Archive for March 2008

#  Help Finding Related Content

March 31st, 2008 at 17:34 // In Housekeeping 

In addition to upgrading to WordPress 2.5 yesterday, I also added related content links to the site’s entries. It’s done using the Similar Posts plugin by Rob Marsh — who happens to be a Jesuit, a fact I find fascinating.

For now they’re only visible on the single-entry view, but if you’re ever bored you can click around and find a cornucopia of things you either missed or forgot. I, the sole writer and editor of this site, have spent a few hours finding stuff I’d already forgotten about. For a site that turns three months old tomorrow, my mind should be thoroughly embarrassed about that fact.

Also of note: I made a single massive list of every single post available as a way to view the archives. I should tell you that the sight is not for the faint of heart.

#  Britain and America →

March 31st, 2008 at 16:41 // In Worth Seeing 

The Economist did a recent survey about political positions in the two countries with a number of interesting results.

The gap between Britain and America is widest on religion: no surprise there, as Britain is famously a post-Christian society and Americans are, if anything, rediscovering the faith of their fathers. But the difference in views is so wide that even British Conservatives are a great deal more secular than American Democrats are. The two are a bit closer on social values (abortion, homosexuality and so forth), and they overlap on ideology (mainly, how active the state should be), with Britain’s Tories to the right of America’s Democrats.

They overlap again on how free their countries should be to intervene militarily (both the Tories and Labour are more hawkish than the Democrats). Britons are more international than the Americans, keener on free trade and globalisation. Views coincide most nearly on climate change—ironically, the area where the two governments have been least in step.

It worth giving the first graph in that article a look (as it summarizes the findings well), the more comprehensive second graph is here.

#  Reading Faces →

March 31st, 2008 at 16:06 // In Worth Distraction 

Dolores Labs is quickly becoming the go-to source for entertaining data that I’m not comfortable calling science. Another example: they’ve asked people to judge faces by age, politics, and intelligence. They present the pictures as they were rated along those axes.

#  Visiting the Navajo →

March 31st, 2008 at 15:12 // In Worth Reading 

Though Friday’s entry was a tangential meditation on Los Angeles, last week’s Correspondent’s Diary at The Economist is rather good. Two quotes from visiting the Navajo, one of the few casino-less tribes. From Tuesday, on their relationship to the United States:

Just because Navajos are exceptionally good at negotiating between cultural worlds does not mean they do not make mistakes. A few weeks ago the Navajo Times carried a story about a move to create a Diné medal of honour for those who have served in the armed forces. The speaker of the Navajo legislature apparently thought this would be a good idea. Navajo veterans did not. Explaining that only Congress can award military medals, they crushed the plan by a vote of 34-0. Three of the intended recipients responded that they would rather have a sheep.

And from Thursday, on gambling in America:

Indian casinos exist because of what psychologists call cognitive dissonance and everyone else knows as hypocrisy. Americans wish to gamble. Yet they cannot bring themselves to liberalise gambling, which is, after all, a sin. So it is necessary to allow a few exceptions to the general rule. These include Nevada, riverboats (which are often little more than casinos surrounded by moats) and Indian tribes.

#  Defacing American Currency →

March 31st, 2008 at 13:37 // In Worth Distraction 

This completely pointless (and if memory serves, illegal), but I found Spock Lincoln rather amusing. Click the title for more.

(via Boing Boing)

#  Visiting Wright’s Church →

March 31st, 2008 at 13:03 // In Worth Knowing 

Making it through Kelefa Sanneh long New Yorker piece about visiting Trinity United Church of Christ did nothing to increase my affinity for the publication, but he did make an interesting point.

Across the street from Trinity’s main entrance is a small building with a sign that says, “St. Matthew Gordon AME Zion.” Its presence, for anyone who notices it, is a reminder of the scrappy little church that Trinity used to be, and of the scrappy little churches all over the city, each harboring dreams of fruitful multiplication. For Wright, black Chicago’s highly competitive religious market was a challenge and a spur; for a different preacher, in a different era, it could be a threat. The media frenzy has obscured, and postponed, the real test facing the church. Bad press does no real harm to a church that relishes an air of opposition, and that relies on cheerful givers, not on mainstream sponsors. (On the contrary, Moss told NPR, the controversy “has brought the entire church together.”) But the next challenge will become increasingly clear. After thirty-six years with Wright at the helm, an idiosyncratic megachurch is trying to change its leadership without changing its identity. Once Wright’s moment in the media spotlight is over, his church will have to figure out how to get along without him.

#  Environmental Taxes →

March 31st, 2008 at 10:56 // In Worth Seeing 

It should come as no surprise that the United States has essentially the lowest “environmental taxes” — as a percent of total tax revenue — of the OECD, an organization of mostly rich countries. I was surprised that New Zealand “beat” the US, and that Australia was solidly in the middle of the pack.

#  Race and the Social Contract →

March 31st, 2008 at 9:18 // In Worth Considering 

These details from Eduardo Porter depress me.

Americans are not less generous than Europeans. When private charities are included, they probably spend more money for social purposes than Europeans do. But philanthropy allows them to target spending on those they personally believe are deserving, instead of allowing the government to choose.

Mr. Glaeser’s and Mr. Alesina’s work suggests that white Europeans support a big welfare state because they believe the money will probably go to other white Europeans. In America, the Harvard economist Erzo F. P. Luttmer found that support for social spending among respondents to General Social Survey polls increased in tandem with the share of welfare recipients in the area who were in their own racial group. A study of charity by Daniel Hungerman, a Notre Dame economist, found that all-white congregations become less charitably active as the share of black residents in the local community grows.

#  The Democratic Candidates and Wikipedia →

March 31st, 2008 at 8:28 // In Worth Considering 

For The New Republic, Eve Fairbanks may or may not be reading too much into the effectiveness of Wikipedia editors:

To test the air, I undertook my own little, highly unscientific experiment. I made a professional-looking but somewhat negative edit on each of the candidate’s pages. For Hillary, I wrote a line on the hopelessness of her chances even when you count superdelegates; for Obama, I added a phrase about his loss of some white support. My Obama edit was fully scrubbed within three minutes, by an editor I’d never even seen before. My Hillary edit languished untouched for four hours until Schilling finally got around to deleting it. But, even then, he carefully preserved my skeptical text and pasted it onto the separate history-ofHillary’s-campaign page, a gesture of acceptance. It has remained there, a little wart on Hillary’s Wikipedia face, untouched, ever since.

(via Slashdot)

#  The Fire That Time →

March 30th, 2008 at 17:59 // In Worth Reading 

I didn’t follow “Waco” when it happened (in my defense, I was seven) and haven’t learned much about it since. Thus I was rather fascinated by Pamela Colloff’s excellent — though sometimes hard to follow — compilation of accounts of the events by those who were there, both Branch Davidians and law enforcement. 

(via brijit)