context is a misnomer. Many large (population or area) countries have some form of federalism. It's possible to overlay that with a parliamentary or presidential system of government at the national level.
The most distinctive aspect of American government is not any one element -- such as the powerful Presidency, the federal division of powers, or the byzantine local government divisions -- but their combination. Taking some element of this mix out of context and proclaiming it distinctively American is like trying to unbake a cake.
Now, however, all the president's confidants (and parents) are telling us that we shouldn't read too much into the words. Certainly not any policy implications.
Even accepting that rhetorical BS is a politician's stock in trade, this is inexplicable. What's the point in giving a speech like this if you're going to spend the next week telling everyone to ignore it? This is political buffoonery of a high degree.
Perhaps 'clarifying' that the ideals expressed in your inaugural aren't worth the air they were breathed into, after just three days is a little low even for Bush. But not by much.
In any case the great unwashed who the Bush administration not-so-secretly despise while courting their all important votes will have heard little of the "clarifications," and much more about what an inspiring speech it was to begin with.
Does anyone use their internet bookmarks anymore? My old laptop died a sudden death, and the only thing not backed up was the bookmarks. Can't say I'm too sad what with Google making it so easy to find what I need.
Back in the aftermath of the election, I wondered whether the local Republicans were crazy for considering Mark Kennedy to be a viable Senate candidate. I wrote
Dayton and the DFL would have substantially more to fear from Pawlenty, Gutknecht or Ramstad. The latter two Representatives have shown an ability to win votes from people voting for Democratic candidates for other positions on the ballot.
I guess this prediction evens out with my wildly inaccurate one about the presidential election ...
The experts have always been there; I've argued elsewhere (PDF) that the Webbs in England, and people like Richard Ely in the U.S. were early examples of, what Burke calls, "We Know Best" politics.
Not all educated professionals are in the Democratic party (or Labour parties elsewhere) because they have busybody politics. Professionals are increasingly employees, and a standard class-based story of people voting along economic lines still holds. If you remember that income is not the only dimension of economic status.
Social democratic governments can guard against professional capture of public services by retaining a voice for public input (elected boards etc) at the local level. This, of course, has its own problems. If the people who stand for Congress are not representative the people who stand for the local health board (or whatever, soil and water board) are even less representative.
Moreover, local input can mean that there is more divergence between conditions in different parts of the country than desired.
If you really want to see a good example of these political tensions wax and wane over time look at 'socialized' health care systems.
I managed to avoid most coverage of yesterday's inauspicious inauguration.
Not quite as successful in avoidance, as when I scheduled a trans-Pacific flight with the thought of avoiding coverage of the Queen Mother's 100th birthday. But pretty good, given I was near TV, radio, and the internets most of yesterday.
This game, where you attempt to place the states in their correct locations on the map, is fun.
It would also be highly educational for U.S. history classes, or any other class where you hope your students will know where things happened. The Missouri Compromise means a whole lot less if you don't know where 36° 30' was.
As for playing the game, if you get states with coastline, lake shore, or a border with Mexico you're off to a good start. West Virginia can be tricky if you have no surrounding states when you get it. Because the northern border is a straight line placing North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho on there is harder than you'd think.
September 17 2004: Man writes strongly worded column defending right not to wear seat belt.
I love the way the weather is part of the culture here, but is there ever a year which is not in some way "a wacky year of extremes" as the Strib calls 2004.
OTOH, I guess this is one of those stories that they can alter only with the details next year. Look at that thar weather we had in 2005!
But the public also wants cooperation from the Democrats. At a time when Democratic leaders are preparing to challenge many of Bush's major initiatives, nearly seven in 10 Americans agree that Bush's victory means that congressional Democrats should compromise with him -- even if it means compromising on their party's principles. Only one in four said Democrats must not compromise on things they find objectionable, even if it means less gets accomplished. (from the WashingtonPost)
WTF? 7/10 people are clearly living under a rock, or in some sort of denial about the world they live in. As well as electing Bush, they also elected a Republican Senate and House. Bush can do what he chooses with his own party's support. It's not incumbent on the Democrats to do anything to help him.
It turns out that New Zealand actually has about one car for every two people, contrary to my earlier guess, now picked up and expanded on elsewhere.
The true wits among you can do what you wish with this data about New Zealand: 4 million people, 2 million cars, 40 million sheep.
The sheep population has dropped from 70 million in 1982, after the elimination of agricultural subsidies. (When the population was around 3 million).
