Friday, November 28, 2008

Oh stop it, you're misinterpreting me you rotters!

Official AW(i'WoD') policy statement: bla bla bla

Once more, Marko makes massive sweeping rhetorical statements, then only cares to defend them in very guarded and qualified terms, and asserts that it's someone else's fault that he can't express himself clearly and without bombast. This style of Decent rhetoric (the Condemnation Ringing, the Denunciation Forthright and the Excoriation Moral) used to be terribly influential, you know, but you don't really see it on Normblog any more, or even on Harry's Place. Hey, does anyone know what happened to Brian Brivati? It's a bit like Lee & Herring really - once upon a time you could hardly get away from him, but these days not so much.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jonathan Calder on Aaro

Keep it daft, and keep it personal, that's the motto of The Grand Unified Brotherhood of Aaronovitch Watchers and Associated Odd Fellows. I'm frankly surprised we haven't made more ourselves out of Aaro's alphabetically enhanced position - I only recall us using it in a joke once (in a post which I note with horror is more than three years ago!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This was bound to happen eventually.

AW(i'WoD') readers who are early risers or quick on the trigger can see this before it's corrected

For the rest of you, I promise that the picture below isn't a fake ...

We have been pointing out the risk of confusion for years. Alan "Yes I Am The Minister[1]" Johnson is actually quite a handsome bloke and a snappy dresser, so he has double the reason to be annoyed.

[1] "Secretary of State" actually; some ministers can be surprisingly arsey about this.

Update: the byline link goes to Alan NTM's CiF profile page, meaning that Alan the minister appears to be endorsing all manner of what have you!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Aaro addresses the very real concerns of the white working class

Here we are, and frankly I find it rather congenial, measured stuff for the most part - on this particular occasion, Aaro's view of the BNP as a more or less nugatory threat and a helpful safety valve for votes that mainstream parties would otherwise be chasing coincides with my own (although I note that on this point, several other AW contributors don't agree with me).

Since he took the opportunity for a dig at RESPECT/George Galloway though, I thought I'd note that there is another minority political tendency which also relies on rabble-rousing about Muslims, and which rallies its troops with a constant appeal to violence which is largely repulsive to the wider electorate. Aaro didn't sign its Manifesto, but it's solidly represented on his favourite political website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When Intervention Is Right

A couple of posts ago I said that David Aaronovitch's "instincts are fundamentally decent when he's not trying to defend the government." Today, he goes well beyond that, chucking reason and research (facts cited by columnist shock!) behind his decent instincts.

He kicks off aggressively: calling Martha Kearney 'admirable' and going on to say she 'was right'. Saying anything good about the BBC is a political stance in itself in the right-wing press these days.

For completists, the report Dave mentions was published by the Centre for Social Justice and there's a good write-up on ePolitix.

NB the Times hides most comments for a reason: they're especially ugly. One, which I hope is removed (I thought they were moderated; clearly not), reads "... Fortunately the names and photographs of the killers are widely available on the net. Justice will be done, I hope." Takes your faith in human intelligence away ...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh No, Not Again!

I believe that humankind in our present form has been around for something like seven million years and our history - that is, events worth recording for they mattered to subsequent generations, social organisation and agriculture and language - dates back for at hundreds of thousands of years. Therefore, I'm always rather suspicious when I come across any claim that a chain of events 'started with' something or other in recent history. The origins of just about everything go back much further than that. In other words, I'm not greatly enamoured by the following. [Update 1: yes, OK not 7 million years in our present form. 130,000 years for anatomically modern humans. Details, details, hmph.]

It is easy to portray fears about anti-Semitism as overblown. British officialdom has excelled in that activity, starting with the civil servant who, in 1942, condemned the evidence that Nazi Germany was systematically exterminating the Jewish population of Europe with the calm assertion that nothing of the kind was happening. It was all down to the hysteria of 'those wailing Jews'.

