Friday, January 25, 2008

The moral high ground

Marko's peroration from his most recent anathema suggests to us that we apparently need to choose between our alleged policy of "no enemies to the left" and our claim on the moral high ground. I think that there is a common Decent misunderstanding which needs to be brought out into the open here.

We at Aaronovitch Watch don't really make much of a claim to the moral high ground. We don't live there. We may have visited it once or twice, but found it basically a rather uncongenial place, populated mainly by loudmouthed Decent twats. Let's get this straight - mail addressed to:

"BB, RK, CC, CC and the gang
c/o Aaronovitch Watch
The Moral High Ground
W1 8QT"

will not arrive.

The claim of superiority we make over Decent politics is a claim to the practical high ground. In other words, while we're in general content to believe that our political values are of a kind with other people's, that we can recognise differences without declaring takfir (and indeed we've been criticised a fair few times for being insufficiently condemnatory of various political undesirables), we do have to insist on one important point on which there can be no compromise with our political enemies:

Unlike the politics of either the Decent Left or the Islamists, the political views of Aaronovitch Watch and its mates do not, in operation, tend to cause hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths

This is a pretty important advantage for us, but it's not a matter of politics, it's a matter of empirical fact.

I think that this distinction is vitally important, and it's an aspect of Decency that we've covered in the past. The fact that non-interventionist, non-imperial politics doesn't involve as much violence and that's a good thing, just never seems to compute (recall the hilarious bit in Alan NTM Johnson's interview with Mary Kaldor, where she keeps having to remind him that simply being in a state of peace rather than war is an important political goal to set against all the imaginary benefits of whatever Decent war he is banging on about). And the reason is that Decent politics is fundamentally unserious in a much more important way than merely blogging about tits 'n' pubes - it's concerned with the big game of grouplet politics; the taking of the right line on everything, having solidarity with the right bunch in Lower Bogovia and condemning the deviations of the mob in Upper Fuckoffistan. The idea that there might be any real world consequences of this sort of thing is utterly alien to the beautiful souls of the Decent Left, which is why they make such fuck-awful diplomats and why it was such a disaster when they got the ear of the Prime Minister.

Marko tries to be dignified, but trips on the mat

Keen students of decency will get a good deal of pleasure from Marko Attila Hoare's spirited assault on Splintered Sunrise and all those who link to him. As it happens, my view of the former Yugoslavia is much closer to Marko's than it is to Splintered's. Given that, my toleration of Splintered, on the grounds of his wit and style, must brand me forever, in Marko's eyes, as a moral degenerate of the worst kind. A brief taster of Marko's denunciation:

Splintered Sunrise is not a serious blogger. He uses words like ‘Stalinophobic’ [in the comments] and ‘imperialised’. The meaning of ‘Stalinophobic’ is all too self-evident; ‘imperialised’ apparently means ‘made subordinate to imperialism’. No doubt James Joyce would have been proud. He frequently posts titillating pictures of lad-mag models on his blog, which also links to pornographic websites, and he muses on masturbation and female pubic hair. The combination of Red-Brown politics, sleaze and personal nastiness that characterises his site is highly distasteful.

"Not a serious blogger". Surely Mae West herself couldn't have managed such a put-down.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Identity crisis

Nick Cohen, at some Evening Standard debate or other:

"Mr Cohen claimed that many black and Asian middle-class people actually benefited from their ethnicity in the workplace. He remarked: "The only affirmative action no one ever talks about is affirmative action on behalf of the working classes."

Aside from a) apparently having confused the USA with here and b) providing yet another data point on his transformation into the worst kind of pub bore, Nick is once more trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Most of the time he is a tribune of the middle class (by which he means households with an income of £100,000) and is largely concerned with grammar schools as a means for teenagers to get into Oxford and Cambridge universities. But from time to time he decides to portray himself as being a scion of the working class. Which is it, Nick? Usually, it is the Observer readers who get the class warrior from Altrincham, and the Standard readers who get the Islingtonian Everyman. But not always, as this comment shows.

