All entries by this author

Two of Them

Apr 2nd, 2003 9:08 pm | By

So there (see below) are two of my operating assumptions. That many words important for our understanding and conversation are not transparent, not self-evident – indeed are worse than that, are apparently self-evident and straightforward but in fact not. Thus we have a false sense of security when we use them, we take them for granted and at face value, and assume that everyone understands them exactly as we do. But such is not the case. My second operating assumption is that this matters, it’s a problem, it causes problems, and should never be lost sight of.

Elitism is one of those words. I have a running argument with a friend, who is forever telling me that I’m an elitist … Read the rest

Operating Assumptions

Apr 2nd, 2003 6:53 pm | By

We all have our operating assumptions, and it can be interesting and even useful sometimes to figure out what our own and other people’s are. One of my own that I often notice is not universal, is that Things Could Be Better. That improvement is needed, that there are errors and misunderstandings that need pointing out and fixing. Of course, in one sense, that’s too obvious to need stating, and everyone knows it: no one is fool enough to think everything everywhere is perfect at all times. But some people do seem to have a default assumption that the world is all right and
straightforward and self-evident and easily managed, that problems and confusions and mistakes are the exception not … Read the rest

What is Hypocrisy? *

Apr 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

Adam Swift examines some bad moves in the argument over education.… Read the rest

E.O. Wilson *

Apr 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

Harvard profiles the pioneer of sociobiology.… Read the rest

Two Very Different Views of the War *

Apr 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

One speaker critical of Bush’s foreign policy, one who helped create it.… Read the rest

Audio of Supreme Court Debate *

Apr 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

National Public Radio offers highlights of arguments on Affirmative Action. Hear Scalia in full sarcastic mode.… Read the rest

US Supreme Court Hears Affirmative Action Case *

Apr 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

Rice backs Bush but acknowledges she was a beneficiary of Affirmative Action; Powell disagrees with the President.… Read the rest

Affirmative Action on Trial *

Apr 1st, 2003 | Filed by

US Supreme Court is to hear arguments on racial preferences in university admissions today.… Read the rest

Helpful or a Source of Conflict? *

Apr 1st, 2003 | Filed by

Scholarships and other programs explicitly for minorities are under attack.… Read the rest

Encyclopedia of Stupidity Reviewed *

Apr 1st, 2003 | Filed by

Bierce, Flaubert mentioned, Fashionable Dictionary inexplicably not.… Read the rest

Some More

Apr 1st, 2003 12:11 am | By

In ‘The New Yorker’ Seymour Hersh tells of the disagreements between the military and the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. There is some of this in every war, and a lot of it is just each side protecting itself or as we put it in the vernacular, covering its ass. But it may be worse than usual this time. Or it may not.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of last week was the failure of the Shiite factions in southern Iraq to support the American and British invasion. Various branches of the Al Dawa faction, which operate underground, have been carrying out acts of terrorism against the Iraqi regime since the nineteen-eighties. But Al Dawa has also been hostile to American interests.

Read the rest

Aggressive Contempt for Popular Opinion *

Mar 31st, 2003 | Filed by

But what makes the journo think he has a right to look at the kitchen when he’s been refused permission? Which is the rude one here?… Read the rest

Some Opinions

Mar 30th, 2003 10:15 pm | By

The war is in its 11th day, and it’s clear that the cheery expectation of a Blitzkrieg was ill-founded. Apparently shock and awe have succeeded only in turning Saddam Hussein from a hated tyrant to an admired resister of the invaders, a result fraught with horrible implications for the future, including the future of Tony Blair. It is a profoundly dispiriting thought that this war could well end up entrenching the ignorant callous provincial talentless Bush more firmly in power than ever while it undoes the vastly more worthwhile Blair. Jonathan Freedland comments here on Blair’s backbreaking efforts with the UN and Bush’s smug indifference to the whole matter. There is something intensely degrading about watching a person of Bush’s … Read the rest

What Does Porn Do?

Mar 30th, 2003 6:24 pm | By

Well, here’s an intriguing little item by way of a break from war news. The abundance and popularity of porn on the Internet, and what that may do to men’s attitudes to women, and how strangely little attention the subject gets.

For a political perspective you would have to search to the very margins of feminist debate. It is as if an entire generation of research into the emotional effects of porn has simply been forgotten, leaving us with porn galore and not the faintest idea what it does.

The most sinister aspect of the whole subject is how inextricably confused lust seems to be with hostility, at least in this kind of pornography. (And is there any other kind?) … Read the rest

Cultural Relativism

Mar 30th, 2003 | By

There are times when, do what we will, we are confronted with goals, values, moral preferences, that are in flat contradiction. We have to choose one and reject the other. Much as we would like to, we can’t blend or compromise or harmonise or take a little from this pot and a dab from that and come up with a nice mix. Doing one thing simply rules out doing the other and that’s all there is to it. Digital not analog, yes or no.

So for instance reasonable and desirable goals of tolerance, understanding, cosmopolitanism, and cultural relativism can clash with equally reasonable and desirable goals of preventing harm to others, criticising unjust laws and customs and traditions, exposing exploitation … Read the rest

Can a Pre-emptive War Be Ethical? *

Mar 30th, 2003 | Filed by

It can, says a BBC panelist familiar to our readers.… Read the rest

Mismatch? Growing? Gulf? *

Mar 30th, 2003 | Filed by

Carol Tavris asks a great many skeptical questions of a new book on the gulf between women and men, and whether the cure might be worse than the disease.… Read the rest

Scientific American on DU *

Mar 28th, 2003 | Filed by

In a careful account, SciAm concludes that DU is somewhat toxic but no more so than other kinds of ammunition.… Read the rest

Depleted Uranium *

Mar 28th, 2003 | Filed by

A January, 2003 report by the World Health Organization on the health effects of DU.… Read the rest

Gulf War Syndrome? *

Mar 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Elaine Showalter on an elusive disease or syndrome that generates a lot of scare headlines and not much evidence.… Read the rest