Alasdair Palmer mulling over the stark message in Globalising Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism by Denis MacShane. Does Palmer know nothing of British history? 1942 was a high point in cultural broadmindedness. We used to be much worse than that. I don't know if the civil servant is named in MacShane's book; he's not named in the review. And who would a civil servant say this to? Surely the evidence came from military intelligence - discussing state secrets with journalists in wartime, if not a capital crime would certainly have very unpleasant consequences.

Well, you know what's coming.

Anti-Semitism - virulent, violent anti-Semitism - is flourishing, principally because it is embedded in many of the political manifestations of Islam.

Yes! MacShane claims that though we have our home-grown anti-Semitism, there's a new much stronger mix on the streets these days. It's probably addictive, may ruin your sex life and shrivel your gonads, and could be a gateway to further depravity. Or something like that. See, we've always had this, but it's the Muslims' fault anyway. Here's the MacShame fast forward version: Hamas ... 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' ... Hezbollah ... Sayyid Qutb, the ideological founder of the Muslim Brotherhood ... Many revered Islamic preachers ... 'the failure of the intellectual and liberal Left ...' Palmer concludes that "the message of MacShane's book" is that "Bigotry, dogma and lies" are not only bad things, but the bad things that Muslims promulgate and which make 'radical Islam' 'incompatible with any decent social order.' Palmer hopes "it is one that we all take to heart."

I certainly believe that anti-Semitism is a bad thing; I think this government was largely on the right track with its treatment of 'hate crimes' as a special subset of violence that merits long sentences and public condemnation. But, really. Palmer says 'The Protocols etc' were 'exposed many years ago as a silly fake (the Tsarist secret police forged the document).' True enough, but he leaves the implication that that wasn't obvious on publication as if there had been a period when credulous Europeans really believed it. [Update 2: I don't think I was clear enough here. I believe that the debunking was pretty much contemporaneous with the publications. Alex in the comments was close: The Times exposed the forgery in 1921 and Henry Ford "sponsored the printing of 500,000 copies, and from 1920 to 1922 published a series of antisemitic articles". The implication in the review is wrong: there wasn't a single history of the Protocols such that they were published and a some later date, but a long time ago, they were exposed and then they faded from sight. They kept being printed and denounced by anyone with more than two brain cells and believed by the rest. I suppose I was wrong about 'credulous Europeans' but if TPOTEPZ were believed in was in spite of analysis, not for want of it.]

'Globalising Hatred' has been reviewed elsewhere. Tribune:

The texts of Qutb’s venomous Jew-hatred, MacShane believes, now form the basis for much Middle Eastern anti-semitism propaganda, especially against Israel. These texts are also used, according to MacShane, across the Arab world and help shape Osama bin Laden’s propaganda for al Qaida.

The extraordinary aspect of this, MacShane reveals, is that Qutb, who during the Second World War worked as a civil servant at the Ministry of Education in Cairo, was rewarded with an American scholarship when Washington was recruiting Muslim friends for its anti-communist drive in the Middle East. This enabled Qutb to study at Colorado State College where he received a diploma – after which he went back to Egypt, put two fingers up to the Americans and denounced “the brutality of Western materialism”. Qutb then lined up with the Muslim Brotherhood and acclaimed Adolf Hitler’s treatment of the Jews.

Again, the facts are true: Qutb did win a scholarship to the US. The order the facts are given in, however, implies that Qutb wrote his screeds and then went to the States on the invitation of the evil anti-Communists. I've no wish to defend McCarthyism, but Qutb was not invited because he sympathised with Hitler: that came later.

I don't know how much of this confusion is MacShane's and how much is risibly poorly informed reviewers. The FT is more measured. I'm sure that MacShane's intentions are good, but the effect of all this piling on out-of-print Qutb seems to be a sort of retrospective justification for Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. We did nasty things to Muslims, but you have to take into account, if we weren't there to stop them, who knows what they'd get up to? Countless lives may have been saved by timely detentions.

Then again, they may not.

