Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stand In The Place Where You Are

As spotted in the comments, new political magazine Standpoint has come out.

Standpoint has already tested my vocabulary. I need a better description than "unremittingly dire". But it's at least that.[1]

Standpoint’s core mission is to celebrate our civilization, its arts and its values – in particular democracy, debate and freedom of speech – at a time when they are under threat. Standpoint is an antidote to the parochialism of British political magazines. It will introduce British readers to brilliant writers and thinkers from across the Atlantic, across the Channel and around the world.

These great wags from overseas turn out to be Michael Young "opinion editor of the Daily Star in Beirut" and Jay Nordlinger "a senior editor of National Review magazine in New York". Yanks 2; Frogs Nil. Rest of the world - not even on the pitch.

The pre-publicity (such as it was) indicated a conservative bent. No mention of this on the About us page. A pity that; I actually want to know why a charity is publishing a pro-freemarket rag. Standpoint is certainly a platform for right-wing economics. Tim Congdon accuses the FT of having "positioned itself as a critic of the financial structures found in free-market societies." (But all Western democracies have mixed economies; the US has plenty of state interventions. Arguing for more of either side in a given state is not criticising the structure at all.)

Before I go on too long. The look: awful. Utterly uninspired choice of font and look for the title. Who would have thought that one of those old phrenology heads could be used ever again? It doesn't look like there's any separate arts coverage - and no book reviews. I hoped for a science column and got Michael Hanlon (who is the Daily Mail's science editor) who wants us all to know that science is a good thing. He's also wrong about just about everything: I'll concede that Darwin was pretty polymathic, but Einstein wasn't: physics, pacifism, playing the fiddle and patenting a fridge - that was his life.

It is probably a coincidence that some of the last great physics breakthroughs were made in the era of Richard Feynman, a wonderful polymath of the old school, a lover of the bongo drums and nude dancing bars as much as of quantum electrodynamics.

He could sing too; he patented the nuclear plant, the nuclear submarine, the nuclear rocket, and the nuclear plane (and sold the lot to the government for a dollar); his lectures are models of clarity; his books were funny and he was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses ever, but he still wasn't a polymath. The above sentence comes after a complaint about "ultra-specialisation" - strange, given that the breakthrough in question was probably the Manhattan project, which Feynman worked on.

Standpoint seems to be written by idiots, for idiots.

Oh, I tried to read the Nick Cohen thing, but I gave up half way. Just about everything he asserts (with some very selective history) is questionable. I'm sure Head Cases was rubbish. Did he need so many words to say that?

They're even wrong about Bond. Fleming was admired by Kingsley Amis and Roland Barthes - both proper intellectuals who knew about literature.

Flippancy, ubiquitous in the films, plays no part in the books ...

Bond receives a basket of fruit in Dr No:

Bond could see M's face as he read the signal. He saw him press down the lever on the intercom: 'Chief of Staff, 007's gone round the bend. Says someone's been trying to feed him a poisoned banana. Fellow's lost his nerve. Been in hospital too long. Better call him home.'

M briefs Bond in From Russia With Love:

'She said you particularly appealed to her because you reminded her of the hero of a book by some Russian fellow called Lermontov. Apparently it was her favourite book. This hero chap likes gambling and spent his whole time getting in and out of scraps. Anyway, you reminded her of him. ...'

[1] OK, Torygraph regulars Craig Brown and Charles Spencer contribute, so it is only "remittingly dire". Spencer is particularly good; Brown is pretty much sleepwalking, but I greatly prefer his 'serious' stuff.

6 = Martin Amis and Terry Eagleton. The extraordinary success of their touring show, An Audience with Amis and Eagleton, brought the thrill of ineffectual debate to a whole new generation. In the first half of the programme, each one in turn sets out his personal abuse in a calm and logical manner; the second half is devoted largely to mud-wrestling.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Advance notice of HP Sauce tedium

The Guardian has an article attacking the Daily Telegraph for hosting an anti-immigrant blog run by a BNP member. Surely it can only be a matter of hours (or minutes) before a post appears on HP Sauce claiming hypocrisy on the grounds that CiF has published Inayat Bunglawala?

(Or maybe this will feature in the next Nick Cohen column?)

UPDATE: Get in! 5 hours and 54 minutes. For my next trick ....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

a feast of intellectual fun

Hey kids: new Decentiya out. It reads a bit winded, like the product of a support group for people suffering cognitive damage after being mugged by reality. Maybe NTM is a bit miffed about not being asked to write for Schwerpunkt, or whatever it’s called. First rate lunacy here though, and from some retread from the old Committee on the Present Danger too. Why am I not surprised.

In other news, this professor finds the constraints of just war doctrine irksome and this fellow wants us to remember the real heroes of the events of ’68, including a certain George Orwell, who is quite well known for being dead for eighteen years at the time.

Anyway, dig in.

The seals are broken, the demons released

What to say about this? Nothing much really; what can one say other than that it's two hundred words of bilious petit-bourgeois ressentiment? We've made the joke about Nick turning into Melanie Phillips so often it's no longer funny - but it is true, you know. Blah blah grammar schools (Nick's views here are just wrong). Blah blah, New Labour is a new ruling class (there are some things to be said for this point of view, but Lord Young wasn't even a Lord when he first came up with the "there is a new ruling class" idea. Blah blah "enveloping economic crisis". Blah blah blah, really. Given her current position providing criticism of both the Tory Party and the Likud Party from the traditional-values right, it is worth remembering that for the longest time, Melanie Phillips also used to deal in the sort of column that professed "tribal" support for the Labour Party while pouring the journalistic equivalent of a bucket of shit over them every week. Blah.

You can't run as an anti-elitist when you are part of the elite.

I find it rather a synecdoche for the whole mardy piece that, despite writing paragraphs dripping with scorn about Oxbridge journalists, Nick neglects to mention that he's one of them (Hertford College Oxford, matric 1980).

PS: Found during research for this post. Tempus mutandit, as they say at Altrincham Grammar School.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dave Is Right

Abortion: a worrying tale of leeches. He concluded:

So this is what all this nonsense about “compromise” boils down to - telling women who are less than 24 weeks pregnant and who don't want to have a baby that, legally, they must go through with the birth. We then leave them the terrible choice of procuring an abortion elsewhere or of bearing a child they do not want.

