Friday, December 29, 2006


Aaro asserts that in general the Blair government's statements have more credibility than the claims of moon landing conspiracy theorists and tarot readers. Well I suppose it can be argued either way, but it would have been nice to see some evidence. He also lays into the Independent and man does he beat them up good - to be honest, in my view this stuff would be better kept on the blog, because it really is just the journalistic equivalent of shouting at the television (tangentially to which subject, the Nick Cohen column in the Evening Standard on Wednesday had him saying that "in a state of confusion, I found myself wandering down Oxford Street on Christmas day rather than Boxing Day, looking for the sales" Hell of a party, I presume).

On the other hand, maybe the blog stuff is all right, because Aaro has quite a few of his own stock in trade, the slippery, half-attached fact. The proposition that "whipping and discipline is more severe than ever" is not refuted by the fact that "there have been more rebellions by MPs over the last five years than at any time in parliamentary history". A moment's thought out to be enough to realise that it is possible for party discipline to be both severe and ineffective, and a further moment to recall that Hazel Blears was Chief Whip for quite a bit of the last five years would probably suggest that this is a fertile line of inquiry.

Pedantry watch: "Conventional wisdom" is not just a handy way of saying "stuff that everyone thinks without checking". It is a phrase brought into the language by JK Galbraith. In context (chapter 2 of "The Affluent Society"), conventional wisdom specifically means the set of beliefs that one has to profess in order to be considered respectable ("the ideas that are esteemed at any time for their acceptability"). It is a concept that is tied up with the question of who has the power in society (an alternative definition would be that the conventional wisdom is those propositions which depend for their acceptance on their convenience to rich men). The orthodoxies of marginal people, conspiracy theorists and so on might be just as limiting and fallacious as the pronouncements of Tony Blair, but they can't be conventional wisdom. Nor can a popular sentiment about being angry about parking meters really be considered "conventional wisdom", although the idea that state involvement in the second homes market is inconceivable (which ends up being Aaro's punchline) certainly is a paradigm example of conventional wisdom.

This matters, because the discussion of the distinction between scepticism and cynicism is a set up really, for the classic Aaro tactic (which may end up being his central contribution to Decentism) of defending the actual policy of the government of the day, while pretending to be an embattled minority. For truly, the true sceptic is the man who can be sceptical of scepticism itself, and believe what he's told. This point of view might have been in Socrates or one of the other Greeks, but I doubt it got much play then either.

And so bouquets to Aaro's fellow in "grown up liberalism", Mr Martin Kettle. I notice that Aaro tries to pretend that Kettle was only threatening us that our constant bickering at Mr Tony might "give an advantage to the BNP"; presumably Kettle's actual conclusion (that we were paving the way for Pinochet "or worse") was too ridiculous to repeat, although it is rather dirty pool to mention the amount of abuse that Kettle got in the comments section without quoting the manner in which he provoked it.

sidebar: One little oddity, by the way, which I only mention because it brings a smile to my face. Aaro claims that the comments section at the Guardian blog accused Martin Kettle of "angling for a peerage". They didn't (I just checked, and all the mentions of peerages, Lordships, etc are in the context of the Labour Party allegedly selling them). I only mention this, because there is only one occasion on that blog in which a columnist was accused of angling for a peerage. The columnist was Michael White, the accuser was me, and I think it is pretty clear from context that I was joking (White had accused Lord Steyn of angling for a column and I thought a bit of tu quoque was in order). However my gosh did it strike a nerve. Quite a few others at the Guardian have been falling over themselves to say that they're not chasing a peerage either and now Aaro too. Protest too much? I think I will circulate a Pledgebank pledge ("I pledge not to sell out and accept a peerage, but only if the following list of my journalistic rivals do too").

Here's a challenge for you - find something bad written in the British press about Hilary Benn. You won't. Why not? Because he's done a very good job as International Development Secretary and has been in general an honest and principled politician. Milliband and Alan Johnson (the minister, not the editor of Democratiya, etc) have also done a reasonably competent administrative job and got a good press as a result. Aaro, Kettle, John Lloyd etc are talking about a generalised cycnicism about politics, when what we're actually seeing is the normal correlation between doing a bad job and getting a bollocking.

