Saturday, March 5

Where the Bodies Are Buried

A very long article about the ira and Irish terrorism and the killing of a woman. 
Terrorism, after studying it for so many years, has made me a very cynical person. I don't trust governments. I don't trust ideologues. I don't trust people who wrap themselves in religion. Ever. They are all bastards. Look at USA. The great fighter against terrorism was and is still funding terrorism. It's a giant con son. 
And it's the ordinary people who suffer for these ideologies and religious leaders and politicians. Bah!
On a brighter note I'm going to Manchester today to teach for a full day at the university on product management. Totally different topic eh? But that's going to be fun. Teaching Chinese bankers. Who don't speak English. Via an interpreter. It's extremely challenging and difficult as you lose all feedback mechanisms. Very very tiring and painful but fun. 

Clockwise from top right: Dolours Price; Gerry Adams; Jean McConville and three of her children; I.R.A. men at the funeral of Bobby Sands; Divis Flats, the Belfast housing project from which McConville was abducted.
Clockwise from top right: Dolours Price; Gerry Adams; Jean McConville and three of her children; I.R.A. men at the funeral of Bobby Sands; Divis Flats, the Belfast housing project from which McConville was abducted. CreditClockwise from Top Right: Press Association via AP (Price); Peter Marlow / Magnum (Adams); Press Association via AP (McConville); David Caulkin / AP (IRA); Judah Passow (Divis Flats)
Jean McConville had just taken a bath when the intruders knocked on the door. A small woman with a guarded smile, she was, at thirty-seven, a mother of ten. She was also a widow: her husband, Arthur, had died eleven months earlier, of cancer. The family continued to live in Divis Flats—a housing complex just off the Falls Road, in the heart of Catholic West Belfast—but had recently moved to a slightly larger apartment. The stove was not connected yet, so Jean’s daughter Helen, who was fifteen, had gone to a nearby chip shop to bring back dinner. “Don’t be stopping for a sneaky smoke,” Jean told her. It was December, 1972, and already dark at 6:30 P.M. When the children heard the knock, they assumed that it was Helen with the food.
Four men and four women burst in; some wore balaclavas, others had covered their faces with nylon stockings that ghoulishly distorted their features. One brandished a gun. “Put your coat on,” they told Jean. She trembled violently as they tried to pull her out of the apartment. “Help me!” she shrieked.

Friday, March 4

Birth of Politics: Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why They Matter

I'm sure you would now be quite familiar with these concepts and wouldn't want to dwell much on that. But as I was reading this, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of mine yesterday who pointed out that Iraqis are now talking about having a secular form of government, not one which is Shia or Sunni based. I'm afraid I cavilled, son. Not that confident that Iraq can become a liberal secular state anytime soon or even in the next few decades. 
History provides us with proof that ideas have extraordinary power and longevity. Take a look at the concepts mentioned on this book, these Greco Roman concepts have been identified, evolved, adopted and have become self evident truths in vast swathes of the world. But think about it. When these were adopted in so many third world countries and in the OIC countries, they didn't take root. Or find it very difficult. Forget Iraq. Think of Russia. Ostensibly part of Europe and therefore an almost equal inheritor of the Greco Roman philosophical framework is a weirdass basket case. 
Virtue, justice, citizenship, democracy, etc concepts that we take for self evidentiary truths are only self evidentiary if you buy into the corresponding worldview. If your worldview is based on religion like Iraq or on autocracy like Russia, then these concepts are foreign and cannot be implemented easily. The Middle East gives so many historical examples of well meaning rulers who tried to impose liberal ideas and constitutions, socialism and secularism. Heck, the Ba'ath party in Syria and Iraq had secularism as one of its primary tenets. Look how that turned out. 
Anyway, looks like a good book son. Check it out at the bodlian or college library and if you think it's good for us to have in the home library for Diya. 
Also can you bring the hammock inside and place it in the utility room? 

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.08.12
(via Instapaper)

Bryn Mawr Classical Review
BMCR 2015.08.12 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.08.12

Melissa Lane, Birth of Politics: Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why They Matter.   Princeton; Oxford:  Princeton University Press,2015.  Pp. x, 382.  ISBN 9780691166476.  $26.95.   

Reviewed by Joanna Kenty, University of New Hampshire (
The Birth of Politics is the latest of Melissa Lane’s books introducing ancient ideas to modern audiences.1 Each of the book’s eight chapters focuses on a central theme: Justice, Constitution, Democracy, Virtue, Citizenship, Cosmopolitanism, Republic, and Sovereignty. In each case, Lane’s aim is to choose concepts that may or may not have originated in classical antiquity but that took on a form in that period that informs our modern understanding of politics. Lane is the 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University and approaches classical antiquity from the perspective of a political theorist and historian. She also sought to choose concepts that would resonate most strongly with modern political life, the ones which would strike general readers as immediately relevant and thought-provoking, although she limits her discussion almost entirely to antiquity. Greek terms are transliterated. She also promises to (and does) present diverse and conflicting ancient perspectives on these ideas, “on the grounds that what makes Greek and Roman ideas such good resources for thinking is the remarkably wide spectrum of possibilities of power they covered. …Rather than confine the value of the Greeks and Romans to just one position on the spectrum of politics –as either proudly committed to popular self-rule or philosophical critics of it, for example – we can learn most by exploring the whole range of ideas that they generated” (p. 4). Throughout the book, her emphasis is on critiques, preoccupations, questions, and problems rather than on answers or solutions, and on the ancient sources themselves. The result is engaging for the general reader, and the chapters might also offer useful introductions for undergraduates to major figures and eras of classical political philosophy.

Wednesday, March 2

The illegal trade in black caviar

this was a most fascinating and detailed study of how the trade in caviar works in the grey/black market. And because we in Europe are the main consumer, we are actively encouraging the devastation of the species. So whilst the common user of caviar will be shocked at the destruction of the rhino or the elephant for their horns/tusks, they are willing to keep on eating this very expensive fish roe. Sad...

The trade in caviar has a rich and colorful history, influenced over thousands of years by many cultures, societies and in the last decades by regulation. The value of caviar is historically discovered in the context of social change, political relationships and environmental change. The role of organized crime is described, as the scarcity of caviar has offered the unique opportunity to fish illegally, smuggle and trade contraband to mainly European countries with millions in profits. This study highlights that these criminal networks manifest themselves at all levels of the trade: from the poaching areas where organized criminal groups cooperate with law enforcers and possess top-notch equipment to major smuggling operations in the hands of sophisticated criminal networks. Although due to overexploitation ‘wild caviar’ is increasingly difficult to obtain, the demand in the context of exclusivity and scarcity remains intact by the upper class society desire for edible gold.