To me, this is immoral. It is not a conjecture about lives that could be led, but an action that will damage lives that are being led. Tonight conscientious MPs should put on their leech-socks and vote against all these parasitical amendments.

And they did. The Guardian blogged it live (via Chicken Yoghurt). They Work for You has the full debate.

There's nothing DA says that I disagree with, so I'm not going to add anything.


Nick has discovered YouTube. (The rather odd bit of text before the video seems to be because his publishing system - which looks like WordPress - has converted all the plain quotation marks into curly ones. Having said that, I looked at the html. I thought he'd been hacked at first; there are thousands of invisible links. I don't know if they are a bizarre spambot trap or the result of some kind of attack. If anyone knows about WordPress vulnerabilities, I think they should tell him though.)

He seems to support Manchester United. - Born in Birmingham Chesire[1], went to Oxford, lives near Highbury. I don't get the connection. Norman Geras is a United supporter, but surely not ...

This wouldn't be worth mentioning but for John Harris posting on 'Comment is Free' about a "pretty bizarre portrait of the inestimable Diego Maradona, made by the Bosnian-born auteur Emir Kusturica."

A few people at the screening seemed to concur with this ragbag analysis, whereupon my mind filled up with images of Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen et al, surely rendered all but a busted flush by their line on Iraq, but who would covet this film as prime example of everything they rail against. Mercifully, its kind of thinking has much less of a grip on the mainstream left than they'd like to think, but - and this cuts them a little slack, which hurts - it does blur over into a disposition that extends a little further than the political fringe: victim-politics, in which the abiding notion of a great Satan serves to let all kinds of people off the hook.

I bet Marko Attila Hoare (BB adds: who we have always considered to be part of Aaronovitch Watch's extended family) will have something to say too about Bosnian-born auteurs.

My god! Just imagine if Eric Cantona got politics.

[1] Update As pointed out in the comments, Nick is not from Birmingham. His connection with that city was his being "a reporter on the Birmingham Post & Mail". Quite different. I apologise unreservedly. I still don't understand Manchester United supporters though.

Nick's piece in the Standard on Man U isn't online, but his knife crime article is. It's not his best. One note:

Just after Boris Johnson took over, Sir David Normington, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, told the Commons Public Affairs Committee that violent crime was just a small proportion of overall crime, and only seven per cent of violent criminals used knives. MPs muttered their support and blamed the press for inciting a moral panic. Yet if Sir David had to stand for election, he wouldn't fare any better than Livingstone.

Fans of Sir Humphrey Appleby may like to read Sir David's testimony. I don't think he was complacent, however. I did love this bit:

Q18 Nigel Griffiths: Was it the Mayor of New York who said London is a more violent city than New York or something like that? Is there evidence to sustain that?

Sir David Normington: He may have said that, but I do not know that I want to agree with you.

That would also be this Sir David Normington.

The Home Office statistics that underpin one in five of its key policy areas are simply "not up to scratch", the department's most senior official told MPs yesterday.
Sir David Normington, who had to apologise yesterday to the Commons public accounts committee for supplying inaccurate data on anti-social behaviour orders, said 30 of the 160 main sets of figures covering crime, immigration and prisons used by the Home Office were simply not up to the job.

Update 2 Thursday 4:20 Nick:

For the past few months, people in authority have been telling us not to let the murders of Steven Bigby and Jimmy Mizen stop us from realising that London is a safer, happier city.
Whenever I hear senior officers from the Met shake their heads at the public unwillingness to recognise that crime is going down ....
... In other words, the authorities should be careful of claiming there is an irrational fear of crime at large.

I'm sure Nick was thinking of real people who said these things. The Guardian has two online articles on knives. New crackdown on knife and gun crime:

Addressing a conference in Birmingham, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said £5m would be committed to tackle gun and knife crime, while witnesses would be offered anonymity to encourage them to come forward.
The Met police estimated that more than 170 gangs were operating in London, and this month admitted that attempts to crack down on knife crime had not solved the problem.
A trio of senior judges yesterday warned that knife offences were reaching "epidemic proportions" and must bring severe sentences.

Police swarm streets to tackle teenage violence:

The high-profile surveillance operation, watched by the Guardian in the middle of the afternoon at the end of last week, is quite a regular event, or "normal policing", according to the Met, and a response to growing public anxiety about teenage gangs, fatal knifings and drugs-related shootings.

A "regular event"- that sounds to me like it's been going on since Livingstone was mayor.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Decent Woman of Szechuan

Nick does drama criticism, with predictable "reviewing the audience" results. This sort of boilerplate goddamm-those-commies! style of reviewing was frankly pretty aged in the McCarthy era, and the attempt to reinvent it for the new milennium isn't really necessary (do I detect the ghost of a conversation with Oliver Kamm here? Yes I think I do, as, note, Nick's comments about modern China are entirely about its embrace of market capitalism - China's still not a democracy you know).

Brecht was, of course, a talented writer who was so affected by his terror and revulsion from Fascism that he immediately and unquestioningly jumped straight into the arms of a wildly unpleasant and illiberal regime, just because it seemed like the only alternative capable of defending society against it ...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Even When He's Right, He's Wrong

OK, I actually agree with Nick on the general thrust of this one. He's annoying and wrong on a number of points, however, starting with his opening one-sentence paragraph.

Those who think that England is a politically correct tyranny where bigots face interrogation by the cops for daring to speak their minds should look at what happened to Channel 4 when it tried to expose the bigotries of well-funded, Saudi-backed clerics working in Britain.

As the comments have pointed out, absolutely no one thinks this. Richard Littlejohn - for example - may think that 'England is a politically correct tyranny' but he's not worried about 'bigots'. At least, that's not his word.

Also annoying is the emotive tone.

Since 9/11, not only police officers, but New Labour ministers, the Home Office, Foreign Office and pseudo-left journalists and councils have sought to promote 'cohesion' by appeasing Islamist groups which aren't quite as extreme as al-Qaeda.