PS: I fear for Aaro's productivity, given that he reads his blog occasionally and I am about to tell him that the online multiplayer versions of his favourite wargames are much more fun than playing against the computer. Is anyone interested in getting together a team to challenge the Decents to a few rounds of "Full Spectrum Warrior"?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Kwik Komment

The good end happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
Marx, Theses on Feuerbach

Well, hot diggity-dang. Wrong agane! (As was Simon, the only commenter who ventured a prediction, but we'll come to that.) Nick abandoned his usual pith for a full-blown essay, and one which was largely well received by the pack who comment on such things.

Simon, it doesn't look like Nick is about to jump for the Hate Mail just yet. True, he worries about taxation, which is a favourite of the Mail (whose editors probably consider the typical reader to be a shopkeeper who fills in his own return, unlike the academics or civil servants who favour the Guardian - and are on PAYE), but the Mail's line is given to us by 'Harl' in the comments:

Not too put too fine a point on it, but on the whole the super-rich tend to pay for their own maintenance, and they pay handsomely. Rather, it is the Vicky Pollards of this country and their pathologies which eat into Britains revenues. Yes, indeed it is the fat, baby-making, uneducated, unwashed and unruly sectors of our society wot bankrupt us.

Nick however makes two points against this. 1) The super-rich do not pay for their own maintenance, rather they sponge; and 2) they actively rob the Treasury (and therefore us) by diverting their taxes elsewhere: if you bought product X at your local Asian shop, the tax on the shopkeeper's profits would go to the Inland Revenue; if you bought it in BHS (Nick's example), that tax would be winged to Monaco to keep warm with millions like it. So far, well, so good. I don't disagree (though I don't claim any special knowledge about the super-rich, still less about the specifics of Philip Green's earnings). True, if Nick were to throw in some antic spellings and quotations from Dante in the original, he'd be close to doing a creditable impression of Ezra Pound, but the old loon had to use a term from later in Harl's comment, 'verve.'

Sigh. So Nick, having pissed off many faithful readers by calling anyone he disagrees with the far left has no abandoned his escape to the Hate Mail by pissing off anyone not on the far left with the rest of his article. As Rubin in the comments notes, his opening sentence is pure guff:

The great domestic political question of the 20th century was whether the state's tax rates should be set to benefit the working or middle class.

What isn't this guilty of? Hyperpole? Sweeping generalisation? Over-simplification? Being utter rot?

So why did I open with two over-used quotations? The first was suggested by this:

I'm not sure that this defence of an unjust system can last much longer when it is becoming very clear that the super-rich's indemnity from taxation is unbalancing the public accounts.

There are two statements here: the super-rich's indemnity from taxation is unbalancing the public accounts (whether this is true or not, I will leave to the other Bruschetta Boy) and the prediction that the defence of this unjust system cannot last (and its corrollary, that the system too cannot last). What Nick does not say is how we can expect to see this system and its defence overthrown.

A few years ago, I read some commentator - it may have been Nick Hornby or Jim White - after taking his son to a football match where their team lost remark that his son thought it would all come right in the last ten minutes as if football followed the structure of Hollywood. Nick seems to have seen too many films and not enough football matches. Sometimes the wrong guys win.

If you think that's too strong an interpretation he continues:

And as it debauches the economy, it also debauches politics.

Note the present tense. Politics is being debauched now: it was previously in, as it were, a bauched state, even, possibly, under Major and Thatcher.

When he looked back from the early 19th century and tried to explain why there had been a revolution in France in 1789 but not Britain, Alexis de Tocqueville said: 'In England, the poor man enjoyed the privilege of exemption from taxation; in France, the rich.'

Here, Nick all but predicts a revolution, but without having the nerve to either forecast who will lead it or to advocate it himself. For he said a fortnight ago, Commentators can't say anything sensible about the next election until they see how Gordon Brown does as Prime Minister which suggests to me that he expects the succession to take place. Voting Labour cannot end this state of affairs then. Nor can voting Tory or Liberal Democrat or Respect or for anyone else. What's left has to be revolution. If that's not a far left position, I don't know what is.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday Forecast

Lest I forget.

I'm not sure that Aaro will appear next week; I suspect that the Times won't appear on Boxing Day (when he's next due), but if he does, I think he will go for a heart-rending tale of a religious minority, misunderstood by all around them - yes, Christians in Bethlehem. Possible subtext: I'm not biased you understand, but Palestine is a rubbish country, isn't it? He could also have a go at Archbish Rowan Willams (as he has before).

