Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Aaro rather has the Tories' number

Much can be forgiven in return for the phrase:

"beginning, ominously, with giving Frank Field the task of looking at history teaching"

My only quibble would be that the poster child for this touchy-feely-hand-in-the-bra "public services" rhetoric on the part of people who are still transparently ideologues and free-market nuts, is his esteemed colleague Michael Gove and this might have been mentioned. But all in all, a good article.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

present at the creation

Not exactly on topic, but relevant in a general way and a whole lot of fun any way you look at it. Here’s Joe Moran’s history of early gentrification in postwar London (pdf) from the 1950’s to the end of the seventies. Hampstead liberals, Islingtonians, the earthenware-based hegemony of Comrade Conran, it’s all here.

Bonus points for spotting the quote that inspired the style of this blog.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Working the frame

Two points with respect to Aaro's latest.

1. Here's a conversation you never, ever hear in the world of business (or at least, not in functional organisations), but which you get in politics all the time. It's practically definitive of the difference in attitudes.

A: "It is impossible for this project to succeed"

B: "But if it fails, the consequences will be terrible"

A: "OK, it isn't impossible then".

(I have made this point a lot of times on AW, I know, sorry).

2. More importantly, Aaro is not being straight or serious here in his framing of the issue. He's written it as if there were two options:

a) maintain our presence in Afghanistan

b) leave Afghanistan.

But actually, there's a third

c) massively increase our presence in Afghanistan

Ignoring c) is precisely the evasiveness and refusal to face up that he's accusing his opponents of. All of his arguments about the terrible state of Afghanistan, the danger of the Taliban and the necessity of victory, are arguments for c), not a). He doesn't have a convincing argument to the effect that the battle against the Taliban can be won with the current level of resources, so he should be arguing for a very large increase, the kind that would require either a material increase in the rate of income tax or cuts in other government spending. Aaro is, specifically, not spelling out the (political) costs of doing Afghanistan properly.

His final paragraph appears to explicitly rule out c), with a rather flippant remark about "dead teenagers". As far as I can tell, General Aaronovitch's strategy for the Afghan War is simple attrition; to wait it out with our current forces, trust in our national resolve, and assume that we are more committed to our vision of the political future of Afghanistan than the Taliban (who live there) are committed to theirs. History's usually not kind to this kind of general.

(and note that of course, this column was written about a zillion times between 1963 and 1972 about Vietnam)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aaro sets in for an afternoon's nutpicking ...

Aaro picks nuts, oh yes he does ... once more raffling through the bargain bin at the airport bookshop to support his overall thesis on conspiracy theories. Then seques smoothly into what unnamed "China's officials" say, and "spokesthings" from the Iranian government, who claim that the BBC supported the democracy protestors. Which they didn't, of course, that was Twitter.

All of which is preliminary to some material from that well known fantastic news source ... the comments section of the Press TV website!!!! For crying out loud Aaro, lift the arse off the chair and do some real research, please! Remember that interview you got with Mark Oaten? That was really good. More of that sort of thing and less hanging round the Harry's Place comment section would be my prescription, and don't even think of sorting out an internship at the Times for Brett Lock.

In semi-related news, kudos to Flying Rodent and yah boo to me, on an issue which relates to conspiracy theory! I thought that Normblog (and the rest of the Decentosphere) wouldn't fall for a transparent piece of crap from Atlantic magazine trying to suggest that Human Rights Watch is a front organisation for anti-Semites under control of the Saudi government. FR thought they would. He was right.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In other news

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Justice Eady for his courage and idefatigability in ruling in favour of Google in response to an attempt to make them liable for libels in search-engine results. I expect my praise for the learned judge to be echoed all over the Decentosphere.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is Martin Amis On Drugs?

Well, really. (NB to the Guardian website's credit it published a response by Abbas Barzegar at 13:30 today.)

Even for Martin, it's a weird article. Some of his background reading is impressive: he's certainly done more than the average hack, even if his references lean toward the literary - that is the prettily expressed - rather than the historical. Why, for example, bring Ted Hughes into this? He tries, unconvincingly to me, to compare the Iranian revolution with the October 1917 one. He tries, with no more success to the present writer, to find a parallel between Presidents Ahmadinejad and Reagan.

Do we need to be told that someone who has published a book is a 'writer'? See Amis's opening sentence.

Revolutions, almost by definition, are fiercely anti-clerical. As late as 1922, to take the fiercest possible example, Lenin executed 4,500 priests and monks, plus 3,500 nuns.

One revolutionary murdered clerics, therefore all revolutions (should) murder clerics. Oh dear. And 'fiercely' followed by 'fiercest' (when he may mean 'only')! Didn't he use to claim to consult a thesaurus 20 times a day?