Ah, you say, so "pseudo-left journalists and councils" are guilty. The 'genuine left' ones have done something else. He's going to tell us about them isn't he? No, of course he's bloody not. Everyone is "pseudo-left" these days. He doesn't tell us anything about why these groups "aren't quite as extreme as al-Qaeda." One of the clerics he quotes, Ijaz Mian, said "King, Queen, House of Commons. If you accept it then you are a part of it. You don't accept it but you have to dismantle it. So you being a Muslim you have to fix a target, there will be no House of Commons." Which sounds as extreme as al-Qaeda to me. Mr Mian sounds unpleasant to me. But is he dangerous as well? Nick doesn't answer this. Suppose there is a group of Muslims who sound off in the privacy of their own homes about the awfulness of New Britain. I don't have a name, so I'll call them al-Fgarnett. Should the police intervene? The freedom of speech defender in me says "No" unequivocally. At least, I need to know more. The movie V for Vendetta ends with the House of Commons being blown up. Is this different from Mr Mian's speechifying?[1]

These people didn't interest the press while Abu Hamza as a cut-price Dr No leered out from the news pages. You didn't even have to read the text. Just the pictures of him waving his claws in the air told you he was set on Finsbury Park domination.

Nick's Irony detector, if ever worked, looks crocked now. Having mocked 'cohesion' he writes, "Earlier this year, the Centre for Social Cohesion issued a report on honour killings and beatings." So the 'Centre for Social Cohesion' is good, but anyone else who promotes 'cohesion' is bad and probably a pseudo-leftist.

But it's the missed goal that upsets me. (No, not the handball that denied Cardiff City the equalizer at Wembley. Don't go on about it.)

A worker in a women's group in the north, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, added she had been 'appalled' by an Asian 'chief inspector who had offered to help a family track a girl down'.

This, I think, is a story. Corruption, family intrique, perhaps murder. It's like Agatha Christie minus the giant wasps. In the days of Duncan Campbell, say, this would be the start of an investigation, not the unsubstantiated conclusion to a column.

As 'ellis' (I presume Ellis Sharp who used to have a decent blog up to the end of last year) notes in the comments, Nick lets the Saudi connection sneak away. The C4 Dispatches page doesn't mince words:

He captures chilling sermons in which Saudi-trained preachers proclaim the supremacy of Islam, preach hatred for non-Muslims and for Muslims who do not follow their extreme beliefs - and predict a coming jihad. "An army of Muslims will arise," announces one preacher. Another preacher said British Muslims must "dismantle" British democracy - they must "live like a state within a state" until they are "strong enough to take over."

The investigation reveals Saudi Arabian universities are recruiting young Western Muslims to train them in their extreme theology, then sending them back to the West to spread the word.

Saudi Arabia. Again. And we're selling them weapons. Again, a proper story. We don't get it.

[1] I believe it is. But Nick doesn't explain this. My point is saying something like "Politicians are all corrupt; democracy is a con; let's kill all the bastards" is not enough for a criminal conviction. There needs to be proof of intent, too.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cohen on Film

One for the obsessives among you, I'm afraid.

You want to watch Nick Cohen? You can for all of 15 seconds of fame (from 5:01 to 5:15).

I found this because I wanted to know when I could find 'Standpoint' in Smith's. There's an interview (all of four questions, the answers to which look suspiciously like a press release) with the editor Daniel Johnson on a blog-like site called New Culture Forum. Over to Daniel:

Standpoint will cover the waterfront in politics and culture - everything except the debased celebrity and lifestyle culture that most other magazines are obsessed with. In our first issue, for example, we have new art by David Hockney, Ian Bostridge on Bach, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and Alain de Botton on faith, Jung Chang and Simon Sebag Montefiore on Mao and Stalin, new poetry by Robert Conquest, [... blah blah blah] plus Nick Cohen, Minette Marrin, Peter Whittle and many other writers and critics. We even have Dominic Lawson on chess and the world's first Scrabulous column.

New Culture Forum's sidebar contains this entry:

Director Peter Whittle hosted over forty editions of Culture Clash, a half hour cultural discussion programme, which ran for a year on the UK's first internet TV site, 18 Doughty Street.

The above video covers the launch of Peter Whittle's new book, "Look at Me" so I think it's safe to assume that Peter Whittle is the owner and author who posts as 'admin'. "Look at Me" is a study of celebrity and lifestyle culture. Oh dear.

With the exception of Nick, who has loosened his tie to demonstrate that he's radical or something, everyone else in the film is achingly Tory. If Labour wants to hold Crewe and Nantwich they could just set up a few screens on a busy street and broadcast it in a loop under the legend, "Do you want these people running the country?" It has to be a better tactic than suggesting that the Tory candidate "oppose[s] making foreign nationals carry an ID card?"

Sorry about the title: it should of course be 'Cohen on Video' but where would we be without cultural references? Or in this case, Duran Duran.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jaw-Jaw Is Better Than That Other Thing

I don't think I hate anyone. I hope I don't hate anyone. One of the things about our friends the Decents is that they keep talking about 'enemies' as if they can't tell the difference between a difference of opinion and a war. I don't hate Harry's Place (mostly, I think they're all puffed up fools). But, ho hum, here we are again.

In a nutshell: George Bush made a speech in Israel. It was the sort of thing we've heard a lot of from various sources since 2001: we would have opposed the Nazis; our opponents would not have. Nasty, silly, and indefensible. Readers have probably worked out for themselves that I'm partial to Barack Obama, so I don't like this sort of attack.

Gene Zitver is an American, so he probably understands the US electoral system a lot better than I do. However, I can see no rational reason for Bush to attack the Republican presidential candidate. Yes, Bush and McCain both challenged for the nomination in 2000. I don't see how McCain was Bush's "nemesis" - Bush won, after all. I think Bush is an idiot, but I don't believe he wants the Democrats to win in November.

Mike Power takes a different angle on the same story and remembers that Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power. That Guardian article does note in the third last paragraph, however:

The Anti-Defamation League in the US is supportive of Prescott Bush and the Bush family. In a statement last year they said that "rumours about the alleged Nazi 'ties' of the late Prescott Bush ... have circulated widely through the internet in recent years. These charges are untenable and politically motivated ... Prescott Bush was neither a Nazi nor a Nazi sympathiser."

And what did Bush say?

“We have heard this foolish delusion before,” Bush said. “As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

Harry's Place commenters compare this sentiment with Carter. Ben last week said, The reason I became a “Decent” in the first place is because of the values that made me Labour to start with. As far as I can tell, Ben and the others are pretty much Blair supporters. And the position Bush is deprecating is, in fact, the Jonathan Powell line, which Blair very clearly supported while in office. And Powell, anyway, is really quite unequivocal.

