Healing Iraq

by Ted on December 10, 2003

If the situation in Iraq is going to work out, it will be because of people like these.

The photos are well worth a look. The crowds don’t look huge, but it’s awfully hard to estimate crowd size from photos on the ground. In addition, the Iraqi demonstrators had to take a serious risk of being targeted as “collaborators” if they attended. (It’s also interesting to see firsthand how much of Baghdad could be mistaken for Los Angeles or Houston.) It does the heart good to see them.

Your trusty correspondent from WSIS

by Maria from Geneva on December 10, 2003

First off, excuse the strange author name – an essential for a blogger whwo can’t be trusted to remember her own login while on the road.

As CT tries hard to keep its faithful readers up to date on all the news that’s new and improved, I am blogging from the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva. I’m here for work, so in the interests of keeping my job, I won’t be blogging about the really juicy political bits. But at an event like this, there’s so much going on that at least I can give a flavour of what it’s like.

apologies in advance – this is on the hoof!

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Monbiot on Spiked

by Chris Bertram on December 10, 2003

I’m suprised that none of the blogs that deal with British left sectariana have linked to “George Monbiot’s column yesterday”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1102779,00.html . I know George says daft things from time to time (and there’s a factual error about the Royal Society in this very column) but pointing out the genealogy of Spiked!, the Institute of Ideas, LM Magazine etc etc and the links between the various swivel-eyed neolibertarian technoenthusiasts who are the former Revolutionary Communist Party seems like a public service that should be performed every so often. (Especially now they all have “proper jobs” writing columns for the Times and fronting think tanks.)

The Anti This War Now Left

by Daniel on December 10, 2003

I’ve put up a post on my other weblog on the general subject of anti-war leftishness. I’ve put it over there rather than on CT because it’s fair to say that there are a number of different schools of thought among CT contributors on the general subject of war, and it seems unfair to use the CT brand for views that not everyone might stand behind. Cheers.

Update: And now I’m going to hang it on the reasonably topical peg of this Christopher Hitchens interview.

Special obligations

by Chris Bertram on December 10, 2003

The London Times now syndicates Randy Cohen’s The Ethicist columns from the NYT Magazine. I was appalled to read “today’s muddled effort”:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-7-925338,00.html :

bq. IN MY CAR, the back seats by the doors have lap belts and shoulder harnesses, but the middle seat has only a lap belt. My two children, aged three and seven, ride in the car, and occasionally we pick up another child. Ethically, who should sit in the middle, less safe, seat — one of my children or the friend?

bq. You should put your own kids in the shoulder belts, if their size and the law allow (and, if they’re very young, in child safety seats in the back). While all children have a claim on your compassion and concern, your primary responsibility is to your own: particular relationships entail particular ethical obligations.

I confess that I never thought of anything beyond which kid would fit best and separating the ones most likely to fight if seated adjacently to one another myself. But Cohen’s reasoning here is entirely wrongheaded. Sure, there are times when it is right to put your own children first (such as reading bedtime stories), but when you are _in loco parentis_ for other people’s the duty is, if anything, when it comes to avoiding real harms, to take special care of theirs. And beyond that, duties of justice quite generally don’t permit us to favour those close to us over strangers (there isn’t a stronger duty to repay a debt to a close relation than to a distant one or to an non-relative).

Normblog moves

by Chris Bertram on December 10, 2003

Norman Geras tells me that he has finally given up on blogger and moved his blog to typepad “here”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/ . Please adjust your links.


by Henry Farrell on December 10, 2003

to “Russell Arben Fox”:http://philosophenweg.blogspot.com/2003_12_01_philosophenweg_archive.html#107066373986271483 , who has a new daughter.

God gave philosophers the easy problems

by Henry Farrell on December 10, 2003

In “defending”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/000563.html#000563 Noam Chomsky from his detractors, Brian Leiter makes a couple of rather extraordinary claims.

bq. [D]o try to remember that Chomsky is a man of genuine intellectual accomplishment, having invented a real scholarly discipline in its modern form, and who participates at the highest level in theoretical debates in cognate fields. This might, at least, create a presumption that when he writes about subjects that make only modest intellectual demands–like foreign relations or politics–that he is unlikely to make gross mistakes, and that he may, in fact, have legitimate reasons for saying what he does.

As I read Leiter, he’s claiming that politics and foreign relations are trivia – they present no serious problems for someone like Chomsky, who has a really first rate intellect. Nor even for someone with a decent undergraduate education in a serious subject; Leiter has already “informed”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/000517.html us that “a BA in philosophy apparently puts you well ahead of a PhD in political science.”

Leiter isn’t noted for his belief in civil discourse, and I’ve no desire to start a flame-war. Nor do I want to tip-toe delicately around the fact that he’s talking complete smack. In his posts, Leiter gives us the (perhaps inadvertent) impression that there’s no problem in politics so vexing that a crack squad of linguists and philosophers couldn’t sort it out. Even if this isn’t what he’s trying to say, his claim that politics presents only modest intellectual demands is stuff and nonsense. Politics is complicated and messy; there aren’t any easy answers, and as a consequence it is an intellectually demanding subject matter. Perhaps _too_ demanding; I’m the first to admit that scholars of politics haven’t provided good answers to most of the important questions. But I’m profoundly unconvinced that philosophers of Leiter’s particular bent are likely to do any better. Or linguists for that matter; Chomsky’s unwillingness to grapple with the complexities of politics is perhaps the reason why he’s a first rate linguistic theorist, a second rate polemicist, and a fifth rate political scientist. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and on the evidence to date, there ain’t much eating there.

Update: Looks like Leiter’s post has received a “lot”:http://strangedoctrines.blogspot.com/2003_12_01_strangedoctrines_archive.html#107093336802086802 of “attention”:http://www.enbanc.org/archives/000379.html in the “blogosphere”:http://www.enbanc.org/archives/000379.html. Pejman Yousefzadeh seems to “suggest”:http://www.pejmanesque.com/archives/005187.html that “he too was a member”:http://www.hyperdictionary.com/search.aspx?Dict=&define=apostasy&search.x=0&search.y=0&search=Search of the Chomsky cult once upon a time. Whoda thunk it.

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