Bloggerheadsgate continues

Tim Ireland is back online at In other news, the London Friends of Craig Murray report that Schillings are not going to sue Craig Murray because they don't want to give him any more publicity. While that's good for Murray, the words 'stable door', 'horse' and 'bolted' spring to mind.

SpyBlog has also kindly posted Schillings' IP range. It's - You can use a widget like Tracksy to see who's visiting your website.

Tom Wise MEP (UKIP/I&D, East of England) has, under the protection of parliamentary privilege, repeated some of the accusations made against Usmanov by Murray. The Atlantic Free Press has an MP3 of it here. The transcript of Mr Wise's speech is now online.


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Top five political influences meme

The People's Commissar of Enlightenment has tagged me with the top five political influences meme. In no particular order, they probably are:

The London School of Economics and Political Science: I spent five years at LSE and learnt an awful lot there. Its unique mix of people - it's very international, but, unlike most universities, has more postgrads than undergrads - and the culture of appreciating learning shaped me in ways that I'm only beginning to appreciate. Some of the courses I took there are leading to continued interests in a couple of academic fields.

The LSE Students' Union: I ran in more election races at LSE than I care to recall, won some and re-wrote the Union's Codes of Practice. I learnt a lot about what motivates people. I learnt a bit about what motivates me. I was part of the day-to-day politics of the SU and enjoyed it for the most part. I think I did some good along the way, as well. I learned to think through the Debate Society.

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios: Simón Bolívar, liberator of much of South America and something of a hero for me. I think on many issues he is wrong, but honestly wrong. Mostly, the conflict between theory and reality and how he strove to reconcile the two fascinate me. He is also a good memento mori: at one point, he was the Great Liberator; at his death, he was reviled by all but his closest friends; he has since been rehabilitated and many different political traditions try to lay claim to him.

Linus Torvalds: probably did more to promote open source technologies than anyone else and in so doing gave rise to a political philosophy that I am increasingly buying in to as I see the benefits it offers.

Insanity: is probably too strong a word, but there have been times when I have been, ahem, mentally interesting. It changes your perspective on things.

No-one said they had to be people, and the above are probably in the top five for me.

I tag Tiberius Gracchus, Matt Sinclair, Vino, Erik Ringmar and Colin Byrne.


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Boris' primary

According to the Conservative Party, 'over twenty thousand' people took part in the primary for the Conservative candidacy to be London Mayor. Guido Fawkes gives a breakdown of the results:

Boris Johnson - 15,661
Victoria Borwick - 1,869
Andrew Boff - 1,674
Warwick Lightfoot - 609

Three things to note. Firstly, the figures above add up to 19,813, so the spoil rate could be around 1%. Secondly, Boris was on around 75% of the vote. While it's a pretty convincing win by any standards, it's not impossible that someone else could have beaten him if people hadn't seen it as a foregone conclusion. As I said a while ago, it was not a fair election as CCO was expressing a clear preference for one candidate.

The most interesting thing, though, is the dismal failure of the campaign to excite people. The population of London is on the order of seven and one-half million. The Conservative Party nationally has about 290,000 members. If they are evenly distributed across the UK (and I know you can't really make that assumption, but run with me), that would suggest around thirty-six thousand Tory members in London. The primary was a dismal failure; with only one candidate with any chance of winning, people did not engage and there was no serious discussion in around the Conservative Party on policies for London. It was a missed opportunity; I hope that Mr Johnson does not try to capitalise on having had an open primary during his election.


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Episcopal idiocy

His Grace the Archbishop of Maputo, Francisco Chimoio, has said that some condoms imported from Europe are impregnated (no pun intended) with HIV while some ARVs are similarly infected to "finish off" the Africans. No evidence is forthcoming about this, so I would suggest that His Grace is ignorant, wilfully or otherwise, or a liar.