"It's very difficult for democratic governments to do - talk to a terrorist movement that's killing your people," he said. "[But] if I was in government now I would want to have been talking to Hamas, I would be wanting to communicate with the Taliban; and I would want to find a channel to al-Qaida."

He's right too.

Update Sat 17 17:02. Kudos to Gene, he added the following video to his post.

Which, I agree, is very entertaining, in a shouty way. IMO, it makes my point: Obama compares himself to Kennedy and Roosevelt and Mark Green of a radio network throws in Yitzhak Rabin. Nothing like Chamberlain. A lot more like the (very sensible and rightfully successful, IMO) diplomacy of Blair and Powell. Real politics, in other words. Not the fantasising and name-calling and dark allusions of certain bloggers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Aaro on Burma

The issue isn't whether we have the right to intervene - because the consequences of vicious dictatorships usually catch up with us in time - but whether or not, practically, we can.

All one can really say about this is "tell us more about this 'considering the practical consequences' idea of yours Dave, we on the anti-war left find it strangely fascinating". It comes at the conclusion of probably the worst Aaro piece in at least a year - it isn't even noticeably better written than the equivalent Nick Cohen one.

By the way, is it me or has the entire pundosphere just completely bracketed out Hurricane Katrina? I suspect that the Chinese Ambassador to the UN threw them a curve ball by comparing the Burmese government's failure to deliver the goods in terms of flood relief to the French government in the 2003 heatwave, but there is surely to hell a more relevant comparison, and it measures pretty badly for Dave's blithe assertion (based, I suspect, on a bit of half-remembered Sen, and delivered before) that horrible regimes have problems with natural disasters because they're not democracies. Terrible responses to natural disasters can happen anywhere; on the other hand so can competent ones.

But anyway, reading up the piece, if this is meant to be "Burma - The Case For Intervention", it doesn't really make a case, does it? I suspect Aaro has been poorly served by subs here and idly wonder what title he chose himself. He's done enough research to be aware that most of the actually existing calls for "intervention" are gum-flapping calls for logistic impossibilities (dropping aid out of the back of a Hercules is a dangerous and wasteful business when done over flat plains in Africa; to suggest something of the sort in Burma is just not paying attention). But nonetheless, he "admires the sentiment" of that nice young Mr Cameron. We've discussed on a few occasions whether Aaro's a Decent but I maintain that he is for this reason; for him as for Paul Berman, as for Michael Walzer, as for the lot of them, the real world is an optional extra.

See also his excursion into "blame America first"ism, in the course of a particularly savage kicking about at straw men (including someone sharing a platform with Aaro in Great St Mary's Church who was too postmodern to assume that the Burmese necessarily ate food - I mean really man, chinny reckon, are we idiots here?).

There has been, right from the first day of this crisis, a wing of the anti-interventionist movement that has sought to shift blame for the aid debacle from the Burmese generals to the West in general and America in particular. I first heard it from some professor interviewed on the Today programme, and have read it several times since. The junta (this apologia suggests) is just paranoid, this paranoia is justified because of the West's hostility, and therefore it makes sense from the Burmese point of view not to admit foreign aid workers, who might be CIA spooks

Notice the slip back and forth between "the Burmese junta are paranoid", "the Burmese junta's paranoia has a basis in fact", "the Burmese junta are right to be paranoid" and finally "the Burmese junta are justified in refusing visas for aid workers". Partly in the service of smearing people who attempt practical explanations of difficult problems and partly in the service of pretending that the most important thing is the moral stance which one takes toward something rather than what one does. It is like Michael Walzer's opposition to the Iraq War; Aaro actually pretty much agrees with this professor on the question of what can you do, but does so with such a loftier tone.

Meanwhile, check this out (in the sidebar), from the morally serious government of Canada, with the full support of possibly the most morally serious man in the world, Michael Ignatieff
HALIFAX–Prime Minister Stephen Harper cautioned yesterday that he'll only send Canadian humanitarian aid to Burma if he's sure the supplies aren't being used to support the military regime.

"Canada is ready to help, we want to make that clear. We want to do whatever we can do to pressure the Burmese government to accept that aid," Harper said.
However, the Prime Minister said the aid won't be flown into the country if the military junta is using the food and supplies to win political support.

Good God. As far as I can see, what the generals are doing is pretty bad. Aar is wrong to imply that they are actually refusing aid shipments (which are in fact arriving, but they are control freaks and suspicious of foreigners, and so they are demanding to organise the distribution of aid themselves[1]. As a result of this, the distribution is clearly much less efficient than it should be and a real concerted international effort as was made post the 2004 tsnuami is impossible. That is, indeed, pretty bad.
But what the hell can you say about what Stephen Harper is threatening? The policy of the government of Canada is that it is going to refuse to provide humanitarian aid to people who desperately need it, based on a political condition. Is that not disgusting? The point of view here appears to be that the humanitarian crisis in Burma is bad enough to warrant threats of military intervention, but not bad enough to prioritise the delivery of aid over Decent grandstanding. Talk about "the situation is desperate, but not serious". And I don't even think that this is much of a strawman; I suspect that you could get a lot of the Decent Left to simultaneously agree to it.

But anyway, Aaro's stepped back from the War Room this time. To what end? To, apparently, widen his sights and look for bigger game. The impossibility of an intervention in Burma right now is to be the foundation of a general case for the threat of intervention anywhere at any time, whenever a government is judged[3] to be lacking in Decency. Because unless we roll forward democracy throughout the world (via solidarity with bus drivers if possible, but with white phosphorous if necessary), there will be disasters which resemble Nargis everywhere at some time. This is the argument from hypothetical humanitarian crisis and about all that you can say in favour of it is that it's not noticeably worse than the argument from counterfactual humanitarian crisis (the Hitchens/Uday/Qusay one).

Parenthesis: Aaro is basically wrong about the history of the planned economies too - one can see this most clearly in the case of the Koreas, where there are plenty of old South Koreans who remember being sent food parcels from their relatives in the richer North back in the 1960s and early 1970s. Something (something not very well understood, but probably having to do with the birth rate) went very wrong with the Communist economies in the mid 1970s, and it is true that a lot of their subsequent economic statistics were faked, but the post-war growth of the planned economies was not illusory and you can't, for example, brush off the early Soviet lead in the space race as something that never really happened.

