Author Archives: Katie Bartleby

Short one, food for thought. Given a 61% turnout in the 2005 general election, with Labour winning 35% of votes cast, Tony Blair has a mandate from 22% of the electorate.

In other countries, President Bush has a mandate from 21% of voters. The Iraqi parliament from 27% of voters, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a staggering 36% of voters.

What gives?

Last November, there were areas of Paris where you could be forgiven for imagining the rioting was someone else’s problem. To many affluent Parisians, within the city limits and behind their digicoded front gates, these rioting youths could just as easily be in some far off country, instead of a handful of miles away, across the peripherique.

Surprisingly, one of those quiet places was La Caravelle, a 1,600 apartment, social housing project in Villeneuve la Garenne, an estate in the 92nd departement with a history of youth violence, car burning and other vandalism. What made La Caravelle different? Read More

The news stories only really broke over here three nights in, and seven days later the British public are remarkably uninterested in what is going on in the suburbs Aulnay sous Bois and Clichy sous Bois to the north east of Paris. News programmes report it one item before ‘and finally’ and the stories are to be found filling a 3 by 6 column space on page 9, next to the happy news that Abigail Witchell is finally going home.

However uninterested we are, we certainly cannot say we are disinterested. As the comments on Jonathan Pearce’s piece at Samizdata highlight, this is, in the minds of many, about disaffected Muslim youths, feeling alienated from the authorities and economy of their native country. That sort of thing would never happen in Britain though. Right?
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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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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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There is a scene in ‘America’s Sweethearts’ where John Cusack holds his head in his hands and chants “I am grateful for the sun. I am grateful for the trees” and so on ad infinitum. The general depression of my temporary unemloyed exile in my parents’ home in mouldy Glasgow (it has not stopped raining in three days) is generally alleviated by reminding myself of the two things that are here and here alone which I am grateful for: I am grateful for my dog and I am grateful for 500-odd channels of digital entertainment that my Dad pays for.

Last night’s launch of More4, with its eye-roll-inducing branding that I suppose the marketing men thought was “risque” “quirky” and “zany,” reaffirmed my thankfulness for digital. For a start, there was a joke on the “Daily Show” (heretoafter remonikered the “Day After Show,” as it is yesterday’s American edition) that, I am sure, I alone among the millions of Britons tuned in ‘got.’ What I was waiting for, however, was the “controversial” (read “quirky,” “risque” and “zany”) comedy drama “A Very Social Secretary.”

Without trying to step on Nick’s toes, he doesn’t seem to have digital, so I am going to attempt a review.
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For a little light, late-afternoon time-wasting, why not visit CitizenSpace?

Here’s their welcome note:

“Welcome to our consultation on the Future of Democracy. This consultation is being run on behalf of the POWER Inquiry Commission, and has been set up to explore practical ideas of how political participation could be increased and deepened in Britain. Input into the POWER Inquiry will be part of a process that will change British democracy for the better.

Issues covered in this consultation include:
– the role of the media in political involvement
– the idea of devolving power, and making democracy more “localised”
– the role of political parties and party activism
– ideas of creating a more participative democracy

This consultation is made up of 7 questions, all of which are optional, and to get the most out of it we suggest you donate at least 10 minutes of your time.”

It’s not just a survey, they ask you to enter your well-considered opinion (or hastily contrived opinion, whatever floats your boat, we ARE bloggers after all…) and may Change The Way We Do Government.

It says it closed a couple of weeks ago, but it’s still up and running and the organisers are still encouraging people to take part.

Go stick it to the Man.

“Best practice” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days. I first encountered it three years ago working for a transatlantic fellowship programme out of Washington, and while I disapprove in general of government-based managerialist buzzwords, today I am going to use it for the first time.

I was thinking about the 2002 class gift to my university. I began musing about the history and current political climate facing UNC-Chapel Hill, its fifteen sister universities in North Carolina, and, by extension, state-run university systems in other countries, such as Britain, say. I began to wonder what we could learn, what is “best practice.”
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We have borrowed the tardis, travelled to the future, and have brought back a dictionary of British English from late in the 21st century. The British Potato Council will be pleased to know that ‘couch potato’ isn’t in there.

A few excerpts after the jump for your perusal and approval. Feel free to add your own submissions in the comments and we’ll highlight the best.
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