I don't know why, but I find it strangely reminiscent of this sort of thing from Aaro - this column would not be particularly odd if written by a Jewish humorist like Howard Jacobson or someone, but David Aaronovitch is not Jewish and has quite regularly made quite important political points based on this fact (I most clearly remember him writing about it in the context of him being asked to sign a "Jews for Justice For Palestinians" petition or some such). To be honest (and I think I've said this before), if Aaro does want to get closer to the Jewish part of his heritage, more power to him - my only axe to grind here is that I think his half-in, half-out status with respect to his gig at the JC does have an effect on some of his other views - particularly, I think it tends him toward taking more militant and less defensible positions with respect to Israel when it does something nasty than his actual politics would mandate. But that's just a pat hypothesis based on no real evidence.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Beyond Our Ken

The interesting thing about the sudden "Decent Bat-Signal" (thanks to Alex in comments for this phrase) that now is Fuck Ken Time, is that they don't appear to be endorsing any alternative candidate. Why not? A glance at the slate reveals that all the alternatives to Ken are politically ... difficult for the Decents to love:

1. Boris Johnson. This would be voting Tory, which is pretty difficult to square with "the true voice of the left", plus Boris is not exactly sound on Iraq. Furthermore, looking a few years out, they are going to want to use Tory scare-stories about "vote Labour or the kitten family drop-in centres get it" and this would totally undercut that.

2. Brian Paddick. On the face of it potentially quite progressive, but no way in hell are the Decents going to endorse a LibDem. They hate them worse than Methodists hate Baptists.

3. The Green, whoever it is. Unlikely, as the Greens are not Decent on Iraq or TGISOOT (although their representation on the Metropolitan Police Authority are very "sound" on the penalty-free shooting of innocent men on the Tube, fuck you very much, Jenny Jones). Also, they don't like nuclear power, free market capitalism, or many of the other hard-nosed, clear-thinking, manly fiascoes and clusterfucks which mark out the modern Decent Left.

4. Abstain. Unfortunately, a non-vote is effectively a vote for the BNP and RESPECT, as it makes it easier for them to reach the 5% threshold (RESPECT supporters in comments - don't even think of claiming that your sights are set higher than this based on support levels which predate the Galloway meltdown) and get a GLA member on the party list element.

My guess is that they end up either humming and hawing all the way through to election day, or swinging behind Boris, with a guffaw, a "Have I Got News For You" and plenty accusations of other people lacking a sense of humour. Boris is not at all averse to a bit of Govean mindless Muslim-bashing as part of "the greatest intellectual struggle of our time", and the failsafe prediction strategy in Decent political forecasting is that they will flock toward what they believe to be the winning team.

Aaro on prositution

He takes the libertarian line, whoda thunkit. The interesting thing for me here is the consistency check - basically, there is decent but not compelling evidence on both sides of this debate, both Aaro's and that of people like his old nemesis Catherine Bennett, who think that prostitutes aren't making a genuinely free and autonomous choice (in which case, obviously, legalised prostitution would be a very bad thing).

There is also decent but not compelling evidence on both sides of the same question with respect to Muslim women who wear various flavours of veil. Once more, it is pretty easy to find lots of heartbreaking stories of compulsion, unfreedom and silent suffering, but it is equally easy to find stories of people who have made a choice that they are happy with and don't appreciate the government sticking its beaky nose in. And it turns out that Aaro took a consistent line on that one. So there you are - Aaro, officially and consistently on the side of treating women as grown ups. Doesn't mean he's right, but it's a much more attractive point of view than the festering pool of authoritarianism that lurks about a nanometre below the surface of all the very many members of the tendence Decent who want to tell foreign women what clothes to wear, in their own interests of course. And the least said about Nick Cohen's occasional musings on "the free market in sexual relationships", the better.

Also, Aaro writes a specific article about the poo-flinging monkeys of the internet and we still can't get a namecheck! Dammit! Craig Murray, who the fuck, etc. Presumably this is at least at one remove a result of the Medialanche (PS Noam Chomsky wears army boots I still regard Medialens' tactics as irritating and counterproductive).

Update: "Prositution"?

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ken programme

Well there was a fair amount of crap in it: most of the material on the congestion charge, the LDA and Chavez struck me as padding, and the drink/Feingold stuff was just smear. And of course we had old foes of Ken, such as Raynsford, lining up to stick the knife in. Also, Martin Bright really shouldn't work as a presenter. He has about as much charisma as a dalek on Mogadon. Still, he did score some real hits. John Ross, Redmond O'Neill, Jude Woodward, Anne Kane and co are deeply unsympathetic characters (special anorak points by the way for those that noticed that an old roneoed set of minutes with their names on also listed "Jane Ashworth (Socialist Organiser)".) The fact that Ken employs them, as a political hit squad, with some of them earning salaries in excess of 120k, is deplorable. If, as alleged, some of them worked for Ken's re-election whilst being paid public funds they should be prosecuted.

