Monthly Archives: October 2005

Remember the article on Kiva, the website that links up microcredit lenders with borrowers?

The Sharpener article was mentioned in the European Tribune, and from it was picked up by the Daily Kos — and Kiva have now had a rush of new lenders, able to fund every loan application available on their website! As a commenter on dKos put it:

Jesus, we funded every single loan available. Slashdotting for social justice!

This means that small-scale entrepreneurs in Uganda now have the seed capital to break out of the cycle of poverty. So the next time someone tells you that blogging is pointless, that it’s just intellectual masturbation, tell them from me that they’re talking bollocks.

After my unintended absence, I’m back. Thanks to Jarndyce and Katie for holding the fort and the prime seats in front of the TV for me in my absence, but now I shall retake my rightful place in command of the Sharpener remote control.
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Washington, DC is abuzz today with the fallout of a momentous week’s news. Harriet Miers is toast. Lewis Libby suddenly finds he has a lot of time on his hands. And Karl Rove is still left sweating.

And who frames this debate? Who to a large extent drives it, shapes it, boosts it? The blogs. Blogging in the US is huge. To take one example, the Daily Kos, one of the leading liberal blogs, gets a daily readership of nearly 850,000. Well over three quarters of a million. Adjusting for population, a UK blog would need to get a daily readership of around 200,000 to compete. And yet how many British blogs get even one percent of that figure? Even half of one percent? Precious few.

What is the matter with us British bloggers? Where are we going wrong? Is it that:

  • we are just not as clever as the Americans?
  • we are stymied by the Official Secret Acts?
  • we spend too much time trashing each other or writing posts on the lines of: ‘X wrote this in a newspaper today, X is an idiot, hurrah’?
  • the British mainstream media does a better job than its US counterpart, thus reducing the need for blogs?

Or is there some other, deeper national malaise that we need to crack?

Answers please.

This week’s ranters: Stuart and Dave are communists with a book habit. They blog at From Despair To Where .

A rant… against rant

Who doesn’t love a good rant? We certainly do. Indeed, as a socialist, almost the first thing you will have to learn is the art of the rant. And, in our founding father, we have a superb role model. Just take a look at the old boy tearing into Jeremy Bentham in Section Five of this chapter of Capital.

In fact, this rant was so good we were going to nick it for the start of this one. Because if you’re looking for a modern example of arch-philistines strutting about in a self-satisfied way with their list of homespun commonplaces, look no further than the so-called pro-war left. Not that the anti-war left is that much better. In fact, the whole debate between the anti-war left and the pro-war left only offers us the depressing prospect of choosing between Bush and Blair, or the Iraqi Resistance. Our advice is that if a polemicist offers you two options, you should always choose the third. (Click here and scroll down for a review that makes more or less this point.)

We could rant on and on about this, and we did plan to. But then we read an exchange between anti-war author Ken Macleod and pro-war lefty academic Norman Geras. Ken Macleod’s piece is the best contribution to the debate we have read. But — and here’s our point — it was the best because it wasn’t a rant. Geras’s replies were, in their own way, equally impressive.

People don’t move closer to a ranter’s position. They edge nervously towards the door. If this was just about slipping away quietly from bores like Hitchens and Galloway, then it wouldn’t matter. But we can’t afford to leave the debate to them, as it gives rise to the (already very strong) impression that politics is for weirdos and nutters. As Foucault points out , a search for truth — a whole morality — is at stake.

So, comrades, friends, and fellow bloggers, let’s do our best to give up the rant. It’s beneath us and the issues are too important. And if you disagree, then please do put your pointless ravings and ill-informed opinions in the comments box below.

Makers of political telly face a bit of a conundrum. The audience that you could consider your ‘core’ are a bunch of armchair pedants. People who shout at the news and write letters to the editor. Or keep whiney blogs. So your obligation to verisimilitude immediately leaves you somewhat circumscribed as to the kind of entertainment programmes you can make.
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A lot has been said by a lot of people concerning the legality of the war in Iraq. Personally, I couldn’t care less whether it was legal or not. It’s a technicality. The idea that someone gets to dictate an international law determining just when war is legal and when it is not is as frivolous as most wars themselves – especially when the ‘law’ is inevitably as toothless as the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact – if the big boys break it, who is going to dish out the punishment?

An awful lot of people have got very angry over something that, like most drawn-out processes involving lawyers, is a pointlessly confusing fudging of words which ultimately take us no further towards the advancement of reason and common sense. Read More

Microcredit — lending small amounts of money to poor people to help them set up small businesses — is not a new idea; it started in the 1970s when Muhammad Yunus set up Grameen bank. Since then, Grameen has proved outstandingly successful, lending over $3 billion and empowering millions of people.

A new twist on this idea is Kiva, the world’s first peer-to-peer, distributed microloan website, set up by Jessica and Matthew Flannery.
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I’m rather more free than the previous six degreers, Nosemonkey and Phil, in that I am not tied to starting from my own blog. I thought that today we’d explore the virtual world thematically and introduce you, dear readers, to the wonderful weirdness of the expat blog.

As a recently returned expat from first America and then France, I can tell you that blogging makes life a lot easier for those of us lucky to live abroad. It’s an easy way to share news and photos with family and friends, and a good forum in which to air our frustrations with our adopted nation without unduly offending the natives. Expat bloggers are generally also trying to get to grips with the peculiarities of culture and politics of their environment.

Some infamous bloggers are expats: Tim Ireland’s an Aussie and Armin Grewe’s from Germany but they blog from and about England. The limeys abroad are pretty good too: Tim Worstall in Portugal, Zoe in Belgium, Third Avenue in New York, Neil in Germany, Francis in France. Expats can make the best bloggers, because they spend their lives comparing and analysing cultures and sometimes this yields extraordinary insights.

Since expat bloggers tend to link to and mention bloggers in their host country, I thought we’d get around the world a little faster if we relied upon the nifty little flags next to blogs on Armin Grewe’s webring for expat bloggers, The Ministry of Propaganda. I am going to hop around my six blogs via the novel method of choosing a blogger based on the host nation of the previous blogger. It’s like the Kevin Bacon game.
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As the MPs from my party go to the polls today to decide the two people to put forward to the membership to be the next Prime Minister of this glorious country, I’ve been thinking about the influence of the media on the race and on politics in general. It is usually a good indicator that the writer is a (hate the term, but…) moonbat left-wing lunatic if he/she starts ranting about the press, calling for regulation, and usually wanting to ban the Mail and much of the Murdoch press outright. After this leadership election, I’m starting to worry that they might have a small point. Not in the banning part, of course, nor in the foam-flecked conspiracy theorising that they usually indulge in, but certainly in the fact that the media seems to set the agenda more and more in modern politics. In this leadership election, it is entirely possible, and indeed now very likely, that the media will have ended up choosing the victor themselves. There’s nothing wrong with an individual paper writing a leader column recommending a candidate of course, but when the press from day one seems to choose what they want to write, and then proceeds to shoehorn events into that narrative, something is deeply rotten in our democracy.

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