Sunday, September 28, 2008

Labour is the curse of the drinking classes

With apologies to Oscar Wilde.

Part of the reason for the mistrust of Brown was private knowledge of his excessive drinking, which exacerbated his rude and aggressive style of politics.


Before he interviewed Gordon Brown last week, Andrew Marr talked to Guy Garvey of popular music combo elbow. Of their Mercury Prize celebrations, Marr observed, approvingly, "You're heroic drinkers, aren't you?"

Nick Cohen doesn't go as far as that when he returns to Gordon Brown.

Alistair Darling was Mr Brown's oldest friend in politics. (I doubt if he is now.) The junior minister's crime was to suggest ever so timidly that Labour governments should tax the rich rather than the middle class. The retribution was out of all proportion to the offence. But booze magnifies outrage and concentrates venom.

In fact, he doesn't say Brown drinks at all. He keeps the allegations general: "everyone involved had been hitting the bottle", "If I see a Brown supporter at the bar ordering a beer". But the intention is clear:

I don't believe you can understand the ferocity of the attacks from Gordon Brown's allies unless you appreciate its [the ferocity's -DW] centrality.

Update 2 pm. Phil in the comments suggests that "its" refers not to 'ferocity' but to 'drink' in the previous paragraph: "Drink, once the curse of the labouring classes, is now the curse of the Labour government." I believe he's right. This alters the argument. I thought Nick was arguing that the venom came from the centre of the Brown camp - eg Brown himself, and he was being careful not to finger the PM as a secret toper. However, I now think - thanks to Phil - that he's saying that all Brown's staff are pissheads. Is this a secret plea for the return of Blair and the famously teetotal Alistair Campbell?

Nick started well, "In the last days of Labour..." Boldness is his friend. Labour's got (at least) eighteen months yet, but that's a nicely thrown hatchet. But he doesn't end so well: what on earth are "passive-aggressive spectators" and why are they all female?

BTW, Nick Cohen September 7, 2008:

More recently, George Osborne, of the supposedly compassionate Conservative party, revealed himself to be a playground bully when he derided Gordon Brown for being 'faintly autistic'.

Nick, today:

The reasons for their disaffection are various, but the Brown's macho style is high among them.

Martin Kettle on Wednesday:

His style of politics is not uniquely macho, but it is very, very male indeed. He struggles – certainly in public – to be frank, or honest, or emotionally aware in a way that makes male and female voters identify with him.

Cohen and Kettle are only criticising Brown for excessive maleness, so I don't know if I see a difference between them and Osbourne. Dave Spart covered this two years ago.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Clive James Version

I learned something today. It's not a pleasant something, and it has perturbed me. For a sentence to be funny, it actually matters who wrote it.

I'll explain this in a bit. The new Standpoint magazine is out, and Nick is doing his tv critic thing. He does all right up to a point - that point being the word 'because' in the fourth paragraph from the end. I think he's right about how good Clive James used to be.

But James had no interest in learning about scheduling and programme-making. He spent his week refining his one-liners - of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "he looks like a brown condom full of walnuts"; of Murray Walker, "in his quieter moments, it sounds like his trousers are on fire" - rather than understanding the basics of the television industry. Young journalists all over London imitated his style in vain attempts to be as clever and successful as him.

I'll quibble with the "all over London" bit. Oi be a pravincal, oi not be up to roiting an clevar stuff like that. The only stoiles we knew were the ones you climbed over. Obviously I should have done that in Scottish, but West Country Pirate is how it came out. Speaking of Scottish, hardly are those words out, etc, I just remembered Stanley Eveling (woeful Wikipedia entry) who wrote the tv column for the Scotsman. But he wasn't in London so the imitation game didn't include him.[1] Christ, I wanted to be Clive James too, which may explain the gratuitous references to poetry and silly puns on book titles.

Arnie wasn't as famous then as he is now. When James wrote that he was just an iron-pumper with cheekbones and rudimentary English. So far, nothing to distinguish him fro Jean-Claude van Damme or Steven Seagal. The point of James's writing wasn't that it referred to universally familiar stuff, but that it stood up as writing. I like Wodehouse, but I've never stayed in a crumbling pile, I don't have a manservant or a platoon of aunts.

Anyway, here's the thing:

The futures predicted by more level-headed commentators vary from the apocalyptic to merely horrendous.

If James had written that, it would have been funny, but I don't think Nick does intentional bathos. One of the symptoms of the transformation into Melanie Phillips is the belief that apocalyptic predictions are level-headed (unless they involve global warming). Up to a point, Nick has managed a reasonable essay. It's an F as far as television reviewing goes; he seems to believe that writing about the medium in the abstract will do. This piece should be kept in evidence should Nick Cohen ever feel the need to sneer at media studies courses.

The BBC has the licence fee, but a subsidy from the taxpayer is not necessarily a blessing. It cannot produce dramas as good as HBO's The Sopranos, Six Feet Under or The Wire because it feels it must appeal to everyone in the country.

It's true that the BBC "must appeal to everyone in the country." Never mind the "feels" bit: everyone pays the licence fee and they're entitled to something for it. However, nowhere does it say that every BBC programme has to appeal to everyone. There is also more to the BBC and broadcasting than drama. The Beeb does comedy well - the Telegraph seems to believe that there is a "comedy 'brain-drain'": David Walliams "is too busy conquering the United States" to write for Ronnie Corbett. And it has no real rivals for natural history and factual programmes. Raymond Chandler once said something like, "if the plot gets sticky, have a guy walk through the door with a gat." It's much easier to lever a hood with a firearm into a US based story than one set here, and that saves a lot of American tv when the British equivalent has to soldier on with a lot of shouting instead.

Perhaps this was a resignation letter. He seems to conclude that television and newspapers (and presumably magazines, especially those that publish their entire contents online) are things of the past and tomorrow internets will cover the world. Surely not.

Elsewhere, David Aaronovitch writes for Prospect. Sadly, he's behind a subscription wall (until next month - this is the way to do online content and make money), but he's slagging off Edward Skidelsky, so good for him. I tried the Skidelshy essay, but I've got better things to do. There must be some 'Star Trek' episodes on YouTube I haven't seen recently for instance.

More or less OT, Eric Martin of Obsidian Wings considers Christopher Hitchens' review of Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention. "... Hitchens is pretty near insufferable in this piece - still brandishing the same haughty sense of moral superiority by dint of his support for Bush's invasion of Iraq that many liberal hawks have since abandoned, or at least had the decency to soft pedal."

[1] I've only seen one of Eveling's plays. It was pretty good, even if I can't remember its name. He mocked Pinter, though. Bastard.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Not my reaction to Gordon Brown's speech, but to Nick Cohen.

I don't want to defend the Met's mistakes but it is blindingly obvious that when the police think they are confronting suicide bombers they will shoot first and ask questions later.

Blindingly obvious, but not, in fact, the case.

Footage shows Menezes journey:

The cameras also captured an undercover officer sitting a few seats in front of him, the inquest at the Oval heard.

