One Hundred Things Norman Geras and I Corresponded About Over the Last Decade

Country music (including but not limited to Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, and its relationship to suicide) — Marxism — The war in Iraq — The case the British government made for the war in Iraq — Media coverage of the war in Iraq — Differences between British and American media coverage of the war in Iraq — Dead socialists (including the question of whether or not Paul Sweezy was in fact dead: he wasn’t when we began corresponding on the question, but later he was) — Favourite novels — University admissions — Boycotts of Israelis — Blog technology issues — The paradox of democracy — Paul “The Thinker” Richards — Defamation law — French headscarves laws — International rugby partisanship — New Zealand and whether it is a dull country — Amnesty International — Italian anti-war demonstrations — Christopher Hitchens — The precise distance from Boulder, CO to Birmingham, AL — My Normblog Profile — The number of Red Sox supporters who have Normblog profiles — Where the Wild Things Are — Bob Dylan — Favourite films — A Mighty Wind — Nashville — Joan Baez — George W. Bush — The Hutton Inquiry — Lucio Colletti — Why the film Life is Beautiful is so terrible — The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — Mobile telephones — Cricket — The various ways in which my students used to pronounce the name “Geras” — Rock stars — Exam marking — Arnold Lobel and his Mouse Tales — The Butler report — The Campo de’ Fiori in Rome — Shakespeare plays — Obnoxious right-wing writers (including Mark Steyn and Andrew Bolt) — American airport security checks — Terrorist threats — Socialist Register — The 2004 US Presidential election — Baseball — Visiting Oxford — Thomas Hobbes — Roman libraries — Classical composers (especially Schubert) — Jokes about rational choice theorists — The Tour de France — Etienne Balibar — Favourite actors — The excellence of kittens (and, more generally, cats) — American street names — Wendy Cope — Footnotes in Capital — Umpiring — Passport applications — Margaret Thatcher’s resignation — Margaret Thatcher’s poetry —  Jews for Justice for Palestinians — Chavez and anti-Semitism — Academic plagiarism — David Aaronovitch as marathon runner — x-RCP front organisations — Robert Wokler — Academic jobs — Musicals — Australia — The rubbish-collection regime in Oxford — Tony Judt — Whether or not the Euston Manifesto was part of a “common, hysterical defense of the Anglo-Dutch financial system, and their permanent right to loot the economies of the world” — American practices of memorialization on campus — Flooding in Oxford — The Beatles — Jerry Cohen’s valedictory lecture — The New Left Review — Loyalty oaths — A Dance to the Music of Time — Merton College, Oxford — Visiting Manchester — Critical opinions about America — Puzzles involving marbles — Traffic robots — The Beach Boys — Tony Blair’s relationship with God — Bernard-Henri Levy looking funny in photographs — Authorisations to use military force — John Stuart Mill on international intervention — The Eurovision Song Contest  — Adam Smith — Nick Cohen’s views about torture — Alfred Hitchcock films — The thorny question of whether seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was on drugs — The problems of travelling between Oxford and Cambridge.

Biggest regret? In July 2004, Norm wrote, “Might you have an interest in watching a Test or some part of one with me?”, and I never took him up on the suggestion.

His final words of the correspondence, from the start of this month: “My own care from the NHS has been exemplary.”

43rd Labour Blog

Despite barely posting here over the last year or so, I learn that the Virtual Stoa is now the 43rd “top Labour blog” in the latest meaningless blog poll awards thingummy.

On the one hand, this is my highest placing in this particular contest. On the other hand, last year I was both 67th and 86th, whereas this year I seem only to have just the one ranking, which I think is a setback of sorts.

UPDATE: Jamie K has had the rather good idea that those of us who find themselves on this silly list might want to acknowledge it by linking to Tim Ireland’s recent Dale-themed post here.

Indications of Crisis

An indication of the extent of the crisis  that the Labour Party finds itself in is that the Virtual Stoa has been included on a list of the “Top 100 Labour Blogs” that has been compiled by some outfit I’ve never heard of called Total Politics.

An indication of the extent of the crisis that Total Politics finds itself in is that they’ve included the Virtual Stoa on the list twice, at #67 and at #86.

Perhaps it’d be for the best if I could roll my rankings into one, come in at #153, and fall off the list altogether?

Nigerian Spam

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:


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]

Public Reason, Rawlsians, Political Philosophy, etc

Public reason may be possibly the most boring topic in contemporary political philosophy, which takes some doing, but it is also the name of a new blog by a bunch of political philosophers which looks as if it might become quite good. They’ve got a distinguished line up of contributors, not all of whom have yet contributed, and I suppose those of us with a sense of history will worry that this looks a little bit too much like the old Left2Right blog, which looked so promising at first, but never seemed to me to do that much beyond hosting some great posts by Elizabeth Anderson on Hayek and other related topics, and rather ran into the buffers. Anyway, I’m particularly pleased to see my old-friend-whom-I-haven’t-seen-in-years Alyssa Bernstein on the roster, as she’s great fun, if not a little Rawlsian.

Thinking of Rawlsians, this thread over at Brian Leiter’s place could become great fun, and possibly quite heated. In my balanced splitting-the-difference kind of way, I’m comfortable with the thought that Rawls was both a political philosopher of the first rank and that much Rawlsian thought is very possibly deep down “a generalizing [of] one’s own local prejudices and [a] repackaging [of] them as demands of reason”. And I think I’m comfortable with that thought because it seems obvious to me that much top-notch political philosophy has always been that, but the good stuff has never been just that, and one of the reasons progress gets made in philosophy, if it does, is through thinking about the extent to which this might in fact be the case and what, if anything, we might do about it. What’s funny is that philosophers sometimes get quite so defensive about the idea that their work might just be a little bit more parochial and a little less universal than they like to think it is, and that historians too often use their discipline’s own distinctive and not always attractive prejudices as a way of avoiding thinking hard about the difficult, interesting stuff.

Thanks also to this thread from Harry B at Crooked Timber, who asked the important question, “are philosophers scruffy?”, thereby reminding me of one of my favourite bits of De Civitate Dei, at the start of Book XIX, in which Augustine discusses Varro’s demonstration that there are 288 logically possible sects of philosophers, 144 of which are scruffy (“following the habits and fashions of the Cynics”), which I suppose follows naturally from our discussion of bearded philosophers from a few days ago.

Right: back to work.