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.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those 'we are all Georgians now' pieces were always going to prove embarrassing.

Not as embarrassing as any media outlet which devotes more than a couple of column inches to this Ross/Brand affair. All the same, Nick will write on it this weekend, and will take the Geras line.

on Nick's Standpoint piece - for once he makes some decent points about Simon Schama's latest programme, although Cohen is utterly wrong to suggest that Schama 'oozes disapproval' in every scene of his the show. Nick's piece, in keeping with his standpoint persona, is again little more than a rant - there's the same tired, untrue allegation that the BBC line on the 7/7 bombings was that they were justified, there's hissing at 'leftists' (is this now an insult?), at 'philistines', and at anti-intellectuals (weird, since Nick himself pours scorn on 'academics' wherever possible).

Nick thinks Schama's show is poor cos it's arranged thematically, and I think he has a point. But Nick then goes on to suggest that people interested in the topic should read the book instead of watching the programme on this basis. Although Nick never says this, the book is also arranged thematically.

10/30/2008 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not as embarrassing as any media outlet which devotes more than a couple of column inches to this Ross/Brand affair. All the same, Nick will write on it this weekend, and will take the Geras line.

As in the front page of the Guardian? Or better yet, Jack Straw having his pound of flesh - sorry, his say - on the same topic?

I can't say I'm looking forward to the inevitable prospect of Toynbee defending the BBC on Saturday and Nick kicking lumps out of it on Sunday...


10/30/2008 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick's already started in his Standard column, in which he also contradicts himself on the economy again.

It's depressing but predictable that tehgraun has also run with the story as its lead. Hopefully today will be the end of it.

10/30/2008 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone notice that Brand gives his apology before a portrait of Stalin? (so I see from the still on the front of the Guardian). I suspect wry comment on witch-hunt, show trial and recantation.

(This has probably already been widely discussed on the inter-webs. I haven't checked).

10/30/2008 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the argument that academics (from the humanities) aren't REAL intellectuals (and are in fact philistines) is pretty routine from this quarter -- it's what the increasingly useless word "postmodern" largely now seems to be deployed to indicate

the hitchens line on this -- which cohen may indeed only get second or third hand, via a dude-addled geras or via HP -- can be gleaned from:
i. CH's anti-palin polemic (she is anti-intellectual and philistine so boo)
ii. CH's final (very poor) chapter of his (otherwise not uninteresting, if lamentably structured, book on orwell) (the last chapter was intended to be definitively anti-pomo)
iii. CH's aesthetic tastes down the years, which are pro-art (and free speech) but hugely shaped by oldskool larkin-amis robust middlebrow anti-modernism, with a sprinkling of solidarity for his college chum amis-the-less's "look at me i'm nabokov" bullshit (and, less smarmily, for rushdie)

however (iii) i think doesn't percolate through to cohen at all, or decency generally - it's actually where hitchens is possibly at his best, subtle and sensitive to ambiguity and contradiction (his defence of larkin is one of the best things he ever wrote, i think)

10/30/2008 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the great blind spots of Decency is the _leftist_, anti-captialist, anti-imperialist critique of postmodernism, examplified by a number of people including A Sivanandan, Ellen Meiksins Wood, and [some of] Terry Eagleton.

Chris Williams

10/30/2008 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange review, I wonder if Cohen has actually read the book? It takes exactly the same approach, presumes a lot of knowledge about things like Gettysburg, has tonnes more of the 'personal revelation' stuff and is a hell of a lot more 'anti-American' (ie, critical of certain aspects of US history such as killing native Americans) than the TV show. It's also staggeringly pompous.

The fact Cohen admits he hates television also makes you wonder why he has taken on a job that involves watching television. It'd be like hiring Andrew Anthony as your comedy editor.

10/30/2008 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Andrew Anthony - his last big Observer piece was a contribution to their "sex" pullout. Anthony wrote two pages on how exciting porn was when he was a kid, but it was all spoiled because the feminazis of the eighties said it was bad, then the internet made his sad jazz mags look tame, taking away the sexy mystique. So Anthony was commissioned to write about sex and came up with 1000 words on "why I am a wanker"

10/30/2008 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Nick has read the book (which has met with a generally lukewarm response from general reviewers and historians alike). The style of the America show is in keeping with Schama's approach to popular history, mind you - his History of Britain was very selective in what it focused on and presupposed a lot, both in book and TV formats.

Pretty damning on Nick as a reviewer really. But the whole column has the air of the half-arsed about it.

10/30/2008 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An extra note on the (boring) AA article about porn - as usual, the only research he had done was thinking about his childhood and extrapolating historical evidence from his memory.

Not sure where that fits into his status as an 'Englightenment Fundamentalist'...

10/30/2008 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

then the internet made his sad jazz mags look tame, taking away the sexy mystique

Not that I care enough to track down the original piece, but I find this rather weird. There are entire Web sites devoted to lovingly (or at least one-handedly) recreating the Mayfairs and Fiestas of my and Andrew Anthony's youth. (Or so I'm led to believe.) To their habitués, contemporary Netporn isn't the standard by which 70s wank mags are judged and found wanting - quite the reverse.

10/30/2008 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this Ross/Brand affair

After the show trial they'll be put on the Sachs Offender's Register.

I'll get me coat.

10/30/2008 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger BenSix said...

After the show trial they'll be put on the Sachs Offender's Register.