Jean Charles de Menezes inquest timeline:

10.06: Officer Ivor, having followed Mr de Menezes onto a Tube train at Stockwell station, gestured to firearms officers "he's here". Mr de Menezes stood up and walked towards him. Ivor said he "seemed agitated" and grabbed him, pinning him back into his seat.

My emphasis. Life is not like Dirty Harry. (OT: article contains my favourite opinion about Hillary Clinton ever.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Southern Comforts

I know B2 has already adressed part of Aaro's colum, but it's one of his more complex efforts. I read it this morning before I went to work and I can't say that it's any clearer on a rereading.

Wittgenstein once said that "Philosophy is finding bad reasons for what we know already," and there are several newspaper columnists, including Aaro, who see fit to illustrate this. The point of a column like today's is less "to shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle" (Wittgenstein again) than to recount a recurring dream and psychoanalyse the juicy bits.

I'm tempted to be harsh on Aaro's prose and now is a good time to remember the example of Giles Coren. The bad parts may not being our man's doing. Here's the paragraph which grabbed B2's attention:

Some don't think so. Yesterday morning, here in Manchester, the conference hall belonged to those Bourbons of the centre Left, the trade unions. Somehow all their motions had been pushed together into the same space, meaning that the delegates could enjoy several Cro-Magnon speeches each by the joint general-secretaries of Unite, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, and the boss of the GMB, Paul Kenny. The result was a sort of convention on an offshore leper colony, except in this case the lepers didn't even realise they'd been marooned.

Does anyone have the programme for the Labour Conference? I suspect that union leaders addressing the floor on the same day was neither a plot (see 'marooned' above) nor a coincidence (see 'Somehow'). It seems like logical organisation to have speakers with similar interests to follow one another. As for the prose, I cannot work out what function the word 'each' is supposed to perform in the middle sentence. And if the Labour leadership really agrees with Dave - that trade union leaders are 'lepers' who have 'been marooned' - I hope they've got a few more best-selling children's author's donations in the pipeline. Last I heard, the People's Party was rather deeply in debt, and Joanne Rowling can't be expected to get it out on her own.

The third comment on B2's post was our old friend 'Anonymous' who said, "If only you could write half so well." Aaro is in good fettle today: he isn't short of all those things that liven up a piece of prose - allusions, metaphors, similes, invective. It's a professional job, all right. If, however, your criterion is clarity, he's been to busy with all the other stuff to oblige.

All but the most wilful Labourites know in their waters that the capitalists were partly responsible for the as-yet-fairly-comfortable bust, then they also had something to do with the much longer preceding boom, ...

Fairly clear so far. The 'then' is confusing; this morning I found that I mentally went back and inserted an 'if' before 'the capitalists' otherwise the syntax breaks down. But at this point he had a clear enough thought in his head.

...a boom in which the public sector workers, represented by the unions, have most certainly participated.

Why 'public sector workers' rather than 'workers' and why are these 'public sector workers' 'represented by the unions' when the unions he's mentioned so far represent both public and private sector workers? And surely he meant 'from which ... benefited' rather than 'in which ... participated'.

By "the new homophilic Conservative Party", I think he means his Times colleague Michael Gove. (I'm sure he's not thinking of Matthew Parris.)

They want to be protected from change, but not to suffer from the inevitable consequences of protection.

Two words: "safety net". Or even one word: "insurance." Protection doesn't have to be stifling. I'm not exactly sure what he means by "the inevitable consequences of protection" although Soviet tanks on the streets can't be ruled out. What people expect from a Labour government (possibly any government) and not from capitalism is this: if everything fucks up and the job goes kaput, they can still heat their homes, eat, and the kids can go to school.

Under him [Gordon Brown] - HBOS reprieve notwithstanding - Labour is heading for a Majorite meltdown.

I'm really not sure about that HBOS reprieve. The Guardian reported it as Lloyds TSB chairman struck HBOS deal with Brown at City drinks party which say that Brown promised Lloyds TSB that it "would escape the scrutiny of the competition authorities." I'm really surprised that there hasn't been an almighty stink over this. This isn't how capitalism is supposed to work outside of Marxist-Leninist pamphlets denouncing same.

Now if I've read the end of the piece correctly, Dave is volunteering the boy Miliband to lead the Labour Party to defeat which would make DB a successor to "Gaitskell or Kinnock, who never got a chance to serve."

Why vote for a party that itself says it will lose? But in the cold watches around dawn, when the booze has worn off, Labour people have to admit that even the scale of any defeat is all-important and that having 250 MPs is ten times better than having 150.

So Dave says they're going to lose as well. He doesn't consider a victory or even a hung parliament. So the question stands, "Why vote for them?" But surely Aaro goes back far enough to have voted Labour when they couldn't win. "Because it's the right thing to do" is a perfectly good answer to his question. (I'm not going to vote Labour; I'm going to vote tactically to get these bastards out. But it's still a good answer.)

As an antidote, I'd recommend reading anything by John Harris or Justin McKeating but especially this.

Metaphor bouillabaisse

Notoriously, George Orwell regarded a mixed metaphor as likely proof that the writer did not care what he was writing about. Today's column from the 2001 Orwell Prize winner refers to British trade unionists as Bourbon monarchs, Cro-Magnons and lepers (and possibly marooned pirates, thanks CapCab) within the space of a single paragraph [1] - the mental picture is really quite confusing. Perhaps more, on the substance of the piece, which is an old Aaro theme - "relentless change and globalisation" - later.

[1] and as antiques, flirts, shiv-sinking criminals, acolytes, Wicker Man cultists, mammoth-skin wearers and drunks, through the rest of the piece. You can take the man out of the CPGB, but glimmers of the finest Soviet prose will always occasionally shine through.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So, Sally Can Wait

My friends, I was going write a very short post this morning - "Nick is good today." And the first comment begins "First time I have ever said 'listen to Mr Cohen'."

However, if I write this, I'm connected to the internet. So... yes it's a good story, good for Nick for writing it, but ... he took his time. (I really really apologise for the title, btw. I know it's too late...)

Journalist accused of corrupting a police officer Press Gazette 13 August 2007. Much more informative. Via Richard Wilson. The writer, not the actor, who has links from blog posts dated 6 September and 13 September.

Still, good for Nick for not, er, walking on by. I hope other papers pick this up. If civil liberties in this country go down the toilet, don't ...

Friday, September 19, 2008


Ahoy, you scurvy dags! It be Interr-national Talk Like A Pirate Day and if you be knowing what's good for youse, you'll be cursing praper in the camments.

Rright, appropriately for Talk Like A Pirate Day, arr, we be talkin' about Arrrr-t. There be these three shipmates, see, and one of them goes on shore leave and he gets blind drunk, as you do, and when he wakes up, he finds he's bought a picture, but the rain must have warshed all the paint orf or something, because the canvas is totally blank ... Oh not that 'Arrrr-t', this Arrrr-t! There be a discussion in the camments to our previous post. Like the Couccous Kid, I be thinking that Charrles Saartchi be more impartant to the carrrerr of Damien Harrst than Nicholas Serota. This be making no sense:

Why are they selling when all around Hirst asset prices are collapsing? The rather magnificent Stuckist movement of figurative artists has a simple explanation: the art establishment in London has been dominated for too long by an in-group which favours only the conceptual art of Hirst and his colleagues.

