Archive for September, 2005

Gordon Brown is Good

September 27, 2005

I see from the latest column that the road across Mittleuropa led directly to Brighton. Dave spent his journey fondly looking upon the young and the vibrant, while wobbling his jowls at the news that Hungary’s public sector was too large and that Slovakia had endured some unpleasant nationalistic types. Now, at the Labour Party conference, the journey reaches its conclusion:

DEREK SIMPSON, leader of Amicus, had just finished a conference speech that was all about protecting and defending British workers. He had been rightly worried about the bad employers over at Gate Gourmet but also concerned about “off-shoring” and the risk that giving work to outsiders would “displace our people”.

A minute or so later a small crocodile of international delegates made its way across the floor in front of the press seating. Behind me a Mail sniggerer — spotting an Oriental couple — began to make Fu Manchu sounds and to crack little jokes about the United Nations. And there, I felt, you had it in one speech and one hack’s ribaldry: the foreigner, either risible or threatening. There’s a revolution going on out there in the world and sections of the Left and of the old-school Right want to shut the doors on it.

There’s a revolution going on. Ya don’t say Dave. Now, there’s a certain category of middle class liberal that has benefited from the economic processes of the last decade or so, but is uncomfortably aware that others lower down the chain have not. It’s the kind of thing that can lead to a bad conscience when some union leader or hairy lefty type says that such folk need to have economic policy take account of their interests. Unless of course you can smear them as …well, not exactly racists but the next worse thing. And we can’t be helping racists out can we? No. My bank balance is secure.

Of course, if the poor are racists then we need to be protected from them…but let’s not piss all over that particular cache of Dave’s powder while he’s trying to keep it dry. Let the line evolve.

You can see how this might be a way for Dave to evolve out of his Iraq embarrassments, which gave his columns the sense of a man trying to come up with the wit of the staircase two months after the dinner party. But he’s on somewhat overpopulated ground. In fact, one of the interesting shifts in European opinion forming over the past few years is the way in which old fashioned, bog standard social democrats have been marginalized – repurposed? – as racists-cum-nationalists. A certain sort of mandarin liberal is absolutely outraged at the thought that a Labour government might find a better use for taxpayers money than kicking a failed state to pieces. Likewise, the spiteful curl of the lip at the reluctance of the French and Germans to take granny’s pension and, inter alia, hand it over to the kind of funky young entrepreneur who people like Dave would be pleased to break bruschetta with.

Now the market leader for this segment in Britain is Timothy Garton Ash, who had the advantage of actually being there while the revolution was going on. It’s everyday fodder for the continental bureaux of the posh papers. It lurks like flatulence around the editorial desk of the Economist. It needs a little more oomph than this:

This is what the Chancellor sees, and he sees it as clearly as the man he is likely to succeed. The debates we engage in with such obsessive repetitiveness and attention to detail, are minor considerations set against the strategic questions of Britain’s stance in the world. Do we face the global competition by retreating into our shells and hoping it will go away, or do we march towards the sound of the guns?

The choice is not about principle versus political positioning, so as to garner short-term centrist votes. It’s about whether Britain is a progressive, successful country, full of plumbers, or becomes a backward-looking, defensive one. Gordon Brown has, I think, made his choice.

There was a time during the Cultural Revolution in China when practically everything that dropped from Mao’s lists was made into a slogan and repeated ad nauseum throughout the country. Eventually, Mao ran out of sloganable snippets and his acolytes were reduced to putting stuff like “The People’s Communes are Good” up in twenty foot high big character posters.

Is this it, Dave? “Gordon Brown is Good” Jesus H Christ, is the Times readership these days entirely composed of flunkies and functionaries or what?