That wasn't the only bit that hit home. I happen to think that Ken's position on Al-Qaradawi was within the bounds of the reasonably defensible. Peter Tatchell disagreed with it. He's his own man, and when he spoke of being frozen out for disagreeing with Ken on that issue, he was compelling.

The Green Ribbon

I will be adding The Green Ribbon, Tom Griffin's site, to our blogroll as soon as I get round to it. It's really worth a regular read - Tom is a proper journalist with a background in Northern Irish coverage, and it is really quite surprising how many Men Of Decency and various flavours of "Atlanticist"[1] turn out to have intelligence connections of one sort or another. He has a good postat the moment about the "Get Ken" movement, which I am hereby bumping from comments.

I am not sure what the official AW position is on Ken Livingstone, by the way. I don't wholly agree with Chardonnay Chap that he's unelectable - he is currently the bookie's favourite and his abilities as a machine politician shouldn't be underestimated, although at present he has the drag factor of Labour's unpopularity working against him (although the Curse of Kamm is working in his favour). I'd guess it's a toss-up. On the substantive issues (upon which wild horses could not drag me to vote), I rather agree with the Yorkshire Ranter that the technocratic ability of the Ken clique shouldn't be ruled as totally irrelevant (PS: vintage transport fans, fuck off - those bendy buses are much more efficient). I think that Ken is now the new occupant of my Israel analogy joke[2], taking over from the previous incumbent, George Galloway. For what it's worth, the "" tipster site are betting against Ken.

[1] by which I mean the real ones, not the wannabes.

[2] ie, that like the State of Israel, he is an intrinsically rather unlovable entity that becomes worthy of a kind of guarded and qualified support simply because of the calibre of creep that obsessively attacks him.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I'm sure we've all picked up on the fact that Oliver Kamm rather fancies himself as a writer of prose. (For some reason he thinks that good style consists of littering your blog posts with words like "nugatory" and piling up adjectives and adverbs where none are needed. Maybe he models himself on Annie Proulx.) His latest post quite defeats me. Kamm refers to

"The stridently unlettered paleo-libertarian polemicist Justin Raimondo"

I can see that Mr Raimondo might be strident, and I'll take Kamm's word for it that he is unlettered. I just don't see how anyone could be stridently unlettered.

So common in our time

A 'tea hits the monitor' moment from Our Nick:

The WRP began the flipping from far left to far right, which is so common in our time.

And in the following sentence:

It took money from Saddam Hussein as he was preparing to gas 'impure' ethnic minorities.

But Donald Rumsfeld gave Saddam money at the same time. Am I allowed to say 'Bush = Hitler' now? I don't mean to defend the WRP, but surely Bush's former Secretary of Defense has less excuse for not knowing what Saddam was "preparing" to do than a bunch radicalised lovies?

In return for supporting the Arab dictatorships, it embraced the fascist conspiracy theory.

It did X; it also did Y (which may be a subset of X). Where does the 'in return' come in?

The cult's main purpose, however, was to worship the personality of its great leader, Gerry Healy, a squat, bombastic Irishman and a rapist as near as damn it.

I don't doubt that Mr Healy was as thoroughly unpleasant as Nick says, however, he was less equivocal in the Standard last year (via Oliver Kamm):

Its primary purpose, however, was to worship the sect's leader: Gerry Healy, a squat little Hitler -- and a rapist to boot.

Is Nick being censored by the Observer? And if so, why aren't they correcting meaningless sentences like the one above?

Now, Nick's real purpose is to attack Ken Livingstone, which would be easy enough without revisiting the tiresome "Down with the Judean People's Front" politics of a quarter-century ago. After all, this is Google News on Cuddly Ken. The early responses on Comment is Free are shameful. The problem with Nick's article is not that it attacks Livingstone, who is surely unelectable now, but that it doesn't add anything to the charge sheet. The most fun will be with Ken's drinking habits which are beyond bizarre. Even more so than this:

In return, Livingstone sends his bureaucrats to Latin America to help Chávez increase his power in Caracas and propagandises for the Chavista cause in London.

Oh no! Not the bureaucrats! They're attacking with management bullshit bingo! We're all doomed now! Might as well surrender, lads.

Pot, kettle ....