If a pirate be selling, another pirate must be buying. Whoever this pirate be, they be not in London. They also believe that they have the pieces of eight to invest. "Why are Hirst's works being bought and by whom when asset prices are down and banks don't have the money for this sort of thing?" be a good question. And I agree with Nick that Hirst's work and conceptual art in general be an investment going down to Davy Jonses locker by and by. But Nick's answer is as much use as the Pole Star in a thunderstorm: specifically, it doesn't answer where this money be coming from. Har-Har-Har!

Nick been writin' about Lehman Brothers, but he ain't been writin' about AIG. Like Narrman Geras, Nick be supportin' Manchester United. We think they be right pleased that as socialists (who must love nationalisation) and philo-Americans that their two interests should come together. Take it away, Kevin Drum: It seems that the US taxpayers now own the sponsors of Manchester United. As a pirate, this brings a tear to my eye. 303 million people rabbed on one day. Such criminality be deserving a 21 gun salute. Buckle yer swatches, shipmates, we live in an era of greatness.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Left in the Dark

Thank you to Anonymous for her/his post in the comments.

Boy oh boy. Democracy: a Journal of Ideas is a strange publication. You could, for instance, follow the link from the index page to Nick Cohen's review of Left in Dark Times by Bernard-Henri Levy. If you did, you'd be disappointed, because only the first paragraph is displayed. The rest requires logging in (for "FREE access to all Democracy content"). Bugger. Or, you could follow Anonymous's lead and read the print friendly version. (I assume this works for all content: just change "article" in the url for "printfriendly" and access is yours - free, gratis, with for nothing thrown in!)

Our commenters have already made several astute points below Anon. I hope that one of my co-bloggers knows more about Levy than I do, but for now I'll limit myself to a couple of observations.

Lévy was embarrassed. He had indeed known Sarkozy for years, and had briefed him before a famous television confrontation with Tariq Ramadan, the leading Muslim Brotherhood apologist in Europe. Sarkozy challenged Ramadan over his support for a "moratorium"–instead of an outright ban–on the stoning of Muslim women found "guilty" of adultery. Soon after their debate, Ramadan moved from France to Britain. Once there, he wasn’t treated as an ideologue for a reactionary movement whose founders had been inspired by European fascism, but was feted by the nominally liberal academics of Oxford University and courted by ministers in the nominally left-of-center Labour government. Was this the European Left Lévy was meant to support?

The last sentence makes no sense. Never mind the caricature of British politics, why does Nick ask if the British Left is what Levy is meant to support after he's outlined differences between British and French leftist politics?

But Lévy couldn’t. "Personal relations are one thing," he said. "Ideas are another. And no matter how much I like and respect you, the Left is my family." It wasn’t much of an answer–and Lévy knew it. Left in Dark Times is his more considered attempt to explain how the left-liberalism he had dedicated his life to had gone wrong in Europe–and how it could easily be perverted in America as well, if liberals do not heed his warnings.

According to Nick, this was Levy's response to Sarkozy in 2007. Wikipedia's entry on Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Returning to Paris, Levy became famous as the young founder of the New Philosophers (Nouveaux Philosophes) school. This was a group of young intellectuals who were disenchanted with communist and socialist responses to the near-revolutionary upheavals in France of May 1968, which articulated a fierce and uncompromising moral critique of Marxist and socialist dogmas years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union.[1] In contrast to the neo-conservatism of ex-leftist anti-Marxist American intellectuals, however, neither Lévy nor the New Philosophers was led to embrace capitalist ideology.[citation needed] Throughout the 1970s, Levy taught a course on epistemology at the Université de Strasbourg and philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure. It was in 1977, on the television show Apostrophes, that Lévy was presented, alongside André Glucksmann, as a nouveau philosophe. In the very same year he published Barbarism with a Human Face (La barbarie à visage humain), arguing that Marxism was inherently corrupt.

So Levy has always been known for criticising parts of the left. If Nick is to be believed, however, he has moved on from "a fierce and uncompromising moral critique of Marxist and socialist dogmas" to attacking everyone who calls themselves "progressive", "leftist", "socialist" or whatever. And Nick knows this:

When Lévy told Sarkozy that he could not vote for him because the Left was his family, Sarkozy cried, "What? Those people who have spent 30 years telling you to go fuck yourself? Do you really think I’m an idiot, or do you really believe what you are saying?"

Sarkozy has a point: it's hard to see what Levy believes. He attacks members of the left, then says the whole thing is his family. And Nick follows the above paragraph with this:

The language of the leader of the French Right was rough, but he asked a good question. It is a question that will soon occupy the American Left’s attention. True liberals should set out now to win the ideological battles that will come after Bush’s departure, so that no gleeful conservative can ever ask the same question of them.

At first I thought the question he meant was "Do you really think I’m an idiot?" but on consideration is has to be "Are you, or have you ever been, a Communist?"

I did like this from Levy's Wikipedia page:

Other critics of Levy attack his support of the Mitterrand doctrine that allows Italian terrorists members of Brigate Rosse to live in France as free men and women despite the fact that the Italian courts have sentenced them to long imprisonment or Life sentence. Levy argues that during the late 1970s and 1980s basic human rights were not respected in Italy.

Our terrorists are bad. Other people's terrorists, or, as I prefer to call them, freedom fighters, are good. Relativist? Moi?

The Dissemination Of Stupid Ideas

Aaro's in a grouchy mood after one morning spent on the internet. He's been let down by a Times sub who precised him thus: "The inventor of the internet is worried about the spread of conspiracy theories. A quick Google proved him right." Tim Berners-Lee did not invent the internet, though he did create the World Wide Web. There's a difference and its Googleable.

Yesterday Sir Tim Berners-Lee, one of the genius originators of the World Wide Web, announced the setting up of a new foundation, rather artlessly called the “World Wide Web Foundation”, which body intends to research what has been happening on the internet, and make suggestions on how to improve it. Which is a very good idea.

The only "exceptionally talented" originators of the WWW don't get asked to make speeches, of course. Only kidding, Sir Tim did it pretty much on his own, coding the original browser and server himself according to Wikipedia (link above) though I think I remember from his book, Weaving the Web that he had help with the first browser.

Anyway, in the lead-up to the foundation of the foundation Sir Tim mentioned his worries about one aspect of weblife, the fact that, using the net, “a cult which was 12 people who had some deep personal issues suddenly find a formula which is very believable - a sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and being deeply damaging”.