MacShane has been in the news recently. Not on those terrible Muslims but on the equally pressing matter of Jamie Oliver. I'm a fully paid up member of the "use the off-button if you don't like it " club. Besides, I really distrust ubiquitous MPs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bruschetta at the Cafe au Lait

As I've said before, David Aaronovitch's instincts are fundamentally decent when he's not trying to defend the government.

His first six paragraphs today are our boy at his best. Focused on detail, scholarly, compassionate, thoughtful, and eloquent. By the sixth, however, his virtues have started to tire. Certainly I got confused by the sudden gush of dates: 1661, 1691, 1924. What was with that? It's probably best that Dave didn't go into a discussion of the double standards applied to white and black mothers of illegitimate children or the rapes (real) by whites of blacks and the imaginary rapes the other way.

“[Barack Obama is] black,” a friend said to me yesterday. “Most people would look at him and see him as being black.” Certainly 1924 Virginians would. And if the man see himself as being black, then where's the argument? Except, he isn't. To say that Mr Obama is black is to say, in effect, that his mother had no race or that her race was somehow obliterated by her choice of husband. Is to say that no one much had realised, had quite noticed, that her son was, in fact, mixed race. Is to say that being mixed race is not also to be something.

Michelle Obama, quoted on page 180 of Obama: From Promise to Power:

Barack is a black man!

That sentence was the epigraph to Chapter 13 of the book, titled, "Race." Obama is a skilled politician: he has it most ways he can think of. Some blacks think he's not black enough and consider him elitist; he says (page 188):

... I am rooted in the African-American community, but not limited by it. ...

From a speech to "a nearly all-black audience at Mars Hill Baptist Church in Chicago's Austin neighbourhood in November 2003."

I think Dave is dead-right that there's no "mixed race community" - but who needs a community based on skin colour? Who ever did? I think he's wrong to quote the Washington Post writer David Maraniss on "the notion of Hawaii... the spirit of aloha, the transracial if not post-racial message" when Obama went to a predominantly white school.

Obama's senior class was more than 90 percent white, with just a smattering of Asians, and so it was known informally among Hawaiians as "the white school," or the school for the haole, the derogatory moniker for Caucasians used by island natives.

From Obama p 36.

DA seems to emotionally on the right track, but I can't help feeling that he's either missing or twisting something. Anyway, the President-elect is Irish as everyone who watched Andrew Marr now knows.

PS The title: it refers to Dave's colleague India Knight's piece in the Sunday Times. Dave seemed to be wittering once he brought in Leona Lewis: I don't know why he even went there, he'd already said that his "mildly extended family now includes four mixed-race children".

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thin Blue Line Debate

This is Andrew Adams' comment on the previous thread. I've elevated it to a post because it's worth it in its own right, and I don't want readers to think we've all died from ecstasy at Obama's victory. BTW, at AaroWatch, we actually approve of "civilised and respectful discussion(s)." I don't usually buy the 'bloggers-vs-teh-evil-MSM' thing, but we've nothing to sell here so we're not looking for phony controversy. 'Get your edification at AaroWatch' could be our watchword. Of course, Conor versus Nick would have been entertaining too. Probably not civilised or edifying, though. Over to Andrew.

On Thursday evening I went along to the launch of Conor Foley's book Thin Blue Line, which took the form of a debate on humanitarian intervention and Western foreign policy between Foley, Oliver Kamm and Dennis McShane (who had to leave early so I won’t dwell on his contribution).

Although I previously trailed it as a "bunfight" it was actually a very civilised and respectful discussion. Foley started off by giving a brief history of humanitarianism since the action to protect the Kurds in Northern Iraq in 1991 and a bit of his own history. He said that the debate about intervention is often polarised between the more muscular liberal interventionists on the one hand and the "anti-imperialists" on the other, whereas in truth that intervention can sometimes be necessary and successful and sometimes misguided. He mentioned Kosovo as an example of the latter, which I guess may be a controversial view for some, although my own knowledge of this particular topic is (shamefully) inadequate. He said that humanitarianism is always a difficult business and humanitarian workers are forever facing difficult dilemmas. He spoke about the need for humanitarian organisations to remain neutral in order to guarantee access to the areas where they are needed.

