Tinfoil hat time

by Daniel on November 14, 2003

Robin Ramsay, editor of the excellent Lobster magazine, and co-author of an equally excellent book about Harold WIlson, makes a useful distinction between “Conspiracy Theory” and “Conspiracy Research”. According to Ramsay, the difference is that conspiracy theories are simple, interesting and leave you thinking that you understand it all, while consipracy research is difficult, boring and leaves you thinking you understand less than you did before you started. Given this, it is hardly surprising that the theoretical side of the academic discipline of Parapolitics is both far more popular than the empirical, and largely worthless.

However, the pollution of the well of parapolitical research by the theorists is pretty unfortunate, as means that the “loony” label tends to stick to a few dedicated journalists who often ask questions that really desperately need to be asked. The final stage in the disgraceful attempt to smear Gary Webb for uncovering documented evidence of Nicaraguan Contras with good political connections being given carte blanche to smuggle cocaine into Southern California, for example, was to paint him as a “consipracy theorist”. The attempt to rebrand conspiracy research as “parapolitics” (the study of those parts of the political process in democracies which involve illegal or covert activity) is probably a dead duck as with most rebrands, but men of good sense and good intention can do their bit to help by not making things worse.

Which is why I have a bit of a problem with this post from Daniel Drezner‘s site.

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Mary Kaldor on Iraq

by Chris Bertram on November 14, 2003

Mary Kaldor (an opponent of the war) has “an interesting piece on Iraq on OpenDemocracy”:http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-2-95-1579.jsp . One of her observations concerns the extent to which both the neo-cons and the Democrats are fixated on how it all plays “back home” :

bq. When I was in the CPA offices in the palace, the Green Zone was hit by mortar fire and we were evacuated to the basement. There, some of the American officials were overheard discussing how ‘the Democrats’ would play it back home, with their eyes on the election not the current situation in Iraq.


bq. Third, there is a presidential election coming up in America. Some people want America to fail in Iraq so that George W. Bush will lose the election. This kind of thinking prioritises domestic US concerns above the fate of Iraqis. It is as sick as the preoccupations of the Republicans in the CPA about ‘how will this play in the election?’ No one should support the military opposition to America. And there should be no immediate withdrawal of US troops until a framework for democracy is established.

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Aids in China

by Maria on November 14, 2003

Words fail.

Tax Cut Factoids

by Kieran Healy on November 14, 2003

A quick calculation from Mike Hout, via the sociologists at Kickass Women:

• Median income of American households: $42,000 [1]

• Average tax cut for members of Bush’s cabinet: $42,000 [2]

[1] Median household income after adjusting for taxes and benefits, U.S. Census Bureau, Money Income: 2002 (Current Population Report P60-221).

[2] Analysis by Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California), posted on his website.

Having the cheek to claim you put money back into the hands of regular Americans: Priceless.


by Harry on November 14, 2003

Keith Burgess-Jackson provides an interesting defence of the fairness of tenure over at AnalPhilosopher. (You have to scroll down a bit to get to it) The defence is this: academics are capable people who could have chosen to compete in a variety of fields. Academia provides a particular mix of goods — including the ability to teach, the freedom to research, and tenure, which compensates us for our low (relative to other professions we might have chosen) pay. There’s nothing unfair about people enjoying a benefit which is part of a package which includes countervailing costs. He rightly suggests that if you really abolished tenure you would be raising the costs of competently delivered higher education.

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