At the Top of Everest, Physical Triumphs and Moral Failings

The BBC reports of a double amputee’s climb up Everest and the ethical cliff he fell off of along the way.

Experienced climber David Sharp, 34, of Guisborough, Teesside, was on his way down from the world’s highest mountain when he got into difficulties.

New Zealander [and double amputee] Mark Inglis, said his party saw Mr Sharp as they climbed the 29,028ft (8,500m) peak.

He said there was nothing they could do for him.

Sharp apparently managed to get to a cave before dying. The “ethicist” Daniel Sokol (who knew Randy Cohen could look so good) offers some strange thoughts on the decision, which mostly consist of distinctions to be kept in mind when making moral evaluations, although not much by way of which ones really apply in this instance and the reasons they do. Instead he offers a simple defense: they really, really wanted to reach the top of the mountain. In the BBC:

At 8,500m and -38C, in considerable physical and emotional discomfort, in a group of 40 climbers whose life ambition is to reach the top, and with maybe only enough oxygen for a direct climb to the summit, it is perhaps excusable that no-one volunteered to stay behind.

These extreme meteorological, psychological and social conditions should be taken into account when evaluating the climbers’ decision. It is too easy to lay blame on the climbers by appealing to abstract moral principles and high-sounding virtues.

Decisions are not made in a vacuum, but in specific circumstances, and few can be as adverse and traumatic as those faced by the climbers.

(The current issue of Democratiya reprints Judith Shklar’s famous piece on cruelty and liberalism, “Putting Cruelty First“, which for some reason the whole Everest story reminded me of.)

Boy finds Welsh mountains, wins $25K

From CNN:

StorygeographybeeCould you locate the Cambrian Mountains on a map? Twelve-year-old Bonny Jain could and his knowledge made him the winner Wednesday of the 2006 National Geographic Bee.

The eighth-grader from Moline, Illinois, won a $25,000 college scholarship by correctly naming the mountains that extend across much of Wales, from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel.

It was Bonny’s second appearance at the national bee. Last year he came in fourth place.

His victory was the culmination of a four-year effort — the first time he entered the contest, he got only second place in his local school’s geography bee.

More here. Int’l Roundtable on Multiculturalism

In Sign and Sight, an abreviated transcript of the April 28th International roundtable on multiculturalism, featuring Kwame Anthony Appiah (moderator), the Turkish German sociologist Necla Kelek, the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner, and the Mexican-American essayist Richard Rodriguez.

Richard Rodriguez: My impression is that multiculturalism comes into the United States from the north – and is therefore suspect – illegally across the Canadian border. It was invented by Pierre Elliot Trudeau. So to speak of it as I do tonight is already to acknowledge that I am a child of Trudeau. It is honourable, as a Canadian idea. All Canadian ideas are honourable. It is however not very erotic. Canadians are not famous for their eroticism. It posits the dignity and the specialness of individuals and individual communities. By comparison, there is another philosophy, another way of understanding civic life that is pushing up from the south. In the 16th century, the Indian and the Spanish conquistador met in Mexico. His name was Antonio Banderas. her name was Marina la Malinche. The nature of their eroticism is not clear to this day. The male version has it that he raped her. But there is a sizeable opinion among feminists in Mexico that in fact she had designs on him. And that rather like Pocahontas here in the United States, she begins a sexual drama that the male history is unable to compete with…

Kwame Anthony Appiah: One thing that’s struck me so far is that we can focus on two different kinds of questions. One has to do with the response of majorities to the fact of pluralism. The other, especially in Necla’s and Pascal’s bits, was the question of – either explicitly or implicitly – what it is that makes minorities close themselves off. I mean, what Necla Kelek was talking about in Germany is in part a problem created – for whatever reason – by a sense that some of these Turkish German communities are closing themselves off to the wider Germany. And clearly there’s a sense of self-enclosure in some of the French banlieus. I’m wondering whether from the point of view of the minority, the story is: well we closed ourselves off because you didn’t open to us. And now you tell us – because it’s causing you problems – that we should be open. But if you’d been open when we first arrived, we wouldn’t be closed now. Now I think there’s a real challenge of how to answer Pascal’s question, which is: how do we maintain this openness?

