Thursday, July 29, 2004

Maxing the envelope!

I've been reading a fantastic article by Mario Luis SmallCulture, Cohorts and Social Organisation Theory:  Understanding Local Participation in a Latino Housing Project.  It is so good because he basically pushes social organisation theory to its limits by introducing a number of different critiques. 

For him, I think, the most telling point is that he brings the idea of culture back into sociological debate, but the article appeals to me for two reasons.  Firstly, Small makes a bridge between social theory and practice by reviving the debate about culture and placing it at the heart of his thinking around citizen participation and civil society - previously a no-go area.  Secondly, his methods and the way he writes situate his work right at the coal face.  The fact that you can empathise with his subjects and the social problems they face is a rare thing in contemporary sociological writing and has been rightly applauded (this paper won the Robert Park Award for Best Article in community and urban sociology from the American Sociological Association).

Unfortunately, it is really hard to find online, but it is available in the American Journal of Sociology 108 (1).

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Convention! Convention! Convention!

For those of you who have never witnessed the spectacle of a convention in election year, I urge you to watch the Democratic convention on TV - it will be running until Thursday.  Compare and contrast to party conference season over here...They have way more fun.

If you can't be bothered, Patrick Belton is blogging from the Fleet Centre.

Update:  As is Matt Yglesias.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The summer game

I get to go to the test tomorrow.  I love Lord's, and it looks as though it is shaping up to be a lazy summer day where I can fall asleep under the paper with my can of warm, overpriced lager slipping from my unconcious fingers to the floor, attracting insects from miles around.  Ah, the bliss of an English summer!

Seriously, it looks as though Brian Lara will bat tomorrow, something I've been excited about seeing ever since I got the ticket.  It should be a good day.

Update:  Gah!  No I won't - It looks as though I just cursed the poor lad.  He's gone really cheaply!

Welfare and the like

This post by Chris Bertram over at CT is interesting for two reasons.  Although I can't really see the benefit in devising 'league tables' like this - their value is always going to be undermined by a certain amount of subjectivity - it is interesting to see how neatly it fits with Esping Andersen's typologies of welfare.  For those of you not familiar with his work, this link should provide a basic and brief introduction.

1 Sweden
2 Norway
3 Netherlands
4 Finland
5 Denmark
6 Germany
7 Luxembourg
8 France
9 Spain
10 Japan
11 Italy
12 Canada
13 Belgium
14 Australia
15 United Kingdom
16 Ireland
17 United States

Strange, isn't it?  Social Democratic states at the top, then the Corporatist, with the Liberal regimes propping up the table.

Probably more interesting, however, is how this kind of topic brings the crazies out of the woodwork (see the comments on Chris' post).

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Gov. Schwarzenegger calls budget opponents 'Girlie Men'

Come on, be honest.  This is why you secretly hoped he'd get elected, isn't it?

Association Football was the real winner...

Cavaliers FC, the UK's premier invitation 5-a-side football team, who I am honoured to occaisionally represent, last night ended a run of 18 successive defeats.

I am pleased for the whole squad.  They're all great guys and I'm proud to call them my friends.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Butler update...

Well, I'm going to stand by my slightly frenzied and incoherent late-night comments on the Butler report last week.  Is this the start of it?
Oh, and has anyone seen Don Rumsfeld lately?  I'm getting worried, he used to be all over our screens.

Democracy in America

I've been working the nightshifts...5 last week, and consequently I'm shattered.  One upside of this is that I took the time to re-read de Tocqueville's  Democracy in America, something that I've been meaning to do for a while.
I hadn't read either of the volumes since my undergraduate degree and if I'm being honest, I'm not sure I fully appreciated them back then.  But they are truly brilliant - the clarity of de Tocqueville's work and his observations are just astounding, I urge everyone to read him.  But the very worst thing about this is that when he wrote the book, he was my age!
Very few of us have the ability and the opportunity to write something as brilliant as Democracy in America, so I'm not going to take it to heart, but it has forced me to sit up and start writing again after a week or so off.  It also made me think about the kind of work that I really admire.  Street Corner Society (incidentally, Bill Whyte was in his early twenties when he visited Cornerville), Second City Politics, it's all observation and comment.  I'm going to have to have a serious think about my work and see if my approach reflects what I really want to be doing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Butler Report

I've been working all day, so haven't had time to digest the Butler Report yet. I did, though, manage to catch some of his introduction, and some of the responses on PMQ's.

My initial reaction was disappointment - this wasn't going to be a historical moment, and was beginning to sound like a fudge. But after a little thought, I think this could be one of those slow-burners. Butler was very careful not to portion out individual responsibility in his report. Where he did, as in the case of John Scarlett, he was at pains to point out that, well, heads shouldn't roll, so to speak.