Fair play, this is exactly what the BBC said Sir Tim said, because it's a cut-and-paste from the BBC interview (with a little adjustment to remove a "he said"). This idea hasn't gone down well - see The Register: Berners-Lee backs web truthiness labelling scheme and e-consultancy: Sir Tim Berners-Lee in crazy kitemark scheme. The second of those points out that "the web is a two-way medium", but no one knows that as much as TB-L who built the first web browser and editor. Aaro doesn't like Wikipedia, as we shall see, but the original idea of the Web allowed for much more interactivity (or vandalism).

The problem here is that the Web Foundation idea is bonkers: you don't need a central authority, and there is - and has been for just over 10 years now - a wonderful system for evaluating webpages: PageRank.

Back to this "sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and being deeply damaging." I can imagine it, but I can invincible cyborgs with Austrian accents travelling back in time to kill the man who foiled the robot takeover of the world. TB-L doesn't give examples of damaging sorts of conspiracy theories. I imagine that regular reading of Harry's Place probably raises the blood pressure and leads to hallucinations of ubiquitous anti-Semites, but that's about it. The web has been blamed for the Bridgend suicides but that's as much as a conspiracy theory propagated by newspapers as much as anything; the phenomenon may not even have been real, as the Times article says, "a high rate of suicide among young males might be expected".

Our Dave, still in reasonable gear notes that the "great MMR scare was, largely, a print panic caused by ignorant journalists and media folk who were unable to distinguish between an unsubstantiated theory on the one hand and a scientific consensus built around significant studies on the other." But then, after some sensible observations on creationism, he decides to listen to Sir Tim. And here, I think, he loses it. He goes to the Wikipedia page on Paul Rassinier, which he finds to be "a little bit odd". Well, there is, before any text, a box with a large exclamation mark and the warning: "The neutrality and factual accuracy of this article are disputed." The Talk Page which is linked to immediately after that warning carries all Dave's objections and more. Dave:

So it took me an instinct, one morning, three hours, and a background in this material, to realise that the Rassinier Wikipedia biography - the first item on Rassinier that appears when you search for his name - had probably been written by someone with sympathies for the Holocaust denial camp of David Irving. The uninitiated, however, would never know, for not once does this poisonous bias break cover.

Wikipedia: Talk:Paul Rassinier Utterly, odiously POV. I assume that's a French editor trying to express his disgust in English, but it's clear enough. The "poisonous bias" is discussed at much length, and it's hard to miss.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Selective Quotation

Is there a doctor in the house? The kind with a PhD rather than an MD, preferably in political theory? This may be stretching the remit of AW(i'Wod'), but I've found an Alan ('NTM') Johnson interview quoted - and, I think, intentionally misinterpreted. First Sarah Palin interviewed by Charlie Gibson Excerpts:

Gibson: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
Palin: In what respect?
Gibson: The Bush — well, what do you interpret it to be?
Palin: His world view?
Gibson: No, the Bush doctrine, annunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
Palin: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made and, with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.
Gibson: The Bush doctrine as I understand it is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defence, that we have the right to a pre-emptive strike against any country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with us?
Palin: Charlie, if there is legitimate evidence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country.

Now, via Arthur Silber, Cliff May of the Corner cites Alan Johnson's interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter (though, doubtless for his own reasons, he doesn't link to the interview, making the cut-and-paste less obvious, but the the Alan Johnson Interviews book page).

Alan Johnson: What are the central differences, and what are the elements of continuity, if any exist, between 'the Bush doctrine' and the 'grand strategy of forging a world of liberty under law' that you propose?
Anne-Marie Slaughter: Tell me what you mean by 'The Bush Doctrine'.

Johnson goes on to give his definition (and May reprints their exchange). I'm blogging this because I'm surprised that Democratiya is cited by anyone, ever. But I also think that Dean Slaughter is being intentionally misunderstood by the defenders of Palin. My interpretation of that exchange is that Johnson's original question is too wide-ranging for a verbal answer, so Slaughter short-cuts by asking for a working definition of the 'Bush doctrine' with which she can compare and contrast the Princeton Project on National Security's policies.

I think she understood the question, and wanted it clarified. So May's precis was wrong.

In other words, Dean Slaughter gave the same answer as did Palin.

Any opinions?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Brand Gets A Job, Not "Bombs"

Why oh why didn't I mention the rest of Nick's Wednesday Standard article? Because I don't like Guy Richie either (actually, I haven't seen any of his films, so that's mostly prejudice) and I don't care about Linda Grant. I think Russell Brand is OK; I wouldn't go out of my way to see him. Nick tuts in his general direction.

As I've said before, I check the comment pages of the Times every day now. Here's India Knight on Brand's MTV performance. It's not a bad column, and there is one interesting bit.


So although virtually everyone at the MTV bash hated Bush and supported Obama, Brand bombed. His career in the States is over, and he will be forced to spend more time performing in London.

India Knight:

The awards haven’t done his US profile any harm: viewing figures were up 19% this year and MTV has asked him to host again next year. But his friend David Baddiel told me on Friday: “I think he was maybe a little surprised by the level of rage. He said he could imagine feeling that angry only if someone said something about his mum. What’s bizarre is that his remarks would be considered tepid in this country – it’s a massively disproportionate response to someone saying something very mildly out of turn.” Baddiel added that the script would have been checked by MTV, “which means you got maybe 10% of what he’d have liked to have said – he was operating at a fraction of his taboo-busting capabilities”.

My emphasis. Aceshowbiz (I've never heard of this one either): Russell Brand Booked for Next Year's MTV VMAs. The Sun (a popular paper in the UK, AW(iWoD) understands): Brand: MTV want me back next year.


His career in the States is over...

Oh yes. More Nick:

It is one thing to hear a fellow citizen denigrate your country, quite another for a foreigner to do the same.

Bonus video, what happens if the foreigner has recently become a citizen?

And He Was Half Right

Good mornings! Gentlepersons of the jury, I'd like the record to show that there is still a group on Facebook called Bring Back Blair and that the email given under contact info is nickDOTcohenATobserverDOTcoDOTuk.

I think Nick makes some good points this morning. The best of these being that on the same day as the News of the World and the Mail on Sunday carried the Ivan Lewis allegations (background), the Observer "carried a fierce attack on David Miliband". At last, a strategy from Gordon Brown - one he's pinched shamelessly from al-Quaeda (multiple attacks on 11 September 2001 preceded by the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud), but the man is learning. And has the Observer deleted the Simpson attack? I've tried to find it, and I've found lots of commentary on it, but not the thing itself.

A few days earlier, I had listened open-mouthed as a Brownite delivered a jeering, contemptuous assault on Alistair Darling for the mistake of speaking incautiously to the Guardian. It wasn't only the tone that riled me, but the knowledge that Darling was not Brown's enemy but a friend who was uncomplainingly cleaning up the mess his master had left at the Treasury. 'Loyalty is what the bosses screw you with,' trade unionists used to say, and Darling's trusting nature made him a soft target for the Brownites.

Nick's observations and deductions seem very sound - he's actually doing what a columnist can do: a sort of meta-analysis of news. He's not breaking new stories as such, but he's pointing out connections others have missed; he's providing context, and dare I say it? narrative. For the first time in a long time, he's being insightful. However, as I hope I made clear above, he also has a dog in this fight, and his column may be part of a campaign which itself is hitting multiple targets at once[1], Nick's role being to smear the smearers.