But the strangest part is this:

What remains, then, you might wonder, as you deplane at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport, and enter a city where no cab-driver will stop for a cleric – what remains of the legacy bequeathed by the Father of the Revolution, or alternatively by "that fucking asshole", as he is reflexively called, in English, by the youth of the cities of Iran?

From this, I assume that Amis went to Tehran, presumably on the Guardian's expense account. Everything else could have been (and probably was) written in his study. How many cab drivers do you think he watched? How many youths did he speak to?

This is will be discussed on 'Newsnight'.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

You may be choosing your own tunes, but you're still playing piano in a whorehouse

As longtime readers know, the officially endorsed media organisation of Aaronovitch Watch is Resonance FM, home to Decent science show "Little Atoms" (interesting interview with Kathryn Olmsted about conspiracy theories here). We also like the BBC and the Guardian.

The officially unendorsed media organisation of AW, however, is "Press TV", the Iranian government's world service. A surprising number of Decent and soft-right types (Oliver Kamm, Iain Dale, Andrew Gilligan etc) are currently patting themselves on the back for resigning from this one (Kamm did back in March and so gains a few points for at least having done so out of principle rather than embarrassment), declaring that they will never again etc etc, but the question arises: why the fuck were you on there in the first place? They can hardly argue that they didn't know what the government of Iran was like (or rather, they certainly could claim general ignorance, but not in a way that would help their case).

In Kamm's case, the motivation appears to be his quest to rid the world of its most pressing problem - the insufficient prominence of the opinions of Oliver Kamm. I don't read Iain Dale on principle, or Andrew Gilligan because he appears in the Standard, but I suspect that they also go for the same basic defence: "I have seen no evidence of any censorship of my contributions to those programmes".

To which one has to answer, so what? In many ways, if you're providing honest opinions and genuine news to what is basically a propaganda organisation, then bully for you in that your precious pearls of wisdom aren't being censored, but actually what you're thereby doing is providing a favourable context for all the other crap they're putting out. One really can't allow oneself to be used as window-dressing in this way, and pretend that it's OK because you were never compromised yourself; Saint George of Orwell had a few choice phrases for the kind of lestish intellectual who thought you could.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Handy Dandy

Oh well. After my last post (immediately below, so no link), Nick is rather good and it's the CiF comments which are outrageous.

See Jack Straw, rightly, is refusing to let an unrepentent thief go. (Life imprisonment for theft; let's just cut off their hands as well, then!) If the young Ronnie Biggs hadn't decided to become a thief rather than work for a living then the elderly Ronnie Biggs wouldn't be in prison now. (Gosh, it's all so simple isn't it?)

Nick at least sees that the issue is Jack Straw's vindictiveness, rather than the morals of Ronnie Biggs. I don't think a great deal of Mr Biggs, for the record, but he's not an elected official and he doesn't lecture other people about principles.

It's taken some time, but Nick's found a new article to write. Friendly criticism does work.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Alan Johnson vs the CIF Comment Zoo

Actually, it's Alan 'The Minister' Johnson. Some days CIF comments are hardly better than Harry's Place, but then they go and do this. Wonderful. It's like a glorious summer day or a British player in the Wimbledon semis.

ID cards look to me like being a good bet for Aaro next Tuesday. I'm hoping that Aaro writes something on ID, because he has a word count to reach (800?) which is a few more than A'TM'J uses - so he may feel compelled to put in some actual arguments or evidence. (I'm not very hopeful of this.) You know, the tricky stuff, that may convince somebody, which the minister was obviously too busy with his red boxes to include. You may say, "at least it's not old A'NTM'J", but this dreck was just as bad.

Anyway, this is your Aaro prediction thread, because we haven't had one for a while. And I can't think what to say about Tuesday's effort. I almost wrote a post with the title 'More tractors, comrade' (suggested in DA's comments by one Tim in Kingston), but, well, that's about the sum of Dave's position. I'm mostly clueless about education, but I think I can tell when DA's being selective with his facts. But if any of you wish to defend him, fire away...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Those dinner parties again

Gary Brecher aka The War Nerd, reviews a decent neocon thriller. It seems that the Islington dinner parties of Nick's imagination have their Manhattan counterparts:

And just in case you were in any doubt that they really are the forces of evil, there’s a long scene at a snooty Manhattan dinner party where the reader meets Johnson’s lefty boss, Josephine Parker von Hildebrand. Josephine is just about the evilest witch-queen since Snow White: “Josephine had practically every desirable personal characteristic, except wisdom and mercy.” Gee, that sounds like she actually isn’t a nice person at all! Well, this isn’t one of those subtle type novels. If it had a soundtrack, it’d be heavy on the Count Dracula organ notes every time Josephine appears. The scene at her snooty dinner party is maybe the worst in the novel. Basically, all the cool lefties at the party turn into rabid Jew-hating Nazis after their second glass of wine.

There's much more, of course.