Sunday, 7 June 2009

Second thoughts

Work trips put one behind on reading, and on blogging. Here are some things I've been looking at in the last six weeks or so, concerning, in some way, re-thinking a received position.

From the New York Times:
Mary Beard, on Roman book trade and culture
Looking back on decisions about prisoner interrogation
When “bad advice” is the best advice
On the off-brand presidency
On a recognition Israel doesn't need
On the decline of Christian communities in the Middle East

Web comics:
xkcd on changing the rules
PhD Comics on research topics guaranteed to be picked up by the news media

Byron Smith on dying with dignity
Scot McKnight on justification and the New Perspective on Paul: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and ... [one needs to be patient to do anything more than skim these]

Food for thought:
From an NYT op-ed opposed to the drone-war being fought in Pakistan, a comment with resonance for anyone opposed to extremist behaviour, including myself (let the reader understand):
Governments typically make several mistakes when attempting to separate violent extremists from populations in which they hide. First, they often overestimate the degree to which a population harboring an armed actor can influence that actor’s behavior. People don’t tolerate extremists in their midst because they like them, but rather because the extremists intimidate them. Breaking the power of extremists means removing their power to intimidate — something that strikes cannot do...

And from the LRB, Jenny Diski, in a (subscription-required) article on schooling, reflecting on teaching as a young idealist in the early 70s, in an inner-city comprehensive:
The lack of oversight, and of targets, must send a chill of horror through any modern manager of a school, and with some reason: it was pretty haphazard, and who was to say that only good teaching would or did come of the laissez-faire system? The line between liberty and libertarianism is very indistinct, and the desire to dismantle bureaucracy and social inequity leaves open the possibility of chaos, and creates endless opportunities for individual self-aggrandisement. But it seems to me that the risks were worth taking, now that we've seen the dismal results of our 20-year-long experiments with centralised targets, management echelons and paper-based accountability.

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