Illness: a moving and important book

by Chris Bertram on September 17, 2008

This blog post is a shameless plug for a friend’s book. But I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t believe that the book is a tremendous achievement, as well as being a very moving personal document. “Havi Carel’s Illness: The Cry of the Flesh”: (“UK link “: is published tomorrow by Acumen. It is a philosophical meditation on the nature of and social meaning illness, disease and death. It discusses philosophical and psychological literature, Epicurus, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. But it is also a personal memoir, it is about Havi’s experience of being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, about what that meant for her presence in the world, about how she appeared in the eyes of others, and how she felt she appeared. It is about the encounter with medical professionals and their detached and external perspective on another’s catastrophe; it is about the varied reactions of friends, some of whom couldn’t maintain friendship. It is about how to confront the fact that all your assumptions about how your life is going to go: career, relationships, family, old age, can just be taken away. Havi was diagnosed with lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare disease that affects young women, and for which the progosis is about 10 years from the onset of symptoms. The sufferer experiences a progressive decline in lung-function over that time. Life may be extended by a heart-lung transplant, but that’s, obviously, a difficult business.
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Reiss forced out

by Chris Bertram on September 17, 2008

Michael Reiss “has been forced to resign as Director of Education of the Royal Society”: . Absolutely shocking, in my view. Several of those calling for his head, such as Sir Richard Roberts, made much of the fact that he is an ordained minister. But since at least two FRSs — John Polkinghorne and Bernard Silverman — are also priests, that’s hardly a reason for the Society not to employ him. The RS statement says:

bq. “Some of Professor Michael Reiss’s recent comments, on the issue of creationism in schools, while speaking as the Royal Society’s director of education, were open to misinterpretation. While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the society’s reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the society, he will step down immediately as director of education.”

Well, no, they weren’t “open to misinterpretation”, they were wilfully misinterpreted by those who were always going to be determined to do so, and it shows real spinelessness on the part of the RS that they didn’t back him. As “I blogged a few days ago”: , Reiss didn’t call for creationism to be part of the science curriculum, he said (absolutely clearly, _in his original statement_ of his view) that teachers should, as a matter of good pedagogical practice, be willing to engage with students they encounter who come to the class with creationist views. That seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate position for someone concerned with science pedagogy to take. Others may disagree with the substance of his view. That’s fair enough. But to push him out for saying it? Dreadful.

(A list of issues where partisans are only willing to tolerate a simple straightforward and unequivocal expression of the party line (on either side) and will seek to punish deviants: anything touching on religion and education (including this issue); Israel/Palestine; abortion/right to life, ….etc. )

Update: see also James Wimberley “here”: .

That didn’t last long

by John Q on September 17, 2008

Two days after the US authorities made much of standing firm against calls for a bailout of Lehman, the Fed has announced an $85 billion rescue of insurance company (and large-scale counterparty in all kinds of derivative markets) AIG. There’s none of the ambiguity surrounding Fannie and Freddie in this deal. AIG is not a federally regulated entity, and the insurance subsidiaries are regulated at the state level to ensure their ability to pay out on claims. This is, purely and simply, a case of a speculative financial enterprise that’s too big to fail.

Having reached this point, it’s hard to see how the US can turn back from a massive extension of financial regulation, starting with the derivative markets where AIG got into so much trouble, notably those for credit default swaps (CDS). Along with winding up the affairs of AIG, Lehman and others, the authorities will need to oversee an orderly unwinding of the transactions in these markets which they are now effectively guaranteeing. More generally, it’s time for a partial or complete reversal of the financialisation of the economy that took place after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system back in the 1970s.

BTW, if you have cash parked in a money market fund, you might want to read this. (Insert disclaimer about financial advice)

UpdateBrad Setser has the same reaction.