Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breaking ...

As noted on the previous thread, Marko Hoare is the only remaining Decent (not counting Mad Mel) who hasn't yet come out for Obama. See Why South East Europe should fear President Obama. For instance, would Obama have written Three cheers for brave Georgia !? Probably not.

... though I fear Tbilisi has been provoked into behaving rashly and entering a battle it cannot win, yet my solidarity is entirely with Georgia, her government and her people as they fight for their freedom.

I'd love to know what 'indiscriminate force' and shooting fleeing civilians has to do with gaining freedom. That story is clearly developing.

Mr Miliband - normally a strong supporter of Georgia - told the BBC: "I think the Georgian action was reckless, I think the Russian response was disproportionate and wrong. And that is the series of events that have landed us where we are.
"On my visit to Tbilisi of course I raised at the highest level in Georgia, the questions that have been asked and raised about war crimes and other military actions by the Georgian authorities. We have acted in this without fear, without favour."

Does Marko have an enemies list? Should we warn the foreign secretary? Georgian vengence - is it always ice picks or have they branched out? garotting? poison?

I looked for international coverage and found A Primer on Georgia, Abhkazia and South Ossetia.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain espoused the ridiculous quip, "Today we are all Georgians," and U.S. military pundits were dusted off to warn us of the dangers of a revitalized Russian Bear seeking world domination.

The fear-mongering apparently worked as gun shops quickly sold out across the southern United States. "Them Russkies may have taken Georgia, but they won't take Alabama," shouted the good ole boys.


Given that Canada monitors this region remotely from embassies in Moscow and Ankara, I marvel at the fact that back in those confusing days of August, [Canadian Prime Minister] Stephen Harper was able to compute such a vast amount of variables in the Caucasus equation and come to the exact same conclusion as President George Bush.


In other Decent watching, Norman Geras tuts at David T's quite sensible take on the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross/Andrew Sachs flap. Now that the current HP banner is looking a bit dated, perhaps they'll keep up the "Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear" theme with Brand and Sachs. Then again, probably not.

Update 18:50 I knew there was a third thing. We're no longer watching Nick, but Standpoint should be out tomorrow. Nick slagged off 'Spooks' in September (after a comment on his previous column). Shame that this month's tv review will probably have been written too early for the preview tapes of Monday's episode. (Part synopsis: al-Qaeda cell kidnap a squaddie - name of Andrew Sullivan for the extremely anal, ie me - staggering home after wetting his daughter's head and threaten to behead him on tv. Lots of Muslim-hugging there.)

Nick endorses Obama

Ok, so I know he's officially indecent and right-wing these days, but I think Nick's endorsement of Obama means that there's almost a clean sweep of Eustonites (is the proprietor of Greater Surbiton the only holdout?).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nice catch

A bit of boilerplate anti-Guevara from Aaronovitch in the Times. He may have had some heroic qualities, but he executed people in cold blood ... etc. etc. Ditto the IRA, ditt Baader-Meinhof. Really, Oliver Kamm himself could have written this (but with some obscure latinisms I suppose.) However, Danny Morrison (Belfast) in the comments (yes, that one I suppose) reminds us that Aaro is more forgiving of extra-judicial killings when the perps are the British state:

“it was pretty much inevitable that some security force personnel would be tempted to use loyalist terror groups as a shadowy proxy … yet we are contemplating imprisoning the policemen who were trying – albeit illegally – to stop the terror?”

Update, by bruschettaboy: and indeed, who can forget some of Aaro's more stunning pieces written during the 2006 invasion of Lebanon?

Friday, October 24, 2008

We cannot Watch what we cannot see

Apologies for the lack of Aaronovitch content round these parts. But there's been nothing to Watch. Nothing in the Times these last two weeks. Nothing in the JC since September. Nothing on Google News. Nothing in the Ham & High (I checked). Nothing in Cayman Net News. Is he working on a book or something?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Alan Dershowitz, good grief.

I note from my morning newspaper that Alan Dershowitz is planning to depose Radovan Karadzic, in the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik; not only this, but he described the case against Karadzic as "very weak", and deplored the practice of "selective prosecution" of Serbian war criminals.

Obviously everyone deserves a fair trial and legal representation, but really - what is it with Dershowitz and total creeps?