He was unsurprisingly critical of politicians, citing the frequent gulf between the experience of those people on the ground and the pronouncements made by those in power, which can often be dangerous, for example with the posturing about parachuting aid into Burma which could have made it very difficult for those on the ground. He made a plea for politicians to listen more to those on the front line before speaking out and taking action.

He then laid into David Miliband in particular for saying that the British would intervene in future with the authority of multilateral institutions "where possible", the implication being that the governments was prepared to act even if it was outside international law.

Kamm actually came across quite well - his good humour and reasonableness probably would have been a disappointment to some of his head banging supporters at HP. He praised Foley's book and said that although he disagreed with parts of it it was necessary and useful, and he made a couple of interesting points about neo-conservatism. He admitted that intervention has its problems but pointed out the problems in the past caused by Western non-intervention (Rwanda) and complicity with tyrants (Mobutu). He (surprise) praised Blair's Chicago speech in 1999 and defended the action in Kosovo, saying that the West had no option but to react to what was a "naked land grab" by Serbia.

He made the point that the problem with international law is the lack of a body capable of enforcing it, pointing out the failings of the UN and the fact that it does not exercise sovereignty. His solution though was for the world to rely on the power of the US to ensure the stability of the world order, by use of both diplomatic and military means. This is obviously a contentious view to say the least but there is to me a genuine problem about how to maintain the primacy of international law and at the same time ensure that when action is genuinely required it can be taken, when it is subject to veto at the UN which is not always made in good faith. Foley pointed out that the “responsibility to protect” doctrine could be used as possible basis for legal intervention in the absence of specific UN authority but that it is a complicated area.

Ultimately a lot of questions were left open and the debate could have gone on much longer but it was an interesting evening.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thank God, they've got this sorted out

Wikipedia has needed this for ages

In related news, the Guardian blog recently changed its software. Some contributors were a bit slow on the uptake for this, and kept submitting articles to the old platform, where they linger forever in an unnoticed queue. One of those articles is by Alan (presumably NTM) Johnson, dated 6 October, and is tantalisingly called "Groucho Marx and Palin Derangement Syndrome". Presumably it will never see the light of day, but I suspect that it would be of genuine interest to future historians as a document of "The Sarah Palin Moment", when otherwise rational people managed to convince themselves that Palin was what the McCain ticket needed to push it over the top, and that therefore they needed to get their ducks in a row with sniping essays at the snobbish liberal left for always looking down its nose at pig-ignorant, book-banning creationists and therefore hating the working class. I think that this "moment" was comprised of one part boilerplate anti-intellectualism, two parts middle-aged judgement lapse at the sight of a pretty face, and three parts the well-documented unerring ability of Decents to jump on the wrong bandwagon. But I suspect that, as with the death of Princess Diana, lots of people will rewrite history when it comes to remembering what they actually thought and felt during those strange ten days, and it will all disappear into a mixture of false memory and "what the fuck was that all about?"

I therefore invite AW (i"WoD") readers to speculate in comments about what "Groucho Marx and Palin Derangement Syndrome" might have said. I suspect that the Groucho connection will have had something to do with not wanting to be part of a Left that didn't include the rednecks or some such - humourless academics very rarely know anything about Groucho (who was an outright genius, by the way, much much better than PG Wodehouse) other than that he said that thing about clubs.

Ca me fait egal

What, are we still awaiting Aaro’s views on Obama? I think that this is a clear sign of our lad's onward and upward progress - no longer the sort of mid-level opinion hack who is called upon to write 400wds of pithy reaction to issues of the day, and neither the sort of mid-level opinion hack who needs the money when offered them, Aaro is a columnist, occupant of the Simon Jenkins slot in the Times and who knows? Possibly aspirant to the knighthood that goes with the post. So anyway, a few words on his last column.