An audio of the talk can be found here. A summary article is also available.

Evil-ing Up Axis of Evil-y Evildoers

In The Jewish Week, the story behind Amir Taheri’s, er, story of Iran’s new dress code law. (Via TPM Cafe)

Taheri’s column reported that a law passed by Iran’s parliament on May 15, “mandates the government to make sure that all Iranians wear ‘standard Islamic garments’ designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions … and to eliminate ‘the influence of the infidel’.”

“It also envisages,” stressed Taheri, “separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zorastrians, who will have to adopt distinct color schemes to make them identifiable in public. … They will also have to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-Islamic faiths.”

For Iran’s 25,000 Jews: “A yellow strip of cloth in front of their clothes,” he wrote, “Christians will be assigned the color red. Zorastrians end up with Persian blue.”…

But within hours after the National Post of Canada hit the streets Friday morning, it became clear the story had serious problems. By 7:41 a.m., a Montreal news radio station, AM940, had an interview with Israeli Iran expert Meir Javedanfar of Middle East Economic and Political Analysis debunking it..

“It’s absolutely factually incorrect,” he told the station. “Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colors. The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn’t be stupid enough to do it.”

Indeed, the law’s text and parliamentary debate, available in English from the BBC Service, discloses no provision mandating that any Iranians will have to wear any kind of prescribed dress.”

Gray on Nussbaum’s Latest

In The Nation, John Gray reviews Martha Nussbaum’s Frontiers of Justice.

That Rawls’s theory has little to say on many of the issues that are currently most politically contested has not prevented his heirs from trying to extend his work to precisely these questions. Martha Nussbaum’s most recent book, Frontiers of Justice, is the latest such effort. She aims to widen the reach of Rawlsian theory by addressing questions it has thus far largely neglected, such as the role of distributive justice in international relations, the claims of disabled people and the moral status of nonhuman animals. Nussbaum’s resourceful and imaginative exploration of Rawls’s work displays a command of the longer tradition of political philosophy that matches and even surpasses that of Rawls, along with a notably richer sensitivity to the history and variety of constitutional arrangements. The result is a notable contribution to philosophical inquiry that merits the most careful study by all who try to think seriously about public policy.

Still, a puzzle remains as to why Nussbaum has chosen to view the issues with which she is concerned through the lens of Rawlsian theory, when she could–perhaps more profitably–have examined them in the light of her own views. As she is fully aware, applying Rawls’s theory to these areas is no easy matter. His vision of a scenario in which principles of justice are adopted is an idealized version of rational choice by competent human adults. Since the theory makes no reference to disabled persons, children or nonhuman animals, it is hardly surprising that the principles that emerge from it give no clear guidance as to how they are to be treated. Again, Rawls’s theory was constructed to apply within modern states. It was never meant to be a charter for global redistribution. In later work he tried to develop some account of morality in international relations, but he was clear that his conception of justice reflected a moral consensus that exists (so he believed) within nation-states and could be implemented only by nation-states. When Rawls failed to apply his theory to the issues Nussbaum raises, it was not an oversight. It was because the structure of the theory he constructed precluded it from being applied in these ways.

India’s ‘Idol’ Recipe: Mix Small-Town Grit and Democracy

From The New York Times:Indian

For a glimpse into the hungry hearts of young India, step inside a giant hulk of a studio here in the country’s film and television capital for the weekly taping of “Indian Idol 2.” This is where Indians come to be discovered: Antara Mitra from the remote eastern border in Bengal; Amey Date from a small third-floor walk-up in central Mumbai; Sandeep Acharya, from Bikaner, a small town in Rajasthan; and N. C. Karunya, on leave from an engineering college in the southern high-tech hub, Hyderabad.

Winnowed from some 30,000 contestants who lined up on the first day of auditions, these four contestants were among the show’s eight finalists this spring. They were all in their late teens and 20’s. None of them were low on grit or ambition. All had been studying music since they were children. Each dreamed of becoming a professional singer in the dog-eat-dog Indian movie industry. “Indian Idol” was their one chance of swimming straight to the top.

