Monthly Archives: November 2005

In his fine piece on blogging at The Sharpener, Nosemonkey had this to say:

The better – or simply more popular – bloggers end up reading each other and linking to each other and, increasingly, finding themselves less able or inclined, due either to time constraints or the knowledge that their current blogrolls contain enough good people to find most things so they shouldn’t be missing much, to pick up on newer blogs. Equally, the more people that link to you, the harder it is to notice new ones, or new good ones – especially as the likes of Technorati and the other blog search engines are currently having so much difficulty in keeping up to date and accurate.

I’ve only come across two new blogs in the last few months that I read regularly: the mighty Rachel from North London and the excellent Kitty Killer who hasn’t posted since late September (if you’re out there mate, give us a shout). So, to find out what other new blogs are out there, we’re inaugurating a one-off New Blood Blog Roundup.

If you run a political blog of whatever flavour that was created after August 1 this year or would like to recommend one, please email before midday on Friday December 9. I’ll then present the list both here and on my own blog. As a further incentive to potential third party recommenders, other than the rosey glow of a good deed well done, I’ll also give a hat tip link to your blog.

This isn’t designed as a patronising, patriarchal pat on the head or beauty contest for the “little folk” from self-styled “big boys of blogging”. It’s a genuine attempt to broaden the circle of blogs that many of us are reading right now. There will be no judgements made and all recommendations will make the list. It’ll then be up to everybody using the list to decide who’s cool and who’s fool.

On some blogs such as Samizdata, the discussion often has an element of an echo chamber or a circle jerk about it, but occasionally we come across gems. Here’s one, about the difference between the ancient Romans and the modern West:

James Purefoy is playing Mark Anthony in the hit TV series, Rome, and one of the things he said struck me as really rather illuminating. He said that the difference between us and the Romans was that they regarded weakness as a vice and what we would call cruelty as a virtue. […]

The virtue we aspire to is kindness, and in everyday life this usually works pretty well. But the vices of our civilisation are mostly also related to that aspiration, it seems to me, and now more than ever before. Even as Christian theology is now laughed to scorn, by me among many thousands, Christian ethics are triumphant in our civilisation as never before. But the underside of kindness is weakness, meekness, sentimentality, thoughtlessness – niceness as a substitute for competence and for thinking it through. Instead of thoughtful and because of that all the more hideously destructive brutality – the Roman vice – we indulge in impulsive and frivolous orgies of unthinking niceness.

This, if you think about it, is the running argument we have here at Samizdata with the zeitgeist of our time.

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To those of you who have been eagerly waiting for this week’s TV review, my apologies for the delay which was caused by a combination of life getting in the way and my being in a state of shock at discovering that the BBC will be broadcasting two new Stephen Poliakoff dramas next year, which is nice of them, especially as they’ve also got new series from Jimmy McGovern and Tony Marchant too.
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On Friday night, I went with a group of friends to see Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the ICA in London. The event was part of English Pen’s campaign for free-speech. Before Ayaan was interviewed by Timothy Garton-Ash, the film that she made with Theo van Gogh was shown.

Ayaan is still under death sentence from various Islamist groups, so as you would expect, security was tight. We were all frisked and had our bags searched before going into the cinema. My friend had her apple and bottle of water confiscated. The security guard said that they could potentially be thrown at the stage. We managed to get seats in the second row so I ended up sitting behind Ayaan. She was accompanied by three very tall, shaven headed men, who I assumed were Dutch police. The British police were also there in strength and the ICA had beefed up its own security. In the event, there was no trouble, not even any heckling. There were a few mildly hostile questions at the end but that was as dangerous as it got. Read More

Is it just me or are other people beginning to smell the whiff of media disappointment that the country has yet to collapse into anarchy as a result of new laws allowing people to drink around the clock? In fact, this so-called liberalisation of our drinking laws is looking more and more like a damp squib. Indeed, it has brought back memories of a certain song we all know and love. Gawd Bless Bill Haley:

