Chaos Hawks and Quagmires

by Kieran Healy on September 10, 2007

I just caught the last chunk of David Petraeus’s statement. As Kevin Drum predicted the other day, the Chaos Hawkery was strongly to the fore at the end. I haven’t seen a transcript yet, but the bottom line — after a Westmoreland-like catalog of investment projects and advisory teams — was, “This is a hard road, I can’t assure success, but if we leave I guarantee failure, regional chaos and the rise of Iran and other neighbors. Also, there’s no end in sight.” All of this was well forseen by Petraeus-watchers, of course. But it’s worth going back to this month four years ago when the logic of this approach, now fully articulated in Petraeus’s statement, was becoming clear.

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I guess it helps to get to know the enemy

by Kieran Healy on September 10, 2007

Fred Thompson provided a couple of hours worth of legal advice to the people who blew up were charged with the Pan-Am 103 bombing. Bear in mind that it’s OK if you are Republican, for any value of “it.”

What’s annoying, though, is the way something quite trivial like this — a mere curlicue on the ear of a minor gargoyle on a single buttress of the immense gothic Cathedral of WTF Has Happened Since 2001 — could have the potential to bother a Presidential campaign, whereas the ongoing renovations to said Cathedral are more or less settled doctrine, dirty fucking hippies excepted.

Ethically sourced?

by John Holbo on September 10, 2007

I just finished The Professor’s Daughter [amazon], by Sfar and Guibert. My favorite panel:


Imhotep IV takes refuge in the shop of an antiquarian, before resuming pursuit of his beloved – Lillian, daughter of renowned Egyptologist, Professor Bowell, who is owner of Imhotep IV. As the defense attorney sincerely declaims, a few pages on: “It was love that caused Pharaoh Imhotep IV to cross the centuries and attempt to breach the west wall of the central police station, and it was hastiness that caused Miss Bowell to confuse arsenic and chamomile.” Further complications ensue upon arrival of Imhotep III, who kidnaps Queen Victoria. Love conquers all, the watercolors are lovely.

You can read the first dozen pages at First Second books – purveyors of fine comic product all-around. (But Amazon will give you a better price. But maybe it’s better to buy from the publishers.)

In other art news, I just noticed that Hirst sold the skull:

Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted cast of a human skull has been bought by a group of anonymous investors for its asking price of £50 million, the artist’s representatives claimed yesterday.

It is, by a huge margin, the most paid for a work by a living artist.

Entitled For the Love of God, the skull was first displayed at the White Cube Gallery in Mayfair, Central London, in June where thousands queued for a two-minute viewing in a high-security darkened chamber.

Studded with more than 8,500 ethically sourced diamonds, it has been variously described as “an anthropomorphised disco ball”, “the first 21st-century work of art”, “a cosmic wonder”, “the vulgar embodiment of modern materialism” and, by Hirst himself, as “quite bling”.

And Texas can’t decide whether the grammar/penmanship is wrong enough for it to be $550,000 worth of right.

Values and Higher Education Policy

by Harry on September 10, 2007

A fine piece by Michael McPherson and Morton Schapiro in the Chronicle of Higher Education (registration and possibly subscription needed). They start by pointing out that for the most part college officials treat ‘values’ as pieties to be brought out when the parents and dignitaries visit, and not very seriously dealt with the rest of the time; and then demonstrate the moral dimension to a a range of management and leadership issues: enrollment management, early admissions, student aid, college rankings, and admissions decisions. It’s an agenda setting piece, not a series of answers. I’d like to see philosophers giving more detailed thought to these issues (so, I know, would McPherson and Schapiro); I hereby encourage bright philosophy PhD students out there to take their agenda and base a dissertation on it. (You might want to look at Levelling the Playing Field before you start). To give a flavour, here’s what M&S say about early admissions:

Early admissions. Last year both Harvard and Princeton Universities made high-profile announcements that they would no longer admit students early. What are the arguments against early decision? You can’t expect a needy student to commit to attend a college or university before knowing the price. Asking a student to decide where to attend college by early November, the typical deadline for early application, increases the frenzy accompanying selective admission. Students admitted in December of their senior year may take the rest of that year less seriously than one might hope. And, given that economists calculate a sizable admissions advantage to applying early, certain students are able to game the system.

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