“Indian Idol,” a variation of the British “Pop Idol” and “American Idol,” is one among a spate of talent hunts that have mushroomed across the television landscape in the past couple of years. “The Great Indian Laughter Challenge,” a stand-up comedy contest, is in its second season. “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa,” a song contest named after the notes of the Indian musical scale, wrapped up its first season in February. “Nach Baliye,” a dance contest whose name means “Let’s Talk Dance,” is expected to begin its second season later this year.

More here.

Mutant mice challenge rules of genetic inheritance

From Nature:Mice_3

In a discovery that rips up the rulebook of genetics, researchers in France have shown that RNA, rather than its more famous cousin DNA, might be able to ferry information from one generation of mice to the next. DNA has long been credited with the job of passing traits from parent to child. Sperm and egg deliver that DNA to the embryo, where it ultimately decides much of our looks and personality.

The new study in Nature thrusts RNA, DNA’s sidekick, into the limelight. It suggests that sperm and eggs of mammals, perhaps including humans, can carry a cargo of RNA molecules into the embryo – and that these can change that generation and subsequent ones. “It’s a very exciting possibility,” says Emma Whitelaw who studies patterns of inheritance at Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia. “DNA is certainly not all you inherit from your parents.”

More here.

The Social Burden of Longer Lives

Brilliant report by 3QD’s own Ker Than, in

Ker_4 Adam and Eve lost it, alchemists tried to brew it and, if you believe the legends, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon was searching for it when he discovered Florida.

To live forever while preserving health and retaining the semblance and vigor of youth is one of humanity’s oldest and most elusive goals.

Now, after countless false starts and disappointments, some scientists say we could finally be close to achieving lifetimes that are, if not endless, at least several decades longer. This modern miracle, they say, will come not from drinking revitalizing waters or from transmuted substances, but from a scientific understanding of how aging affects our bodies at the cellular and molecular levels.

Whether through genetic tinkering or technology that mimics the effects of caloric restriction—strategies that have successfully extended the lives of flies, worms and mice—a growing number of scientists now think that humans could one day routinely live to 140 years of age or more.

More here.

More on An Inconvenient Truth

Jennifer, as ever, offers some insightful observations, this time in her review of An Inconvenient Truth and on climate change.

We can quibble all we like about minor instances of massaging the data to make an emphatic point, but the underlying core message, and the science that supports it, is certainly very sound indeed. And frankly, maybe we need to be a bit more willing to use the tools of propaganda in such a crucial debate. After all, those tools have proved highly effective for those who have exploited them in the past, and our very survival may be at stake. The Gore film has attracted its share of critics, at least one of whom poked fun at the many meditative profile shots of Gore, claiming he looked like he was campaigning for Druid-In-Chief. (In all honesty, Jen-Luc could have done with a few less of those shots as well.)

And so the inevitable backlash begins. Is it merely coincidence that this past Sunday, the Washington Post ran a feature article about former NASA scientist Roy Spenser and his Web site spoofing the global warming “alarmists”? I’d say it’s about as much a coincidence as the fact that Spenser gets paid to write for TCS Daily, a Web site partially funded by ExxonMobil. (Interestingly, even Spenser, when pressed, admits that human activities have “likely” contributed to climate change, so he’s more honest than most naysayers.) Even more insidious is the onslaught of paid anti-climate-change advertisements that will be blanketing the airwaves this week, courtesy of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, one of which makes the following ludicrous statement: “Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.” By now the entire blogosphere has probably seen both DarkSyde’s commentary on Daily Kos and Chris Mooney’s hilarious spoofs of that tagline, but far be it for me to buck the linkage trend. Per Mooney: “Water. They call it drowning. We call it life.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2006



‘I tell you, sir, you have no other way to deal with these men but to break them or they will break you.’ True to his word, on 17 May 1649, Oliver Cromwell had the ringleaders of the Leveller revolt marched out of Burford church in Oxfordshire and executed. These disgruntled Civil War soldiers had demanded political as well as religious rights and Cromwell was having none of it.