But I still think that it's not a column that thoughtfully provokes comment -- it's a column that provokes comment because of so many unexamined assumptions, and as I mentioned, the contradictions with other ideas -- specifically, his glorification of suburban materialism -- that seem to be pretty fundamental to Brooks' world view.
Having learned in Miesville (MN) that "other uses" of a roller towel may be dangerous, it was interesting to learn a couple of weeks (that's a fortnight for non-American readers!) ago in a bathroom in Libertyville (IL) that you should:
Wash your hands for 20 seconds. That's the time it takes to sing happy birthday twice.
My thanks to the Lake County (IL) Health Department for working that out.
The decreasing inequality in the income earned by men and women within families has been critical, absolutely critical, to making families less dominated by husbands. The more equal the income brought into the household by men and women, the more equal decision-making processes are. Money begets power within families.
That's why any proposal that suggests that women should give up on the career while men forge ahead with theirs, is in part, a proposal that women give up some of their power within families and homes. You could use the word subservience here, it wouldn't be that out of place.
However "subservience" isn't quite as politically catchy as "family friendly."
As for Brooks' idea that women should "stay home, [to] raise children from age 25 to 35." Ummm, wouldn't another way of doing this be that both parents work 3-5 days a week? Then both keep developing their careers, while the kids get quality time with both parents during the week?
Indeed, the whole column is devoid of any suggestion that businesses might have to change their employment practices. Brooks does suggest government policies, but only to alter the incentives for families.
Really, why do they pay David Brooks to write drivel like this?
Pro-natalism is so 1950s. Any serious discussion of this issue has to recognize the -- you would have thought basic -- fact that men also have responsibility for looking after children, you know, adjusting their work hours etc... But not in Bobo's world. It's all about women giving up that silly little idea about having a career.
It's also kinda strange to see Brooks writing about the negative consequences of an acquisitive society. His books and many of his other columns glorify the large houses, the double car garage, the eating out, the vacations, the pointless stuff that Americans spend their money on.
Where does he think all that money is coming from to buy the 3000 square foot house, and the two Ford Escapes? One well-paid man working 40 hours a week? I doubt it. Some of it is from the bank, but that second steady income is critical to the middle class American lifestyle.
UPDATE (22 January 2005): I now see this post has been getting hits following a kind mention by Ralph Luker at Cliopatria. Welcome, Cliopatria readers! Please look around, and I hope you will click through to the main page.
This is spot-on as an observation:
there's a social stigma attached to asking for rides; it's not something with which most Americans are comfortable.
The first 18 months or so I was here I lacked access to a car (getting a license to drive on the right hand side of the road prompted more people to offer their cars as available for borrowing ...) and relied on the generosity of friends and acquaintances to get everywhere the #16, #8 and #2 buses did not take me. (and the late lamented little bus route that ran from Prospect Park to Dinkytown, almost always a short bus too). Coming from a place where the ratio of people to cars is close to 3:1 than 1:1 I felt little shame in asking, but I quickly picked up that sharing rides was not that common here.
Hike the gas tax!!
I would only add the observation that sports in which the majority of the people watch and do not participate tend to beget both fans who encourage such behavior and players that will respond to such encouragement.
Temporary lull in a busy month ...
The New Zealand universities on the list surprised me. Auckland and Otago are obvious, but the inclusion of Massey over Canterbury and Victoria does seem to reflect that Massey has a lot of [agricultural] scientists. Victoria and Canterbury have more humanities and social science, and their reputation is much higher in the region.
via left2right this quote from the President:
, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord," he said.
For whatever reason America is the exception to the western pattern of secularism growing with modernity. Fame within the halls of academia probably awaits the person who adequately explains this fact.
much real writing to do. but this was worth reading. don't assume other people care about your work! cheery, huh?
The Strib reports that "the coffeehouse has emerged as the clubhouse for a generation that's too young to bar-hop."
Who would have thought? In 2005! I never realized that my 1991-94 hanging out in coffee-shops before I was old enough to [legally] drink could have been ahead of a social trend.
Ah, the New York Times. Just remember when you read articles like this about how people negotiate sharing electrical outlets in coffee shops that some day this article will be what historians make generalizations about 21st century etiquette from.
Book review done!
Eudora has apparently not been made aware of the word "commodification," and suggested instead
But I learnt some things from the book. First of all, I learnt to read a book all the way through again. Not something you get the luxury of doing every day while dissertating. I also learned that the "rule of two" for book reviews (never do more than two a year) is like red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat. You can break it if you [think] you know what you're doing.
I also learned that it's a nice touch if the journal sends you a bookmark with the book you're reviewing.