Rioja Kid


Friday forecast

September 23, 2005

I am off on a holiday to the Lake District (although don’t be too surprised if you see a few favourable freebie-boilerplate quotes attributed to “prominent Watch blogger bruschettaboy” in the Swaziland Sex Tourism Gazette). I think they have the Observer and Times up there but probably not the Evening Standard or the internet, so you lot are on your honour for this week’s contest.

oh fuck me red white and blue

September 21, 2005

They’re coming in thick and fast. Next stop Slovakia. All we need apparently is for a local populist leader to be deposed “with the help of the West”, a 19% flat tax and Bob’s yer uncle, paradise on Earth. Note now that if you steal something and get away with it, you have “gone legit” in the world of Aaro. Unless you run a popular political party which isn’t on the right (by which I mean decent left) side of Western investor-friendly policies. Hmmm, not too keen on the old tax, keen on investment in Eastern Europe, inclined to making apologies for crooks from Czechoslovakia, mates with Alastair Campbell … surely someone needs to tell our David that it’s Murdoch he’s working for, not Maxwell?

Borderline off-topic

September 21, 2005

I must say the Simon Jenkins column in the “Berliner” Guardian is absolutely excellent this week.

lesbians in the news

September 21, 2005

I was a bit puzzled too. It was shaping up as a bit of an “airmiles” feature, but Aero just doesn’t have the mustache of understanding, the izzy-wizzy-let’s-get-bizzy build a platitude and they will come globo-mojo of the blessed Friedman.

It’s more like “tramp miles”. Aero plods across the historic nations of the East, mumbling randomly to himself about how there aren’t any Jews around anymore and last time he was here he was with his girlfriend and she was a lesbian and this bloke he talked to says that public spending in Hungary is too high and have you heard about the price of sponge!

And the young people – the dear, young people – the youth of Slovenia are giving him fixed grins and sidelong looks and edging away from the table as Aaro bursts into tears and says I believed in communism once but she was a lesbian and I was betrayed and it hurts but it doesn’t matter because all you young people look so happy now eating, drinking and making love but I couldn’t, you see, because she was a lesbian and please, please talk to me because I’ve got a column to write.

And in next week’s thrilling installment, Aaro chews a suasage bap and weeps floods of bitter, silent tears as he listens to Adam Michnik talk about pluralism, democracy, making a stand for freedom and the false opposition between Europe and the United States.

Be there, if you can stand it.

The Rioja Kid

Forgive me as I slap on a fake smile and plough through this shit again

September 21, 2005

hmmm I think we might be in a “creative slump” here at AW; Nick Cohen was “away” on Sunday and all I can really think of to say about this week’s travelogue is “I was not previously aware that the road from the Adriatic to the Baltic ran through Brunei”. Although I suppose that the road to Damascus runs through Baghdad, so I guess the moral is if you’re on a road trip with the Decent Left, make sure that Hitchens doesn’t drive and Aaro doesn’t navigate. Shock horror, Eastern Europe is now better than it was in the Communist days.

No really. There’s nothing to say about this column, other than that it’s the kind of guff that the Observer would only have printed in one of those faintly dodgy supplements produced by “Words, Pictures Inc”. Maybe there’s an angle to it but I’ve been staring at the thing for an hour and I’m coming up dry. Anyone fancy a pint?

Update. Currently listening to:

“I usedta love her, I usedta love her once … long long time ago” The Saw Doctors
“Geburt einer Nation (One Vision)” Laibach


September 21, 2005

The most important weblog in the world

What with British blogging being in a bit of a rut, we need to do something about it. Matthew is going down the advertising route, which is important, but I am now raising my profile by becoming The Most Important Thinker In The World. And guess what? It has turned out to be easier than I expected.

As the American economist Tyler Cowen points out, loony extropian and transhuman nanotechnoartificiallinteligenceoboosterist Ray Kurzweil is, because of his wild technoutopian prophesies, “the most important thinker today, if only in expected value terms”.

Or at least he was, until this morning when while having my breakfast, I made the following prediction:

“Everything that Ray Kurzweil says will come true, and not only that but we will all get a pony”.

I am now, therefore, the most important thinker in the world today, leading Kurzweil by the market value of a healthy New Forest pony. Stay tuned for future important thoughts. My consultancy rates are decidedly reasonable.

you have to draw a line somewhere

September 17, 2005

Just to note that on p29 of the paper Guardian, there is someone called “Norman Johnson” who claims to be taking the mantle of Aaro. I think he is taking the piss but I am tired and might be mistaken. In any case, we will not be “watching” him. I can’t find him in the online version but if you really want to read it, the column is called “Free Radical” and £1.20 is not really that much to spend given that you get the week’s TV programmes thrown in.