But the fact remains that Butler did look at the evidence and find fault. He's a canny operator, and knows enough to realise that he doesn't have to name and shame - politicians, for all their faults, are smart enough to be able to do that. I'd also hazard a guess that, as a former cabinet secretary he'd be pretty uncomfortable doing this.

But his findings are interesting. Lets talk about the 45 minute claim as it is perhaps the most notorious. Butler found that this was based on shaky evidence, and was exaggerrated beyond its true importance. OK, so nothing new. He also asserted that it was exaggerated in good faith. Well sure, I don't think many people actually believed Blair was lying about that. But that is hardly the point. The war was sold on inaccurate information, and the government accepts this. So someone is at fault, and I don't think it will be long before critics of the government start laying blame.

So despite the fact that noone is really blamed in the document, it could prove to be a pretty big stick to beat the government with. I'm not 100% on all the content yet, but I'm pretty sure that some of his findings will have caused a few palpitations. Wait and see what happens...

Monday, July 12, 2004

The Lodge!

Well, here I am, stuck in the Porter's Lodge for my first really long shift. Not as interesting as I'd hoped. I've decided to pass the time reading JG Ballard's 'Empire of the Sun', a gift from a good friend which I'd intended to read ages ago, but never had the time.

Aside from giving me time to catch up on reading, this job does have one additional perk: Fantastic (free) food. The food at Mansfield is amazing and each evening I can basically order what I want. Today I went traditional and light: I had Ham and Mustard sandwiches with salad.

Any ideas about how to kill the next 2 1/2 hours?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

PMQ watch

Did you see Blair tear into Kennedy and the Lib Dems today? Probably not so much about the Leicester/B'ham by-elections as a longer term tactic in the run to the next elections.

It's Edwards

I got an email from the Kerry campaign yesterday, but unfortunately deleted it, so I can't post it here.

Obvious choice, but thank goodness!

Monday, July 05, 2004

After Blair...

Reading John Reid's less-than-veiled warning to Gordon Brown not to expect a clear run at the Labour leadership in the morning papers made me think about exactly who might stand for the leadership when Blair's leadership finally ends. This post is a rundown of who I think might be the main candidates.

Firstly, I'd better be clear about something. I'm a member of the Labour Party, so I have a vested interest in this. While I can't pretend to be an 'insider', I'm basing this on conversations and hearsay from people whose opinion I respect. It'll be interesting to see how wrong I can be!

Gordon Brown: The obvious front-runner, but not a shoe-in. Without doubt, the most successful Labour Chancellor ever, but his tendency to polarise the party could cause him difficulty. The way he has structured the Treasury would not directly translate to No. 10, and he will need to go on a serious charm offensive to change the public's perception of him as rather dour and uncharismatic.

Alan Milburn: A very strong candidate. Has the left-wing credentials to please the dissident unions, but also popular with the Blairite right. Has been making a number of distinctly statesman-like speeches on public service reform of late, but will need to answer tough questions about the reasons for resigning his ministerial post if he runs.

John Reid: His comments this morning could signal his intentions to run, but I suspect that he won't, instead using loyalty to Brown to win one of the top cabinet jobs. He doesn't have too many years left, and I think if he thinks hard about it, he will realise that he cannot win.

Robin Cook: Will win support because of anti-war sentiment, and looks a certainty for a cabinet post whatever the outcome. I can't see him going for the top job, but he could act as kingmaker.

Alastair Darling: Anyone who can maintain a low profile in the DoT has to be a contender and I'd pitch him as a strong outsider. However, his profile could work against him in the long run, and the party leadership could be wary of the 'Alastair Who?' effect.

I think those are the main contenders, but I think there will be a standard-bearer from the left in there as well. It could be one of many, and I'd welcome any thoughts...

Friday, July 02, 2004


My friend (and long-suffering office-buddy) Lisa has gone to a conference in Edinburgh. She has left some delicious-looking cookies on her desk.

Should I eat the cookies?

Update: If there are no comments I shall assume it is OK to eat the cookies.

Another update: I ate the cookies. Assuming Lisa doesn't blog, it is the perfect crime!

Yet another update: Actually, I had a pang of guilt and have resolved to replace the cookies.

Night shift

Be prepared for some frenzied late-night blogging in the next few weeks. I've taken a night porter job at my college to make ends meet. There's going to be a few long nights ahead...

My Life...update

Matthew Yglesias clearly has more time on his hands than I do. He's already read 'My Life', while I've barely had enough time to log on this week, let alone post. I've read what Matt considers to be the 'first' book, and broadly agreewith what he says. Tragically, I find the minutae of Arkansas politics pretty interesting.

I don't think he's quite right about the lack of candour in the book, though. I've already noticed a couple of none-too-subtle digs at GWB. Still, he's right about one thing - it doesn't look like being anywhere near the best book on the Clinton presidency. That has to be Bob Woodward's 'The Choice'.

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