Friday, July 20, 2007

Oh, look.

John Gray has written another book.
Gray, a professor at the LSE who is described on the front cover as "the most important living philosopher", has had a fit of Bush-hatred spectacular even by the standards of important living philosophers. But, rather than getting it out of his system over a macrobiotic soufflé in Hampstead, the silly man has gone and built an entire theory of history around it.[...]

Perhaps aware that he is running short of neocons to man his conspiracy, Gray presses Tony Blair into service. The former Prime Minister was not only a classic neocon, we learn, but one whose mendacity bore the stamp of Soviet disinformation: an American poodle and a red under the bed. Bush, though, is not so much a slippery neocon as an old-style fundamentalist Christian whose policies are designed to hasten global warming (sound of box being ticked) and therefore the end of the world. The CIA, meanwhile, has been taken over by shape-shifting lizards telepathically controlled by the ghost of Milton Friedman.

OK, so perhaps that last sentence misrepresents Gray's argument; but Black Mass could hardly be more bonkers if it really was crawling with lizards. Although Gray is by no stretch of the imagination our most important living philosopher, he does slightly remind me of Bertrand Russell in his dotage - a clever man playing to the gallery.

But it's getting late, professor: the main actors have either left the stage or are heading for the wings, and the only people left in the gallery are a few Independent readers. Go home and sleep it off.

At Inside Higher Ed, and article about the report of the APSA Working Group on Collaboration," on questions of coauthorship and credit in the discipline. (Apropos ofSix Degrees of Cass Sunstein, kind of.)

Also at APSA, the theme for next year's conference is "Categories and the Politics of Global Inequalities," which sounds to me more like an MLA theme. But there it is; grad students, if you believe in that sort of superstition, start trying to figure out which of your dissertation chapters can accommodate the word "categories" in its title.

(Note to non-political scientists: APSA has a quirky system of adopting a theme for its Annual Meeting-- a theme to which maybe 5% of the conference's panels will be dedicated. The "theme panels" themselves can be quite interesting, and represent the real impact of the theme on the conference. There are some small marginal incentives for both paper-writers and paper-selecting section organizers to put up a pretense of shaping their papers/ sections to fit the theme, but these are generally not worth it and can end up looking kind of silly.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Big news

From the Montreal Gazette:

Land claims agreement worth $1.4 billion
Jeff Heinrich, CanWest News Service

MONTREAL - First they made peace with Quebec, now they're making it with Ottawa - and becoming masters in their own house. Dropping lawsuits totalling $4.5 billion, leaders of the 16,500 Cree of northern Quebec announced a historic $1.4-billion deal with Ottawa on Monday.

If ratified in a referendum in October and approved by Parliament, it will see them take control of all policing, courts and social and economic development in their communities - and perhaps eventually form their own state within Canada.

It's the first time the Cree have reached a significant financial agreement with the federal government since 1983.

t ends three years of intense negotiations aimed at resolving differences over the landmark 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which compensated the Cree for lands flooded by Hydro-Quebec's mammoth James Bay hydroelectric projects.

A little over five years ago, the Cree signed a similar deal with the Quebec government. Under the so-called Paix des Braves, the Cree got $4.5 billion to settle decades of lawsuits against the province that, like the Ottawa ones, stemmed from the 1975 James Bay treaty.

At a packed news conference Monday, current and former Cree leaders and negotiators joined federal officials, negotiators and politicians to announce what they described as a 50-year deal, covering the 30 years since the original James Bay accord was signed and 20 more years after the new deal is eventually ratified.

"We've come a very long way since 1975," said Matthew Mukash, grand chief of the Grand Council of the Crees.


Under the agreement, the Crees will take over programs now under Ottawa's jurisdiction: the administration of justice, including rehab centres, workhouses and refuges for women; training and manpower; construction of community centres, sewage systems and firefighting services; and economic development programs.

A second stage of negotiation would then begin on Cree self-government, including eventual status as a fully fledged Cree state within Canada.

This is one of the biggest and longest-standing indigenous rights disputes in the world. The Cree are the largest First Nations group in Canada. I'm not sure why the article uses the language of a "Cree state;" I presume that what's envisioned is an autonomous territory like Nunavut, or conceivably (though this is unlikely) a province. "State" is a word without constitutional meaning in the Canadian federation.

I can't find any online discussion of what territory the "state" might occupy; the question of Cree territory in Quebec, and whether the Cree could be forced to accompany a seceding Quebec out of Canada, is a critical one in Quebec secession debates. Carving a self-determining territory even partly out of Quebec's current landmass would be politically explosive; but it would be very strange for a settlement of the James Bay case to lead to the creation of a territory that didn't include the huge, overwhelmingly Cree, Quebec side of the James Bay watershed.
I don't have one

Via the Chronicle: Six Degrees of Cass Sunstein: Collaboration Networks in Legal Scholarship, by Paul Edelman and Tracey George.

Degrees of separation is a concept that is intuitive and appealing in popular culture as well as academic discourse: It tells us something about the connectedness of a particular field. It also reveals paths of influence and access. Paul Erdős was the Kevin Bacon of his field - math - coauthoring with a large number of scholars from many institutions and across subfields. Moreover, his work was highly cited and important. Mathematicians talk about their Erdős number (i.e., numbers of degrees of separation) as a sign of their connection to the hub of mathematics: An Erdős number of 2 means a scholar did not co-author with Erdős but did collaborate with someone who did (i.e., an Erdős 1). In this study, we examine collaboration networks in law, searching for the Legal Erdős. We crown Sunstein as the Legal Erdős and name a complete (as possible) list of Sunstein 1s and 2s.

Never having co-authored a publication, I don't have a Sunstein number, though several of my friends are Sunstein 1s.

Worth reading:

Brad DeLong with an unusually concise and clear ("unusually" in the usual run of things, not "unusually for Brad DeLong") analytic narrative distinguishing political and economic constraints on policy-- in this case-- Chinese economic reform under Deng.

Margaret Soltan on the online amplification effect-- on-campus news can now be worldwide news in a matter of minutes, and college administrators often aren't prepared for it.

That weird story Dan linked to the other day about the Washington burglar invited to join the dinner party for a glass of wine moves from "news of the bizarrre file" to "interesting limit case of social and psychological phenomena" thanks to a sharp post from Julian Sanchez.

Peter Suderman at The American Scene, "Critics and the Masses."

Phoebe Maltz on a discussion of "on the left" as an identity, featuring Charles Taylor and Paul Berman, at a Dissent function.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A relatively good neighbor

Columbia University announced yesterday that it would not ask the state to use eminent domain to evict residents of 132 apartments in the 17-acre area of Harlem that it wants to move into.

The announcement, covering all the remaining residents in the area, suggests that the university, which is seeking the city’s support for a major northward expansion of its Morningside Heights campus, is trying to be conciliatory.

And yet:
In a statement, Columbia said its executive vice president, Robert Kasdin, did not eliminate the possibility that the university might ask the state to invoke eminent domain to acquire the few commercial properties that remain in the proposed expansion area.

Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

More on New York's particularly bad eminent domain system.
True north, high and free

Marijuana use is higher in Canada than in either Jamaica or the Netherlands; indeed than anywhere else in the industrialized world. Quebec leads the way.

Not totally shocking news to anyone who's walked around the Plateau on a Saturday night.