I don't want to be too snotty about this, because it genuinely is good to see people writing in the newspapers who bother to get their hands dirty with yer actual social science, and Aaro and Polly Toynbee are more or less the only mainstream columnists who do it. But ... the name of this blog is Aaronovitch Watch, and one of the main themes of this blog is that it's when he's at his most reasonable that you have to Watch Aaro most closely, because he tends to slip in the propaganda quite subtly. So that you're so overwhelmed with the nutrious abundance of stone-ground crusty bread, that you don't realise he's feeding you a shit sandwich.

I also have to provide a little bit of context for that Galbraith quote, because I am a Galbraith nerd and it's quite funny. "It requires no courage nor prescience to predict disaster. Courage is required of the man who, when things are good, says so" appears in The Great Crash of 1929. It's by way of a qualified defence of Calvin Coolidge for making an optimistic speech about how well things were going in 1928. So although it was courageous of Silent Cal to say that things were good, it wasn't exactly very prescient. More importantly, the very next paragraph of GC29 is, in fact, about inequality, the subject of Aaro's col.

There was much that was good about the world of which Coolidge spoke. True, as liberal misanthropes have insisted, the rich were getting richer much faster than the poor were getting less poor. The farmers were unhappy and had been ever since the depression of 1920-21 had cut farm prices sharply but left costs high. Black people in the South and white people in the southern Appalachians continued to dwell in hopeless poverty. Fine old-English houses with high gables, leaded glass and well-simulated half-timbering were rising in the country club district, while farther in town one encountered the most noisome slums outside the Orient

So in context, I don't think that the quote can quite be used to recruit JKG to the general cause of "give our boys in power a break, you people ought to be more appreciative of all that's done for you"; quite apart from anything, trying to recruit one of the last century's most stylish satirists to the cause of ant-cynicism is a bit quixotic.

And of course, that's the bit of the sandwich here that I'm sending back to the kitchen; the cause is once more, give 'em the benefit of the doubt. Any microscopic achievement is hailed to the skies; the benchmark is lowered to meet it. At some points, Aaro appears to be perilously close to arguing that the only possible way to affect inequality is through pre-primary education - once someone's taken their GCSEs, let alone entered the workforce, their social station is set for life and there's certainly nothing that the government could do about it. The idea that the quantitative size and economic importance of the differences between categories might also be a legitimate object of policy is in the "does not compute" bucket; "fairness" here means "social mobility" - a phrase that repays close reading, and particular comparison to the phrase "economic equality", and the fact that Aaro chooses to unpack the loaded word "fairness" one way rather than the other gives a very big clue that he is actually much less sympathetic to egalitarian politics than one would think if one wasn't paying attention.

Aaro does have a point, by the way, about the specific individual Jade Goody. As well as the point he makes, it has to be pointed out that by any reasonable standard, Ms Goody has to be considered a success story for the education system. Before appearing on Big Brother, she held down a job as a dental nurse (which is a skilled occupation) and doesn't appear to have spent any material period in unemployment. Since making her appearance on BB, she's continued to earn a decent upper-middle-class income out of promoting perfume and making media appearances. This is despite having a quite obviously dysfunctional family background. She's fat and quite vulgar in her speech, but this isn't something that either the school system or people who aren't snobs ought to be concerned about; I don't think that the school system can be especially blamed for the fact that she made racist comments in public. But that's by the by.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Strong Reasons

I intend this to be an open thread. As is customary with such posts, I'm probably going to rattle on a lot longer than is welcome - and even worse, longer than I intended.

Captain Cabernet made a couple of good points in the previous thread. Taken together, they merit a post in my opinion. First, he said:

Speaking of Harry's Place, could we, perhaps, compile of roster of decentist bloggers who are now backing Obama who once (during the Lebanon war, for example) treated Zombietime as a credible source of information?

Later on he raised Weighing Obama versus McCain, Marko Attila Hoare's self-explanatory post. I actually read that last night, thought "Blimey!" then thought about writing something, and finally thought, "Nah."

But since it's come up ...

I think Marko makes a number of positively strange assertions.