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I think that Norman Geras and followers use 'anti-Americanism' differently from latterday (and for that matter original) McCarthyites - but I'm not quite sure how. (NG as used it 82 times plus another 30 for anti-American.) Similar aspersions are cast, insinuated, and simpered by Nick Cohen (OK, not in that particular link) and Andrew Anthony. They usually fall between allegations of insufficient ardour for our transatlantic allies to charges of racism. So the following video of Michelle Bachmann the congresswoman from Minnesota won't make what our watchees mean any clearer. She clearly doesn't know what she means - in fact contra Steven Poole she is saying nothing. She's not trying to make contentful (is that a word?) statements, merely create an impression. Monet painted the way he did because he was short-sighed. Ms Bachmann's flings are vague because she is neither percipient nor deep-thinking.

Anyway, here's the video, via Marc Ambinder via John Cole. With any luck, this nonsense will kill 'anti-American' as a credible smear. I wouldn't bet on it.

I know we're not doing Nick, but when we did he was lauding HBO. Readers without cable may not have seen the HBO broadcast of the Presidential debate. We don't have time for that, so here's some, er, talking heads. Why aren't they fawning over how much better HBO is than British tv?

Was There Too Much Sex And Profanity In The HBO Presidential Debate?

And from the links at the end of that, bad news for those of us who believe bush = hitler. I've got one of those calendar-things.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Melanie Phillips OMG!

Melanie Phillips is not usually on topic for AW(i'WoD'), because she's not Decent - she's a fairly standard American culture-war rightwinger who's accidentally living a couple of thousand kliks too far East. But she has really been raising the bar and taking it to a whole new level in terms of terribleness in British blogging, and brings Oliver Kamm into her most recent Kulturkampf, bringing it into our bailiwick. Questions for discussion clearly include - can you possibly imagine Kamm being this polite to anyone on the political left who asked him whether he thought the credit crisis was due to a failing of public morality?

Ken Livngstone on Decency

"Livingstone: Yes, Martin Bright, Andrew Gilligan of the Evening Standard, and Nick Cohen. I see these people very much like a layer of the left in the post-war period. As the world faced this choice between America and the Soviet Union, there was a layer in intellectuals on the left who became fervently pro-American, and it wasn’t just that they were anti-Russian or anti-Soviet, the people they most spent their time attacking were those people around the Bevanite strand, who were trying to argue for a middle way between those extremes. Who wants to choose between America’s rampant capitalism and Stalin, for god’s sake? It’s not the choice you want to make. And so this layer of people who sold out, effectively to American interests, spent all their time trying to destroy anyone who was offering an alternative. They wanted the world to face Stalin or Eisenhower; it’s the starkest choice.

And therefore what the American right, the neocons, want is a stark choice between them and Al Qaeda. I refused to say that is the only option before us. It isn’t just the Express and the Mail - it’s also the BBC that is quite bad. Any mad fundamentalist Muslim can get ten minutes on the Today Programme, and it creates a completely distorted view."

From a Socialist Unity interview. To be honest I have never really been much of a Ken fan, and his tendency to reinvent history in his own favour is rather in evidence in this interview, but this passage is pretty much spot on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Neocons "care about morality"

Via Lawyers, Guns, Money, Steven "Mate of Mearsheimer" Walt takes on Josh "Decentiya Interviewee" Muravchik in a debate about neoconservatism; disaster or joke? As noted, the most interesting bit is when Muravchik claims that neoconservatism is all about caring about "Morality", and then gets his head handed to him by the simple point that pointless bombing isn't very moral. This is of course a popular line with our own Decent Left, satirised on Decentpedia so well it's not worth my adding more here. Check it out.

Oh Joy!

I know BB has decreed that we shouldn't be watching him any more, but I thought I'd pass on the latest news from the Bookseller, about Nick's forthcoming books:

The first book, Waiting for the Etonians: Reports from the Sickbed of Liberal England, will be published in February 2009. It will be a collection of Cohen's writing which Harvie said will "cover Labour's love affair with the right over the last 10 years". The second book, provisionally titled Traitors, will look at the state of Britain at the end of the first decade of a new century.

Now I do like books with titles that spare you the trouble of reading what's inside.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh, Go On Them

Shamelessly ignoring Phil's wise advice, here's a thread on Andrew Anthony.

A couple of points (and a packet of crisps) before I turn it over to you. Didn't it used to be a cliche that "liberals" hated themselves - and their country, and their culture, and so on. (Isn't this point with the whole "Islamofascist lover" thing?) But what does AA say apart from "we're crap really"? It did seem delightfully ironic to me (but then, I'm British) that after Nick's pro-HBO rant 'Little Britain USA' now features its alka-seltzer like fizzing ident.

Having given the world Richard Pryor, the United States can justly claim to be the home of modern confessional comedy.

