When is Assassination in Order?

by Harry on July 6, 2004

On Parliamentary Questions the other day they played a clip of David Owen, recorded in 2003, admitting without embarrassment that when he was Foreign Secretary he seriously considered ordering the assassination of Idi Amin. There was no explanation of why the idea was rejected (it was a clip in a game show), but my immediate, and non-reflective, reaction was that it was the first good thing I had heard about Owen (whom I couldn’t stand when he was a real politician, even before reading Crewe and King’s fantastic biography of the SDP in which he emerges as a deeply unlikeable and destructive character). Without giving it a lot more thought, which I can’t do right now, I can make a very rough judgement that certain objectionable leaders are legitimate candidates for assassination (Hitler, Amin, both Duvaliers, Stalin) whereas others are not (Khomeni, Castro, Rawlings, Botha). I could tell a story about each, and probably be dissuaded on each of them (except Hitler). But I couldn’t give anything approaching necessary and sufficient conditions for candidacy. What makes a leader a legitimate target of an assassination attempt?

Clarification: as jdw says below we are talking about a government authorising the assassination of a foreign leader, rather than a citizen assassinating his/her own country’s leader, the assumption being that governments require more justification.

Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index

by Chris Bertram on July 6, 2004

“The latest parlour game”:http://www.artsjournal.com/aboutlastnight/archives20040704.shtml#82118 , via both “Norm”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2004/07/choose.html and “Chris Brooke”:http://users.ox.ac.uk/~magd1368/weblog/2004_07_01_archive.html#108912007834711318 .

[click to continue…]

The right to a soda.. at any price

by Eszter Hargittai on July 6, 2004

I was sitting in the St. Louis Amtrak station yesterday (huh, that would be a glorified name for a shack[1]) and observing with curiosity people’s reaction to a soda machine that was sold out. Given the hot day and my tourist explorations of the morning that left me tired and thirsty, the soda machine was the first thing I looked for upon entry into the waiting room. The two machines I noticed at first were selling snacks and coffee. I couldn’t believe that there was no soda machine – unfathomable for this type of an establishment in the U.S. – so I circled the room. And there it was, of course. The first thing I looked for was to see how much the soda cost. However, instead of a price, I found the words SOLD and OUT flashing. Bummer. But now came the fun part: observing how other people reacted to the sold-out soda machine. At one point I was almost convinced we had a candid camera scenario. It was quite amusing to watch how few people bother to check signs. (This was second in a series that day after having watched just a few minutes earlier a woman in front of me exit – or try to do so in any case – a building through a door clearly labeled and also taped shut by a sign stating that the door was out of order. After pushing it a few times she noticed the sign at her eye-level letting her know that this was not going to work.)

[click to continue…]

Dialectic of identity

by Chris Bertram on July 6, 2004

Arguments, fights and feuds have their own inner logic, and they lead to people taking up positions and attitudes that make little sense on a rationalistic model of what beliefs we ought to have. But sometimes, even in the middle of such a quarrel, we get a sense of where it’s going, how it is defining and entrenching us and the other person. David Aaronovich “captures something of this”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1254827,00.html in today’s Guardian:

bq. I wrote a year ago that other peoples’ assumptions were turning me into a Jew. And now I began to wonder whether being attacked as being anti-Muslim because of my views on Iraq and secularism, and despite my views on Palestine and racism, wasn’t beginning to make me the thing that I was being accused of. Bugger it then, you half-think, if that’s what you want.

bq. But if that’s how I feel, wonderfully rational bloke that I am, what in heaven’s name is the effect on people from the Muslim community who are being wrongly stopped in the name of counter-terrorism? Doesn’t that mean the warnings about alienation are essentially correct? Last Friday’s announcement of the police stop and search statistics were like a bucket of iced water in the face. A 300% increase in the number of Asians stopped, and you just know that most of these will be young men. And we also know from the sus laws and the experiences of black BMW drivers, what the reaction is. Fuck you.

Online communities

by Eszter Hargittai on July 6, 2004

It has been interesting to follow the various discussions about blogs and what types of communities and discussions they resemble. I thought I would post a note to remind people (or let people know) that the study of online communities[1] is one of the oldest topics explored by academics about the social aspects of information technology use. There are probably hundreds of papers written about Usenet, mailing lists and bulletin board systems. Of course blogs have some distinct characteristics, but overall the existing body of literature about online communities would probably yield some interesting and helpful reading to those interested in blogs. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. One place to look for such work is the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (almost a decade old), but a simple search in a library catalog will yield numerous sources on virtual communities. Of particular interest to those pondering the social network aspects of online communities may be some of the excellent work by Warren Sack and much interesting research done on Usenet by Marc Smith. I realize mapping the blogosphere is a somewhat different issue, but some of the questions that have been raised are relevant to other online communities as well. People have worked for years to find some answers, let’s not ignore them. A piece that seems especially related to some issues that have come up is “Community without Propinquity Revisited: Communications Technology and the Transformation of the Urban Public Sphere” [pdf] by Craig Calhoun.

fn1. When I use terms such as “online communities” and “virtual communities”, I do not mean to suggest that these exist in isolation from other types of communities. See this piece [pdf] by Barry Wellman and Milena Gulia for more on this point.

Quid pro quo pro quo

by Jon Mandle on July 6, 2004

I’m amazed how little comment there seems to have been on this front page story in the NY Times from July 4. That date explains part of the silence, no doubt, but this still strikes me as a Very Big Deal.

In May, 2003, the U.S. returned five terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia “as part of a secret three-way deal intended to satisfy important allies in the invasion of Iraq.” In exchange, the Saudi’s later released five Britons and two others [a Canadian and a Belgian] who had been convicted of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia.” According to the authors, Don van Natta, Jr. and Tim Golden, “The releases were public-relations coups for the Saudi and British governments, which had been facing domestic criticism for their roles in the Iraq war.”

[click to continue…]

Norman Geras on Cricket

by Harry on July 6, 2004

My first real encounter with Norman Geras’s writings was when I read his excellent Marx and Human Nature. I subsequently saw him give a talk on the book at one of the SWP’s Marxism conferences (87?), and was struck by the way that he kept his temper despite extraordinary provocation by the audience. This experience combined with my more or less simultaneous encounter with the work of the analytical Marxists, and a class I took with (my subsequent colleague) Andy Levine, to convince me that normative philosophy was worth doing — resulting in my exiting philosophy of language for political philosophy.

So I was delighted to discover that he writes about the greatest sport human beings have invented. I was pleased, but also incredibly frustrated recently when I had the good fortune to stay at the home of a friend who possesses a copy of Two Views from the Boundary. I got half way through the book — and had to leave on the next flight out. Now, the relative obscurity (sorry Norm) of his cricket writing means it is not readily available in the US, and it never occurred to me to seek the book directly from him till I found this ancient post on his blog. Now that I have selfishly secured shipment of numerous copies for myself, my dad (he doesn’t read CT, so it’ll be a surprise as long as you don’t tell him), my godfather, etc, I can advertise the offer to all. Email Norm at his site, and see if he’ll cut you a deal on his cricket writing.