Friday, December 24, 2010

Libel Laws Stifling Free Speech

IANAL, but accusing a politician of doing things - like writing bills - which he has done does not seem like libel to me. Therefore I don't understand this university's position. NB as this was purely a university matter, Mr Justice Eady was in no way involved, therefore perhaps we won't see Nick Cohen griping about this assault on freedom of (as far as I can tell, well argued) expression.

For everyone who celebrates Festivus, have a good one. May all your grievances be aired!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Harry's Place Surprises Us

Michael Ezra on Laurie Penny.


When I've taken issue with him, I've actually found Michael Ezra to be very civil. He's very much at the opposite end of the spectrum from Jonathan Hoffman's behaviour on Harry's Place's regular's Modernity's blog comments.

I find Laurie Penny hard to warm to, myself. I tried to follow her tweets after when Michael Ezra calls 'what Gene has accurately referred to as a “brouhaha” between Penny and this blog [ie HP]'[1] and tackling the Staggers just reminds me that I only bought it when Martin Amis was literary editor and I skimmed the politics at best. Her blog is too assured of certain certainties for me. [Dying fall - Ed] But - and there's always a but - she reports from inside the (illegal?) police kettles of student protestors, and I'm surprised that a real newspaper hasn't actually contracted her to do so. I mean, this is journalism. Oh, I'm not surprised:

Professor Brubaker added: "The Daily Telegraph is showered with awards because it offered to buy a CD-ROM with MPs expenses on it.

"The Guardian is currently even more pleased with itself than usual because it's publishing classified information that not a single one of its journalists helped to gather.

Ah, fuck it. LP does journalism, and I now see this blog as part of a trend, or movement, or some such, of citizens (those without friends, sex, playstations, or other diversions, anyway) who think what passes for reporting, especially the well-remunerated high end of commentary to be simplistic, largely biased and prejudiced, ignorant, reactionary, and above all, shit-scared of getting its hands dirty with research of any kind.

I was vaguely farting around with the idea of a post called "Trust, but Verify" (one of Reagan's, but very useful) about Nick on Michael Moore. Nick read the Guardian on Wikileaks. Actually, fair enough: NC believed that what appeared in a national newspaper had been through the distillery of sub-editors. It hadn't. The Guardian published this retraction - except this contains no checking either. First it was "this we know/because Wikileaks tells us so" (I mean, you're journalists, right, why bother cross-checking stuff?) and now it's "this we know/because Michael Moore tells us so/He's quite fat, you know". It's actually possible that the leaked cable was true: 'Sicko' was banned and then (dictatorships being nothing if not capricious) unbanned and broadcast on national TV.

So as I went to the trouble of seeking them out, here are a couple of clips of Guardian hacks.

You really only want this from 26 seconds in, still he nails the mentality of hacks.

[1] I don't believe anything can be accurately described as a "brouhaha".

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A Foolish Bet

I have bet Justin ('ejh' here, @ejhchess on Twitter) FIVE POUNDS STERLING to his 6 Euros that Hillary Clinton will have resigned her position as Secretary of State by Jan 1 2011, or announced when she is going.

He wanted me to announce it here, so I am doing so. It's a very foolish bet for me, but it'll add some spice to watching the news over the next god-awful month.

I should have taken odds. 5/1 seems about right. Still, in my favour, there have been calls for Assange's assassination (on British soil! we're not that poodle-ish, I hope) and Julian Assange's lawyers say they are being watched. This should generate a backlash. I worry that all hacks are now so spineless and used to (barely) editing press releases that there won't be.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas Cracker Aphorisms

This is a largely off-topic post which I intended to write much earlier in the day and leave as a Friday fun thread.

I've come across a couple of examples of ad hoc definitions (not so much ad hoc as "pulled out of someone's arse") this week, and I may as well share them with you. I'm also looking for a better term than ad hoc definitions, because that's going to make a crap title, but I'm not very hopeful on that score.

The first of these comes from the comments to a piece on Time: Julian Assange: Hillary Clinton "Should Resign".[1]

Crusaders don't fear death...yet this guy continues to hide. What does that tell you?