But I digress.
Cook argues that the children's clothing industry -- as opposed to an industry that sold clothing to people with smaller bodies -- didn't really begin until 1917. This is remarkably precise dating, but he is quite convincing.
The 1920s saw the industry establish itself, and by the end of the decade a separate children's clothing department was nearly universal in department stores and chain stores like Woolworths.
It was the 1930s that really saw a children's clothing market emerge, with the child's point of view being privileged and institutionalized. Advertisements focused on an appeal to the child as the consumer, and their senses of fashion and practical needs, not their parents' sense of what was appropriate and good value. ("Appropriate"? Well, Cook argues and he's in line with others that the whole notion of age-appropriateness, expectations of what's normal behavior for a certain age, is a pretty recent one. Recent as in since the Civil War.)
To summarize crudely, after World War II changes in the children's clothing industry are mostly a matter of adjusting hem lengths to suit what good thinking suburban folk thought was appropriate in their 7-17 year old daughters. See, it was OK for 5 year old girls to wear above-the-knee hemlines, but not OK for 11 year olds, 'cause that's "suggestive." Weren't the 1950s grand?!
I was particularly receptive to Cook's argument about what a rollicking period of change the 1920s and 1930s were, 'cause that's what I say too in my research. My sense at this early stage of my own research is that married women's work gained social acceptance pretty rapidly in the 1920s.
Let's qualify that a bit. Most people really weren't too concerned that around a third of black wives worked, because domestic service and agricultural labor really aren't much fun, and really don't pay so well. But as much as we can tell, in the early twentieth century it really wasn't the done thing for white wives to go out to work.
So the big change in the 1920s is that it becomes more socially acceptable for white wives to go to work. There was still concern about mothers working, but a young woman newly married no longer had to give up her sales clerking job just because the neighbours would disapprove.
It's not much of a surprise to find that during the Depression there was a lot of hostility to married women working. Maybe this argument is too clever by half (or just dumb) but I think that acceptance of married women's work didn't erode in the Depression that much. My sense is that because more married women were working, hostility was expressed in the abstract. Where people knew of friends or relatives where a wife was working it was harder to damn them all.
People who didn't know a family that needed both spouse's incomes found it easy to rationalize high unemployment by blaming wives working. And many people would qualify their opposition to wives working by saying that "of course, if her husband was sick or unemployed, then the wife could work." When pressed most people who expressed an opposition in the abstract to wives working couldn't name an actual example of a couple who got some sort of unfair advantage out of having both spouses in work.
All of this appears to take us a long way from the children's clothing market in the same decades. Except that parallel with the rise in wive's paid work was a massive decline in child labor, and a rising age at which young people were expected to go out to work.
So, at the same time as you had children earning less of their own income you had stores actively advertising to them as consumers. Their mothers (in the aggregate) were also pulling in more of the family income.
In short, the two decades between the World Wars appear to be when the economic arrangements of the modern American nuclear family really began to take shape. Children up 'til about the age of 15 were supported by their parents, and increasingly both parents were in work. In families where both parents worked -- meaning parents spent less time with their children -- parents substituted things that their children wanted for time spent with them.
Finally. Someone has studied the relationship between exams and mortality in student's immediate families. Exams are unhealthy for granny, that's for sure.
While people who have reached advanced ages have always been aged one, two or three at some point, the "toddler" is a recent creation.
The word itself can only be dated to the late eighteenth century, and the OED provides a quotation from 1876 that refers to toddlers of age six or seven!
It's not until around 1930 that the word came into common use in the trade press for clothing makers and clothes stores, and the late 1930s that it was in common use.
One of the interesting things I have learned in The Commodification of Childhood.
From an article on convenant marriage: "Ironically, it was Ronald Reagan who, as governor of California, signed the nation's first no-fault divorce law in 1969."
Irony? Reagan had been divorced himself. No irony in him making it easier for others to do so.
The rest of the article is interesting however, with bold statements like "The reality is that too many people are getting married who shouldn't .... the real question isn't how to force people to stay married, but how to prevent divorce candidates from getting married in the first place."
Happy New Year!
Easing back into work and not work (blogging) ....
Jim saw ten deer on his jaunt around Pike Island. While running around the island I have never seen more than three deer at any one time, which has always made me wonder whether the same three deer re-appear at other vantage points to be double-counted.
I'm sure the carrying capacity of Pike Island is greater than three, and as Jim says, any rational deer should find their way there to avoid being shot. But I can't be sure there's more than three.
Some sort of capture-recapture study would be useful.