Friday forecast thread, unemployment edition

September 16, 2005

One of the Bruschetta Boys (the one who normally does the FFT and the Cohen /Standard reviews, ie me) is currently “a client of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce” ie on the rock and roll at present. Hence no Wednesday Cohen review as they don’t have the Standard in the library where I go to keep warm. Sorry folks; I will be getting on my bike and looking for work presently, so normal service will be resumed.

Meanwhile, place your bets … here’s the form.

Cohen has a piece in the New Statesman about religious schools; presumably his kid has been turned down for the Brompton Oratory as well as the few remaining grammar schools in town. Move out to Barnet Nick, you know you’re going to in the end. The Statesman piece is bound to end up in either the Observer or the Standard some day soon, but he usually leaves a decent interval of about a month so I guess not this week.

The Harry’s Place indicator is obviously full of Galloway versus Hitchens in New York but I would counsel against going quids-in on this heavily backed favourite. Remember that Hitchens himself occasionally contributes pieces to the Observer. I think it rates no more than a throwaway joke from NC and nothing at all from DA in the main columns; NC will be able to exploit it more for Associated Newspapers. The thinking man’s “Unite Against Terror” online decentist and ferocious hack-about-town, Alan Johnson, has a new web project out called “Democratiya”, god help us, and I betcha that gets a plug.

Katrina seems to me to be pretty well played out as a theme; doesn’t mean DA won’t go for it (the vulnerability, the fallibility) but I would guess otherwise. Also, I still think we must have “reach out to the left week” and surely to shit the recent legislation against “justifying or glorifying” acts of terrorism must stir Nick Cohen’s ire, not least because he is bound to get caught by them himself in a future incarnation.

So my guesses are:
Aaronovitch, Tuesday: German elections.
Cohen, Sunday: Charles Clarke’s laws
Cohen, Wednesday: Hitchens/Galloway in New York (plus luvly Spurs, why can’t you get a cab to go south of the river, etc etc).

We haven’t had a big winner for a while, so do your best.

It makes you want to weep

September 14, 2005

God what drivel. I mean really. This could have been written any month in the last three years (apart from the gratuitous reference to his recent junket, which seasoned Aaro-watchers will remember was to Brunei as well as Borneo). Aaro continues the war against the straw men in his head, who can’t tell the difference between Dresden, Hiroshima, Auschwitz and Abu Ghraib. I am reminded of Mark Kaplan’s excellent set of definitions under which “moral equivalance” is the wholly unacceptable idea that the USA should be held to the same standards as other countries, “moral relativism” is the wholly unacceptable idea that the USA should be held to different standards from other countries and “moral clarity” is the perfect Zen-like state from which it is possible to excoriate your enemies for both moral relativism and moral equivalence. Dave appears to be close to moral satori in this col, for sure.

It’s crocodile tears, by the way. Dave tells us that the whole moral character of the war would alter if it turned out to have been about oil all along. He tells us that “If we became careless of whether or not people suffer because of our choices, we could still become the thing we hate”. To which all I can really reply is “those weapons had better be there“. Like a starlet who never does nudity until the very day she does, on the day that the other, nastier Abu Ghraib photos show up or the day that Exxon gets the first set of concessions, there will be another rationalisation for why we’re still morally OK. I was just overwhelmed by the power of the script, and it was obviously necessary to be true to the character; she would have taken her top off, so I had to take my top off, yeah whatever Dave. What’s the road to hell paved with?

Currently listening to:

“Nothing ever happens”, Del Amitri. “[…] the needle returns to the start of the song and we all sing along like before”

Fun Aaro-fact: In the paper Times he has a new byline photo with a new goatee (different shape to the old one) but until they update the online addition I can’t show you it. It does sort of make his face look slimmer; he also appears to be getting a sort of rockabilly quiff thing going on but that might just be the cropping of the photo.

PS: The Cohen col might be in the Standard this evening but after that pile of shit I am not sure I can summon up the will.