Thursday, February 09, 2006

I have purchased a copy of "Terror and Liberalism"

I've bought a copy of Paul Berman's book that was responsible for Nick's epiphany of Decency. I have taken a sneaky look at the end and he prefers liberalism. I will be writing a review of it in these pages quite soon now. Or alternatively, I may be convinced and dismantle the site weeping bitter tears of regret for my wasted years of Indecency. But somehow I doubt it.

In related news, the NC column did appear in the Standard yesterday; I saw it over someone's shoulder on the Tube. But I didn't buy a copy because I was reading Terror and Liberalism and it's not on the blog yet. So now I am scuffling round trying to find a copy of yesterday's Standard. I hate the internets.

PS: I am running short of book storage space so I will happily put it in the post to any other contributor who fancies a look once I have finished it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watch out matey: you might turn into a Harry's Place Decent, ever fulminating against the "pseudo left" the "third worldist left" and Scary Muslims.

2/09/2006 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

I'll happily take it off you once you're done with it -- I tried to buy a copy last week, but despite the bookshop having a large "Terrorism" section, it wasn't to be found.

(Perhaps I should have looked in "Liberalism".)

2/09/2006 07:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Simon said...

I don't think I've ever read a single word by Paul Berman. Does he have a regular column anywhere I can read, or is he a strictly book-length Decentist?

In fact it's just occurred to me I don't know anything about him at all. Is he a journalist, or an academic, or what?

2/09/2006 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SECTION: A; Pg. 12

LENGTH: 777 words

HEADLINE: I'd rather die than live to be a hundred



DOGS would you live for ever?" bellowed Frederick the Great at his troops as they fled from an 18thcentury battlefield.

Well, in the 21st century, some will make a stab at doing just that.

The Government Actuary Department predicts that 1.2 million people in their thirties will live to 100 and beyond, which maybe isn't for ever but breaks all previous assumptions about life expectancy. Soon if you keel over at three score years and 10, your friends will be mourning your tragically early death.

Nor need old age be a drooling dotage. Rumpole of the Bailey used to light up, order another bottle of claret and say he would rather go quickly than spend years staring at the wall in an old people's home. Yet the same advances in medical technology that are increasing life expectancy are also improving the quality of old age.

We have women in their sixties being artificially impregnated and men in their nineties running marathons. No Sunday supplement is complete without pieces on the lines of "50 is the new 30". However silly they are, they reveal how better health is stretching the old distinctions of age and youth.

It seems curmudgeonly to grumble, but the obvious point is that in one respect a rigid distinction between age and youth remains. The young must work to provide health care and pensions for the old, and already they're getting a terrible deal.

Because the old vote, politicians give pensioners counciltax relief and free TV licences regardless of whether they need them or not. In the last election, the Liberal Democrats ran a cynical-campaign that promised to transfer wealth from young couples, often with children to raise, to OAPs.

Unless the young start turning out en masse, the logic of democracy is that the old will get their money.

Nor is the culture of people who take good health as their due necessarily healthy. The Rise of the Body, a book by Herve Juvin, a French specialist in pensions and insurance, is causing a stir because he details remorselessly how longer life expectancy changes basic assumptions.

Marriage goes out of the window. How can you persuade twentysomethings to swear to be true until death do them part when death is 80 years away?

On the one hand, people become fantastically intolerant of threats to their wellbeing.

When they only expected to live to 70, no one bothered about passive smoking. When they think they can live to 100, the merest whiff of smoke in the air causes apoplexy. On the other, they can be very servile and attempt to appease Islamists who threaten to blow apart their paradise.

I'll try to keep going for as long as I can, but Rumpole's claret with a cheroot still seems an appealing exit strategy.

Rescued by a free bendy The odds are Blair stays IN HIS satire of literary London, The Information, Martin Amis drops plenty of clues that his mock villain Gwyn Barry is a worthless man. It's not only that he is the shallow and vain author of vapid and politically correct novels, the barefaced Barry actually persuades his wife he should be allowed to have an affair because great artists have "needs" they must satisfy.

I used to think that this was a satirical line and life wasn't like that.

And indeed it isn't, as Francesca Annis has proved to Ralph Fiennes.

OUTSIDE Centre Point, I patted my pockets and found I had left my wallet at home. Never mind: I had a few coins and duly put Pounds 1.50 into one of those new ticket machines. It took the change but didn't give me a ticket. I put in another Pounds 1.50 and it did it again, leaving me flat broke. I was bracing myself for a long walk when one of Ken Livingstone's marvellous free buses pulled up. Like everyone else, I jumped on through the back door without paying. There was no one to stop us because the Great Socialist got rid of the conductors when he scrapped the Routemasters.

I don't like breaking the law and if the Mayor sends me my Pounds 3 and a stamped addressed envelope, I shall send him his Pounds 1.50.

TONY BLAIR U-turns on his education bill, and the papers are full of predictions he will decide the game isn't worth the candle and retire.

Are the commentators right?

Working on the sound principle that a political gambler is a better guide than a political pundit - for at least he puts his money where his mouth is - I turn to Mike Smithson, manager of

A weary note enters his voice.

Money piled on Blair resigning after David Kelly's suicide. The price fell to below evens before the release of the Hutton Report, and again when he had health problems in 2004, and again after the 2005 election.

"He's still there," sighed Smithson. "No one has ever made money betting against Tony Blair."