Couldn't we also say, Having given the world Henry Kissinger, the United States can justly claim to be the home of evil empires? Sadly, this is how AA has always thought. He's not good at complexity; give him a single data point and he assumes everything else is going to be identical.

I've been hoping for a Decent attack on 'Harry and Paul' which actually is the funniest thing on tv just now. The one where Tony Blair got a job in the City was wonderfully mean. I'm sure there will be complaints about Nelson Mandela tipping Margaret Thatcher off a cliff and the Americans in the cafe sketch was pure splendidness. OK three points.

Note AA's extensive research: he saw a funny video on Harry's Place. Speaking of whom, David T had AA bang to rights (posted last night). OK, you won't follow the link, so here's the vid. Britische comedy, as the ads used to almost say.

From the comments:

One of the disadvantages of living in the States–maybe Reggie [Perrin] will eventually make it across the pond

What? An American decrying US humor? And two comments later:

He went over 25 years ago - you mistreated him.

Not part of the extended family

Via a google vanity search, it appears we've been linked to by "Final Conflict", a Third Positionist blog which doesn't like Aaro because they thought that his 2005 interview with Nick Griffin was isntrumental in moving the BNP toward a broadly pro-Israel agenda. With added assertions that Aaro and Nick Cohen are potentially in the pay of Mossad[1]. If I see any content plagiarised from AW on that site I'll be taking appropriate action, but at present there's just a link to AW (which, you might notice, isn't being reciprocated). Amused rather than enraged really; I'm perfectly happy that neither AW nor its comments section has any material which panders to racists.

[1] Classic sign of an amateur, by the way. The activities of the Mossad are really quite well-documented for anyone who cares to read up on the literature on intelligence services. Mossad have substantial operations internationally and carry out assassinations outside Israel, but they don't operate a particularly large network of "agents of influence" overseas. That sort of thing is taken care of by the Israeli State Department and isn't even part of the secret budget. They also appear to have got hold of the idea that MI5 is "pro-Zionist" which is to say the least not well-sourced.

David Clark(e) in Decentiya

I notice that in the end, Alan NTM managed to stir his stumps and get round to posting David Clark's essay on Georgia - it's now called "The Commenteriat Goes To War" rather than "The Meaning of the Conflict", and Clark now has his name spelt correctly. It's pretty disappointing to be frank - a lot of us had been hoping for something a bit more interesting than boilerplate "the liberal left now agree with the conservative right, hurray for NATO expansionism" but no; even Comment is Free gets dragged in there. Hey ho hum; given the global financial meltdown, this all feels so six weeks ago, doesn't it?

In which I ignore my own suggestion and write about Nick Cohen's arts coverage

... although not in extenso. This week, he tells us how Paul Abbott's "Shameless" represents "wealthy media executives jeering at the poor". FFS. Nick has been cheering for a recession for what, five years now? And now he's got one, the best he can think of is "recessions aren't usually good for Labour"? FFS again.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

When does the row-back from McCain begin?

As we know, one of the subsidiary psychological factors motivating Decency is the desire to be on the winning side, just once. And so it was that several prominent Men of Decency decided to get their Presidential endorsements in early, taking the part of John McCain, as we documented at the time in a couple of posts. The main reasons for their doing so appeared to be:

1) an anecdote about him nearly punching Malcolm Rifkind, written about but not exactly sourced in a book by Brendan Sims, slightly embellished in the retelling by Nick Cohen, repeated by Oliver Kamm and then embellished once more by Nick Cohen (as noted here at the time. And

2) it looked like he might win.

The Harry's Place[1] comment section, natch, have been mad for McCain, as have many of the front page posters, only held back slightly by Gene. All over the blogosphere, we have certainly had to sit through numerous lectures about how lefties simply don't understand ordinary working people like Sarah Palin (ordinary working-class people who own fucking aeroplanes, that kind of ordinary folks. The Decents are never more disgraceful than when they're playing culture war; it was a major reason for dropping coverage of Nick Cohen).

Now McCain is, shall we say, fucked, when does the row-back start? When does the Votenfreude begin?