[1] I have a couple of links to stories about the US doing something similar during Hurricane Katrina, but of course to draw any such comparison would be unserious and disgusting. The argument I suppose is that the USA is a first world country which can handle a 1 million refugee problem without people actually starving to death, and so it can do what it likes when a natural disaster hits, while Burma is a poor country and so is morally obliged to take whatever it can get on whatever terms offered. I can see a reasonable utilitarian case for this being a criterion, but "one law for the rich and one law for the poor" is precisely what it is and as such it is unlikely to command widespread support.[2]

[2] Decent explanatory footnote: "It is unlikely to command widespread support" is a factual assertion about whether poor countries are likely to vote en bloc for any interpretation of the "responsibility to protect" which holds that their national sovereignty is non-existent in times of natural disaster, while that of rich countries is not, with the decision to be made by the rich countries. It is not a statement about what policies poor countries should adopt in natural disasters, still less an endorsement of any non-democratic third world government anywhere.

[3] By who? I have nominated Norman Geras for the role of judging which regimes "violate human rights in an appalling way" but I still suspect that the actual decisions will be made by the Pentagon and State Department.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What's A Decent (again)

I was very impressed by the erudition of the replies to my last post. There were a number of lacunae in Nick Cohen's Observer/CiF piece I left unmolested which readers addressed admirably.

I am intrigued by What’s a “Decent” to do? a guest post on Harry's Place. I'm making this an open thread because I'm gobsmacked. To paraphrase Margaret Mountford, "Oxford isn't what it used to be." I did think of commenting, but there's a sort of critical mass of comments after which - ahem - comment is superfluous. But:

And, as a result of reading Harry’s Place, I came to an understanding that there were enemies to the left as well as the right. And an understanding that the left could be wrong too. A revelation, to a certain extent, though I would not wish to overstate it. I had always considered Trots weird and wrong. But I increasingly came to an understanding that the Far Left and the Hard Left and even parts of the Soft Left were a threat to the values that I wanted to promote.

So this Ben "came to ... an understanding that the left could be wrong too" while having "always considered Trots ... wrong". Further, rather than hide behind the Oliver Kamm position (if you will) that Trots are actually on the right, he seems to believe that Trots are part of the left. So, to be clear, he's always thought that part of the left (the Trots) was wrong, but it took finding Harry's Place to convince him that any part of the left could be wrong. And this guy went to Oxford?

And so it was very easy to attack those on the left for the idiocies they promoted. Because they were utterly wrong. Their disgusting communalism. Their horrific defence of the most reactionary elements of Islamist thought. Their pathetic peacnick hippy shit. Their attacks upon our demonstrably relevant nuclear deterrent. Their opposition – with no hyperbole – to our very way of life, and to the way of life we wanted others to be able to enjoy.

I'm really not sure why communalism is 'disgusting'. I say this all the time, but I would like it if the people who madden me enough to sit down and type this crap - er, I mean critique - would give examples. I don't think that anyone on the left has defended the content of reactionary Islamist thought - only the right to express such thoughts. I'll hold my hands up here (hah!) I'm pretty much a pacifist. I'm not as good at it as I'd like, but I aspire to be a peacenik. Of course, I can't see who our nuclear deterrent is deterring since the end of the Cold War.

The reason I quoted the passage above is actually to do with the last sentence. I was reading (as we've all done; nothing to be ashamed of) about Cherie Blair's forthcoming book and I noted that she was annoyed[1] by Gordon Brown's refusal to take his entitled salary. So I thought I remembered that Margaret Thatcher had done something similar, but Google really wasn't helping. Being a lazy sod, my next recourse was to get off my arse and walk across the room and pick up a book - in this case Hugo Young's Thatcher bio. It didn't help either, but the blurb on the back cover kicks off with "Triumphant saviour of a disintegrating Britain - or wilful destroyer of the nation's fabric?" I'll quietly note that the first option (the pro-Thatcher one) puts everyone she was against as opposed to "our very way of life". I believe - still - in the second option (more or less; clearly we still are a nation, and "nation's fabric" still means something - if not very much - and I'm not certain about the 'wilful' bit).

I should let this go, and leave analysis to our much-wiser commenters. But the first comment opens with

I’m tempted to say,Ben that you should address this to those Labour MPs who thought that replacing Blair with Brown was a good idea.

Um. Oliver Kamm says the same but different:

The agreement between them in 1994 was unprincipled, and Blair should not have adhered to it.

I think Oliver is right here: the agreement (the Granita one, whether it was there or somewhere else) was unprincipled. At least, the notion of choosing a leader being in the incumbent's hands rather than the party's was against Labour principles. I'm less sure that Blair should not have adhered to a promise he made a friend. Contrary to Oliver, I think Blair loses by having made the agreement in the first place (a point Oliver altogether ignores) but gains by keeping his word. Both Oliver and H'sP commenter Tim regard to Brown succession as a bad thing, but they can't agree on how it came about. Oliver - correctly, I believe - thinks it was decided in a South Bank restaurant; Tim thinks it's the Parliamentary Labour Party's fault (though I think they should have promoted a rival, if only for form's sake).

God. I meant this to be short.

[1] There are more journalistic words, like 'incensed' but 'annoyed' seems right to me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ignorance Is Strength

It's not that he's wrong, exactly, it's that he's not right. There's that fug of deja vu which descends when I read Nick Cohen. Everything he writes seems to be the same article. There are some turn-ups. The UN are the goodies again. The Carter administration ditto. But the familiar tropes return like something which returns a lot.

Bernard Kouchner fitted the classic profile of a soixante-huitard. He came from a left-wing family and marched in the May demonstrations, but while his comrades blindly followed the causes of Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh, Kouchner went off in an unexpected direction.

This is more of the 'classic profile' of Nick Cohen, isn't it? The 'left-wing' family again, and having been on a march once. And was Bernard Kouchner typical? Who were those 'comrades'?

Born to a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, he began his political career as a member of the French Communist Party (PCF), from which he was expelled in 1966. He worked as a physician for the Red Cross in Biafra in 1968 (during the Nigerian Civil War). He founded MSF in 1971, and then, due to a conflict of opinion with MSF chairman Claude Malhuret, the Doctors of the World ('Médecins du Monde') in 1980. Kouchner worked as a humanitarian volunteer during the Siege of Naba’a refugee camp in Lebanon in East Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War taking risks that "other foreign aid workers weren’t, even worked closely with the Shia cleric Imam Musa al-Sadr."