Nick should appear in the Observer. I hope that, as a grouchy atheist, he doesn't bother with all of this holiday stuff, and look back over the year (if he does, I'm sunk). Possible subjects "Having followed what passes for argument among many bloggers (see Harry's Place for how it should be done) for a number of years now, I can't say that I'm in the least surprised that the man the police arrested for the murders in Suffolk turned out to keep a LiveSpace journal." Sian and Lembit: pretty much barn door at two paces for Nick, Lib Dems, Lib Dems who like a drink (for some reason most of the press has laid off Lembit's pursuits of 'socialising and drinking' - Hate Mail on Sunday - I can't think why), Lib Dems who help Romanian emigrees. And there's a chance for a pop at the Welsh too. Columnist gold, in short. Nick's also the sort of (ex-?) leftie who passionately hates the far right, so I think he'll congratulate the Guardian for fearless investigative reporting. And the grudging seasonal note: Hooray for panto and a break at last from agitprop!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Gloat

Well, a gloat of sorts. My semi-right prediction (I was totally wrong regarding Nick, of course) It's possible that DA will go with the (sensible, IMO) feminist line that government policy on prostitution makes it possible for mad serial killers to operate, but that may be projection on my part. Well, Aaro did consider this position, before rejecting it. So, full marks to 'Redpesto' - even though he said that Aaro wouldn't discuss this.
It's taken me a day to get round to this - and this is a sort of placemarker - because Dave claims that he read an article by a former aide to David Blunkett, Katharine Raymond, who had been involved in the drawing-up in 2004 of a consultation document on prostitution, called Paying the Price. (You can download the report and other gubbins from this Home Office page.) If he read it, then I should too: it's 120 pages (OK some are blank) of government report. Fascinating. So I haven't yet.
Anyway, DA quotes a passage or two to show that he has laboured through the whole thing, such as this.

And I discovered, to my surprise, that, experience in both Australia and Europe suggests that licensing schemes have failed to deliver the safe working environment that they set out to achieve.

The report I have is a PDF document, which is easily searched. You would think, in the context of the murders in Suffolk, that safe working environment would refer to freedom from attack. Page 85, section 9.18, complete and unabridged:

In respect of the lives of those involved in the trade, experience in both Australia and Europe suggests that licensing schemes have failed to deliver the safe working environment that they set out to achieve. While some licensed brothels provide some safety and support, there is evidence that some licensed brothel managers actively encourage sex without condoms, and some threaten dismissal if there is reluctance to comply with a client's wishes.

However, despite picking a paragraph which does not substantiate his point, Dave does adumbrate the pessimistic conclusions of the report very well. I think he's wrong - though mostly in the emphases he chooses. Tony Blair can’t stop an Ipswich teenager deciding to become a crack fiend .... This is true, though no one expects him to. Some of us may expect the state to, or at least be organised in a way which produces the fewest 'crack fiends'. I don't believe in 'governmental omnipotence' but I do believe that governments can choose more or less liberal policies and more or less effective ones.

I shall probably return to this.

The title is a little disingenuous: this post in fact contains two gloats. Nick, last week: But maybe it shouldn't be such a surprise that Mori reported in The Observer last week that Cameron's personal ratings had collapsed after his honeymoon period ... Well, the Observer's sister paper reports that ICM shows 8 point Tory lead. Really, Nick, DA showed how to attack the Tories - rubbish their policies, not their poll ratings.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nick shows what he's about

Well Evil BB was close, but got the wrong man. Nick is our guy for the Diana conspiracy theories. Others can do the line-by-line but I was struck by the following passage, which must tell us something of what is in the forthcoming book:

Today's far right needs to deny the Nazi concentration camps for the same reason today's far left needs to deny Serb concentration camps in Bosnia. For modern fascists or Serb nationalists, the images of Jews at Auschwitz or starving Bosnian Muslims behind barbed wire have to be dismissed as the forgeries of conspirators because the crimes they record are huge obstacles in the way of a revival of support for fascism or Serb nationalism.

FFS! Serb concentration-camp denialism was more-or-less confined to the Living Marxism/RCP crowd. The same people propagated a whole range of crap theories -- including that AIDS was a bit a scaremongering designed to roll back the sexual revolution -- before they morphed into semi-libertarian chat show comperes and the like. Pretty much everyone on the "far left" thought that the RCP were a bunch of nutters and provocateurs. But Nick takes what the RCP said to be something that "the far left" needs to believe! I used to think that Nick was deluded, getting crazier, but basically committed to telling the truth as he saw it. But he must know what he's doing in writing this.

