April 9th, 2010

[OBSCURA] The Bexxx, "espresso bar"

espresso bar
Originally uploaded by The Bexxx
This is a nicely atmospheric picture of the fantastic downtown Toronto Israel-based Aroma franchise. Located at 500 Bloor Street West just one block east of Bathurst Street, it's easily one of my two favourite coffee shops in Toronto, with its excellent coffees and teas and sandwiches. I've made at least a few converts since it opened; it deserves more. (Not too many more, mind, because then I couldn't find a good seat from which to use their free WiFi.)

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • 80 Beats has two interesting reports on marine life, one noting that generations of sushi-eating has given Japanese an intestinal flora that's been strongly influenced by marine bacteria, the other reporting the first discovery of animals (in the sea, naturally) that don't make use of oxygen.

  • Bad Astronomy shows the immediate aftermath of a Martian earthquake, and examines the Cassini probes study of the small moons Janus and Epimetheus, which periodically switch in their orbit.

  • At Border Thinking, Laura Agustín writes about lapdancing in Britain and the negative effects that its stricter regulation might have on its employees.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling reports on impending exhibitions in Slovenia celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Neue Slowenische Kunst movement and its famous associated music group, Laibach.

  • James Bow writes about the way in which Toronto south of Union Station, by the waterfront, has become intensely developed.

  • At Centauri Dreams, the question of what distinguishes a star-like brown dwarf from a planet, particularly their methods of formation, is examined, as is the warming atmosphere of Neptune's dwarf planet-type moon Triton.

  • Crooked Timber angrily takes on Ross Douthat's suggestion that sexual liberation in Ireland enabled sex crimes by Roman Catholic clerics against children on the grounds that sexual liberation came late, after the commission of many of the crimes.

  • demographer links to a study noting that violence against women often peaks when gender roles are in flux.

  • Daniel Drezner speculates as to why China seems to be finally preparing to let its currency float. Did foreign pressure finally work?

  • Reproducing an article of his from the Economist, Edward Lucas takes a look on the ongoing slew of elections in central Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic and Hungary.

  • At Geocurrents, insurgencies in Indonesia's West Papua province and the McDonald's-related controversies surrounding Morocco's occupation of the Western Sahara are both tackled.

  • Joe. My. God points out that net recipients of federal funds in the Untied States tend to be the so-called "red states," Texas being the major exception, notwithstanding the stereotypical "red state" rhetoric against government largesse.

  • When Marginal Revolution starts up a discussion debating the suggestion that American conservatism is becoming more closed-minded, the expected fireworks in the comments occur, sometimes even illuminating the subject.

  • At The Search, Douglas Todd notes that despite its obvious flaws Canada's Roman Catholic Church has responded in a much more competent fashion to the sex abuse scandal than its European counterparts.

  • The Yorkshire Ranter's Alex Harrowell takes an interesting perspective on the news of cyberespionage from China aimed against India, suggesting that the Chinese hackers' interest in India Naxalite Maoist rebels might be intended for wartime or might itself be source material for their potential Chinese counterparts.

[LINK] "Trust networks"

Over at Understanding Society, Daniel Little has an interesting post examining sociologist Charles Tilly's concept of a trust network, "a group of people connected by similar ties and interests whose "collective enterprise is at risk to the malfeasance, mistakes, and failures of individual members" (chapter 1, kindle loc 186)." Little argues that Tilly's analysis is "more analogous to descriptive ecology than it is to the theory of the gene," less a complete theory and more a collection of systematized observations, but still rather useful.

Trust networks, then, consist of ramified interpersonal connections, consisting mainly of strong ties, within which people set valued, consequential, long-term resources and enterprises at risk to the malfeasance, mistakes, or failures of others. (chapter 1, kindle loc 336)

A band of pirates, a group of tax resisters, or a village of non-conformists in a period of religious persecution fall in the category of trust networks. The stakes are high for all participants. On the other hand, the American Medical Association, the League of Women Voters, and the pickpockets who work the Gare St Lazare train station do not represent trust networks, though they have the properties of social action networks more generally. There is little real risk for any particular physician even if other members of the AMA don't play their parts in a lobbying campaign. The willingness of members of the extended group to commit their own actions to a risky common effort depends on their level of trust in other members -- trust that they will make their own contributions to the collective enterprise, and trust that they will not betray their comrades. (French historian Marc Bloch belonged to a trust network, the French Resistance, that led to his death in 1944 by the Gestapo.)

[. . .]

How will we recognize a trust network when we encounter or enter one? First, we will notice a number of people who are connected, directly or indirectly, by similar ties; they form a network. Second, we will see that the sheer existence of such a tie gives one member significant claims on the attention or aid of another; the network consists of strong ties. Third, we will discover that members of the network are collectively carrying on major long-term enterprises such as procreation, long-distance trade, workers' mutual aid or practice of an underground religion. Finally, we will learn that the configuration of ties within the network sets the collective enterprise at risk to the malfeasance, mistakes, and failures of individual members. (chapter 1, kindle loc 186)

Trust networks are particularly relevant in the context of efforts at violent extraction and domination -- both on the side of predators and prey. Predators -- bandits, pirates, and gangs -- need to establish strong ties within their organizations in order to be able to effectively coerce their targets and to escape repression by others. And prey -- farmers in ranch country, rural Jews in Poland, or home owners in central Newark -- are advantaged by the existence of strong ties of family, religion, or ethnicity through which they can maintain the collective strategies that provide some degree of protection.

These trust networks, Little goes on to suggest, play a vital role in inspiring resistance to the intrusions of the state--Little's example of the French Resistance's opposition to the Vichy state and its Nazi protectors is a case in point.