I've quoted the whole paragraph because it gives a much more rounded picture of the man than Nick's sketch. And how 'unexpected' is it for a qualified doctor to "work as a doctor"?

In Washington, the Carter administration began to think that it should shoulder the responsibility as well and leftists everywhere were outraged. The overwhelmingly majority saw French and American imperialism as the sole causes of suffering in Vietnam and did not want to look at the crimes of the anti-imperialist 'liberators'.

One of the great attractions of Marxism for me (and I'm not a Marxist) is that - done properly - Marxist analysis does not look for single causes: history is multi-faceted and complex. I don't think I've ever read a classically Marxist essay which has distilled any event down to a 'sole cause'. Besides, and I know this is fairly feeble, I'm sure that given a morning in the British Library I could debunk the rest of the paragraph above - where it isn't debunk-proof which the phrase 'overwhelming majority' anyway (which could mean 'all the people in pubs; not the columnists or professors or published intellectuals').

I have simple tastes in journalism. I think journalists should go out and see things for themselves; and commentators should have a perspective that comes from experience and wide reading[1].

As Paul Berman, Kouchner's biographer explained ... [straw man argument omitted here]

Bloody hell! Nick really doesn't read anybody else now. I'm starting to think there are people selling 'Watchtower' with a less-blinkered ideology.

And look out Derren Brown, Nick's mind-reading act rolls on.

Britain is sitting on the fence, as it so often has during Gordon Brown's premiership. Ministers told me that the UN has no mandate to protect the victims of natural disasters, but I sensed that they would move closer to Kouchner's position if the Burmese junta continued to frustrate the relief effort.

Then there's Nick's remarkable talent for missing the point and somehow redrawing the map of the world.

A Western diplomat at the UN Security Council meeting said objections came from China, Kouchner's old enemies in Vietnam, Russia and South Africa, which might not be a one-party state but has in the ANC only one party which can hope to win power. All knew without needing to be told that if the Burmese military were held to be illegitimate rulers whose wishes could be overruled because they lacked a democratic mandate, the same criteria could be used against them or their allies, too, and their desperate arguments reflected their fears.

Vladimir Putin is a very nasty piece of work, but he seems to have a democratic mandate. And is Putin an 'old enemy' of Koucher? Russian politics have changed quite considerably since 1968. As have South African politics. If Burma's rulers wishes are overruled it will be because they "frustrate the relief effort". I don't think democracy will come into it.

Yet again, it would a lot easier for us watchers if Nick actually bothered to name some of the people he calls "realists".

Suppose they are wrong, say the realists, and aid workers are met with armed resistance. Is the UN going to start a war for the sake of delivering rice rations?

There's a more balanced and detailed piece by Simon Jenkins by way of contrast.

PS Sorry about the title, I was really stuck for one, and starting reading Nick again. It comes by way of the first paragraph "...developed a revolutionary doctrine by ignoring the revolutionaries around him."

[1]Update 10:12 am Alan Watkins of the Independent is kind enough to demonstrate exactly what I mean. He offers examples, names names, is humorous, precise, analytical, and historical. And he doesn't quote Paul Berman or witter about families either.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Point to Stand On

Thanks to anonymous (one of the many) on this post, I give you the Independent's media-watching feral beast.

'Standpoint', the new right-wing magazine, launching this month, will boast a stellar cast of writers. Mark Steyn, Alain de Botton and Nick Cohen have all signed up. And there's no riff-raff on the staff, either, even down to the "workies". I hear the two stooges making the tea are Christopher Hitchens's son and one Luke Amis. No prizes for guessing who his father is.

The 'Independent' pays for this? 'Stellar'? get away. '[A]ll signed up'? What all? And to answer the question: Kingsley? Philip [the elder brother]?

Come to think of it, what with "there's no riff-raff on the staff, either"? If Mark Steyn isn't riff-raff, I don't know who is.

Previously ... which would have been on AaroWatch, but we missed it ... New magazine from the Right coming soon.... On a blog called 'CentreRight' which happens to be on 'ConservativeHome'. I know nothing about the latter, but I'm going to guess it has something to do with the Conservative party.

The Standard's Londoner's Diary today refers to a new magazine being published by the Social Affairs Unit - Stand Point - a serious monthly journal like Prospect that caters to people on the Right. It will be edited by Daniel Johnson, a Prospect contributor and former Associate Editor of The Telegraph who is actually the son of a former New Statesman editor. Its editorial board consists of Nobel Prize-winning writer VS Naipaul, artist David Hockney, Labour MP Frank Field and Conservative Shadow Minister Michael Gove.

The Londoner quotes someone involved in Stand Point saying that The Spectator had become too "syrupy" and "socialite". Is that unfair? What isn't mentioned is that Stand Point is largely funded by Alan Bekhor, a businessman in the shipping industry. I'm sceptical about the idea of investing in magazines with the advent of the internet, but I do hope it succeeds. With an impressive initial print run of 30,000 and contracts with shops like WH Smith's it certainly won't be small beer.

What the hell is 'small beer' anyway? It gets a few mentions in Patrick O'Brian novels and I'm sure it had nothing to do with conservative magazines. And did they say that leading Alan Bennett and W B Yeats lookalike David Hockney is a conservative? This is outrageous! Am I supposed to turn my one Hockney print to the wall now? And what is Frank Field doing there?

Oh yeah, the Social Affairs Unit. Who?

"Morals and manners for the new millennium...."

The Social Affairs Unit addresses social, economic and cultural issues with an emphasis on the value of personal responsibility. We research, challenge and debate issues from welfare to warfare, always seeking to draw out the role of the individual's obligations.

The SAU is a charity. This means that its role and ambitions are wholly unpolitical. So we don't toe or promote any party line. More than that, we have no "corporate" party line of any kind of our own. We don't "do" propaganda, but argument.

But they're publishing "a serious monthly journal like Prospect that caters to people on the Right". Something doesn't add up.