“One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock, drink?” Maybe.
“Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock, drink?” Looking rather unlikely.
“Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, drink?” I don’t think so.
“We’re gonna drink around the clock tonight?” If you want to die, then go ahead.
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“An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.” —H.L. Mencken

New Labour Soup, the snazzily-packed, dark red gloop with an oddly-familiar aftertaste that is the chosen brand of the most important 21 per cent of people ever to have graced Great Britain is an odd concoction. Decried for placing false hope in the minds of many, while concurrently denounced for failing to fulfil the different desires of many more, the story of Tony’s gang is at the very least an interesting one.

This is partly because no one has ever worked out just what the hell was going on: what did this gobble actually mean? Francis Wheen’s assertion that the Third Way “was somewhere between the Second Coming and the Fourth Dimension” remains as good as any.
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Mr Eugenides wouldn’t describe himself as a blogging virgin, exactly, but he’s certainly still at the inexpert fumbling stage. Be gentle.

On Kilroy

Let’s start with the suntan.

I’m going to go out on a limb; no suntanned British politician has ever been anything but a shyster and a fraud. Three quick examples; Tony B. suddenly turning mahogany one weekend during the election (“I was working in the garden”); George Galloway, passim; and the entire madcap political career of Robert Kilroy-Silk. (Of course, his real name is Robert Silk. “Kilroy-Silk” is an affectation, an amalgamation of the surnames of his father and stepfather, presumably to make him sound less proletarian).

I’m a reasonably intelligent man. I understand, both intuitively and intellectually, the difference between the true evils in this world – poverty, disease, hunger – and the ephemera, the flotsam, the self-obsessed nonentities that jostle for position on the margins. And yet, increasingly, it’s the latter that obsess me, to the virtual exclusion of all else. Darfur, 7/7, torture; yes, they make me angry, angry at the injustices of the world and our inability, or unwillingness, to right them. But to stir the deepest, most unspeakable feelings of rage in my soul, only a Kilroy, a Patricia Hewitt, a – God forgive me for even typing the words! – Gillian McKeith, will really do.

Is it the way he cosied up to his hapless victims, the consoling arm round the shoulders even as he manoeuvred them in their seats to face the camera? Is it the ignorant, xenophobic tripe in his newspaper column which took him (let us hope forever) off our screens? Is it his ludicrous political meanderings, the ill-fated and wholly self-regarding flirtation with UKIP, the pathetic vanity of Veritas, which ended, deliciously, in him being ousted from the head of his own one-man band? Is it the monstrous hypocrisy? Is it actually just the tan?

No. My anger stems from the fact that, despite their utter insignificance, these people occupy a huge, pompous-twat-shaped hole in my life that I dearly wish I didn’t need to fill. Any decent psychiatrist could tell me that when I lie awake, imagining the sound that a rusty axe would make as it plunged through his leathery, apricot-hued face, I’m “transferring” my rage. This rant is really about myself.

Sir Christopher Meyer says in his book that he briefed a former Prime Minister in his underpants. Well I have briefed a Cabinet Minister in his bath. But unlike Meyer, I do not propose to tell you anything about it. In part I want to protect you from having the image etched in your mind in the way it is in mine – I can assure you that you do not want to go there. But mainly I shall keep quiet because I believe that it is in the interest of good government for civil servants to protect the confidences of the Governments they serve.

The publication of the Meyer memoirs has reopened questions about the proper relationship between the civil service and the government. This is an important question with possible implications for the style and form of government we have.

Below the fold, I set out to demolish five common fallacies about the role of the civil service.

  • Fallacy one: Civil servants should be able to tell their side of the story.
  • Fallacy two: The civil service has been politicized; there are too many Special Advisers with too much power.
  • Fallacy three: Civil servants owe a separate duty to Parliament, the public or the press.
  • Fallacy four: Civil servants should enforce the Ministerial code.
  • Fallacy five: Civil servants should have a monopoly on providing advice to the Government.

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