Book of the Week

Yes, it’s Grotius and the Stoa, the book we’ve all been waiting for, full of essays about, um, Grotius and Stoicism.

Well, I’ve been waiting for it, anyway.

There’s a rather dull chapter on dreary seventeenth-century stuff that no-one’s interested in by some Brooke chap or other, but the rest of it looks smashing, and should keep me happily occupied for several hours, at least.

Odd Fixation

Simon of the ever-excellent silverdollarcircle is attracting attention from the Guardian‘s pop writers, again. Regular readers will remember a piece by Rob Young on pop blogs last November which said of one blog that “a reverie on the latest ragga choons might be interrupted with an aside that begins: ‘For those of you interested in contemporary political philosophy…'” And a few days ago Alex Petridis discussed a chap called Wiley, and grime music, calling the fanbase for this kind of thing “comically polarised”:

At one extreme, its sonic experimentation has attracted the kind of people who run music blogs in which records are referred to as “texts” and lengthy essays are posted on such burning issues as the differentiation between Humean and Kantian views of motivation in the lyrics of Bonnie Prince Billy. At the other extreme, it is favoured by inner-city teens who appear to communicate entirely in an impenetrable mix of street slang and patois. “Gial like me can be flossin’ on dis rite ere,” offers one participant in a chatroom discussion about grime.

Simon in fact denies referring to records as “texts”. But it’s patently him flossin’ on dis rite ere, if that’s the right thing to say in grimespeak. Not sure.


A friend writes from somewhere in East Asia: “Just finished Against All Enemies, which is rather terrifying. I thought you might like (or, rather, be horrified by) this snippet about the FBI’s reaction to the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack on the Tokyo tube: Clarke writes:

By now I had enough experience with CIA and FBI to doubt that they would ever have heard of the Aum. I was not disappointed. Except for press reports from the previous twelve hours, they had nothing in their files on the Aum […]”How can you be so sure there are no Aum here, John [O’Neill, FBI representative to the Counterterrorism Security Group], just because you don’t have an FBI file on them? Did you look them up in the Manhattan phone book to see if they’re there?”

“You serious?”, O’Neill asked, not sure whether I was being funny. When I assured him I meant it, he directed his deputy to leave the conference room and call FBI New York. A while later the FBI agent returned to the room and handed O’Neill a note.

O’Neill glanced at it and said “Fuck. They’re in the phone book, on East 48th Street at Fifth.”

“The rest of the book is pretty terrifying too – it had me up almost until dawn this morning.”


At least one of my semi-regular readers is a political scientist, so the chances are that posting this won’t be a complete waste of time. Everyone else, look away.

What follows purports to be an exam paper for a graduate course on introductory quantitative methods in political science somewhere in the United States…

Part 1: Write an essay for the following question.Read the attached article on the “Perestroika” movement in political science and letter in PS on the movement. Identify several testable hypotheses made by members of this movement. These should be hypotheses about the current state of political science, not on normative conclusions or policy proposals.

State three hypotheses on the causes of one phenomenon within political science, e.g., three explanations for why people receive tenure or three reasons why methods are chosen in dissertations. You must provide at least one hypothesis of your own that might provide an alternative explanation. Explain how you could use a regression model to test these hypotheses within the same model (note: you are not limited to OLS but may include any “regression-type” model).

Be sure to explain under what conditions how you would measure the phenomena, how you would estimate the parameters, how you would test the hypotheses, how you would interpret your estimates, and what the results would tell you (or not tell you) about the claims of this movement. Be as thorough as possible. I want details. Your answer should demonstrate that you have a strong understanding of the proper use and limitations of the model. Your answer should be at least three pages in length.

Part 2: Write a two-page essay answer for the following question:

Again using the article and the letter, give examples of phenomena within political science that might be produced by the following distributions. Explain why your example is appropriate. Your answer should demonstrate a
full understanding of the distribution.

a. Bernoulli
b. Poisson
c. Normal
d. Binomial
e. Negative Binomial

Readers who pay more attention than they should to these kinds of things may remember spotting my name on the original Perestroika letter. Or they may not. The latter is more probable.

Which Bob Dylan song are you?

Which Bob Dylan song are you?The Times They Are A-Changin’

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

It’s a good pick — and one of my top four Dylan songs, too — and it was impressive of the quiz to pick it out for me, given that I didn’t insist on subverting the government as part of Saturday afternoon activities. (Perhaps that gets you Subterranean Homesick Blues. I don’t know.)

[Via, obviously.]

Hurrah for the NHS

I don’t often have much contact with hospitals, being a generally healthy person surrounded by other generally healthy people, and I haven’t been down to the John Radcliffe Hospital since going there to be hit on the knee with a rubber hammer late in 1993 after very mild concussion playing rugby, but I spent almost all of Friday night — from 12.30 to 5.30am — down there in A&E, and without exception all the doctors and nurses were entirely splendid, and possessed of that marvellous and somewhat morbid sense of humour that’s probably essential if you’re working amidst so much illness and injury. So hurrah for the NHS in general and the JR in particular. It’s a fine, fine hospital.

[I should add that I wasn’t the one on the receiving end of the A, and the E is over and everything’s basically fine, in order to forestall any potential friendly-but-concerned enquiries.]


If anyone reading this can shed light on why a pamphlet copy of Isaiah Berlin’s 1959 Robert Walley Cohen Lecture, “John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life” turned up in my pigeonhole the other day with no accompanying note or other documentation, do get in touch. I’m baffled.

Splendid Things

I’m in a very good mood at the moment, so I’ll contine to praise things that are splendid without worrying about what else might be either rubbish or nonsense. [1] Over at his new url Anthony Wells reminds us of the history of the various pantomime animals that enlivened the 1997 election campaign. (Best pantomime animal ever: the pantomime walrus briefly onscreen in Ingmar Bergman’s Magic Flute.) [2] Norm takes apart a lamentable page of argument in the Socialist Review; [3] The Fafblog.