*Steals joke.*

10/30/2008 11:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT, but have any of the Decents been punting libertarian intervention in Congo? I think Bernard Kouchner may have, but I can't see that any of our other good friends have. Surely some mistake?

10/31/2008 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talking of humanitarian interventions I am going to see Conor Foley give a talk on his new book tonight. I was going to ask him his opinion on the Kamm/Decent line on interventions but if anybody has any other questions I am happy to punt them his way.

10/31/2008 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's his take on genuinely _non_-governmental organisations getting involved in politicised humanitarian missions? I'm thinking here of Workers' Aid for Bosnia, as well as human shields in Iraq, West Bank, sanctions-busting in Iraq, and blockade-running in Gaza.

Chris Williams

10/31/2008 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

currently too busy demanding "airdrops" of food to Zimbabwe.

Quite why this extremely inefficient and dangerous method of aid distribution (which has occasionally been used in extremely remote territories in Ethiopia and Somalia in the past, but which makes no sense in a country with roads like Zimbabwe) is a better idea than just funding the WFP (which has a big programme there which has successfully responded to several famines in the last few years) and letting it get on with things, I'm not sure. Presumably dropping the aid out of big army planes makes it less gay.

10/31/2008 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we need to demand why nothing is being said about Congo. Surely to ignore it is just moral relativism?

Isn't that the Decent line on Darfour?

10/31/2008 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris I will put that question his way. My guess will be that he disapproves of NGOs taking a 'side' in conflicts and would prefer that they remain scrupulously neutral.

10/31/2008 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Decent line on Darfur is to ignore it almost all the time, except when it can be used as a stick to beat 'the left' (or whoever) with - ie 'why the shameful silence over Darfur', only to then join said silence in favour of some pointless witch-hunt or other, until that runs its course and it's time for a new 'why the shameful silence over Darfur' article.

Harry's Place (1 Euro coin in ejh's box) is especially bad for this - the only times they mention Zimbabwe are in posts asking why 'the left' is being silent over it.

Congo will be exactly the same.

10/31/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mad Mel gets better and better, or should that be madder and madder.

Obama and Ayers between them systematically funded radical school projects to indoctrinate American children in sedition.

Daniel Pipes has further essential facts on Obama’s links with corrupt sources in a web that extends all the way back to Saddam Hussein.

Unlike Dick Cheney of course ...

10/31/2008 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bit before that is even worse:

Ayers stopped being a terrorist because he realised that he could more effectively undermine America through radicalising the young through education.

I also like the way that Mad Mel applauds Palin for her opposition to earmarks - things she has lobbied intensively for at every stage of her political career up to the point that she was picked as McCain's running mate. I guess Mel was in full control of 'her rational faculty' when ignoring this.

As I noted earlier, Hary's Place (kerching) have removed her from their blogroll. I can't undestand why it took them quite so long to examine the true barminess of their 'fellow traveller'...

10/31/2008 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The logic is fairly straightforward. It's OK to cheerlead for foreign wars, paint everyone to the left of Yisrael Beteinu as anti-semitic and warn about the impending dhimmification of Europe, but opposing the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States is just taking things too far.

10/31/2008 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My guess will be that he disapproves of NGOs taking a 'side' in conflicts and would prefer that they remain scrupulously neutral.

I'll be glad to hear his answer (if you get a chance to ask the question), not least because that answer makes no sense. My example - showing my age - used to be Eritrea: you could either work with Addis Ababa and get access to the government-controlled areas, or you could hook up with the EPLF and get into the areas they controlled. Or you could be 'scrupulously neutral' and... get access to the government-controlled areas.

10/31/2008 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Mad Mel choose the illustrations for her posts or is someone at the Speccie quietly taking the piss?

I ask because one of her pieces on Obama had been illustrated with what looked suspiciously like a Seventeenth Century woodcut of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. WTF?

10/31/2008 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the title of Mel's piece is .... "The Politics of Hysteria".

If satire didn't quite die when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize the Mel has just administered its last rites.

10/31/2008 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Conor Foley talk was good. He spent about fifteen minutes talking about his life which was interesting. He's worked for Amnesty, Liberty and UNHCR plus he was active in what was going on in N.I. Said that he'd been arrested under POT Act when he was younger.

He did say that he thought NGOs should do their best to remain neutral and was critical of certain US NGOs who went to into countries and lobbied for regime change.I think he mentioned USAID in this regard.

Pretty pessimistic about most interventions. Said that the KLA had deliberately incited (via terrorism) the Serbs to engineer a Western intervention, that the scale of atrocities had been exaggerated in the media, and that the ethnic cleansing of 250,000 Serbs from the province had meant that it remained a constant source of regional instability.

He was even more gloomy about Afghanistan. Said that he thought eventually the US/UK would have to do a deal with the Taliban in which they got Govt posts. Said that most people in Afghanistan were not keen, after how they behaved in power last time, but that it was completely inevitable. Also said of support for Taliban was related to Pashtun underrepresentation in the govenment. Said he thought Obama would shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan in order to allow the US to bargain from a better position with the Taliban.

He was also pretty critical about the terms of trade and how they fueled conflict.

If you get a chance its definitely worth catching him.

10/31/2008 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

who hasn't yet come out for Obama

MAH told me that he supports McCain.

11/01/2008 02:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johan Hari has an interesting little swipe at Nick here:

11/01/2008 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Do you think he means Peter Jay, not Anthony Jay?

11/02/2008 09:25:00 PM  

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