Giants and Dwarfs

Two years ago, my cousins Sa’ad and Salman (Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Khawaja Salman Rafiq) were arrested in Pakistan on charges of “corruption” by that country’s absurdly named NAB, or National Accountability Bureau. For two years (and not for the first time), they endured incarceration and vilification at the government’s hands. The first time this happened (to both of them), was during the military dictatorship of  General Zia-ul-Haq; the second time (for Sa’ad, but not Salman), was the military dictatorship of General Pervez Musharaff. This time, for both, was under Pakistan’s Trump-like civilian Prime Minister, Imran Khan.* Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

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Coronavirus Diary (24): Peace Trains

A lot of the news about India’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been demoralizing, and justifiably so, but I haven’t seen much coverage in the American press of one of India’s more ingenious success stories. Apparently, the Indian government has decided to re-purpose railway cars as medical facilities. This particular idea seems to be the successor to an earlier one, described in a recent paper in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. Continue reading

My famous friends: name-dropping without (much) shame

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post dedicated in part to discussing the work of people I either don’t know, or barely know at all. Today’s post is just the opposite: a name-dropping attempt to bask vicariously in the glory of others’ accomplishments, simply because they happen to be friends or relatives of mine. There’s no credit like unearned credit! I’m going to bold everyone’s name below, just to make this post look more like the gossip column that it is.

My friend William Dale is Associate Professor of Medicine at Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. (He has a half dozen other titles, but never mind.) He seems to make it into The New York Times every other day for his work on geriatrics, but here’s the latest, about the connections between his work and the National Social, Life, Health, and Aging Project at Chicago. And yes, that’s him in the header photo of their page.

I’m not sure I know Jose Duarte well enough to call us “friends,” but we have hung out a bit, so I’ll gloss over the niceties. Jose has been creating waves for his research, with Jonathan Haidt, on the political biases of research in social psychology. Here’s a piece in The New Yorker about his most recent publication. And here’s a link to the paper itself, “Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Research.”

My friend Stephen Hicks is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the publication of his 2004 book, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. It’s gone through God-knows-how-many printings, and at least five translations that I know of, with more on the way. (I’d like to put in a vote for an Urdu translation, by the way.) I’d like to think that I made some tiny contribution to the success of the book; as co-managing editor of Reason Papers, I happened to edit  (all right, co-edit) one of the longer and more positive reviews of the book. But obviously, I couldn’t have done that unless Stephen had written the book (and Steven Sanders had written the review!) in the first place.

Finally, on the Famous Friend Front, my buddy Chris Sciabarra is featured in a piece on Ayn Rand in New York Magazine, improbably titled, “Ayn Rand, Girl Power Icon.” Amusingly, the piece opens with Chris’s professed puzzlement about the phenomenon, and only gets better from there.

I mentioned famous relatives. Did I tell you that my cousin Khawaja Saad Rafiq is the Minister of Railways for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? I only mention that because here’s a piece featuring Saad bhai in the Pakistan Observer. In it, he takes issue with Jason Brennan’s thesis in The Ethics of Voting. According to Dr. Brennan, we have no duty to vote, but according to cousin Saad, the “Country Can Only Make Progress Thru the Power of Vote.” Well, Saad bhai doesn’t quite mention Dr. Brennan by name, but the implicit spirit of contention is there. I actually think that a conversation between Saad bhai and Dr. Brennan on voting would be a hilariously instructive affair for all parties. In fact, I offer in advance to serve as interpreter to overcome the language barrier* for the conversation. I rather doubt that the event will ever happen, but as a thought-experiment, I think it has a lot to recommend itself.

*PS, I kind of think that language would be the least of the barriers involved. Cf. Bernard Williams on real and notional confrontations, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, pp. 160ff.

Postscript, December 19, 2014: Amazingly, within a few weeks of my issuing a call for an Urdu translation of Explaining Postmodernism, Stephen Hicks has announced a forthcoming Hindi translation. Behold the power of PoT.