Well, when I said, "they're publishing" I made a sort of elementary error. It is, as recorded above, "largely funded by Alan Bekhor". He was rich in 2006. I know Aaro Watch readers want facts, so we bring them. How much is 'largely funded'? It's not "small beer" (still don't know what that is), read on:

The mention of Paul Johnson as a recipient of the Medal of Freedom also made me think of his son Daniel, another kept journalist, who is about to launch, with Miriam Gross, a former assistant to Melvin Lasky at Encounter, a British equivalent of the Weekly Standard. A prominent Zionist and a London metal-trader, Alan Bekhor, is contributing to the project now underway an initial installment of 6 million pounds. I wish his enterprise every possible success, on the grounds that the British deserve this American import, for having pushed us into World War One. We are now returning the favor belatedly by dumping our latest example of toxic waste onto their newsstands. Besides, the neocons claim to adore the Brits, as they dislike the French and detest the Germans. Why shouldn’t they be allowed and even encouraged to put part of their propaganda machine in the British Isles?

Paul Johnson gets a mention? What? The Paul Johnson?

A decade or so ago, I outed the barking Tory pamphleteer Paul Johnson as an enthusiast or votary of this cult. For evidence, I had no more to go upon than certain suggestive and repetitive elements in his "work."

You said it Christopher: you outed him with "no more to go upon than certain suggestive and repetitive elements". Good for you.

Six million pounds! This could be a pay rise for Nick. Perhaps his Observer ramblings have been intentional. He wants out, but the contract won't let him unless the editors declare him insane.

Gratuitous Offensiveness Friday

I've been meaning to write about Oliver Kamm's geopolitical lunacy ever since I had the misfortune to read that particular post. I blame Chris Bertram. I know that makes this look like Kick-Oliver-Kamm week. It's not. Every week is Kick-Oliver-Kamm week. We are at your service all year round (holidays permitting).

(A brief taster of what I may get around to writing. As far as I know, Israel has never asked for US military intervention. It prides itself on fighting its own wars. [Yes, I will have to research this properly; that's why I haven't posted.] Senator Clinton hasn't even promised a negotiated pact with Israel; she's talking of intervening on their behalf without even asking. Very democratic. No, really, Iran does not - according to the best intelligence estimates - possess nuclear weapons. It is developing a nuclear program; and it does possess rocket technology. Weaponised (god, I hate that word) fissile material is still a sine qua non for a nuclear device. And they haven't got it. Iran trades with China and Russia, both of whom have ICBM technology. Does Senator Clinton really want to start this?)

But now it probably doesn't matter anyway.

Via IOZ whose previous post hits the mark - that is the current Senator of New York and the one-time Senator for Boeing - Oliver being a fan of the second. He seems to have gone off Clinton after reading Christopher Hitchens in the Mirror. Hitchens hates Bill Clinton! Hold the front page! That sounds like objective journalism to me.[1]

[1] This is sarcasm.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Involves No Research

A footnote here: one interviewing trope is to ignore any of the virtues of what the politician is saying, and simply to trump him with “but you've been pursuing that policy for years and the voters have still given you a bloody nose”. This move is cheap, reliable, involves no research and puts pressure on the interviewee to come up with some novelty or other, as though politics were as much about entertainment as about running things.

I'm a blogger, so I'm excused research. (I've got a note.) Let's look at some background, though. The above is our Dave in the Times, thundering 'Listening' politicians are a menace. He's talking about Gordon Brown's interview with Andrew Marr (available on iPlayer until Saturday). There's a very good summary of that interview by Simon Carr of the Independent. It clarified one thing for me: I didn't understand the Frank Field reference. The Independent! Hardly are those words out when a vast image ... well my memory was jogged anyway. David Aaronovitch worked on the Independent. Wikipedia: "He moved over to print journalism in 1995, working for The Independent and Independent on Sunday as chief leader writer, television critic, and columnist until the end of 2002." I can't recall, and Wikipedia is no help here, when Andrew Marr started editing the Independent: it was either 1995 or 1996. He was sacked in 1998. Yes, our Dave used to work with Andrew Marr. This may or may not be relevant. Wikipedia also contains a section on Andrew Marr's supposed political bias.

That should be enough for now, shouldn't it? It's not quite, I'm afraid. Dave's The rats are sinking Brown's ship piece last week included "You get a better write-up in The Guardian if you are Fidel Castro or the leader of Hamas than if you're the Labour Prime Minister." This prompted a reply on Comment is Free by Jackie Ashley. As I noted in an earlier post, she's fairly pro-Brown. See He may be disappointing, but Brown isn't a disaster. Dave attacks the Guardian. Guardian political journalist replies. But what's this? Isn't she married to Andrew Marr? Why, yes she is. Suddenly this stuff about journalists not doing research and making 'cheap' moves becomes a lot more interesting.

Now that that is out of the way, I'll cut to the end of the article.

Take this column. I can generally expect that a piece like this, which hints at sympathy for politicians, will generate comments on The Times website running three to one against me. So next week imagine that, chastened by the hostility, I were to begin with: “I have been listening. And, in order to please those decent readers made irate by my suggestion that modern Britain is not a Luciferian inferno, I have decided to write that things are every bit as bad as the Daily Mail says they are. I hope you will appreciate the change.”

I think, and I hope, that you would feel as uncomfortable and as cheated as you should when a politician is forced to tell you he is listening to you.

I read this before I went to work this morning, which was also before anyone had left a comment. When I reloaded the page, there were 66, and there are probably more by now. I imagine Dave is quite happy with that. Speaking of sympathy, I'd love to find Dave's work on the Independent in the year up to May 1997. I wonder if he expressed sympathy for John Major. Or, if not, if the sympathy he talks about now is, in fact, partisan bias.

I may - finally - be clear to actually look at the article itself.

I heard the Prime Minister on Sunday telling Andrew Marr: “I am listening to what people have said; I have heard what people have said,” and I thought: “Oh bugger.” And this is why.

The idea of listening is, of course, part of the necessary rubric of political discourse, but it is either a polite hypocrisy, because modern politicians are always horribly tuned in to what voters say (unless one imagines the PM or the Leader of the Opposition sitting in the basement of No 10 or in Notting Hill, with his hands over his ears going “lah, lah, lah”) or else it's code for something else entirely.

Were we to descend to cliche, we might be tempted to observe that one man's "polite hypocrisy" is another's barefaced lie. I can't quite understand why our man thought "Oh bugger." Is it the polite hypocrisy of listening he didn't like, or the suggestion that Brown may "have heard what people have said". The 'listening' trope isn't new. Neil Kinnock tried it in opposition. It didn't help him much. I Will Listen ..And Learn - that was Gordon Brown 51 weeks ago to the friendly Sunday Mirror. He's been saying that he'll listen for a while now. Has David only just noticed? Or has he turned on Brown too?

