Thursday, September 28, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

Nonsubstantial weirdness

Creationists protest the hominid display at the National Museum of Kenya. (via the Sanity Inspector)

The Great Stemwedel Nerd-Off.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

B16's noble Humility

B16 is apparently wrong about the age of the Surah in question, the Western philosophical tradition is not short of proponents of absolute omnipotence (Descartes,) or deniers of various foundational bits of Aristotelian logic (such as Aristotle himself), and sometimes both together (d’Autrecourt),

1. The Palaiologos passage has clearly been taken out of context; B16 did say that Manuel was brusque, and it should be obvious that the emperor wasn't in an ideal position for rational debate.
2. There is such a thing as freedom of speech after all; B16 was well within his rights to make the case against the narrow concept of reason now regnant.
3. That Catholics haven't always lived up to their obligations to reason in the past doesn't disqualify them from making their case now.
4. Anyway, B16 has, nobly, twice apologised, each time specifically disavowing what'll no doubt come to be known as the Palaiologos position.

B16's just not the bad guy here.

Tariq Ramadan has a response to B16 here, and again, here.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Science has an authoritative estimate of deaths in Darfur. It's between 170 and 250, 000. (via the BBC)

Tomorrow, September 17th, is the international day for darfur. Please consider getting involved; you might want to read up on things here, here, and here. Check out Daniel Davies' slightly contrarian take on things here and here. And these two articles by Alex de Waal are lucid and informative, if a little old.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reason # 310976887 to not buy the Times, ever (or: Property rights, but only for whites)

William Rees-Mogg examined South Africa’s land issue in yesterday’s Times. The column was poor stuff.

Rees-Mogg failed to distinguish the restitution and redistribution programmes. The restitution programme is intended to return land to those who can prove it was taken from them or their relatives following the 1913 Land Act. The redistribution programme is intended to widen land ownership. Rees-Mogg runs together both programmes.

Black South Africans do not ‘believe’ that their land was stolen from them – they know it. The theft was expressly legislated for, starting with the The Natives Land Act, No 27 of 1913, which confined blacks to less than 8 percent of South African land.

The South African government is doing what any reasonable government ought to do – protecting the property rights of the majority of its people by forcing the beneficiaries of stolen possessions to return them to their rightful owners when the rightful owners can be identified. The Constitution of South Africa grants it that power, so it is acting within its mandate. Governments the world over have the power of compulsory purchase, and often exercise it; similar policies have been carried out in the ex-Communist countries.

White large-scale farming was more productive because apartheid governments forbade African competition, and guaranteed, by force, a cheap labour supply. White farmers have had the opportunity to make good the injustices of the past, too few have taken it. If it is true that greater efficiency in the use of some resource grants one the right to own that resource, why hasn’t Rees-Mogg handed all his property over to some German? (racial stereotyping for brevity and vividness only, honest!)

It's extremely naïve to hope that, in a democracy, a minority landowning class which achieved its position by racially-motivated violence and fraud can continue to hold onto that land. And it's instructive to see what value the overseas defenders of property rights place on the property rights of black Africans.

Owen Barder, who's well worth several minutes of your time by the way, has a nice post about this.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hits, not Homework.

  • Jonathan Rée's new blog is here. (BBC)
  • Jason Stanley has a nice report on Kenya in the news here. (Leiter)
  • Obama in Kenya, here and here (Youtube).
  • A university degree is still a good investment after all. (Guardian Education)
  • Scary stuff; China is supplying surveillance technology to Zimbabwe. (BBC)
  • Martin Amis turns into his Dad. (Observer)
  • More Brits take out Irish citizenship. (Guardian)
  • Koigi wa Wamwere on self-hatred. (Standard)
  • World fails to end. General disappointment. (BBC)