One of the paradoxes of this election is that Obama is perceived by much of the liberal intelligentsia in the West as being the progressive, anti-establishment candidate, even though his likely election victory will owe much to the fact that his campaign has enjoyed much greater financial resources than McCain’s. The richer candidate is spending his way to victory; even if a large part of this funding has consisted of small donations, the hated representatives of American capitalism have hardly been falling over themselves to fund his Republican opponent.

Small fish in a Virtual Enterprise Network engaging Big Fish
Indeed, in Obama's second book The Audacity of Hope, he talks about not having the personal wealth or the rich backers - and this was when he was running for the Illinois Senate. He started needing donations from individuals - and given his politics - mostly poor ones. It's this that has funded his campaign - his campaign is richer in the classic leftist/union-supporting sense: it's the big fish pursued by the legion of small fish acting in concert.

Obama doesn't hate capitalism. He's very clear about that. Neither do most of his supporters - even among the union members you'll have to look for some time before you find anyone who wants to overthrow capitalism. So 'hated'? By whom? By the pure-of-heart comrades who still believe that power grows out of the barrel of a gun and who live on in Marko's imagination and nowhere else. He's right that the super-rich haven't been funding McCain as much as they might. After all, he has his own money, from his wife, so I imagine they're saying, "Hold on, you've got the cash, and you want me to give away my kids' inheritance?" And quite right too. If McCain wins, he enriches himself; their enrichment is just a side-effect. If he loses, the extra money probably wouldn't have made any difference, and they'll need it for taxes. But let's be clear. Obama is not the rich candidate.

McCain will be painted as a continuation of Bush, ...

He has been. He's never made clear how the McCain Republican Party is going to be different from the Bush Republican Party. He did (according to the Obama ad) vote in support of Bush 90% of the time.

...and continue to be punished for the sins, real or perceived, of his predecessor.

I just love "real or perceived." That's a piece of work. Isn't that just beautiful? Please, folks, go back up and read it again. Mmm-hmm, just as good the second time. So simple, yet so ... mendacious. It's almost Rovian. Not real AND perceived. But OR. As if habeas corpus, torture, tearing up the Constitution, and destroying the economy weren't enough. Marko is concerned that some of us may worry about some 'perceived' sins. The real are enough, thank you.

... the world prefers soft US presidents, and Obama will undoubtedly be a much softer president than McCain.

Welcome to the Soft Parade. (It's not just Michael Berube who can sneak in Doors lines.) What does Marko mean by 'soft'? My friends, let me suggest this ... absolutely nothing. The world quite liked Eisenhower and Kennedy - and they were both war heroes, physically brave men. As was George Herbert Walker Bush. Reagan probably qualifies as a 'hard' president. He sat out WWII; he preferred to play war heroes and his aggressiveness as president (outside of his attacks on the poor) consisted of invading Grenada and joking about bombing the USSR before a radio broadcast (any resemblance to similar poor taste comments by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are purely coincidental). Nixon was so 'hard' he could go to China. And where's the applause from the Decents for that? (Good opera by the way.) If you want hard, rent a movie with Vinnie Jones in it. (I'm minded of this after watching the 'Extras' episode with Jones and Ross Kemp on YouTube, because the latter looks a lot like Sam 'Joe the Plumber' Wurzelbacher (who isn't a certified plumber and doesn't earn anywhere near the top tax rate and isn't about to buy a business, but is otherwise an honest upstanding guy[1] whom I'm sure hawks like Marko wish they could vote for.)

George Bush Snr betrayed the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 and acted to keep Saddam Hussein in power;...

This bothered me too. So when I finally found what I consider to be explanation, I posted it. Dick Cheney (who was Secretary of Defense under Bush 42) is neither soft nor stupid. I think a fair summary of his position of the way the Gulf War ended is this: regime change would have cost too many American lives and it would have destroyed the coalition of Arab supporters - the US would have lost the peace when it won the war. I, too, think Saddam was a foul dictator. However, Bush Snr and his cabinet made the rational decision. Now, if you don't like that decision, you're free to deprecate it at will. But how you reconcile that attack on Cheney [1991] with support for Cheney [2003] I have to leave to your conscience.