Notes I can't be bothered to write up: The Observer today in Dissidents aim to use Labour rule book to target Brown suggests that the Labour rebels are being advised by Charlie Falconer no less. I liked the respective denials of the Miliband-Milburn story. I also liked "'A bully is less frightening when he's weak,' as one senior figure explained to me." The senior figure may be anonymous, but I'd like to say thank you anyway. Tory blogger Iain Dale was quick off the mark on Ivan Lewis Health Minister Ivan Lewis Knifed by His Own Side.

[1] Note that the dissenting MPs are coming out one by one. It's a tactic designed to excite rolling news; every few hours a new headline, and it's sure to clog Google news searches for Brown. All these stories and all negative. Brilliant stuff. Poisonous and damaging to party credibility in the medium term (like 2010), but great fun for now.

Update 12:17 Speaking of Iain Dale, on Friday he wrote Brown Camp Smears McDonagh.

Guido [Fawkes, aka Paul Staines or that twat who appeared on Newsnight with his face blanked out like a terrorist] seems to have been spun a line by the Brown camp that this sort of thing is to be expected. Contrary to his story, she didn't sign any nomination papers last year let alone spoil any.

Good for Iain Dale. The reputation of Guido Fawkes can't get any worse. What was the Brown camp thinking of?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Facts - Sacred

Bush and Saudi friend.

I don't want to tread on the good captain's toes any more that I already have in the previous post. There should be a photo above this paragraph. (I pinched it after a Google search; it came from this post: How John McCain can McDo it. Multiculturalists among you will know that, as the post's author did, that Muslims have certain prohibitions concerning the left hand. Some statesmen are a little more ignorant, it seems. But I digress.)

Nick "Wanker" Cohen in [pause, deep breath, almighty swearing attack] FrontPage:

Bush’s doctrine was unexceptional – a leader would be guilty of a dereliction of duty if he did not treat those countries which harbored those who would slaughter his fellow citizens as ‘hostile regimes’ – but it was not allowed to stand [by one assumes, George Soros].

The Guardian this evening: Saudi judge calls for murder of satellite channel owners:

Al-Lihedan sparked controversy previously when he issued a religious decree permitting Saudis to join jihadists to fight US troops in Iraq.

Do I even need to mention Oliver North and the Iran hostage crisis? I could go on, you know.

Nick on David Horowitz

Shorter Nick: The excellent and wise David Horowitz and his sidekick fail to notice all the respects in which Western liberals are perfidious. Apart from that David H is a really good egg whose courage, strength and indefatigability I salute (and, by the way, George Soros is a very bad man).

Update 3:15pm by Chardonnay Chap. Sorry for butting in, but I've just noticed something really priceless at the end of that article.

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and New Statesman.

Er, no he's not. Nick's Wikipedia entry (edited by ncohen2):

Until June 2007 he contributed regularly to the New Statesman, but departed and sued the magazine.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All That Is Concrete Melts Into The Abstract

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.

George Orwell, Politics and the English Language.

Look, when I said "Hitchens is the sort of writer who plagiarizes himself", I meant it in a good way. I assume that he'd turned some bons mots on "tumbrel remarks" and found that they didn't fit into his current commission and had consigned them to a notebook. Therefore, he had a half-written but good article to hand when he wrote for Slate the other week.

Nick Cohen plagiarizes himself too. Not only does his new Standard effort repeat his data point concerning muslim terrorists: "radical Islam is a fascistic movement" but he revisits his tv gig on Standpoint. But first, Nick's problems with a certain four-letter word. 'They'. As here:

They never think that the overthrow of Saddam was opposed by millions who would no more attack the London Underground than congratulate Tony Blair for supporting George W Bush.

Who are 'they'? - the "dumber parts of the Left". Hold on, aren't those also the ones who opposed the "overthrow of Saddam"? Dumb to the point of not even being self-aware then. OK, that may be me projecting a little into Nick's writing. There could be these "dumber parts of the Left" and they're totally unconnected to "Stoppers". It's hard to tell, because he tells us so little about them. I guess he's thinking of Madelaine Bunting, however.

This refusal to name confuses Nick the way a foolish pride in not jotting down the steps in long division contributes to a guaranteed wrong answer.

Even though an acclaimed playwright produced five versions of a script for a drama-documentary, the BBC cancelled the project.

Happily for AW(i'Wod') readers, Nick has committed the name of this playwright to print and pixels in Standpoint.

A team of journalists, at least one of whom was a British Muslim, reported to Terry Cafolla, a fine writer who won many awards for his dramatisation of the religious hatred which engulfed the Holy Cross school in Belfast.

Now, Nick isn't the most careful writer, but that was "dramatisation" singular, wasn't it? Not that the TV critic ever seemed bothered by the question of why journalists were reporting to a dramatist rather than filing stories.

So psychologically convincing is the portrayal of macho loyalty and lure of barbarism that viewers can understand how these men turn into mass murderers.

Except that they can't and won't understand, because the BBC will not give them the opportunity to understand. This is a review of a drama that was never made.

The reporters convinced the families of three of the four bombers to cooperate. By the end, they agreed that the BBC's account of their sons and brothers' lives and deaths was accurate. Cafolla submitted five versions of the script. He was working up to a final draft when the BBC abandoned the project.

It was only when re-reading that article just to find the playwright's name, Terry Cafolla, that I noticed that it's the "BBC's account" which "was accurate". The 'they' in the last paragraph must refer to the families, but it sounds rather grudging, as if the families co-operated until they agreed and said what the journalists wanted to hear. Nick likes this samizdat drama because it's "psychologically convincing" not because of verifiable facts. I don't want to be blown up any more than Nick does, but this stuff demands investigation, not plausible stories.

Back in the Standard, Nick applies the t-word to the right:

Even though they have seen al Qaeda do its worst to Iraq for years, it doesn't occur to them that radical Islam is a fascistic movement whose first aim is to kill Muslims who believe in democracy, free-thinking, gay rights, women's rights or any rival version of islam that conflicts with their psychopathic theology.

Going by this, Nick doesn't know much al Qaeda either. I don't pretend to understand what is going on in Iraq; who is doing what to whom is just too hard to follow, and factions aren't keen on claiming responsibility. However, he seems to be confusing al Qaeda with the Taleban and with the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria. The problem with this theory is that even bin Laden may have distanced himself and al-Qaeda from the GIA and instead supported the more popular GSPC because the GSPC has gained popular support by pledging to avoid civilian attacks inside Algeria - a promise they have not entirely kept.

Britain isn’t America, and journalists can’t ask jurors what went through their minds in the jury room. This restriction is a pity, because the cries of despair coming from the Met and MI5 suggest that they would really like to know.

The BBC is much more informative.