Friday, December 15, 2006

And A Bit of Hitchens Watching

I think Lance Mannion is a superb blogger - and he's got an interesting post on Christopher Hitchens.

It's another example of what’s become Hitchens' defining trope. He sets up impossibly high, and phony, standards of morality, intelligence, insight, or whatever, that only Christopher Hitchens is stern enough, disciplined enough, intelligent enough to meet (and which he only has to meet inside his own head) and uses them to show how stern, disciplined, intelligent, or whatever he is and how everybody else comes up short.

For some reason, this seems like a good time to recommend Matthew Turner's Oliver Kamm sweepstake.

Friday Forecast - on a Friday shock!

Oh, this is hard. I don't think our boys will try the 'poor Mr Blair is being harrassed by shameless liberals in the Meeja, esp. the BBC, over loans for peerages, the Saudi deal, or indeed the government's own advice on Iraq.' It's possible that DA will go with the (sensible, IMO) feminist line that government policy on prostitution makes it possible for mad serial killers to operate, but that may be projection on my part. Nick may do torture and that Democratiya article - how we need a debate, it's only the truly closed-minded who are afraid to consider all sides, etc. I can't see how he can get the West End into this - perhaps he'll suggest a revised version of 'Death and the Maiden' where the torturer is revealed as a conscientious goodie. You know, like the Thomas Bowdler version of 'Lear' where Cordelia et al live.

Update Sunday 2:04 pm by DW. In the comments below Redpesto objected to my suggestion re Aaro I can't see how DA could do prostitution, as the New Labour line seems to be we'll allow two women to work together - then make it as difficult as possible for them to get punters because we disapprove of that sort of thing. Curiously, the Observer today argues that Downing Street blocked moves that would in effect have legalised prostitution because the Prime Minister was so concerned that hostile headlines would wreck plans to make sex workers' lives safer. and Katharine Raymond, a senior adviser to the former Home Secretary David Blunkett, reveals that he wanted to liberalise the law, allowing managed areas for prostitutes similar to those in mainland Europe. While the Redmond article indeed says that David Blunkett wanted what he called 'a grown-up debate', I really can't find any passage which could be interpreted as presenting Blair's objecting solely from fears of the censorious media. Indeed, she says In January this year the government finally came up with a watered-down series of proposals that took a small step in the right direction - a change of rules allowing prostitutes to work together, a crackdown on kerb crawlers and new methods to help women addicted to class-A drugs. Almost a year later, even these mild measures have not been enacted. which suggests to me that Blair (or others) shared the reaction they imputed to the press. However, I may be wrong in this reading. If so, then Red would be wrong: DA would have room for the argument that liberalisation is the New Labour line and only the media and the people, shameless, ignorant reactionaries all, stand in the way of sensible progress. However, I am now even less sure that this will be Dave's sermon of choice.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Singing From The Same Hymnsheet

OK, my forecast was completely wrong on both our boys. They do have one thing in common, however. In the week that Hazel Blears warned that a general election could be just "16 months away" our watchees both have digs at the Conservatives. Conincidence? Perhaps.

The more I think about it, the weaker Nick's thesis seems to be. I think the Frank Luntz Newsnight had some effect, but not nearly enough to conclude that "show-business made David Cameron leader of the opposition." And if the honeymoon period is finally over, that's not to conclude that Clarke or Davis would be any more popular. In sum, Nick was pertty much talking rubbish.

Aaro, by contrast, comes up with a column with which I completely agree. (I'm not going to lose the tag of being 'the nice one' this way, am I?) I've been frothing at the Today programme when this Tory family nonsense comes up.

Perhaps it is a gigantic failure of imagination on my part, but I cannot see how -- unless the subsidies and penalties were huge -- such policies would make a jot of difference. Middle-class people -- Conservative MPs even -- are prepared to take huge cuts in their standards of living so that they can divorce their spouses. They maintain second homes, move into poky flats, pay absurd lawyer’s fees, endure social embarrassment and huge upset, and all so that they don’t have to live with their once-chosen mates. Judged on an actuarial basis such behaviour is mad.

My imagination fails there too, Dave. One of his very best. I think home affairs and social policy are strengths of DA's, it's when he considers 'abroad' that he goes wrong.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Campaign for Real Realism

Further to the below, Conor Foley sets it out with respect to the "Magic Realist" view of foreign policy that seems to shape Decent politics.