Since I'm not much of a fan of Ken Livingstone, it pains me a little to defend him against Nick Cohen. But we at AW always put truth and fairness ahead of our personal likes and dislikes, so here goes. Much of Nick's column is a rant against the foul Gerry Healy and the WRP. It is hard to deny that Nick is right about Healy and his organization and that Livingstone's association with them is a serious mark against his judgement. But all noise about the distant past is rather irrelevant to Nick's central charge against Ken, namely:

"you have to grasp that he has never moved away from the grimy conspirators of the totalitarian left, who have always despised the democratic traditions of the Labour movement."

Nick's central evidence for this claim is that Livingstone has employed, on large salaries, some members, or former members, of a group that used to be called Socialist Action. Nick mentions John Ross, but there are others such as Redmond O'Neill. Socialist Action is, historically a splinter from what used to be know as the International Marxist Group, and Ross was its main theoretician. I've no idea whether SA still exists in any proper form, nor whether its members (or former member) still espouse anything recognizable as revolutionary Marxist politics. I rather doubt that Nick, intrepid investigative journo that he is, knows the answers to these questions either. My best guess is that these former IMGers are, for all practical purposes, social democrats like Ken (though they may kid themselves otherwise on special occasions).

Ken is, therefore, no more unfortunate in his associations than Nick is. Since whom do we find Nick hanging out with but a bunch of former Trots turned social democrats who vary somewhat in the extent to which they still deceive themselves they are Marxists. I'm referring of course to Geras (like Ross, ex-IMG), and the various folks around Alan NTM Johnson and Jane Ashworth (ex-Socialist Organiser). (Having been around the block a few times and met some of these people, I can tell AW readers that the psychological and personal characterists of Ross are not dissimilar to those of SO-guru Sean Matgamna, and those of O'Neill closely resemble Ashworth's, but ymmv.) And of course we could add to the list Marko Attila Hoare who was at least a fellow traveller of the WRP, Hoare's parents who were in the IMG, and sundry others from Engage who were in SO (Was David T from Harry's Place an SO member? I think so, but I'm not sure).

There's no doubt an uninteresting book to be written about how little bands of comrades, re-badged and with different ideas, have spent the middle and later years of their lives sniping at those they formerly hated but for entirely new reasons. The Socialist Organiser people end up in Engage and Euston; the RCP end up droning on about "the culture of fear" and rooting for Slobbo; one faction of the ex-IMG end up working for Ken, some of the others end up in Respect (Galloway faction) and some end up at Euston. Or possibly Mornington Crescent. But whether the ex-members of the Judean Peoples front still think that their former opponents in the Popular Front of Judea are bastards really has little bearing on the electability of Ken Livingstone.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Too late, Christopher Hitchens

Hitchens is mega, mega wrong on many things these days, though I think he's right about religion. Anyway, Opus this week greatly amused me. For one thing, the ad hominem of this blog title seems to be used an awful lot in Decent blogs (with "Christopher Hitchens" amended to "George Galloway" of course).

BTW, Hitchens' stridency is not misplaced while Huckabee is still in the Republican race. Via Mike Power. And if there's anyone scarier than that - it's this guy. Via C4 News.

Alan Not The Minister on "Neoconitis"

Apparently he thought this brainfart from the Josh Muravchik interview in Decentiya was so insightful it deserved a whole article of its own. I meet roughly one person like this a week - someone selling a crap product, convinced that the problem is the branding. Let's look at this. "Neoconservatism" - started out as a self-description and badge of pride - got associated with the belligerent stupidity of Alan and his mates - now a political insult. "Decent Left" - started out as a self-description and badge of pride - got associated with the belligerent stupidity of Alan and his mates - now a political insult. Have they not noticed that the common factor is them? I seem to remember telling Gene of Harry's Place that if they renamed themselves the "Kylie's Bum Left", people would stop liking Kylie's bum.

I keep meaning to write something about the prevalent Decent demand (cf Geras, also the anonymous angry bloke in our comments, also Marko Hoare, but I repeat myself) for everyone to "engage with their arguments". This appears to be a Decent term of art. It's sort of like "Argue against a point of view", but in some special Decent way which precludes making any arguments of your own and requires you to accept all of their and-a-pony hypotheticals and counterfactuals. Thus:

"I say I say I say! There's a duty of protection against regimes which violate civilised norms in an appalling way!"