I'm a bad argument fan, and, for me, this practically shits rainbows. If the moment hadn't passed and a dozen comments hadn't got between us, I wanted to reply, "Oh really, what about the Caped Crusader? He hides is identity and is known only to his ward Dick Grayson and his faithful butler Albert..." The only people who don't fear death are our good friends the suicide bombers of Osama bin Laden and kamikaze pilots, everyone else awaits their end dreading all.

I came across an even better example this morning - and rather more on topic for this site, although I think Wikileaks is on-topic - in a Ballon Juice post.

In a review of a 2005 biography of Brown Christopher Hitchens made an important point:
...(In issuing these documents, by the way, he [John Brown] exculpated himself from any ahistorical charge of “terrorism,” which by definition offers nothing programmatic.)...

This is a new definition to me, readers. I remember Hitchens trying to redefine terrorism in his Slate columns (collected as Regime Change) and I wasn't convinced then. Several objections occur to me. Doesn't al-Qaeda have a program of sorts? Didn't the IRA? Don't ETA?

It's almost a shame that I agree with Hitchens on the atheism thing, because the bad faith evident in his political stuff raises a stench to rival the pre-Revolutionary Parisian sewers. [2] This looks like a desperate - and blatant - attempt by the Dupe to define someone he agrees with as "not a terrorist" so quite unlike all those havoc-raisers he doesn't agree with who just happen to have to favoured the same methods.

Definitions of terrorism seem pertinent to this site which is why I'm posting here. Here's a curious thing: people who should know better seem to think "I vas only obeyink orders" is a valid excuse. Murder in war is OK. Soldiers do bad things, but they were mistaken, or working on poor intelligence. Or, as Orwell said, "doing their duty", though that seems a very rank get-out clause to me, fit only for robots. Another way of putting this is the commonly held conceit that if a school pupil hits another pupil that's bullying or thuggish, but if a teacher hits a pupil, that's "discipline" and "order". Terrorists actually believe in stuff, and somehow that makes them worse than poor conscripted sods.

Anyway, discuss. Or, of course, don't.

[1] I'd like it to be noted that before I heard that Julian Assange suggested that Hillary Clinton "should" resign, I had wondered if she would be forced to: I still expect that she shall due to pressure from nations which feel their diplomats were spied on.

[2] No, I haven't experienced that particular odour, nor am I even sure 18th century Paris had sewers. I'm hunting for an image.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

They Were Shining There For You And Me, For Liberty

Like a good populist, I go where my readers want. And you want to discuss David Aaronovitch's column today. (Link goes to the Staggers.)

If Flying Rodent is willing, I'd be happy to publish his splendid shorterised version of Aaro's col here see comments to last post starting here.

The cables prove again that the US, the most powerful democracy, is on our side. On Britain's side. On the side of those who think that democracy and liberty are important and need to be argued for and defended. They haven't been lying to us. They haven't been doing things that are against our interests.

That, I'm reliably informed is our Aaro, and not a febrile parody. From Aaro's old newspaper, tehgrauniad: WikiLeaks cables: Secret deal let Americans sidestep cluster bomb ban.

Gordon Brown, as prime minister, had swung his political weight in 2008 behind the treaty to ban the use and stockpiling of cluster bombs. Britain therefore signed it, contrary to earlier assurances made by British officials to their US counterparts.
[A leaked confidential account] shows that the two governments concocted the "concept" of allowing US forces to store their cluster weapons as "temporary exceptions" and on a "case-by-case" basis for specific military operations.

If I had two questions to put to DA they would be a) why does he prefer a treaty to be circumvented by unelected officials against the clear wishes of the then Prime Minister? and b) why someone who presents himself as a loyal, if occasionally reluctantly so, Labour member finds actual Labour policy so objectionable? I can't see any possible "peace-keeping" use of cluster bombs; you may as well give bobbies on the beat hand-grenades.

Title from Sweden's most successful export (assuming D2 doesn't correct me on this). Ironic given that Sweden is currently rather anti-liberty.

PS Before anyone suggests that I'm the one being a hypocrite here as I oppose many of the policies of the Coalition (such as tuition fees; I support the students and agree with what they're saying), I'm not advocating turning over government policy in the dark. I want there to be an education bill which is thrashed out in Parliament, recorded on parliamentary tv, in Hansard, and by sketch writers. Our elected representatives, including David Miliband, really aren't doing a good job of representing us if they pretend to be for one policy while pursuing another.