Moral seriousness

From the latest edition of "Decentiya" (thanks to an anonymous commenter for that name), a "morally serious" contribution to "the torture debate". Personally, I gave up half way through, finding the experience of reading it to be unpleasantly like gargling with treacle. However, I know it is morally serious because it has been so judged by the Decent Norm Of Civilised Society (as opposed to the decent norms of civilised society, which have less of a place in this debate).

(Update 17:23 by Dave Weeden - the other BB. I think it's worth pointing out, and linking to, other reactions to that article. Shuggy has a post up on his own blog and the Drink-Soaked Trots for War and both have comments threads. Shuggy then replies to Norm's reply in which he says Stephen de Wijze does, in my opinion, have a too soft attitude towards torture .... I share this reading. I can't speak for the other BB.)

I am not sure what it means to be morally serious. As far as I can tell, it involves being very intelligent and thoughtful, while holding exactly the same opinions on a given subject which would be held by a moron. Philosophers are very good at this; as noted in the Bluffer's Guide to Philosophy, Professor RM Hare reached the most exalted level at which he was able to convincingly claim not to know what the word "it" meant.

If you look at Stephen de Wijze's actual position on the question of torture, it is this:

"When debating the problem of whether or not to use torture in the face of 9/11 style terrorism (and in some other rare cases), any proper decision is bound to leave those who decide, whichever way they do, with dirty hands. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Both sides of the argument are right and both sides are wrong. What is more, pointing out that this is a situation of ambiguity, uncertainty and legal and moral muddle is also right. It might be the best we can do under the circumstances"

Of course, this is not the same thing as:

"I don't know"

because "I don't know" would surely not be morally serious, and this is. Or is it? As far as I can see, de Wijze's actual view here picks up the balls and runs with it ... precisely nowhere. Unless he is badly misrepresenting this book, the entire moral and ethical content of it is precisely equal to the series of two or three thoughts that ran through your mind during the half a second after the first time you heard the phrase "ticking time bomb scenario". Plus a load of legal argumentation of the kind which is sensibly classified as "interesting, but not as interesting as a really good soup recipe".

De Wijze's own contribution to the debate appears to be the introduction of "the theory of dirty hands". Which is apparently on the cutting edge of modern moral philosophy, but if you were to hook my balls up to a van der Graff generator and say "Bruschettaboy, can you see a single thing in this theory which is anything more than a redescription of the problem", I'd say "No", at least until the thing warmed up.

I am very troubled by the suspicion that "Moral seriousness" is, like so much else in Decent politics, an aesthetic quality rather than a practical one. Like the ineffectual sorrow of Brian Brivati or the stentorian regret of Norm himself in the aftermath of Lancet 2006, and as I've mentioned before, what actually happens in the world often seems to be vastly less important than the attitude adopted to it. In intemperate moments, I've lashed out at Decents and suggested that they seemed more concerned with the welfare of their beautiful souls than with the victims they appeared to be crying crocodile tears over. I now think this that this is probably unfair; the problem is not so much one of good old fashioned hypocrisy as a lack of respect for the good old principle of cause and effect.

This was a passage in the Great Lost Paul Berman Review; that the Decents appear to have a strange contempt for something called "realism". As Oliver Kamm, who would, I think, generally count himself on the more hard-headed side of the Decentsphere puts it, the chief enemy of Decency is "a foreign policy tradition - commonly known as realism - that stresses interests rather than values". Berman characterises realism as an unproductive cynicism about the motivations of enemy actors. A significant subtext of the Mearsheimer & Walt kerfuffle had to do with the rejection of realism in international relations, the school of thought with which Mearsheimer is associated.

On the other hand, rejection of "realism" in this specialised academic sense shouldn't make one think any worse of "realism" in the more normal sense of the word. This would be the kind of realism that notes that dead people can't be brought back to life, that soldiers in Asia can't simultaneously be in Africa and that bullets once fired are gone and taxes will have to be levied to buy new ones. And similar common-sense points. It strikes me as notable that much of what is intrinsic to Decent politics has been the diagnosis of irretrievable moral corruption on The Left based on the symptoms of a large number of people making sensible practical comments. The argument for making this diagnosis appeared to be that there was a perceived immorality (or lack of "moral seriousness") in doing so when sufficiently great issues were at stake. And I really believe that in a number of cases - particularly Norm and Nick Cohen, who have obviously been vastly influential in second hand terms - the original source of this vehemence has been Berman's attack on "realism".

