I received from my Azerbaidjani colleagues the following mail:

“Dear All,

Today January 20th, is the solemn Inauguration day in one part of the world… But on the other side of our little blue planet, Azerbaijani nation is commemorating the tragic day of its history. This January is the 19th anniversary from the Soviet’s intervention in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku on January 20th, 1990, massacring innocent people for nothing. We send you a little piece of a tragic history on the background of our three-colored flag. We want to share this grief and sorrow with you, dear to us community of CEU, with strong hope and belief that horror of the past will never repeat itself in the future. With kindest regards, Azerbaijani students of CEU.”

They created a .pdf file but it is too large tu be uploaded here. Anyway, you can read more about this event here and here.

This class was held by Irving Singer at MIT (2004). There are four sessions. I didn’t find session two (I don’t now why). You can also watch session three and session four. You can watch the whole course here. Enjoy! (via Gramo)

Session one:

Libel and hypocrisy

Recently, I had a discussion here with a friend of mine. I held that it is perfectly coherent to publicly support basic equal rights for ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities, while still making privately jokes about their ways of life. My friend accused me of hypocrisy.

Now here’s a quote from Bhikhu Parekh:

“In most societies libel is an offense. Broadly speaking it consists in making public, untruthful damaging remarks about an individual that go beyond fair comment. Libel is an offense, not so much because it causes pain to, or offends the feelings of, the individual concerned, for the damaging and untruthful remarks made in private do not constitute libel, as because they lower him in the eyes of others, damage his social standing, and harm his reputation” (bold emphasis mine; italic emphasis in original).

[source: Bhikhu Parekh, “The Rushdie Affair: Research Agenda for Political Philosophy”, in: Will Kymlicka (ed.), The Rights of Minority Cultures, OUP, 1995, p. 314]

The legal distinction between private and public shows that there are things you can do in private, but not in public. So it is perfectly coherent to publicly support, say, the rights of gays, while still be able to have a good laugh when you hear, in private, a good joke about homosexuals. But is it also a moral thing to do both? I think so. A simple joke is something which is not serious: neither in its content, nor in its purpose. This is why a joke cannot be considered as “libel”: it does not intend harm (it does not intend to demean the social status of a gay person). We “just” joke (now we’re laughing at you as a gay, and then probably we’ll be laughing at me as a blonde). Of course, this is totally different from taking a stance in mass-media and saying that homosexuals are ill, disgusting, etc.


 The articles posted below (dated December 1-2, 2008) were written in the last year. They are imported from my personal blog (in Romanian).

This is why there might be some inconsistency between what some posts say and the date when they were written. Please do accept my apologies for this. Although they are not actual anymore, I thought what they say may still be interesting: this is the reason why I imported them here.

Things are a bit messy right now, because this blog was born very recently. I promise the quality of the blog will increase in time.

Whaaaaaat? Half of Cambridge students admit that they practice plagiarism????!!!! 64 % of the Law School students already did that?!!!!! Herr Rambu must be happy now… Read the article in The Daily Telegraph, here.

According to this study, “Grandparent Caregivers Cut Kid’s Injury Risk in Half”. A short and nice analysis of the study (written by Summer Johnsom for blog.bioethics.net) here. No news, indeed. If you don’t have grandparents, you should buy some… I know this better than anyone!

[UPDATE. The post was moved from my previous blog]

In the year 2000, Romania confronted itself with a very nasty political situation: in the second tour of elections for the Romanian Presidency, we had to choose between a former communist leader (Ion Iliescu) and the leader of the far-right party (Corneliu Vadim Tudor). The situation was awful indeed: we hated them both, but we still had to vote for one of them. So we elected the one that seemed, at that time, the lesser wrong: we elected the former communist leader. Cynical as it were, many people who suffered under the communist regime were then obliged to vote for a communist, because of the fear of the far-right policies.

The USA seems to be in the same political situation now. On the one hand, there are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – who are better suited to be TV stars, showmen or whatever – but not presidents! They look so weak, a sort of “crash test dummies”, or actors begging for audience. Now, in the actual context, where Russia is going to be governed in the next 10 years, in a way or another, by the same unmerciful and strong “Tzar” Putin; where terrorism has become a real threat to all of us; where extremism and xenophobia undergo a strong revival all over the world; where USA must continue to be the guardian of liberal values and individual rights in the world – in this context, the president of the USA must be a strong person – not a crash test dummy. USA needs a new Margaret Tacher – not a Hillary Clinton. USA needs a new Ronald Reagan – not a Barack Obama.

On the other hand, there is John McCain. He is not a TV star – on the contrary, it seems that he lacks a lot of charisma. He seems – at least prima facie – to be a strong person (well, he fought in Vietnam, right?). But just take a closer look at his political opinions. He strongly opposes gay marriages. He strongly opposes abortion. So McCain (and many republicans, as a matter of fact) don’t give a damn on liberal rights: he denies to some people the right to marry whomever they wish; and he denies others the right to do with their bodies whatever they wish. The USA led by John McCain cannot be the guardian of human rights. It cannot be the champion of democracy and liberalism in the world.

So it seems to me that the USA undergo this year a process of “Romanianization”: the Americans have to choose between two wrongs: Clinton or Obama, on the one hand, and McCain, on the other hand. Ho is the lesser wrong? What will the Americans choose, between the Muppets show and the potential dictator? I’m afraid this time the answer is not that easy anymore…