Thursday, August 30, 2007

Old and slightly suspect joke corner

Have you ever surveyed the world of Decency and thought "God, there's no end to those pricks?"

Aaro on circumcision

Not a lot to say, just gradually playing myself back into the game after the summer lull.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Geras sees sense

Norman Geras has written a post strangely similar to the one below:

In yesterday's newspaper A. Pundit casts doubt on the motives of people involved in campaigns over Palestine. In support of his scepticism, he offers the thesis that those who appear to have good reasons for thinking or doing something may really be up to no good; they may harbour a bad intention of some kind. This is indeed true. But the difficulty for him is that they may also not. As I've pointed out on a previous occasion, it could be that Ruth has a bad opinion of a particular dentist just because that dentist messed up her teeth; it doesn't have to be because she's prejudiced against dentists. The strength of the overt reason in such cases is one kind of evidence that matters.

But Pundit is strangely undeterred by the fact that those troubled by what has been happening in Palestine have some very strong reasons for being so. In early 2006 a UN report said that 'since 2000, over 500 persons have been killed in targeted assassinations, including a substantial number of innocent civilians'. The same UN report said that the 'indiscriminate use of military power against civilians and civilian targets has resulted in serious war crimes'. That there may be different views about what is now the most effective course of action is one thing. And that there are different estimates of the numbers of the dead and displaced is also not altogether surprising. But one way or another, we are talking about many thousands of dead over the past forty years, and human rights violations on a massive scale. In this situation a person might reasonably be exercised without the assistance of any 'anti-semitic' agenda.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More fearless investigative reporting from Nick

The hook to Nick's Observer latest is a story about talking flowerbeds harassing smokers in NHS hospital grounds. It all comes from a post on the blog "Trick-Cyling for Beginners" by "Shiny Happy Person", a "a dissatisfied and stroppy junior psychiatrist". Cohen writes "Threats of dismissal mean I can't identify the junior psychiatrist or say where she works." But a look through the comments of the blog reveals that Cohen didn't actually know her identity or her place of employment at the time he wrote the piece and that any such threats are hypothetical ones. SHP herself writes: "That'll teach me to check my emails regularly. I had no idea the journalist had been trying to contact me until after I discovered the article! Doh."

The article itself is just a bit of lazy whingeing about the nanny state and authoritarian policemen. As such, there's nothing much to "watch". But one does wonder whether the Observer feels it is getting value for money from one of its star columnists. After all, a regular feature of excerpts from the blogs of disaffected public sector professionals would be cheaper, more interesting, less liable to be packed with irrelevant ideological swipes on behalf of "decency", and, almost certainly, better written.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya!

It is enough to make me want to grab a tambourine and join the evangelicals .... the nominations are in for the National Secular Society's "secularist of the year" and the candidates include Johann "I was wrong" Hari, Oliver Kamm, and Peter Tatchell. I can forgive them Hari and Tatchell (that most decent of Decents) but Kamm?

"He is an example of the new alignment of the old “left-right” categories in politics,..."

I think they once said the same of Oswald Mosley.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rottweiler of Decency

In the latest Private Eye (17 August) the "Hackwatch" column attacks Johann Hari concerning his spat with HP Sauce and Nick Cohen. Since we know (thanks to the barking wing of Decency at the Drink Soaked Trots) that the author of the piece is Francis Wheen (mate of Geras and occasional co-author with Aaro, Kamm et al), perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the piece reads like a press release by David T's agent. It is, nevertheless, disappointing that Private Eye allows itself to be used as a conduit for score-settling by this peculiar cult.

Update: SplinteredSunrise tells it like it is.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Credit Where It Is Due

I don't know what passes for normal behaviour in the Watch business, but here at 'World of Decency' we like to think we see things in a few shades between black and white.

I was reminded by Jamie's post on the Iraqi interpreters that the petition [to] the Prime Minister to offer asylum in the UK to the Iraqis who have been working as translators and in other capacities for the UK armed forces is still open. All the Aaro Watchers have signed it (most of us got in early, and that page shows the most recent 500 by default) as has our inspiration (not that anyone can be arsed watching him any more) David Aaronovitch. By the way, should you think that the abandoned Iraqi translators story was some sort of got-up business by us 'Stoppers' - Harry's Place covered it too. (Although I don't see even the pseudonymous presence of certain well-know pro-war bloggers among the signatories. But then, maybe I have their real names wrong.)

Nick isn't a signatory, but he did join the facebook group. So, there's something we all agree on.

