Wednesday, April 28, 2010

250,000 milestone

Today is a day I never genuinely thought might come when I started this blog. I am delighted to report that this blog has now surpassed 250,000 hits since I added a sitemeter on June 15, 2006. Things started slow (and my blogging was infrequent) when I began the blog almost four years ago, but I have been thrilled at how popular the site has become. My thanks most of all to you -- the reader -- for taking the time to visit this site.

Moreover, I must register particular thanks to Brian Leiter for encouraging me to keep at it these past few years. Many thanks!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why drink water?

. . . when drinking tea may be even better for you. Details here from the BBC.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The UK election campaign: three party politics is back

The UK election campaign and its start has come with some real surprises:

1. The major parties agreed to live television debates
There had not been live television debates between the major party leaders before. They are usually demanded by the leaders of the opposition when poll numbers are unfavourable (and favoured -- at least lukewarmly -- by governments who need a poll boost). The combination of factors has never been right before. For example, while Tony Blair originally had called for live debates, this then ended where it became clear he held a large lead over John Major's Tories.

The conditions now? Well, Labour has been consistently down in the polls and the Conservatives have for some time been arguing for a debate. Self-interest with a few to gaining/increasing poll advantage seems to be a real factor. The Liberal Democrats and other parties have long called for such debates as well.

2. An interesting result in the "chancellor debate"
The Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat parties put forward their candidates to become the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a live television debate very recently. Those of you wondering "so did the Tories or Labour do best?" the answer is "neither": the clear winner of the night were the Liberal Democrats. Their Treasury Spokesman, Vince Cable, is currently perhaps the most popular politician in the UK.

3. An interesting result in the "prime ministerial debates"
The three major parties clashed again in the first of three prime ministerial debates. Again, the Liberal Democrats were the major winners with their leader, Nick Clegg, now enjoying popularity never seen since Winston Churchill.

I suspect this will continue. The next two debates are on foreign policy and the economy. The Liberal Democrats have positioned themselves beautifully as different, as real chance, as politics not as usual. On major issues they stand alone. For example, on expenses only the Liberal Democrats came out relatively unscathed. For another, only they opposed the war with Iraq. Again, only they opposed the introduction of student top up fees that increased costs to study at university. They also sit on popular sides on other issues. They agree with the Conservatives that we should not have Labour's ID card scheme rolled out. Yet, they also agree with Labour that now is not the time for draconian cuts in public spending for fear it might damage the recovery.

The results thus far are (after two debates) Lib Dem 2 and Con/Lab 0. Again, Lib Dems have pitched themselves well as the genuine alternative. I suspect talk of change and fair futures is the battle that they want.

4. Style over substance?
You know the political times have changed when Labour -- with Gordon Brown's line "you can airbrush your posters, but not your policies" against David Cameron -- and the Conservatives think that the Liberal Democrats have them beat on style. A third party superior . . . on style? Some say that the more the public learns about the party, the less popular they will become. Perhaps. This line was last recited by John McCain's campaign about Barack Obama. A precedent?

One surprise here is that this kind of commentary almost always comes from fellow political scientists -- erm, should they already know what the Lib Dem's policies are . . . ?

A second surprise is that perhaps one result of the expenses scandal is that the public is genuinely fed up with politics as usual. They may not accept Labour Party promises for change given that they have been in power for over a dozen years. Nor may they accept Conservative Party promises for change as, well, a party they have seen and known of before. All the more reason why we may have begun to see a new interest -- and a new level of genuine support -- for the Liberal Democrats.

Election prediction
My original prediction was that the Labour Party would win. This is not a projection of which party I would like to win, but a prediction of who I believe would win given the numbers. I believe this may still be the case, although I am warming up to the idea that a hung parliament being more likely rather than less likely if support to the Liberal Democrats continues.

A major political note: if there is a hung parliament, the Liberal Democrats may well hit the jackpot as they will almost certainly join with whichever party forms a majority -- although I think a Labour-Lib Dem coalition most likely (and workable).

Three party politics is back.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Academic journals and 2010

Recently, Chris Bertram noted that the excellent journal Imprints has now ceased (see here on Crooked Timber). I have now just received a message stating that Philosophia Africana is also to stop publishing this year on Philos-l.

Are there other academic journals in danger?

Often I will be asked how easy it is to start a journal, as I had started the Journal of Moral Philosophy. My answer has always been that it's quite difficult because it is an increasingly difficult market. In addition, I suspect many non-editors underestimate the amount of time editing a journal can take --- especially for the more successful journals.

I would be interested to know whether there is a potential crisis looming or whether these are two isolated (and very sad to hear) cases.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vote for me and I'll give you some cash

The Tories are in the news for wanting to introduce a "marriage tax break" that would amount to four million married couples or civil partnerships receiving an extra £150 per year (according to the BBC here).

Whatever the relative merits of the policy, I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of offering the public tax money in this way as I have written about in the past here. I've always thought it the wrong way in order to win votes.

In any event, if the Tories should win, I'd be interested to find those couples that stuck together solely in order to collect this tax break. If no such couples can be found, then it is a strange tax break to introduce at a time where the government will need to balance its books . . .

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Alan Patten is the new editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs

This item is also probably old news to many, but worth noting that Alan Patten has taken over from Charles Beitz as the Editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs. Beitz will now serve as an advisory editor.

New editors at Ethics

I realize for many this is old news, but I think it's still worth noting. There has been a new editorial team lined up in Ethics (announced in an editorial by Henry Richardson, the editor). The editors are:

Henry Richardsom

Book review editor:
Mark C. Murphy

Associate editors:
Talbot Brewer
Daniel Brudney
Sarah Buss
Roger Crisp
Jamie Dreier
David Estlund
Rainer Forst
Daniel Hausman
Donald Hubin
Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen
Margaret Little
David Miller
Connie Rosati

An outstanding line-up and an excellent decision to expand the number of associate editors.

Research assessment in the UK to be likely postponed by at least a year

. . . as reported here by the Times Higher. Unsurprising news given the many concerns with the forthcoming assessment exercise in my view.

Monday, April 05, 2010

"A cloudy open-day visit cab boost enrolment numbers"

. . . reports the Times Higher here. A boost for universities under cloudy skies . . . ?

Jason Stanley on "The Crisis of Philosophy"

. . . can be found here, via As insightful as ever with the terrific line that "It is Slavoj Zizek who is markedly out of place in this tradition, and not Saul Kripke."

Friday, April 02, 2010

Jonathan Dancy on the Craig Ferguson show

UPDATE 1: Perhaps one thing we should all do is write to the producers of this programme to voice our support for more interviews like this with other philosophers. The show can be emailed at this link. Write early and often!

UPDATE 2: A question for readers: who would you like to see as the next philosopher on tv?