Frank Gardner, the BBC's security correspondent, said counter-terrorism officials had thought it was an open-and-shut case, with the strongest evidence yet in a British terror trial.
Police and prosecutors expected the jury to accept the alleged links between the accused, al-Qaeda and a fleet of transatlantic airliners, he said.
But as these links did not stand up, the recriminations were beginning, he added.
An official close to the investigation when the men were arrested has told the BBC the US government was partly to blame.
The official said it had pressed Pakistan into making arrests before all the legal evidence had been gathered.

Never mind what Orwell said, this really is the stuff of cliche: fools rushed in.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Let's all join hands and sing Kumbaya

For this rare moment of agreement. Aaro fucking nails it this week, on the subject of how Frank Field (and, inter alia, Andrew Anthony and Nick Cohen's new mate Anthony Browne) are completely full of shit on the subject of immigration. And does so in a very well-written article with just the right amount of sarcasm. I very much hope that Aaro has put the final knife into Field's political career with this one and will buy him a pint or sponsor him in the London Marathon if he has.

"Decent racism" post forthcoming; it's actually quite interesting in that a number of AW (i'WoD') betes noires like Aaro, Kamm, Hoare etc are more or less totally innocent of it whereas some of the more minor comedy figures (Anthony, NTM etc) are a lot more concupiscent than you'd think.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


New Wikipedia user Ncohen2 appears to have some quite strong views about the Nick Cohen/Johann Hari dispute, as well as some information about the circumstances under which Nick left the New Statesman which I didn't think was previously public. I wonder who this user might be? I hope we see more. (thanks to an anonymous commenter below)

Beyond watching

When Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, Tom Lehrer gave up satire. After this, maybe we shouldn't bother with Nick any more. Summary: "those eevul libruls hatez honest ornery workin peepul laak Saruh Pa-lin". Maybe he's just writing it for a bet or a dare, or to try to get the Observer to pay off the rest of his contract?

Update 8pm by Chardonnay Chap: Overwhelmed as I am by Nick's overwhelming arguments (do any readers work on the Guardian website? was his piece sub-edited by a user called krove1 perchance?), I give you Palin for President.

Drat these youtube contributors! If only the music had been Souza's Liberty Bell, I might have squeezed in a pune or play on words like "Liberty Belle". Also, before pedants spot the mistake in the video above, the last clip does not feature Palin.

Via Peter Black. Readers may note that it took two hours from Peter's post (11:29 am here, so 6:29 on the East Coast of the USA) for the first American to show up in the comments.

Sarah Palin is a star born, it’s all over for the Obama-Biden ticket. The liberal press have more or less cooked-off the Obama-Biden ticket with their out of bounds press coverage between John McCain’s announcement of Palin as his running mate and Palin’s speech at the GOP convention in Saint Paul, MN. Middle-road America feels energized and the ‘back-lash’ is underway. More specifically, the pent-up angst felt by so many middle-of-the-road American voters is now out of the bag.

That is so like Nick Cohen's piece, it's like they share a scriptwriter. 'Liberal press' - check; 'out of bounds press coverage' - check; 'pent-up anger' - check. Karl Rove never sleeps.

Friday, September 05, 2008

French Without Tears

This is a guest post by Willie M

Back in July, Senator Obama's campaign ran a Spanish language radio ad. What is it with these Democrats? If English was good enough for the Lord Jesus Christ, it's good enough for all America. You wouldn't catch the Senator for the Republican state of Nebraska speaking foreign, would you?

But now the nights are fair drawing in, and the little bastards have come back to spoil my nice clean school grounds, and I'll do anything if I get a blog post out of it I decided to examine the way our continental cousins think by attempting to learn a foreign language.

Travel broadens the mind. Before I came to Springfield, I had no ambitions, but exposure to the American way of life made me want to better my lot.

The simple fact is that learning a foreign language is really, really boring. As the French would say, "tres, tres boring." I haven't learned the French for "boring" yet, sorry.

How boring? They combined basic verbs with a health & safety lecture, like so:
Je me rends
tu te rends
il se rend
nous nous rendons
vous vous rendez
ils se rendent

Really, though, only the first person forms are of any use: if we're talking about surrendering in French, it's going to be the speaker who's offering.

So what is French good for? In theory, French can be used to discuss any subject, and in reality, if you go to France and talk to French people, you can talk about anything - provided you connect it to sex. I showed a French colleague whom I consider to of above average intelligence the weblog "Harry's Place", and he read assiduously - for about a paragraph. Then he skimmed, until he was just paging down and perhaps scanning a word or two in each frame. "Eet ees rather dull, no?" he said. "Where is the ..." here he gave what we call a Gallic shrug and waggled his eyebrows, as if the words he wanted simply were not in the English tongue and could not be translated into it, "the va-va-voom? The, how-you-say, the legover?" Here he made a face of perfect disgust as if English could only convey a sort of teenaged and philistine reflection of the much more nuanced Gallic appreciation of the act of love.

This is the problem with the French. They like their leisure. No wonder they imported the fine English word 'weekend' into their demotic speech, even if the Academie Francais does not approve. They're too lazy to make up their own terms! French does not have a word for 'entrepreneur' just as George W Bush claimed. I checked. What's the French for 'entrepreneur'? 'Entrepreneur' of course.

French is a very emotional language, and when not talking about their feelings, they're talking about tastes and smells and food and stuff like that. If you think the Eskimos have a lot of words for snow, you haven't heard Johnny Frog discourse about the fruits of the vine.

And they don't do philosophy, unless you're talking about propping up the chattering classes. The most famous 'philosophical' thought a Frenchman ever came up with was "I think, therefore I am." Not I hunt endangered species with shotguns from low-flying aircraft, therefore I am. No! That would be celebrating the authentic people. In French, only intellectuals, especially those who just talk about stuff while knocking back Claret, really matter. Otherwise, French prognostications are really one long whine. Who put the 'je' into 'jejeune' (twice)? The cheese-eating surrender-monkeys, that's who. There is a splendid essay on recent French intellectualism, and the careful reader will soon realise that the originators of such passing fashions are not French at all. Clark-Trimble was "a leading Cambridge psychologist" and Martin Freidegg (1839-1904) and Martin Heidansiecker (1850-1910) were both clearly German. Nick Cohen in his book "What's Left" suggests, originally, that bad writing is indicative of somebody with something to hide. He was talking about post-modernism, but he could have been thinking of poor Heidansiecker: "in the confused terminology of this tortured German mystic we are never sure whether it is Things who hate us, or we who hate the Things." Evidently, a postmodernist ahead of his time!

Apologies to Matt Groening and the Fox Network (please, please don't sue!), Groundskeeper Willie MacMoran, Miles Kington, Paul Jennings, Rene Descartes, and Dudley D Watkins (for a "Broons" joke - something to do with 'silver plate' which failed to make the final draft, not that I work in anything so rigourous or intelligent as drafts). And my co-bloggers, if you think this is crap - it was all my own work; ditto if Murdoch does sue. Oh, and to Harry's Place too, but in their case I don't mean it, I'm just explaining the 'joke'.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Union Man

As already discussed in the comments in the last post, Nick's latest "doesn't really make any sense". Nick: "[W]e might have become a saner country where people didn’t imagine they could make their fortune in property speculation." Why oh why does Nick Cohen hate America?

