Friday, January 27, 2006

Who'd have thunk it #1048

It's possible to be unbelievably arrogant and naive at the same time.

Dead Flag

Some marvellous spin-offs of the Red Flag in the comments to this great post over on Crooked Timber. I also like the idea that the Internationale was really an attack on Kant.

On Libertarianism Doesn't Apply to Children

There's a very interesting post over on Internet Commentator, addressing the question of how libertarianism might or might not apply to children. Frank is hostile to the idea that "children are either property of their parents and implicitly theirs to abuse as they see fit, or free agents who implicitly have the "rights" to spurn school, refuse medical treatment and have sex with dirty old men." Can't argue with that, though I raised the issue of whether and how we can distinguish between a child and an adult. Frank's reply is excellent.

If you've anything to say, say it over there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Well, after all that snow, and inspired by Belfast's unseasonably good weather, here's a picture of yellowy-green summery grass. And hills.

In other words, I've nothing to say.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Via a very very roundabout route, I've just come across the other-worldly, almost meditative Unphotographable - an account of photographs never taken. Very strange idea, stunningly realised.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Cruise Control

This piece of sad news from The Register:
UK TV viewers will not get to see an episode of South Park which shows Nicole Kidman and fellow Scientologist John Travolta attempting to coax a fictional Tom Cruise character out of a closet, with Kidman saying: "Don't you think this has gone on long enough? It's time for you to come out of the closet. You're not fooling anyone."
Apparently the Cruise character in the show claims that he isn't in the closet, although he actually is. More on this, plus legal analysis (seriously!) by Julie Hilden over on Findlaw.
Interestingly, the episode itself indicates that its creators know well that they may be defaming Cruise, and they know of his litigious history. The joke disclaimer preceding the episode announces that "All characters and events on this show -- even those based on real persons -- are entirely fictional." At the end of the episode, the Cruise character threatens to bring a suit (not on the gay issue, but in defense of Scientology) "in England" -- which lacks a formal equivalent of the First Amendment. And all the credits at the end use the pseudonyms "John Smith" and "Jane Smith."
Hilden doesn't think Cruise would win in the face of a 1st Amendment defence, but it probably won't come to that. The episode will probably just disappear.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Another Sweden picture: I likes this one. Not sure about the framing on the left though.


Fascinating piece from Paul here. It's even got pictures!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Howzat for plagiarism???

Courtesy of somebody who mysteriously found me through googling this (I'm not sure if I've even seen this movie), here's an interesting set of pictures. But less interesting than the non-cgi Educating Rita to my curmudgeounly mind!

Heidegger and the Nazis

I was going to start this post with a stamp of irritation with BBC Radio 4 saying what Friday coming's Afternoon Play (Todtnauberg, by John Banville, which might be quite interesting) as presenting an account of a meeting between Paul Celan and Martin Heidegger, "the Nazi Philosopher."

I'm no fan of Heidegger, but, although it might be entirely fair ('cos it's true) that he was a Nazi, it's surely unfair to say that he was "the Nazi Philosopher." As Richard Rorty insists, surely we can separate the man's terrible politics and actions from his work (and our use of that work)?1

But now I'm not so sure of that position: an internet search (oh font of verifiably high-quality wisdom!) brought this long paper to light (with a response here), where Alex Steiner argues that it is quite possible to associate Heidegger's work with his Nazism. I don't know enough to be sure. Is there anyone out there with a helpful opinion?

1 Rorty addresses Heidegger's Nazism in in 'Another Possible World,' which was published in the London Review of Books in 1990. The essay was republished in Philosophy and Social Hope as 'On Heidegger's Nazism.'

Is this West West Lothian?

I was interested to listen to Lord Baker talking about the West Lothian question on the Today Programme this morning (the realplayer file is here). I have to say that I'm somewhat sympathetic, on the face of it at least, to the idea that there something amiss when Scottish MPs can vote on some issues that affect English people but that English MPs can't vote on the same issues as they affect the Scots. That said, I think the problem arises from an incoherent devolution strategy for the UK, not from a devolution per se.

Anyway, from a NI-narcissism point of view, I was intrigued (and mildly concerned) to hear Lord Baker proposing that the solution was for the Speaker to ringfence some bills or section of bills as being territorially specific and that, therefore, only MPs from that territory could debate them.

Does this imply that only MPs elected to Northern Ireland constituencies would debate and vote on NI-specific legislation? Surely the Westminster asylum is getting along fine on its own without our particular brand of lunatic taking over...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Not Before 2007

To coin the lovely phrase, the EU Constitution hasn't gone away you know. Although it's in hiding in Ireland. As noted on the The Fundamental Principles of the European Constitition blog, Bertie has just said that there won't be any movement on the issue before the next French Presidential election (in 2007) so the constitution won't be addressed in the lifetime of the Dáil. Here's hoping that when they do deal with it they do what the Convention actually intended, which is a basic statement of principles of governance, not a gargantuan attempt to fuse all treaties together.

And maybe, while they're at it, they could come up with a different name...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Coming to the Crunch.

O headline writers have such fun...

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Well, as a philosopher I tend not to be all that au-fait with things topical, but one perk of my job is that I get to hang around with people who know their stuff. This week the leader of the project that I work for had an article in the Irish Times (subs required, but we have the text from the article up on our site here) outlining the manner in which Dublin became the hub for a major piece of false accounting in the reinsurance industry. According to Justin, this has had a major reputational impact on Ireland as an offshore financial centre

Reinsurance is just what it says on the tin: insurance companies insure their books against huge losses so that they can survive major claims, in the same way that small bookies pass parts of bets on to bigger bookies when they are made. When it's working properly the reinsurer takes a portion of the risk on, for a premium, and pays out if required.

Fraud happens (for example that between American International Group and General Re) when money is supposed to be transferred but, secretly, no risk is transferred (and not much of the money). When this happens the client (equivalent to the small bookie) essentially receives a loan from the reinsurer but sticks the transaction on the books as an asset rather than as a liability (I'm a bit hazy on this, but I think that that's what's going on). So AIG was able to overstate their market value. General re was paid a fee without taking on any risk of having to pay out money.

There's lots more on this in various places, including in the Washington Post, on the Law Professors' Blog, in the Irish Times, and in the Insurance Journal.

But for Ireland it comes down to this: the country is no longer a cheap place for doing business (given the rise in the corporate tax rate), but any advantage it might have in terms of reputation (advanced European democracy and all that), will not be helped by these sorts of events. Whether or not there was regulatory oversight involved (and you should not Justin's quote from Charlie McCreevy on this), it is not good news. And neither is it going to go away.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Back from a lovely, cold, break in Sweden. God - does this mean I have to do some work now???