Supporting the rights of Iraqi interpreters doesn't seem a controversial issue to me. Plenty of people (yes Aaro-Watch watchers, I'm not going to name any, because I can't think of any names - I know I've committed the cardinal sin of blogging known as Hari hand-waving) think the US and Allies did a terrible thing in abandoning the Iraqis who rose up against Saddam in Gulf War I. I can't see why there aren't more signatories to a simple call to support those who directly aided us. No doubt there will be a long post on Comment is Free thick with impressive words and self-importance asserting that because the US and the UK have done this, and we are civilized, it was in effect the right thing to do.

Finally, seeing Aaro's name there threw me a little. I'd assumed that he just wasn't a signer, probably having had his fill of petitions back in his NUS days. He stayed away from Unite Against Terror and the Euston Manifesto (perhaps I'm being thick, but I can't find the signatories page). But a lot of people who signed both of those haven't signed here. Perhaps Dave would rather put his name to sensible, concrete proposals as against verbose essays which damn Hamas and MicroSoft amongst other things.

If any readers haven't signed, I suggest you do so.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Grocer's Apostrophe

As Matt said, Oliver Kamm must be livid. I'm thinking of ordering the reprint of "Pretty Straight Guy's".

I don't have much to say about his airport piece except I'd like to note that "Despite the publicity, most people still don't know what happiness economics is..." is a reference to his New Statesman interview with Andrew Oswald which contains the almost prophetic passage:

As I thought about the objections, I felt the temptation to shrug my shoulders and conclude that all that the happiness economists have done is to recast the old arguments between left and right without settling them. But that isn't fair. New ways of thinking produce new results. If the government goes ahead with the planned expansion of airports, protesters will now be able to put an exact figure on how much distress living under a flight path will cause - just as those who object to new commuter towns will be able to say that regular long-distance travel is a good route to mental distress.

My, admittedly naive, understanding of happiness economics suggests that it doesn't involve exact figures at all.

But the real fun comes from Guardian regular troll MarkGreen0 in the first two comments.

Since no one seems to be watching Aaro any more, I give you Craig Murray.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Cage Match Special

I owe the inspiration for this post to Conor Foley (and the Cous Cous Kid for the previous Aarowatch post and to Liz Hunt of the Torygraph who reminded me of something with this:

If Gordon Brown wants any tips on saving Darfur, then he should ask Clooney, who discovered it as a worthwhile cause long ago.

If you look up George Clooney on Nick's site, you'll find that Nick doesn't care for him much.

See this:

IN INTERVIEWS to promote his new film Good Night, and Good Luck, a stern George Clooney has instructed journalists that we have "a duty to speak truth to power".

He's right. If I had been sensible, I'd have given-up this political guff and become a showbiz reporter years ago. The editor would then have paid me to fly to the Golden Globes in Los Angeles. And yesterday when Clooney picked-up his award for best supporting actor, I could have taken him at his word and bellowed, "Oi, George! You've got a pretty face but no talent."

As it is, I am stuck in London writing about the bloody Private Finance Initiative.

Or this:

TO George Clooney's Syriana, whose incomprehensible plot left me more
shocked than awed. If I understood him, he was trying to say that America's policy in the Middle East was "all about oil".

Ah, so that's why America insisted on sanctions on Iraqi oil from 1991
to 2003. That's why Bush spent an enormous amount of blood and treasure overthrowing Saddam Hussein rather than allowing his friends in the Texas oil industry to cut a lucrative deal.

What got to me afterwards was that the reviewers ignored Clooney's
airbrushing of history and praised his "bravery". Dear me, it is not brave in liberal Hollywood to oppose Bush. The brave thing to do in liberal Hollywood is to make a film supporting American policy, which is why no one does.

Clooney, on the other hand, is behind Not On Our Watch whose website advocates several practical and sensible things to do to improve the situation in Darfur. Their home page says (among other things) this:

ADVOCATING FOR ACTION. Not On Our Watch will work to focus international attention on the continuing carnage in Darfur, encouraging governments and international organizations to take meaningful action to protect the vulnerable, marginalized, and displaced. Where governments have remained silent, we are committed to working to render otherwise invisible atrocities, visible.

That, I believe, is "speaking truth to power." I hope our boy writes a careful riposte to Conor Foley setting him and myself right as to Nick's ongoing commitment to Darfur. We wouldn't want him outdone by a pretty boy with no talent now, would we?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Foley on Cohen

All-round good-guy Conor Foley writes about What's Left? over at the Guardian's Comment is Free. A sample:

Cohen's book has been very thoroughly "fisked" for factual errors, of which there are many, but I think that this is to miss its real point. The chapters on Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, are so ludicrous that no one who knows anything about the Balkans would take them seriously. But that is not Cohen's intention. Asking him what he would actually do about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is like quizzing a Militant paper-seller on the impact that "nationalising the top 200 monopolies" might have had on Britain's public sector borrowing requirement (PSBR). "It is a transitional demand, you idiot," I hear someone screaming from a historical dustbin.