Oh yes, America.

They ['Well-heeled Democrats' presumably, but working out who Nick means by 'they' these days is largely guesswork] come from a political class where sex is safe and lives orderly. Most Americans don’t, and Palin’s family troubles will seem normal to many voters.

This link may not work, being a Google cache of a National Enquirer story which may have been taken down: Palin War: Teen Prego Crisis.

Palin’s ongoing war with her ex brother-in-law Mike Wooten, a state trooper, has caused multiple sources to come forward with shocking allegations about the governor.

Details of those allegations, the family feud, and Palin’s attempt to cover up her teen daughter’s pregnancy are in the new issue of The ENQUIRER.

The Enquirer has always been known for covering 'normal' stories. The Torygraph:

But the Enquirer was recently vindicated after its long-running pursuit of John Edwards, a former Democratic presidential candidate, ended with him admitting he had conducted an extra-marital affair with a filmmaker he had met in a bar in New York and later employed on his campaign.
The Enquirer responded: “The National Enquirer's coverage of a vicious war within Sarah Palin's extended family includes several newsworthy revelations, including the resulting incredible charge of an affair plus details of family strife when the Governor's daughter revealed her pregnancy.
“Following our John Edwards exclusives, our political reporting has obviously proven to be more detail-oriented than the McCain campaign's vetting process. Despite the McCain camp's attempts to control press coverage they find unfavorable, The Enquirer will continue to pursue news on both sides of the political spectrum."

Nick, back in July, "I've written many times about how England’s libel laws are the last resort of the scoundrel." Good job that the friend of free speech John McCain isn't trying to censor reporters isn't it?

“Legal action will be considered with regard to this disgraceful smear.”

McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt, quoted in the Telegraph.

The best line from Nick was this one: "A working-class woman, with one unmarried child pregnant, another child , a third fighting in Iraq and a husband who is a union man, is a preposterous figure to them." Sounds like a refried version of New Palin details may help, not hurt to me.

"Authenticity is the most important characteristic for someone seeking public office," said Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. "Any news that comes out about her is not going to hurt her because it reinforces the point that she is authentically one of us."

Didn't our Nick write something about what he called Europe's cult of the authentic which is "not rational but visceral"? Besides, if being authentically working/middle class matters so much why did the Republicans choose the son and grandson of Admirals who married a millionairess (after his first wife was injured in a car crash) as their Presidential candidate? And why is the current President the son of a patrician former President?

Video of a Democrat running down unions, single parents, etc:

Via John Cole, yet again.

Update 10 pm. The above video doesn't mention single mothers as I recall, but one of Obama's ads in July did. And how could I forget (because I've been trying? that seems to work) Chrisopher "The Dupe" Hitchens' attack on "the time ... when every politician in the country tries to act as if he or she went barefoot to school. Thank heaven that this year neither of the nominees comes from a small town..." Oops; who counted Wasilla's population as 7,025? [Answer: Wasilla.] Palin's son Track is going to Iraq later this month. Senator Biden's son Beau, currently Delaware's Attorney General is being deployed there in October. (If single parent families and serving in the military are preposterous to liberals, why aren't they rejecting the Obama-Biden ticket?) So he's a lawyer. Lawyers are part of the American way; knock lawyers and you knock America. Get out of that one, Nick.

Alternate ending for alternate ending fans. Iraq is one of the most beleaguered countries on earth. And we're sending lawyers. What is this? State-sponsored sadism?

Update Friday 10pm. Experience, etc.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Lunatic Wing

HP and the lunatic wing at the DSTs hate his [Osama Saeed's] guts ...

Flying Rodent in comments here yesterday. Look, this is Aaronovitch Watch not 'crazies with internet access' watch, but do keep up. H'sP and the DSTs are no longer friendly.

See here. I *think* what has happened in the comments is that they've all be deleted and replaced with comments on the comments, ie "[this fucker is just straight-up fucking strange]" and all commenter's site links have been replaced with links to this post which may or may not explain the split.

They don't like Marko or Norman Geras either. These differences may be superficial - both the DSTs and Norman Geras link to the Hitchens piece discussed on Monday. Approvingly. (A theory re that article I should have posted at the time: Hitchens is the sort of writer who plagiarizes himself. He wrote the 'good bits' years ago, found they didn't fit in whatever he was working on at the time and left them in a drawer. He then wrapped the McCain thing around old, and sane, observations.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Capsule Decentiya

Thanks to our lovely commenteers for the heads-up on this one; as a service back to the community, Decentiya, Digested.

Editor's Page: Alan NTM delivers a passionate and heartfelt encomium to himself. Then revisits his "post-left" brainfart:
Its high theory and low sensibility are increasingly important in the mass media, the arts, the academy and in what we might call graduate-popular-culture

... and Decentiya too, apparently; there are about a dozen references to "governing narratives", "discourses" etc etc scattered through this ish. Anyway, the only thing that the modern "post-Left" does is says "We Are All Hezbollah". That's it. And they say it all the time. (parenthetically, although WAAH was a monumentally stupid and counterproductive slogan for the five or six grouplets that used it, and for that reason I don't really begrudge the Decents their propagandistic use of it, I do think it's a little bit pathetic for Not The Min and his mates to totally ignore the circumstances of the invasion of 2006, still more to pretend that it's a slogan that's ever been used outside that context).

Letters to the Editor: Lyn Julius gets called on some particularly egregious bullshit about Mearsheimer and Waltz, pretends she hasn't.

The Mighty Walzer: The Democratiya Project: Epitomises the "will this do?" style of preface for the freebie Decentiya interviews compilation that you get free with the £100 club (or alternatively, that you pay £100 for). In words suspiciously close to those of Alan NTM Johnson, he tells us exactly the same thing that Alan NTM Johnson told us in the "Editor's Page".

Robert "Don't call me Wilhelm" Reich: The Paradox of Supercapitalism: Book chapter, doesn't make me want to buy the book. Reich was a puddle-deep thinker in the Clinton administration and is no better now; god help the publisher who thought that the world needed a lite- version of Joe Stiglitz.

Bring Your Daughter To Anne-Marie Slaughter: Are We Rome?: All about whether the USA is an imperialist power or not. Amusingly, the entire essay is written about the consequences for Americans of imperialism and the chances of the US hanging on to imperial power for a bit more and/or suriving the Fall. Idea that being an empire might be a bad thing to be, absent. Also amusingly:

The essence of this trend is reflected in the changing definition of the Latin word suffragium. It originally means voting tablet, or ballot. In the relatively brief days of the Roman Republic, (450 years. Are you ref. to a shorter period when a certain voting practice held, perhaps?) citizens could vote to elect individuals to specific offices,

Emphasis added; presumably this was an NTM note to A-MS which accidentally made it into the final draft.

Mark Major Major Major: The Politics Of Economic Inequality. A book report, not a review. Adds nothing. Presumably they print these to keep the review copies coming?