Yesterday, I joined Tony Benn and a large crowd in the Cotswolds to commemorate these martyrs to democracy. Organised by the Workers’ Educational Association, the Levellers’ Day festival remains one of the few living monuments to Britain’s hidden heritage of democracy. But why does Burford hold such a lonely place in our history calendar? Why are we still so shy of our radical past?

Last week saw a welter of commentary on Education Minister Bill Rammell’s call for teaching ‘British values’ in schools. The left took it as a cue for more historical self-flagellation; the right for cultural triumphalism. Yet, disappointingly, what Rammell had, in fact, urged was the anodyne incorporation of ‘modern British cultural and social history into the citizenship curriculum’. What he should have demanded is a vigorous exploration of our democratic heritage in schools and communities alike.

more from The Observer here.

Grappling with the Memory of the “Dirty War” in Argentina

In the Boston Review, Marc B. Haefele on Agrentina’s attempt to grapple with its past.

On the 30th anniversary of the coup the Naval Mechanics School (known by its Spanish acronym, ESMA) reopened as “The Space for Memory.” …The ESMA memory space is a key part of this swerving new democracy’s campaign against its past. There once was talk of leveling the place, but President Nestor Kirchner decreed that it should become a museum, a memorial. Kirchner is the first Argentine president to dare wield history against his opposition, which includes a merchants’ organization that prospered during the dictatorship and the Catholic Church, which supported the dictatorship and ratted out dissident clerics. On the 30th anniversary of the coup, Kirchner hosted a memorial that was duplicated in all Argentine consulates and embassies. Some have argued that he was playing politics with this most shameful episode in the nation’s history, that the “dirty war” should be recalled only in silence. But others say that Kirchner’s somber ceremonials were far better for the country than what one scholar called the “percepticide” of official forgetting by two previous presidents, Raul Alfonsin and Carlos Menem.

The forgetting was not confined to presidents or to the police, navy, army, and air force. Didn’t the 12th-floor tenants on Libertador’s 8000 block see the headlights every night, see the gate open, hear the car doors slam, hear the screams of the abducted and the curses and blows? Didn’t they smell the improvised crematoria? Probably. Did they draw the curtains, turn on the air conditioner? Perhaps. What about the night shift at the Gillette plant that used to be across the street? Did the workers take sidelong glances out the window? Kids at the polytechnic high school next door said they heard loud music from the ESMA during the day, apparently played to drown out the screams.

hawkinson, philosopher


For all of Tim Hawkinson’s entertaining use of sound and movement in his work, his sculpture’s stunning inventiveness and the way it responds to the history of media and technology, he is ultimately interested in some very old questions. Hawkinson connects the more recent influences of conceptualism, kinetic art, sound and installation work to a tradition of philosophical speculation and religious thought deeply embedded in American culture and most famously articulated in the 19th-century literature of Emerson, Whitman, and especially Herman Melville. But his work is far from “literary” in its experience and instead drops you in the middle of an age-old puzzle about the nature of our world and our place in it—forcing you to grapple with the meaning of all the strange sounds, intricate constructions and whirring machines that surround you. The recent retrospective of his work at LACMA, designed and installed by Hawkinson himself, presents a self-portrait of the artist as engaged in an obsessive, philosophical quest, in which anything, from manila envelopes to model ships, can take on special significance. To get at some of the fundamental issues in Hawkinson’s varied sculptural practice, I will focus here on the parallels between a few pieces which use the nautical as a metaphor for a mode of philosophical inquiry that is present in much of his other work.

more from X-TRA here.

alex katz


The contrast between neat self-containment and eruptive gesturalism — between uptight small figures and spontaneous nature, indeed, figures banalized by their inhibitions and nature flaring into unpredictable sublimity in moments of uninhibited self-expression — informs all of Katz’s ‘60s paintings, giving them a dialectical intensity, even feverish tension, never associated with the “cool” Katz. I am suggesting that Katz’s paintings are emotionally dense — not to say romantic — despite themselves. One wonders if his gestural energy is a residue of the abstract gestural sublime in Pollock’s all-over paintings, deliberately tilting it away from its superficial rhythmic crust toward the chaotic depths below. Indeed, Katz’s gesturalism is mischievously discomforting, even subversive of what seem to be socially proper human relationships. But then there is tension between Don and Marisol in the two 1960s paintings devoted to them, and the tension leaks out in the handling.

more from artnet here.