Could it be the case that the whole of the political tendency which had its culmination in the Euston Manifesto, rests on a simple linguistic confusion over the specialised and ordinary sense of the word "realism"? Could the whole of Decency be based on a mistake on a level with Christmas cracker puns? Could it?

Of course, this is not morally serious at all.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nick's Frost

Oh god, what did I forecast yesterday? "Nick: Islington, my part in its downfall." Why, oh why, didn't I just throw in the West End and David Cameron? I'd have been right. (There still are theatres in Islington, aren't there? Nick never seems to go to those.)

I read theatre reviews when I buy papers, but I don't remember them; especially those of productions I'm very unlikely to catch. Nick:

The West End success of Frost/Nixon is a hopeful sign that British theatre can at last escape from agitprop. Peter Morgan's play is a subtle examination of the first fight between television and politics, which leaves the audience feeling ambiguous when David Frost triumphs by forcing a stonewalling Richard Nixon to acknowledge his guilt for Watergate.

Frost/Nixon was reviewed in the Observer on Sunday August 27, 2006. 'West End success' may mean 'won an award' which would be more topical.

But Nick's theatre review was just an introduction for his observation that David Cameron was "created by the entertainment industry". (Other critics of the Boy David have suggested that he was created by Eton and also by PR, which makes for quite a lot of creation in my view.) If Nick was behind the times in which plays he sees, he was a long way back in his political analysis. Frank Luntz has been gone over by Political Betting, and in the comments after Cameron won. I know Nick has a semi-tabloid column these days, and counterfactuals and nuance aren't really his thing, but his research could at least have included the redoubtable Anthony Wells:

In ICM's study Ken Clarke was seen as genial, approachable, charismatic, tough and a serious political figure, but on the downside he was seen as arrogant and not particularly trustworthy. His arrogance was his weakness in Luntz's study too - people were turned off by Clarke's tendency to talk about himself and he came out surprisingly poorly.
ICM found that David Davis was seen as attractive, trustworthy, smart, competent, but also rather grey and uncharismatic. Even Davis's own campaign team accept that he is a comparatively weak public speaker, but these studies suggest there is a deeper problem with a lack of charisma.
David Cameron on the other hand shone in the qualitative polling - people found him presentable, trustworthy, confident and seemed to have a generally positive perception of him. Frank Luntz's Newsnight report said that reactions to David Cameron were the most positive he had ever seen such a test. Informing his group of Cameron's priviledged background did very little to lessen their ardour. On the downside ICM's test also found people thought that Cameron looked bland and shallow - for people who deride (or indeed praise) Cameron as the Conservative Tony Blair, the focus group evidence does seem to the support it.

As far as commentary goes, that is pretty much dead on. Cameron is bland and shallow (which is what Nick complains of in different words) as well as charismatic, but his rivals had insurmountable problems of their own.

As a former Labour Party member and as someone who regards the Observer as still a 'left-wing' newspaper, Nick's conclusion grates by omission.

Commentators can't say anything sensible about the next election until they see how Gordon Brown does as Prime Minister

Which misses the point that at least the Conservatives *elected* their leader, even if they were beguiled by showbiz. But isn't that the way of Democracy? Wasn't FDR's image manipulation (to hide his polio) showbiz too? At least the Tories got a vote. Hmph! And again, Hmmph!

PS Update 10:30. Frost/Nixon won the Editor's Award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. And here are the awards and nominees for Evening Standard Theatre Award Winners for 2001 to 2005. Now if Peter Morgan's award "is a hopeful sign that British theatre can at last escape from agitprop" then we should expect that the previous years it was in thrall to "agitprop." I dunno. You tell me.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Forecast

OK, here we go agane. Dave: ooh, blimey, multiculturalism, or why Blair was right in 1998 and still right in 2006 while Cameron is wrong, wrong, wrong. Nick: Islington, my part in its downfall.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nul Points or The Thursday After The Friday Before

Crickey, compared to the various Aaro Watchers and our loyal commenters, even the England Cricket team look sharp. I (BD) said that Aaro would go for Michael Grade and Nick would do Borat, white flight, and Gordon Brown. The other BB thought Nick would say something about muggers, and Aaro would speculate about Russian poisoners. Others went for Islamofascist polonium, Robin Hood, etc. And we got - Dave on Iraq and Nick on religion (I think). Like the dog returning to its vomit (is that the Bible?) or something.