As for the suggestion that politicians should know best, I think it's best just to leave that.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft ...

Ok, so quoting the Carpenters is probably in bad taste, but if I had a hammmer ...

(Better stop now.)

Nick -- "When academics lose their power of reason" -- is on astonishing form today. He uses the case of Holocaust-denier nutter Nicholas Kollerstrom to tar everyone else as shills for Islamism. Kollerstrom used to be an Honorary Research Fellow at UCL, but they ended the association once they heard about his embrace of 9/11 denialism and Holocaust conspiracy fantasy. What you wouldn't guess from Nick's piece is that Kollerstrom wasn't an employee of UCL, or even what most people would think of as an "academic". Titles vary from place to place, but every university has a raft of people who get some kind of status (a library card, the occasional invitation to a wine and cheese party) just because some regular academic thinks they're useful or interesting. If the bloke in the corner with the glass of chardonnay then turns out to be a liablity, groping students in the library or telling everyone about how he's the reincarnation of Napoleon, his invitation gets rescinded. Simple as that really. No great issue of academic freedom here. Still, it is all merely the amuse guele to Nick's plat du jour:

If a bomb were to explode outside University College today, mainstream voices would fill the airwaves and say that responsibility for the carnage lay with the British, American or Israeli governments. Their arguments would be passionate and convincing, but I don't need to tell you every one of them would avoid mentioning the Islamist ideology that motivated Hasib Hussain and men like him. To divert attention from a criminal is not the same as pretending that the criminal is innocent. But it isn't so far away from it either.

Let's repeat that again: "every one of them would avoid mentioning".

No exceptions. 100 per cent.

So is Nick totally insane? Does he think that the meeja are in the grip of an anti-Decent conspiracy? Or does the "mainstream voices" element serve as a bit of anti-falsification insurance, so that anyone who did mention Islamism (say, an actual government minister or a commentator for a mass-circulation newspaper) would come to count, in Nick's eyes, as a marginalized iconoclast?

Update Sunday 4 May 6:22 pm by Chardonnay Chap I've found UCL's statement concerning Dr Nicholas Kollerstrom. (It wasn't hard: it's the first page that comes up in Google search.) I find it hard to reconcile this statement with the opinions of a certain Oliver Kamm (whom I only checked to see if anyone links to Nick's latest: he does). If any readers can explain the discrepancy, I'd be obliged. Oliver:

By taking the stand that it has, UCL has properly insisted that its academics adhere not to a particular view but to a method, that of critical inquiry.


The views expressed by Dr Kollerstrom are diametrically opposed to the aims, objectives and ethos of UCL, such that we wish to have absolutely no association with them or with their originator.

Thanks to commenter 'organic cheeseboard' below, I now understand the reference to Rachel North. She posted about Kollerstrom last month. And she's posted today on Nick's column.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Petty Inconsistency

Since Marko claims this blog "exists to cyber-stalk David Aaronovich and Nick Cohen, and to a lesser extent other members of the Eustonite or ‘Decent’ left, and point out petty inconsistencies in their writings", I feel compelled to branch out a bit. Only a bit, mind. I haven't mentioned Oliver Kamm for at least a week.

Here's a petty inconsistency. What is it with the Decents and John McCain? David Aaronovitch told Times readers that neither Democratic candidate understands economics. (Matthew Yglesias, who follows US politics a lot more closely than our Dave, disagrees.) Oliver Kamm posted on McCain's merits. (He's really old, but not dead yet?) And, more bizarrely, on Obama and his pastor.

So far as I'm aware, Christopher Hitchens perceived earlier than anyone that Barack Obama might have problems owing to his religious affiliation with a rabble-rousing nutter

Via Mike Power. For some background, read Dennis Perrin. Dennis doesn't like liberals.

Another popular liberal tactic of late has been to equate Wright with the likes of John Hagee and Pat Robertson. Why won't the Democratic-hating media grill John McCain for his ties to outspoken religious cranks! they squeal, pale fists banging their laptops. I can't speak for the MSM, but the last time I looked, Wright denounces American terror and imperialism, while Hagee and Robertson excuse and defend the same. Indeed, for all of his theatrical flourishes, Wright attacks what is actually going on, while cataloguing what actually happened. Hagee and Robertson spin the violence and bigotry into something they consider beautiful and holy. On this front, American liberals are much closer to Hagee and Robertson's view of America than they are to Wright's, which explains much of their frenzied assaults on the man. When pushed, liberals sing the National Anthem faster and with more gusto than their reactionary cousins. Don't ever question their patriotism!

I liked "Wright attacks what is actually going on, while cataloguing what actually happened." No wonder Oliver and Hitchens have it in for him.

M'aidez! An Open Thread

Don't say we don't we don't listen to comments. We do listen. We just like saying "WHAT? No you bloody can't." Only joking.

As Simon noticed in the following comment, David Toube (note H's P's new address) stayed at work rather than campaign for Ken.

If you’re looking for an analysis of the reasons for this defeat, you couldn’t do much better than this short Guardian piece. A certain part of it is the general tiredness of this Government, after 11 years of rule. Northern Rock was a mess. Soaking the poor with the abolition of the 10% tax band was poison. And it doesn’t help that it is led by a man who seems to want to be Prime Minister, but who can’t articulate precisely why he was so desperate to occupy that position.

I think both David T and Andrew Sparrow in the Guardian underplay the role of Gordon Brown. Sparrow:

Labour performed dreadfully in last night's elections in England and Wales. As in previous years, Livingstone outperformed his party. He must be wondering if he would have done better to stand as an independent.

Really, given the way the votes went in the rest of the country, I can't see any reason to believe that Ken lost because Oliver Kamm and Nick Cohen don't like him. David T:

The far Left’s love affair with Islamism is a bit of a side show.

By 'far Left' he means Ken Livingstone, I think. I don't believe that made any difference.

But I know you're desperate to say something, so fire away.

Update 9 pm The view from over the pond. The comments are class. Crooked Timber gets a mention.

"I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales."

Aarowatch cyber-stalker in neo-Nazi sympathizer hookup shock. Marko Attila Hoare (who else!) has the story.