[1] I know that some of our readers don't like to see Harry's Place discussed as if they mattered or were worth reading. In general, I have some sympathy with this view, but on balance, I agree with the authors of "Sadly, No! in their manifesto, Principia Wingnuttia. Their point that "C-List wingnuts say what A-List wingnuts think" is entirely applicable to Decency; Kamm, Hoare, McShane etc and even Cohen are always careful to avoid stating the more ludicrously appalling and/or unpopular planks of their political philosophy in so many words, but the Harry's Place comments section can always be relied upon to say it for them. I actually agree with ENGAGE that the traffic on most Israel-protest mailing lists certainly ought to be a matter for concern to any sensible Palestinian rights activist, and that the movement in general ought to do its best to discourage nuts and obsessives. But by the same token, the way in which the Decent Left are seemingly content with a situation where they're always two clicks away from nuts and racists really ought to be taken as indicative of the kind of psychological pool they're happy to be fishing in. (Take this as a sort of trailer for the forthcoming "Decent Racism" post).

Petty-minded pedantry

Only a petty-minded pedant, such as myself, would see a contradiction between Oliver Kamm's complaint that

the mixed signals given by the Government have not helped confidence in the banking system.

and his pompous declaration that

people's mental states are no business of government.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Aaro Prediction Thread

We haven't had a prediction thread for a bit. What will our Dave write about on Tuesday?

Well, there's Mandelson. Aaro is still a Blairite, and Mandy's return is almost universally unpopular, so there's an opening for a "maverick" column. Dave's colleague Oliver Kamm got the sensible points in ("Mandelson would have provided ballast and intellectual direction for the Government had it not been for his second - in my view, harsh - resignation.") while former colleague Martin Kettle pretty much defies description. He compares Mandelson to Rommel (and this is good?) and after months of slagging off Brown he's suddenly privy to Gordon Brown's most private thoughts and has a freshly burnished crystal ball: "Mandelson will not have been brought back primarily to head a department. He will be there as the senior political counsellor in the cabinet." Never mind that this, if true, would raise issues of ministerial responsibility (isn't that the deputy leader's job? and isn't being a minister a full-time occupation?) Odds: evens. Guaranteed to generate comments. Everyone has an opinion on this. Most of them likely to be censored by comment moderators.

And there's the Blair resignation. This is perhaps closer to home for Dave. He's not really much of a Parliament watcher, but, while I'm not a big fan of instincts, he is instinctively decent on issues of social fairness: he generally judges racism and sexism issues rightly, and policing is certainly in the sort of sociological beat he does best. His opinions here would be harder to call. Oliver Kamm doesn't bother to hide his pleasure (he never does) while Kettle, well, can I say "boils over"? OK, I can't, but this is exactly wrong: "But it had become untenable not because he was wrong but..." No, it became untenable because he was wrong. Odds 8-1. Blair is really hard to defend, but any column-length whoopee must credit Boris. Hard to see that one pleasing our boy.

Banks, etc. Hmm. Don't blame the Yanks, they're collapsing in Iceland (oh noes! what will the proles eat now? takeaways?), Germany, France (take zat! you surrender monkeys!). Not very likely. The Nick Cohen/Sarah Palin line "Evil Greedy Bankers are Evil and Greedy bastards" isn't really a goer: no one works in the City for artistic reasons or to help the less fortunate. Bankers have always been greedy. We have to look elsewhere for causes. Odds: 15-1. Aaro owns a house in Hamstead. How much virtual money has he lost?

Sarah Palin. If everything else seems done to death, at least Palin is all over YouTube. I suspect that along with Daniel Finkelstein and Harry's Place, Dave's instincts are for Obama. Despite stories of Mrs Palin meeting the Dirty Digger, the Murdoch Empire's most famous creation has come out for the Democratic candidate (and satirizes the 2000 election). Odds: 50-1. Who wants a Brit commenting on this from London anyway? The Times has Andrew Sullivan for this.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bye bye, blackbird

In so far as I am able to make editorial pronouncements on behalf of Aaronovitch Watch (Incorporating "World of Decency"), ie not at all, I think that there is really not much point Watching Nick Cohen any more. Although at one point in its life this blog was called "Aaronovitch Watch (Incorporating "Nick Cohen Watch")", the raison d'etre has always been to cover news and views relating to the Decent Left - ie, the clique of neoconservatives, Atlanticists etc, but within the general definition of the British Left. Bog standard Tory populists have never been on topic except in as much as they comment on the general topic of Decency, and I think it is now impossible to ignore the fact that this is what Nick Cohen is. Onward and upward.

Just for clarity, Aaro himself is on topic no matter what political direction he takes, and no amount of nauseating reach-arounds to "fellow Times columnist Michael Gove" will change this fact. Aaro's actual article seems pretty good to me; naturally I prefer my own version of the same theme, but then again I recall thinking "hmmm bruschettaboy, this does sound a bit like warmed-over Aaro" when I was writing it.