I think DA is going through a particularly lucid phase, while Nick moves closer to the madness of Mel. I have one complaint about both - they should stop trying to write jokes. Both have been competently funny in the past and both seem to me to have mislaid their sense of taste. DA:

And hadn’t Stalinism mobilised the necessary resistance to Hitler, without which we in the over-scrupulous West would all now be dead or wearing lederhosen?


The ferocity of the Church of England's internal conflicts could make a Balkan warlord blanch.

I'm close to understanding the Eve Garrard position (on "Bush = Hitler") here. These jokes may work for less ostensibly heavy writers, but given that Dave has (I think) written about Nazism, and Nick thinks that Balkan warlords are a serious matter the flippancy seems pretty gross to me.
I don't really agree with Aaro, but it would take me quite a long time to explain why not (and much hair-splitting); while I sort of a agree with Nick, but I think he either doesn't know what he's talking about or he's loading the argument so much, that he's not worth bothering with. (Lots of Christians opposed slavery - and hence promoted liberty and equality - for example.) Nick seems to believe that inequality and slavery are religious values - in a politics good, religion bad way.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

time constrained aaroblogging

Sorry, time constrained. This week, Dave does Iraq, in classic "and another thing" style. Lots of quite slippery stuff here, but no real time to unpack and watch it (the same is true of his piece on Baroness Tonge, who is an apologist for people who blow up nightclubs and thus not the sort of person who is ever going to be on the same side as AW, even if he does fill the piece with a lot of nudge-nudge innuendo at other targets). So just one analogy to the question "How many deaths is the right to vote worth?"

How many apples is an orange worth? Roughly, one. I think we can all agree on that.

How many apples is an orange worth, if you have no realistic fucking chance of getting the orange?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mea Maxima Culpa

While fucking around on an unrelated blog project, I clicked the wrong link and instructed Wordpress to import this blog. Wordpress then decided to launch an all-out war on line breaks in Aaronovitch Watch. I will put them back. I am very sorry indeed.

Friday Forecasts - Spartacus edition

An anonymous commenter below asks about our Friday Forecast feature, which had fallen into abeyance of late. Fair enough - I hereby resurrect it. Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough. I think:

Nick: Muggers who do it for kicks
Aaro: The Russian poisoners among us.

NB that everyone gets a free play this week; if the anonymous commenter's prediction of "Robin Hood and how it shows the BBC are dhimmi dummies" comes up, we can all claim it was us.

Friday Forecast and more

The Staggers has, to its great credit IMO, printed a reply to our Nick by Ted Honderich. (Less to its credit is the blurb thing that comes between the headline and the article "Here he responds, awarding our writer not a very high mark for his efforts.") If you read Honderich's earlier response much of the substance (and the prose) will be familiar.

Nick doesn't appear to be in this week's: not reporting from 'out and about' or whatever he does.

So, what will our boys say this week? I think Nick may do film: I expect a rehash of Joe Queenan utterly wrong-headed review of 'Borat'. "Baron Cohen is just another English public school boy who hates Americans." I intend to go into this at greater length elsewhere, but I largely agree with Jim Henley (and the review he links to), while I also think that the reasons Borat was filmed in the US were, American politeness as Jim says, a weak dollar, and the fact that while British and European audiences will go to a film made in the US, US audiences rarely go to films made east of the Atlantic. Also the director, Larry Charles, is an American. Nick may even follow this up with an appreciation of the forthcoming Kate Winslett confection 'The Holiday' about trans-Atlantic romances: see, we can all get on after all.

Recently, Nick praised a book by George Walden. Walden writes in today's Torygraph on white flight.

There are three sides in the immigration debate. The racists, overt or crypto, who feed irrational fears; the old Left, typified by [Ken] Livingstone, who, like their opponents, see everything through inflamed, race-conscious eyes, and have a vested interest in perpetuating old battles; and the new realists, like [Trevor] Phillips, who recognise the paradox that multi-culturalism means segregation, and that a consensus is developing amongst natives and newcomers in favour of limits on immigration.

I've a fair amount of sympathy for Trevor Phillips myself, though I think the above is an over-simplification. I can imagine that it will appeal to Nick.

Lastly, I imagine that, if he didn't go to press to soon, Nick will mention Gordon Brown's son.

Aaro is too hard to call usually: though Michael Grade and the Beeb would be his specialist subject, where he can actually supply some insight and inside knowledge.