India Debates Affirmative Action

In Outlook India, a few pieces on quotas (affirmative action for lower castes and “Other Backward Classes”), including one on lessons from the US.


Sixteen years ago, it was college students from Delhi and neighbouring states who took to the streets protesting then prime minister V.P.

Singh’s decision to reserve 27 per cent seats in government jobs for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). In the hot sweaty summer of 2006, it is medical students of Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai who arespearheading the protest against Union human resources development minister Arjun Singh’s decision to extend the same percentage of quota in centrally funded colleges.

As the government tries to work out a solution to the highly emotive issue, the anti-quota voices have become shrill, their symbols of protest often taking on a distinct caste overtone. Take, for instance, students sweeping the floors of their campuses, as if to suggest quotas would leave them with no choice but to take to menial jobs. “Why must the protesters always take to a broom or shoe-brush? Why don’t they milk cows? Are they not the preserve of certain castes?” asks a Dalit [“untouchable”] student.

Bestselling Bennett heads prize shortlist

From The Guardian:Bennettbown128

Alan Bennett’s latest bestseller was shortlisted last night for the leading book award in its field, the BBC Four Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. He is tipped to beat the other five works nominated. But if he does, the last thing he will need is the £31,000 prize money. For Bennett’s Untold Stories has already sold more than 10 times as many copies as the rest of the shortlist put together. And he has sold more than 400 times the number of the title regarded as most likely to pip him, Jerry Brotton’s The Sale of the Late King’s Goods.

Untold Stories has shifted 333,268 copies in hardback in the eight months since it was published, considered an extraordinary performance for a work with literary qualities. It sold more than £150,000 worth of copies at Christmas alone. Sales figures for the shortlist’s other titles are: 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, by James Shapiro, 18,201 copies; Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt, 5,303; The Orientalist, by Tom Reiss, 1,221; Bad Faith, by Carmen Callil, 1,108; The Sale of the Late King’s Goods, by Jerry Brotton, 796.

More here.

Al Gore: Eco matinee idol?

From Nature:

Gore_1 An Inconvenient Truth, a feature film starring former vice-president Al Gore as Al Gore giving his PowerPoint presentation on climate change, opens in New York and Los Angeles on 24 May and elsewhere throughout the summer. tackles the big questions surrounding this much talked-about film.

Climate-change scientists who have seen it say that the main thrust of the presentation is correct, although they do disagree with details here and there. Some of his more melodramatic moments might make those used to the cautious language of scientific papers a bit uncomfortable. The wretched chaos in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina gets a lot of screen time, for example. Most climate scientists are very scrupulous about explaining that individual hurricanes can never be said to be ’caused’ by global warming, although climate change may tend to increase storm numbers or severity. Gore never actually makes a causal link, but a lay viewer could easily infer it.

More here.

Your Dangerous Drugstore

Marcia Angell in the New York Review of Books:

PharmacyOn April 5, 2006, a New Jersey jury found that Merck’s arthritis drug Vioxx caused John McDarby, a seventy-seven-year-old retired insurance agent, to suffer the heart attack that left him debilitated in 2004. (The drug was not blamed for the heart attack of a second plaintiff in the same case.) The jury also found Merck guilty of consumer fraud for not warning doctors and the public of the drug’s cardiovascular risks. McDarby and his wife were awarded $4.5 million, plus another $9 million in punitive damages because the company was found to have misled the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Merck now faces about ten thousand similar lawsuits, and has vowed to fight every one of them. So far, there have been verdicts in four cases—two for Merck and two against (the McDarby case and an earlier one in Texas, in which the plaintiff was awarded $253.5 million, which under Texas law must be cut to $26.1 million).[1] If there are more losses, and the chances are there will be, Merck, despite its defiant talk, may ultimately have to try to reach a settlement instead of fighting each case.[2]

The defeat was not just a loss for Merck, but for the industry as a whole, which has seen its reputation plummet in the past few years. Polls show that among American businesses, the pharmaceutical industry now ranks near the bottom in public approval—above tobacco and oil companies, but well below airlines and banks and even insurance companies. This situation contrasts sharply with the generally high regard in which the industry was held just a few years ago.

