Books and Blogs

Brian Weatherson at CT raises the question of blogs turning into books, and commenters give lots of examples. However, any addition to the supply of books generated in this way needs to be offset by the books that would have been written if their potential authors weren’t writing blogs instead.

Update Sarah Hepola makes exactly the same point, announcing in Slate that she is shutting down her blog to write a book. Coincidence, or the mysterious workings of the BlogGeist
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Plague and polygraph

Following the Crooked Timber seminar on The Republican War on Science I heard from John Mangels, science writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who pointed me to this series of reports (free registration required) on Dr Thomas Butler, an infectious disease researcher who (apparently mistakenly) reported missing 30 vials of plague bacteria, and ended up being railroaded into prison by an FBI determined to get a conviction even after it became apparent that the events they were supposedly investigating had never occurred.

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The bankruptcy of Hamas

The latest terror attack in Israel, and its endorsement by the Hamas party, points up the fact that Hamas is as morally and politically bankrupt as its government will soon be financially bankrupt. This kind of crime cannot be excused or condoned, no matter what the other side has done (for the same reason, I hope that Israel will not retaliate in kind). Considered in terms of its political implications, it only reinforces the logic behind the newly-elected Israeli government’s policies, and the destination to which they point: an imposed settlement based on the wall that is now largely complete, followed by a complete closure of the resulting border. This won’t be a fair or just settlement, but it’s hard to see who will object, given that Hamas opposes any settlement and refuses to negotiate.

More fundamentally, the strategy of terror attacks against Israel has been a disaster for the Palestinian people, particularly over the last decade. Hamas was the leading party pushing Palestinians to reject the Oslo peace process. It’s already clear that no better chance will ever arise for a settlement, and that the eventual outcome, after another decade or more of occupation, will be worse than that on offer from Barak and Clinton.

The only real hope is that the cutoff of funds from the EU and US will bring the unreality of Hamas’ position home to the point where the movement is discredited. Hamas has been promised $50 million by Iran, and Qatar and other states may follow suit, but that won’t last for more than a month or two and it’s unlikely to be followed by more, given that Iran has its own problems.

Back from my break

I’ve been at the National Folk Festival in Canberra, which has suggested a few possible posts to me. I had a great time, met lots of old friends as well as consuming much song and a fair bit of wine.

I suppose it says more about my social circle than about the crowd, but I met a surprising number of economists there – half a dozen or so.

Accountability theory at work

When the Cole Commission began inquiring into AWB, past experience of the operations of this government yielded the following conclusions

* Both Downer and Howard knew that the AWB was paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime

* This information was transmitted in a way that preserves deniability, so no conclusive proof will emerge

* No government minister will resign

* Endless hair-splitting defences of the government’s actions in this matter will emerge from those who have previously made a loud noise about Oil for Food.

With only Howard, master of the straight bat defence, still left to appear, all of these conclusions have been borne out. The offices of senior ministers were flooded with dozens cables and other communicaitons warning them of AWB activities yet, as far as the official record is concerned, no one ever looked into these any further than to ask for, and receive, a flat denial from AWB. It’s obvious that they knew enough not to ask any official questions that might produce inconvenient answers, but as predicted, no conclusive proof of this has emerged. Resignations appear to be out of the question. The theory of accountability remains in force.