AS THE strict morality of Victorian England came into fashion in the 19th century, roue peers who grew up in the permissive days of the Regency would complain that they had to be careful about what they said in front of grownup sons for fear of offending delicate sensibilities.

The same fate has befallen Sir Mick Jagger, 62. Unable to understand the morality of George W Bush's America, he bellows that it was "absolutely ridiculous" and "completely unnecessary" for the US networks to censor the Rolling Stones set at the National Football League Superbowl on Sunday. They blanked out offending lyrics from Start Me Up and Rough Justice. The only song the producers allowed Sir Mick to sing in full was (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. Alas, at his age and in these times, he can't.

2/09/2006 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous bruschettaboy said...

Thanks very much. The joke item at the end is proof positive that Nick does this column in one single brain-dump and doesn't read it back before sending it, not even once.

2/09/2006 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It's amazing what great Nick Cohen watching you can do when at home ill. I think these two are splendid - Cohen plotted to ensure Livingstone was Mayor, and his predictions aren't very good:

Hungary for change
Evening Standard (London), May 29, 1998

A SECRET dinner was held in Soho last night. Stealthily, supporters of Ken Living-stone made their way to the Gay Hussar restaurant, whispered the password - 'Tribune' - and were led to the Tom Driberg Memorial Suite.

There politicians such as Michael Foot, Brian Sedge-more and Livingstone himself, and troublesome scribes including Ian Aitken and Nick Cohen, plotted how they could ensure Livingstone becomes Mayor, while munching on goulash and Hungarian dumplings. One of the peers present much enjoyed his wild cherry soup.

"Ken is really serious about standing," one present tells me. "Especially since he saw the projections of Peter Snow's swingometer."


Evening Standard (London), Jul 28, 2004

HOW appropriate that Paul Foot's wake should prompt more talk of Tony Blair's fate. Intriguingly, Observer political commentator Nick Cohen was seen in deep conversation with a Private Eye hack who asked Cohen to "put his money where his mouth is" and settle on a date when he thinks Blair will resign as PM. Cohen staked Pounds 50 on the Prime Minister being gone by 3 September. That's this year, not next.

2/09/2006 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Aarononovitch has an interesting idea of free speech.

He has posted a deeply personally offensive attack on me, a private individual he does not know.

Why? Because I post two inoffensive comments on his Times blog.

What is more he solicits other offensive remarks about me to be posted in his comments thread (on cue the Decents from Harry's Place storm in) and bars me from responding to them in comments.

Its an interesting use and abuse of the Times blog.

2/10/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest complaining to the readers' editor, or similar, but the Times (like the Telegraph) doesn't have one.

2/10/2006 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

Right. We're muslimonazi appeasers because we all want to live to 150.

Those of us on the real, honest, decent left, quaff strong ale between puffs on a fat cheroot while hopping across motorways. We look death right in the eye. We few. We happy few. We band of brothers...

Great stuff. Simon - There's a Paul berman article here, if you're so inclined.

2/10/2006 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

no, sorry, here

2/10/2006 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Almost off-topic, but my favourite Housman parody:

What, still alive at twenty-two,
A fine upstanding lad like you? ...

I can't remember the rest.

Over at H'sP, Marcus is complaining that BBC journalists don't know how to Google. Neither can Nick.

...the barefaced Barry actually persuades his wife he should be allowed to have an affair because great artists have "needs" they must satisfy.
I used to think that this was a satirical line and life wasn't like that.

Wikipedia, invaluable as always (if you have the first idea what to look for):

"Blake's marriage to Catherine remained a close and devoted one until his death. There were early problems, however, such as Catherine's illiteracy and the couple's failure to produce children. At one point, in accordance with the beliefs of the Swedenborgian Society, Blake suggested bringing in a concubine. Catherine was distressed at the idea, and Blake promptly withdrew it."

And another socialist:

In 1891 Wells married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells, but left her in 1894 for one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins, whom he married in 1895. He had two sons by Amy: George Philip (known as 'Gip') in 1901 and Frank Richard in 1903.
During his marriage to Amy, Wells had liaisons with a number of women, including American birth control activist Margaret Sanger. He had a daughter, Anna-Jane, with writer Amber Reeves in 19091 and in 1914, a son, Anthony West, by novelist and feminist Rebecca West, twenty-six years his junior. In spite of Amy Catherine's knowledge of some of these affairs, she remained married to Wells until her death in 1927.
"I was never a great amorist," Wells wrote in An Experiment in Autobiography (1934), "though I have loved several people very deeply."

Common knowledge, I'd have thought. BTW, "The Information" is an absolutely dire novel, one of the worst I've ever read, and caused me to revise my opinion of Martin.

2/10/2006 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Oh yes, and the thing I looked up first and forgot. There aren't that many "men in their nineties running marathons" though there is Abraham Weintraub, from the United States, the oldest man in the race at 91, [who] clocked 7-37-41. He's a member of the Greater New York Racing Team. I've been unable to find out whether or not hes's a freemason.

2/10/2006 08:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry Lamb said...

Housman parody (from a Staggers competition, I think) is by Hugh Kingsmill:

What, still alive at twenty-two,
A fine upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat 'tis hard to slit,
Slit your girl's, and swing for it.

Like enough, you won't be glad
When they come to hang you, lad;
But bacon's not the only thing
That's cured by hanging from a string.

So, when the spilt ink of the night
Spreads o'er the blotting pad of light,
Lads whose job is still to do
Shall whet their knives, and think of you.

2/11/2006 03:58:00 PM  

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