Thursday, May 17, 2007


Democrats Seek No-Confidence Vote on Gonzales

A vote of no confidence has a technical meaning in parliamentary systems; it seems strange to me to borrow that term for a nonbinding "we're not happy with you" Sense of the Senate resolution. It makes perfectly good literal sense-- I don't have any confidence in Gonzales either-- but comes across as an attempt to borrow very serious language from other constitutional systems for an action that's meaningless in the U.S.

Has this ever been done before? Has either house of Congress ever passed something it called a "no-confidence" resolution?

Update: Asked and answered. Thanks to Professor Markell for the pointer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Recommended reading

1. Omar at orgtheory on "the germanic and french political culture traditions and the titles of classic social theory books."

while joking around with a friend in grad school we noticed that a lot of German classical social theory work were always about something and something else (i.e. Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft), while the titles of a lot of the classic (Durkheimian) works were only about a single unitary process (i.e. Suicide). In retrospect, I now see that Jepperson’s typology provides the crude basis for a “reflection theory” sociology of knowledge account (as in that classic work in the French tradition Primitive Classification) as to this anecdotal observation: in the Germanic tradition, the cosmological order is conceptualized as a “clash” between two highly culturally elaborated and distinct structural orders (state and society); in the French tradition only a “single” collective order exists. This follows if we believe that totemic classifications are simply reflections of society, and if in science concepts are just totemic classifications.

Thus, the Chomskyian “deep structure” for the title of a work in the Germanic tradition will be:

Concept 1 and Concept 2

The corresponding French deep structure is simply:

Big single concept

2. Tyler Cowen on the late Alfred Chandler, and links and obituaries from there. Chandler's Visible Hand was, when I first read it as a junior in college, probably the most challenging and engaging work of social science I'd ever read; it did a great deal to convince me about the complexity of the empirical social world, and the dangers of trying to force that reality into analytical and conceptual categories derived from normative theory.

3. Back at orgtheory, Fabio on your dissertation family.

Mine, I think: Jacob Levy -> Amy Gutmann -> Judith Shklar -> Carl Friedrich [the founder of the ASPLP, as it happens] -> Alfred Weber. (I can't actually tell from wikipedia whetherwas Friedrich's undergraduate or graduate advisor, but in the absence of any further knowledge I'll put him on the tree.)

Michael Walzer was also on Gutmann's commitee (and might have been chair, I'm not certain); I think Walzer studied under Sam Beer.

If we extend through the rest of my dissertation committee, through Jeremy Waldron I reach Ronald Dworkin and Joseph Raz, and thence Lon Fuller and H.L.A. Hart; through George Kateb, Herbert Deane.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Discuss amongst yourselves

I submit that 1997-98 was the best year ever for genre/ geek TV.

Season 2 of Buffy, the traditional choice for best season of that show.
Season 5 of X-Files, the last great season of that show before it all went to hell.
Season 6 of Deep Space 9, which I think was the best single season of any Star Trek show, ever.
and Season 5 of Babylon 5, the denouement of one of the finest SF shows ever.

In the background, Hercules, Xena, Stargate SG-1 Voyager (ugh), and Highlander were on the air as well.

1996-97 had the same shows on the air except for Stargate, with strong seasons of X-Files, DS9, and B5, but only half a season of Buffy-- and Season 4 of Lois and Clark, which saddles the year with demerits.

If you just go by shows on the air, there's something special about 2000-1, when Buffy, Angel, Farscape, X-Files, and the good season of Dark Angel were all on the air, along with Voyager (ugh) and Xena in the background. But it was Season 8 of X-Files, which stank up the joint beyond redemption. The following year added Alias and Enterprise, but: Season 9 of X-Files, and Dark Angel went from good to... not good.

There are people who think that Battlestar Galactica is so much superior to any other SF show in history that we're currently living in the golden age. But BSG's time on the air has corresponded with, er, Smallville?

Update: Yes, I forgot about Veronica Mars and Lost, neither of which I've seen but both of which seem to count in favor of the BSG era.

No, I didn't forget about Charmed for any of the eras; I only tried to.