More here.

Wake Up and Smell the Corn

Michael Hochman in Science:

200651621Most organisms can tell the difference between night and day simply by taking a look outside. But some may rely on more subtle clues. A few years ago, scientists discovered that corn plants release a different set of chemicals into the air in the morning and evening. Might the M. separate caterpillars, which live on corn plants throughout Asia, use these odors to plan their schedules?

A group of researchers at Kyoto University in Japan decided to test the theory by collecting gas from the plants during the day and at night. They then exposed one set of caterpillar larvae to the daytime fumes and another set to the evening fumes and observed the larvae for several hours. The creatures were almost 50% more likely to go into hiding–which they typically do during the daytime–after being exposed to the “day” fumes than they were when exposed to the “night” fumes. Night fumes made the caterpillars come out of hiding to feed on leaves, their typical evening activity. Surprisingly, changing the lighting conditions had no effect on the caterpillar behavior, indicating that the insects use plant scent alone as an alarm clock, says study co-author Junji Takabayashi.

More here.

Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

From the Agha Khan Development Network:

Sp_highness_pic_1An opinion poll reported recently that what American graduates want as their graduation speaker more than anyone is “someone they could relate to”. But that test, says the poll, showed the most popular university speaker in recent years was the Sesame street character, Kermit the Frog. I found it a bit intimidating to wonder just where the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims would rank on the “relating” scale in comparison to Kermit the Frog.

Ceremonies of the sort we observe today are valuable because they help us to bridge the past and the future – to see ourselves as players in larger narratives. This School’s narrative is now sixty years old – embracing the whole of the postwar period. In that time you have dramatically broadened both the communities you serve and the programs through which you serve them.

Your history reflects a continuing conviction that the challenges of our times are fundamentally global ones – calling both for multi-disciplinary and multi-national responses.

Even as SIPA marks its 60th anniversary, I am approaching an anniversary of my own – the 50th anniversary next year of my role as Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

While I was educated in the West, my perspective over these fifty years has been profoundly shaped by the countries of South and Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa, where the Ismaili people live and where they are largely concentrated. For five decades, that has been my world – my virtually permanent preoccupation. And it is out of that experience that I speak today.

For the developing world, the past half-century has been a time of recurring hope and frequent disappointment. Great waves of change have washed over the landscape – from the crumbling of colonial hegemonies in mid century to the recent collapse of communist empires. But too often, what rushed in to replace the old order were empty hopes—not only the false allure of state socialism, non-alignment, and single-party rule, but also the false glories of romantic nationalism and narrow tribalism, and the false dawn of runaway individualism.

More here.  [Thanks to Atiya B. Khan.]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Some Recent Considerations of Aesthetics and Ethics

Deyan Sudjic considers the ethics of architecture in light of Rem Koolhaas’ design of Central China Television’s new headquarters in Beijing, in

[W]hen Koolhaas had the shrewdness to stay out of the race to secure New York’s Ground Zero master-plan commission but decided instead to take his chances in the competition to design the new headquarters of Central China Television (CCTV) in Beijing, he talked about the emptiness of American values, contrasting them unfavourably with the energy of Asia.

Asked about the ethical implications of the CCTV project, Koolhaas’ first response was to suggest that China’s system is changing so fast that by the time his building is completed CCTV will have been privatized, and China will have given up repression as a routine political tool. It’s unlikely that Mies van der Rohe would have had a very sympathetic hearing if he had won the 1933 competition for the Reichsbank in Berlin and come up with the same kind of arguments about the bright future promised by the imminent economic transformation of Hitler’s Germany. More recently Koolhaas has taken a more overtly political line: ‘What attracts me about China is that there is still a state. There is something that can take initiative on a scale and of a nature that almost no other body that we know of today could ever afford or contemplate. Everywhere else, and particularly in architecture, money is everything now. So that is blatantly not a good situation as it leads to compromises of quality. Money is a less fundamental tenet of their ideology.’ So there.

Lindsay Beyerstein’s recent posts on aesthetics and politics/ethics are also worth reading.