Biden is, like Obama, pro-Greek and anti-Turkish; they would be taking over leadership of the US at a time when, given the threats posed by the hostile regimes in Moscow and Tehran, we need to maintain the Turkish alliance, and at a time when Greece’s merciless bullying of the fragile Republic of Macedonia potentially threatens disaster in the Balkans.

First off, I'm rather with Nick Cohen in being anti-Turkish. I agree with Nick Cohen, in that I'm pro-science and generally contra wild-eyed fundamentalism. Like PETA, I'm not just against Turkey at Thanksgiving, I'm against Turkey all year round. And maybe I've missed something on this "bullying" lark, but it seems to go like this:

Senior Greek and Macedonian diplomats held new talks in New York Friday with a special United Nations negotiator, Matthew Nimetz, but appeared no closer to a deal.

Earlier this month, Nimetz proposed five alternative names that Macedonia could consider adopting. Under the plan, leaked to a Greek newspaper, the names are: Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia, New Republic of Macedonia, and Republic of Upper Macedonia.

Gosh, it's just like the Eastern Front in WWII again, isn't it? I've never known such depravity since Patrick Kavanagh gently suggested to PJ Kavanagh, "Change your fuckin' name." (Literary anecdote, possibly apocryphal; I can't find confirmation. I'm fairly sure that was the only time they met. The only time Joyce and Proust met, they talked about truffles.)

The Economist has a Flash map of 'what if the world could vote [in the US election]'. Marko is right! Greece is blue for Obama. Now, where's Macedonia? Oh, it's blue too. Poor Macedonians, they need a strong man like Marko to tell them what's good for them. As do the Americans. This self-determination thing, where people decide what they need, it's not really Marko is it? What these countries need is strength; someone who has like "most of us probably" been "friends with various dangerous radicals". Who hasn't given shelter to bomb-makers in their time? Me for one, and, I suspect, all of you.

That's it. Much longer than I meant to write for, but the results don't come in for another two hours, and it kept me from bouncing about for a bit. I think that's enough time to watch 'Bananas' again. Marko's not like the radical who goes mental once he gets into power. He's more like the translator who meets Woody when he arrives back in the US.

By way of apology, here's a choon. Thanx to Andrew Sullivan.

[1] Oh, he's hasn't fought for his country either. But he would if he had the chance, I'm sure. I mean, more of the chance that every American has anyway of walking into a recruiting office and signing up. Pat Tillman did, and I'm sure Sam would have too, if only it didn't require so much effort. Walk in, sign name. No, no, no, that's so elitist you know? In other wars, they came for you. And best of all, they came for the blacks first. That's the way to do it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

"My favourite political website, Harry's Place"

Sorry, Justin - from the horse's mouth, Harry's Place is officially on topic. A strange paradox here - Dave's article in the JC is a fine example of the genre "Big Chief Eye-Spy's Book of AntiSemitic Tropes"[1], pioneered by David Hirsh of ENGAGE and brought to perfection by the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism. But what is one to say about someone who has such a nice sensibility about the use of racist code-language, but who declares that his favourite political website is Harry's Place?

[1]I would regard referring to a member of the Rothschild family as a "money-changer" as careless to say the least, but Mandelson portrayed as a snake? Nah. Mandelson is regarded popularly as sneaky, silent and poisonous (cf George Osborne, who accused PM of "pouring poison in my ear", which would certainly have been pounced on as an A-ST if someone else had said it. I also think the homophobia thing is a hell of a stretch - drawing Mandelson as a big pink cock appeals to a cartoonist simply because it's funny.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday Morning Nick Cohen factwatch

Nick writes:

With the shameful, but I suppose inevitable, support of an English academic postmodernist, one Steve Fuller of Warwick University, they argued that truth was relative.

Steve Fuller is American, was born in New York, and taught in the US until 1999.