All entries by this author

Hitchens on Pinochet *

Dec 11th, 2006 | Filed by

His death is an occasion to remember the many victims of his state and international terrorism.… Read the rest

Thatcher ‘Greatly Saddened’ at Pinochet’s Death *

Dec 11th, 2006 | Filed by

Diddums.… Read the rest

Pinochet Escapes Prosecution *

Dec 11th, 2006 | Filed by

More than 3,000 people were killed or ‘disappeared’ in his 17-year rule. … Read the rest

Theory and Practice of Literary (Mis)reading *

Dec 11th, 2006 | Filed by

On Ziauddin Sardar on ‘Blitcon’.… Read the rest

Religious Convictions Have a Hard Edge *

Dec 11th, 2006 | Filed by

Roy Hattersley on worship of a stern and vengeful god.… Read the rest

Depends who’s asking

Dec 10th, 2006 9:56 pm | By

Hitchens makes a very silly opening argument in this conspicuously silly piece, winsomely titled ‘Why Women Aren’t Funny’. (Is this part of his Kingsley Amis shtick? KA was brilliant, but the routine misogyny was hardly his funniest or most interesting bit.)

However, there is something that you absolutely never hear from a male friend who is hymning his latest (female) love interest: “She’s a real honey, has a life of her own … [interlude for attributes that are none of your business] … and, man, does she ever make ’em laugh.” Now, why is this? Why is it the case?, I mean. Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not

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Aggressive mean naughty bad atheists

Dec 10th, 2006 9:40 pm | By

Atheists are mean, says Nicholas Kristof. No they’re not, say Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett; you just think so because you’re used to religion’s special immunity. As Dawkins puts it:

Mr. Kristof has simply become acclimatized to the convention that you can criticize anything else but you mustn’t criticize religion. Ears calibrated to this norm will hear gentle criticism of religion as intemperate, and robust criticism as obnoxious.

Which is really not an ideal situation: it really does make it difficult for people to discuss the subject honestly. It’s a little worrying how many people are eager to join the chorus urging atheists to shut up – or to be less ‘obnoxious’ and ‘militant’ and ‘in … Read the rest

Duties to the public

Dec 10th, 2006 7:14 pm | By

Some more on the conceptual issues involved in ideas such as equality, equal treatment, civil rights, public accommodation, and so on. Some comments by a dissenting justice in the Civil Rights Cases decision of 1883, in which the court killed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, an act by which Congress attempted to elaborate on and enforce the Fourteenth Amendment – Section 1 of which turned the US world upside down:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;

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Roger Scruton Talks to the CBC *

Dec 10th, 2006 | Filed by

‘The most controversial but best-read philosopher in Britain’ – perhaps jet lagged.… Read the rest

Russell Jacoby Has Doubts About Arendt *

Dec 10th, 2006 | Filed by

But makes an exception for Eichmann in Jerusalem.… Read the rest

Is Politics Merely Show Biz? *

Dec 10th, 2006 | Filed by

The danger of a large diverse group is that the loudest voices will dominate and a herd mentality will take over.… Read the rest

Ian Hacking: Whose Body Is It? *

Dec 10th, 2006 | Filed by

How dead is brain-dead?… Read the rest

The Bishops are on the Prowl *

Dec 10th, 2006 | Filed by

A harmonious society is not best served by archbishops passing themselves off as a persecuted minority.… Read the rest

The right to choose your customers

Dec 10th, 2006 12:34 am | By

We have this on-going discussion about rights, about what they are, what we mean by them, what they aren’t or shouldn’t be or shouldn’t be thought to be, how they are justified, and the like. We have some commenters defending the idea that Christians do have rights to refuse service to gay people in public accommodations. They’re using arguments that have a certain familiarity. The ‘right to free association’ for instance. From a comment on ‘The fundamental right to say get outta my store': ‘the right to free association. That’s the very same right denied in apartheid south africa or in the US under segregation or by many anti-union laws.’ Well, no, actually. It was the defenders of apartheid … Read the rest

Gay Life in the Middle East *

Dec 9th, 2006 | Filed by

An Israeli activist and a UK journalist report.… Read the rest

Corruption in Congress *

Dec 9th, 2006 | Filed by

A conspiracy to use ‘campaign contributions’ to bribe politicians.… Read the rest

An ‘Aggressive Secularist’ Speaks *

Dec 9th, 2006 | Filed by

Terry Sanderson wonders if the Archbishop of York is fully in control of his faculties.… Read the rest

Robert McCrum on Sardar’s ‘Ludicrous Piece’ *

Dec 9th, 2006 | Filed by

‘Planet Sardar is barely on any intellectual radar I’d care to consult.’… Read the rest

Contradictions? What contradictions?

Dec 8th, 2006 6:42 pm | By

Blair gave a speech on multiculturalism. (Maybe if he’s very good, next week he’ll be allowed to have a debate on the subject with Madeleine Bunting.) He said some slightly odd things…

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths have a perfect right to their own identity and religion, to practice their faith and to conform to their culture. This is what multicultural, multi-faith Britain is about. That is what is legitimately distinctive.

But when it comes to our essential values – belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage – then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common…

But … Read the rest

Vociferous aggressive secularists for WAR

Dec 8th, 2006 6:24 pm | By

Bunting in a similar vein.

In the summer, the publication of Amartya Sen’s book, Identity and Violence, was greeted with delight by many reviewers and commentators…He was promptly adopted by the lobby of vociferous aggressive secularists who regard all faith in the public sphere as evidence of some sinister plot.

No, actually, that’s not what we regard all ‘faith’ in the public sphere as, we regard it as an inherently dangerous influence on politics, law, human rights and other such public influences that shape how we all get to live our lives. Get it right, Madders.… Read the rest