"Hmmm, that sounds like a worryingly vague criterion which in practice would mean that we got a lot of badly-planned interventions which turned into humanitarian disasters. The track record of these military operations is really very bad. So no, I do not support this massive reorganisation of international law, even if it were possible. Which, since what you are proposing would have to be a massive one-sided expansion of US power (since I take it that neither of us wants, say, Syria or Serbia to be allowed to unilaterally decide that a local humanitarian issue is serious enough to form a pretext for invasion) would not be practical at all unless we want to totally dismantle international institutions in favour of a Pax Americana"

"Oh Why Won't You Engage With Our Ideas! I Said That We Must Express Solidarity With Iranian Bus Drivers And Apparently You And Your Mates In The SWP Would Rather All Go On A Fascist Rally With Hezbollah! George Galloway!"

With bonus frivolous accusation of anti-Semitism, by the way. For more of those, cf David Hirsh of ENGAGE, in what I think is the first Yale University Working Paper to cite "Snoopy The Goon", unless any readers know different.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Words to live by from Nick Cohen

"Everyone is only as good as the next bit of work they’re going to do," he says. "Our business is one where people do some good work, and then they feed and live off that for the rest of their careers."

It's the marketing man with the same name, of course it is.

Look inside yourself, exhorts Cohen. For, you’ll then disturbingly realise it’s a young person’s business! Therefore, what you did a few years ago is irrelevant to what’s going on now, Cohen dins in. "If you really are good and you want to prove yourself, you have to do something that’s vital now. Maybe if people shelved their egos and had a bit more humility . . ."

sorry to waste your time, really. Meanwhile, the noted drama critic and cunt, AA Gill, interviews David Hare, who is writing a play about the Decent Left, called "The Vertical Hour". The vertical hour being what they used to call "Happy Hour"? Nick C has often in the past bemoaned those awful PC playwrights and their terrible plays about issues of the day which don't agree with him and his mates - I wonder if he'll review "The Vertical Hour".

The book of my enemy has been remaindered / and I am pleased

Plenty of new hardback copies of Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism are now available for £2 from a bookshop that's just opened round the corner from me. And they even wrap them up in brown paper without you having to ask! [see]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nick does economics, engineering and environmentalism

... with predictably aewful results. Highlights are that "the government has spent so much that it has nothing in reserve to stimulate the economy", "it is easier to recycle if you have a compost heap" and similar. Oh yeah, and with fantastic chutzpah, energy costs are going up over the winter, and this is aqll the fault of .... The Green Party! For opposing the building of nuclear power stations in 2025! Nothing to do with oil prices at all, apparently. Not that it would matter if they were, since George W Bush is the first American president in history to operate a foreign policy which does not include oil at all.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Aaro under attack!

Thanks to an anonymous commenter for the heads-up - Aaro is apparently the subject of a MediaLanche. Mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I am not a fan of MediaLens; in my view there are far too many Chomsky cultists there and they really haven't got the memo about the unproductiveness of mass email campaigns. I am not sure that there is such a fine line between what MediaLens do and more conventional spam.

On the other hand, the ML article does make what looks like a fair enough point; that Aaro was in the vanguard of the "You lot don't care about the poor ickle Iraqis! See, that one just died and it's your fault!" tendency among the Decents and it is a bit sus, therefore, that he's gone so quiet on the subject over the last couple of years, apart from that bleat about what might have happened if "General Petraeus had been there in Baghdad in surge numbers in 2003" (ie, 2005 troop levels, thanks to Alex for this point).

On the third hand, though (I am an economist after all), does it make any sense at all to encourage the Decent Left to give us more of their opinions about Iraq? I take the Attlee/Laski line on this one.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A decent anthem

A song for Harry's Place, Nick, Norm and Dave ....

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

By their links shall ye know them

One of the standard tropes of the "decents" is that many on "the left" or "liberals" operate a no-enemies-on-the-left policy that ends up with them excusing tyranny or being complicit by silence in crimes against humanity (etc, etc, of course). Disgust at said leftists has led "decent" bloggers to prune their blogrolls of these supposed apologists with the result that they end up almost without links to the very part of the political spectrum they claim to belong to. At the same time they have expanded their links to take in many loony right-wing sites, some of which are hardly shy in advertising their endorsement of vicious crimes committed in the cold war. So Geras, for example, links to sites like Powerline and USS Neverdock. Disturbingly, he even manages a link to the utterly unhinged John J. Ray's Dissecting Leftism -- strapline "It's the shared hatred of the rest of us that unites Islamists and the Left".

Relatedly, it is instructive to browse the books recommended by the Henry Jackson Society. Under "Radical Islam and Terror", they point us to works by Melanie Phillips, Michael Gove, Oriani Fallaci, and Bruce Bawer. One of two books recommended under "Foreign Policy" is Mark Steyn's America Alone.