Archive for March, 2008

The Mutual Attraction of Repulsions

March 28th, 2008

I’ve only just noticed that the vaguely repulsive English Democrats have selected the overtly repulsive Matt O’Connor of Fathers4Justice as their candidate for Mayor of London. They probably deserve each other.

Nigerian Spam

March 28th, 2008

When you’ve won a prestigious Ig-Nobel Prize for Literature it’s hard to know where to go next. Here’s the latest:

I wish to inform you that the New President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Amaru Musa Yar’adua has Mandated that all money fraudulently collected by Nigeria Faudsters should be Paid to the beneficiaries not Letter than 10th of April 2008.

We are indeed happy to inform you that your email address was found among this set picked by the software companies in charge of these excersise and we have been mandated to settle you through the nominated bank by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

It has become imperative to settle you to redeem the Nigerian Image which has been tarnished abroad.

Mr. President Has also Promised the International bodies in the G8 Summit Meeting held in Germany, that he will make sure that all the Payment fraudulently collected by Nigerian fraudsters will be paid to the Foreign Beneficiary without Further Delay.

I want to also bring this to your notice that A Draft of ($2,50,000.00) two hundred and fifty thousand dollars  or ATM Card will be Made available to you, We therefore Request you to Reconfirm the  Information Bellow:

(1) YOUR FULL NAME/ADDRESS.
(2) YOUR DIRECT TEL/FAX NUMBER.
(3) YOUR NATIONALITY
(4) YOUR AGE
(5) YOUR OCCUPATION.

You should respond to this mail Immediately with the Information if you want to receive this Draft before the Closing date.

Thanks For Your Understanding,

Dr. Donald Harrison
Oceanic Bank Nigeria Plc.

[Thanks, SM]

Life imitates Python

March 28th, 2008

I’m so worried about what’s happening today, in the Middle East, you know / And I’m so worried about the baggage retrieval system they’ve got at Heathrow.

A Beaver in Oxfordshire!

March 23rd, 2008

Over here. I am proud to share my county with a beaver. It is apparently not the first beaver in Oxfordshire in five hundred years: last summer another beaver escaped from Cirencester and lived in the Cherwell before being recaptured and shipped back across the county line into Gloucestershire.

[It's also good to see that someone mentions Gerald of Wales in the comments below the article, before it all begins to degenerate.]

William Godwin on Loyalty Oaths

March 12th, 2008

Shamelessly stolen from Ted:

Certainly there cannot be a method devised at once more ineffectual and iniquitous than a federal oath. What is the language that in strictness of interpretation belongs to the act of the legislature imposing this oath? To one party it says, ‘We know very well that you are our friends; the oath as it relates to you we acknowledge to be altogether superfluous; nevertheless you must take it, as a cover to our indirect purposes in imposing it upon persons whose views are less unequivocal than yours.’ To the other party it says, ‘It is vehemently suspected that you are inimical to the cause in which we are engaged: this suspicion is either true or false; if false, we ought not to suspect you, and much less ought we to put you to this invidious and nugatory purgation; if true, you will either candidly confess your difference, or dishonestly prevaricate: be candid, and we will indignantly banish you; be dishonest and we will receive you as bosom friends.’

If the Government is keen to revive ideas from the late seventeenth century as part of its “citizenship agenda”, how about a new Triennial Act, which would be a great improvement on what we have at present, rather than a Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade, which wouldn’t?

Why hadn’t I heard of the Olympic Friend-Ship before?

March 11th, 2008

This is an extraordinarily silly idea – now scrapped, sadly – but apparently there were plans to fill up a boat with philosophers and one or two others and send it round the world in order to… well, it’s not really clear. Help the UK redefine its relationship with world cultures, or something. Wow.

The Poverty of PPE, Episode Thirteen

March 7th, 2008

CONCLUSION

54. The same procedure as followed above could be applied to the various optional papers, but I am only qualified to comment on the two that I chose (Logic and Political Theory). The recent additions which have been made to the list of special subjects do not tackle the crucial problems confronting PPE which I have tried to raise in this essay.

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The Poverty of PPE, Episode Twelve

March 7th, 2008

ECONOMIC ORGANISATION

52. In the light of the foregoing, this paper obviously should make way for the study of political economy. The paper as it stands at the moment is easy to criticise, primarily because of its partial approach. The major economic problems of this country remain unsolved and the responsibility, at least partly, lies with those academic economists who have not been able to free themselves at this level of discussion from attempts to explain all our problems as the result of a single economic cause. The endless and largely sterile controversies over whether it is the rate of investment, the balance of payments, the level of employment or what have you, which is the real cause of our problems stem from the failure to construct a total, interdisciplinary model which will recognise the possibility of overdetermination of our problems. The spirit of Dunkirk lies heavily on the economic organisation paper: 300 sweating undergraduates are annually employed in Finals to help their examiners help Harold Wilson help British capitalism.

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The Poverty of PPE, Episode Eleven

March 7th, 2008

PRINCIPLES OF ECONOMICS

48. Economics is perhaps the most difficult part of the course to criticise. Perhaps the most useful approach is to say that economics at Oxford tends to conflate political economy (roughly the explanation of changes in economic structure and functioning set in a social context) and praxiology (the science of practical reasoning). When the latter is studied without reference to the history and methodology of economic thought, there is a tendency to make an improper transition from the universality and rationality of a linguistic practice to an assumption of the universality and rationality of a particular social-political formation, namely capitalism.

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The Poverty of PPE, Episode Ten

March 6th, 2008

BRITISH POLITICAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY SINCE 1865

44. The difficult problems raised in the preceding paragraphs do not arise in connection with this paper. There is in fact only one major question: how can this paper most rapidly be consigned to the dustbin of academic history? For it does not illuminate the study of the history of this country, or of its political institutions, or its economic organisation.

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The Poverty of PPE, Episode Nine

March 6th, 2008

THEORY AND WORKING OF POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS

37. Since the questions: why do we have political institutions? is generally omitted from consideration in the study for this paper, or if not omitted, answered in a plainly circular way (Why do we have a Parliament? In order to govern), the student has excluded from his consideration questions concerning (e.g.) the economic basis of power and the difference between power and authority, and is thrust instead immediately into social engineering considerations. The only questions which arise when such a perspective is adopted ask how the various systems can be made to function better within their own terms of reference. The trivia churned out by the reform of parliament industry become the centrepiece of the course; the level of discussion is indistinguishable from that orchestrated by the Sunday press (the writers are generally the same people); the examination paper asks for a civil servant’s background brief: Question 11 in the 1967 paper reads “‘A proper relationship between policy and good government remained the nub of good government.’ In which of the countries you have studied is this best achieved?”

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The Poverty of PPE, Episode Eight

March 5th, 2008

MORAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

31. This paper is certainly an abortion, as Gareth Stedman Jones has said. The paper in fact has very little to do with moral and political philosophy, and only provides the student with a second dose of indoctrination in linguistic philosophy on top of the draught he has been given in the misnamed ‘General’ Philosophy paper.

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