David Lowe: On Sharansky on Identity and Democracy. Also a bit of a book report, but Sharansky's thesis is interesting, if mental. Basically, there's nothing inconsistent between universal values and bombing the shit out of the Arabs. See, we democratically elect the leaders we like, and they democratically elect the leaders they like, and then if we don't like what they like, then there's a fight. Sharansky is basically the Id of Decentism - I'm sure none of them really endorse this, but psychologically it's what's at the bottom of the pool they're swimming in.

Ben Gidley: Jacqueline Rose and the 'Non-Jewish Jew' Not a bad essay, actually makes me want to read the book. Which, by the way, is apparently chock full o' postmodernism, Freudianism and all sorts of other naughty non-Enlightenment stuff and is endorsed by Slavoj Zizek - not sure why this one is in Democratiya at all. Gidley mentions in paragraph one that it contains an excellent essay about Edward Said, which is never mentioned again at all; presumably Rose did not toe the Decentiya line on Said (which is to say, him being a bastard).

David Milliband: Georgia: Choices For the West. If you liked it on the Foreign Office website, you'll like it again in Decentiya, I suppose.

Eric Lee: Global Labor Notes / Georgia: Why is Labor Silent?. Utterly pointless. Not even a book review; just Lee whinging on about the global labour movement not sticking up for plucky little Georgia, not like those paragons did in the 1920s. If you like trivia about the 20th century labour movement then you might like this, but Lee's politics are so absurdly slanted that I suspect his history might be too. I thought on reading this that maybe being a member of the Democratiya £100 Club (now by far the cheapest option btw; don't even consider the $200 or EUR130 options) gave you the right to have an article printed, because I can see no other reason for it. But Lee has a regular column doesn't he on "Global Labor Notes"? There must be literally fuck all happening in the world of trade unions. God. (imagine me doing a Gordon Ramsay voice on that word, like he says "God" when a chef tells him that he uses frozen spaghetti sauce).

Martin "Not Bodie From The Professionals" Shaw: Georgia: Lessons for the West. Visibly commits all the sins Alan NTM accuses the "post-Left" of (ie: blames lots of it on Bush, also takes 'conspiracy theories' seriously with regard to the question of actual US instigation of the Georgian attack). Visibly all the better for it. A lot of home truths here for Decentiya readers.

David Clarke: Georgia: The Meaning of the Conflict "Review to follow". That's the entire text. Great editing Alan.

Elizabeth Porter: Building Global Feminist Movements. Book report.

Martin Shaw/David Hirsh: Antisemitism and the Boycott: An Exchange Hilarious. If you only read one article in this issue of Democratiya, it should be this one. Shaw decides to upbraid Hirsh on the whole issue of being Big Chief I-Spy of British anti-semitism. Makes lots of points that have been needed to be made to the ENGAGE tendency for a very long time (including the completely incorrect use of the phrase "institutional racism"). Hirsh attempts to patronise Shaw and gets his head handed to him.

Max Dunbar: The Ideas of Tariq Ramadan If you read Paul Berman's longer and more dreadful attempt at a hatchet-job on Ramadan you are excused this. Not very good. Decents still seem to think that presenting Ramadan's "moratorium" quote is some kind of killer gotcha even when it's clear from the quote, even out of context, that Ramadan didn't mean what they (and Sarkozy at the time) claim.

Tom Gallagher: Nationalism and Islamism in Scotland. "Narratives" and "discourses" all over the braes in this one. Blah blah SNP. Apparently they are the first people in Scotland ever to have played ethnic politics, who knew? Lots of "white working class" as well. Basically Scottish Labour is fucked and its supporters a) don't like this fact, b) can't, apparently, find any substantial or important connections between Salmond and Islamism.

Eric B. Litwack Paddywhack, Give A Dog A Bone: Collective Apology and Moral Responsibility: Somewhere between a book report and an undergraduate essay on "Can there be such a thing as a collective national apology?". Only original bit:
Two of the editors of The Age of Apology have claimed a need for American apologies for waging a war on terror in their piece: 'Apology and the American "War on Terror". [...] As much as it is entirely reasonable to expect clear contrition on errors made during the current campaigns against terrorism and extremism, it is regrettable that not the slightest mention is made by the authors of the humanitarian arguments for the toppling of the Saddam Hussein Ba'ath Party tyranny, made both by many Iraqis and by many non-Iraqis. Furthermore, they elide any acknowledgement of the real threat that fanaticism and terrorism pose both to the democratic West and to the entire Middle East itself. Their focus here is entirely on errors of emphasis, flaws in the remarkably complex and error-prone world of military intelligence, and on atrocities and abuses. On the issue of imperfections in security and military intelligence before 9/11, it is important to invoke here the 'lighthouse effect' – one always hears of the one shipwreck and its horrors, but not of the solid function of preventing possibly thousands of other shipwrecks that the lighthouse performs.

yep, "picking over the rubble". Und so weiter.

Lawrence J. Haas: Letter from Washington / Searching for Barack. I see that Democratiya isn't printing anything by Fred Siegal this quarter, hurray. But why on earth does it need a great big wordy compilation of McCain campaign sneers about what "ordinary Americans" think? Particularly not from someone who transparently wouldn't know an ordinary American if one bit him on the bum.

Cathy Lowy: Letter from Hungary. Blog post.

Gary Kent: Letter from Baghdad. Blog post. Even has a bit in it about going to Blaydon to see the red kites.

David R. Adler: Arts / On Jazz, Hip-Hop and Democracy, Kevin Higgins: Poem / Letter To A Full Time Revolutionary, Michael Weiss : Arts / On Victor Serge's Unforgiving Years There is no way on earth I'm reviewing the arts coverage. Life's too short.

And some archive material from Denis Healey, and an interview with Robert Reich in which he reads out his book chapter and Alan does his poor man's Stern act. And we are done for another trimester. Hey ho hum.

Update: I said above that, thank the Lord, Democratiya had stopped publishing the awful Fred "France is going through an intifada" Siegal. This judgement may have been premature.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Piffle, it's such a Johnsonian word.[1] I'm probably betraying my non-U background in admitting that it's not a term I'd consider using; I like something weightier, like 'bullshit.' I'll throw out to readers that I originally thought that The Editors had Christopher Hitchens dead wrong. Then I read him. And now I'm not sure. He can't mean what he seems to mean, can he?

If any readers know good words for "corkscrew-like", I'd be happy to use their contributions in the next David Aaronovitch watching post. I don't think the English language has words for the abuse of logic as practiced by Hitchens.

BTW, if I knew that Aaro's Tuesday column went to press on Monday evening, I'd stick my neck out and say that he has to respond to his old nemesis Jackie Ashley.

[1] I wish I'd read that before reading David Aaronovitch on Boris Johnson and the Broken Society. I especially like the last paragraph which covertly notes that when Tony Blair was where David Cameron is now - two years from a general election the incumbent party was going hell for leather to lose - he also used the phrase "broken society." Sometimes the parallels are frankly eerie.