I often wonder why the Word of God needs to be helped along with deception and obfuscation. I have stood up before to say that, while I don't agree with it, there is a valid argument against abortion from a religious point of view1; I would say the same about the use of condoms. Quite why the Roman Catholic church - or some senior representatives of it - feel the need to lie in this manner is beyond me.


1 - in a general meeting of the LSE Students' Union, I unsuccessfully proposed an amendment to a motion on abortion saying that people could have valid, religious objections to abortion.

PS Yes, I know the title should have been Archiepiscopal idiocy.

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Thoughts on nationalism

As I understand it, the modernist take on nationalism requires that the nation is not prior to nationalism; that is to say, nationalism may cause the nation or something causes both the nation and nationalism to come about. The nation cannot come first and therefore cannot cause the nationalism.

There are many, competing definitions of nationalism. Nationalism is a bit like a sausage – everyone knows what it is, but no-one can really describe one. Nevertheless, I like Benedict Anderson's definition from Imagined Communities: "an imagined political community [that is] imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign".

To the extent of those writers with which I am familiar, the causative factor occurs exclusively in modernity. Those competing writers look for different features of modernity to explain the rise of nations and nationalism; variously print capitalism, the bureaucratic state, industrialisation in general and so on. Unfortunately, it ignores certain important facts.

Firstly, there were nations before the modern age. Two of Queen Elizabeth I's most famous speeches, that at Tilbury and the Golden Speech, are appeals to national sentiment. The speech at Tilbury was directed to the common soldier on the ground and so must, I think, represent an upwards affiliation which precludes the common idea of the upper and priestly classes having some sort of trans-continental affiliation and the lower classes being vertically stratified by their villages.

I would say that there was also a nation at the time of the Dutch Revolt, as shown in the Oath of Abjuration, and I think (although I'm not sure) that you could say that there has been Armenian nationalism since the fifth century (or perhaps as early as the fourth with the adoption of Christianity as the world's first state religion); certainly, the autonomy and recognition of Christianity that Armenia was granted under the Ottomans would suggest something deeper than recognition of 'a person at the top'.

I would also contend that there was city-nationalism and pan-Hellenic nationalism (as opposed to Macedonians and/or Barbarians) in Classical Greece. All of these are imagined, political, limited and sovereign communities. City-nationalism and pan-Hellenic nationalism are not 'stacked nationalisms' but operate, I think, at the same level, and are co-sovereign, with one coming to the fore over the other depending on the situation at a given time.

There is a very simple riposte to the nation not possibly being prior to nationalism in the form of the Jews; there was a political desire to return to the traditional Jewish homeland since the diaspora resulting from the Jewish-Roman war of c. 70CE that formed classical Zionism. Equally, I think that Italians (by which I mean people from approximately modern Italy) in the Roman empire were a dominant nation in a multi-national empire in which some other groups formed as nations and some did not. For that reason, I disagree with Anthony D. Smith.

I do not know a huge amount about Zionism, so forgive me, fair reader, if I make some mistakes here. As I understand it, Herzl, in the late nineteenth century and partially as a result of the Dreyfus Affair, catalysed the formation of modern Zionism. What he did not do was create, ex nihilo, Zionism but build on an existing national feeling. The nationalism came, at least in a political sense, after the nation.

There is a very valid discourse to be had about the effects of the modern period and various features of industrialisation on the development of nations and nationalism; however, to say that nations are conceptually impossible before nationalism and that neither existed before the modern era is, I think, simply wrong. While it is true that nationalism grew in depth and spread across Europe at the same time as the Industrial Revolution, the two, to an extent, fed off each other. It is equally wrong to assume, as I think people do, that the rise of nationalism is a step in a teleological chain.

Given those two facts, I think it is fair to say that there is no single type of nationalism. That much, I think, is uncontroversial, as people have distinguished between civic and ethnic nationalism for some time. That simple dichotomy is, I think, grossly insufficient.

Oppressive, reactive, liberation, linguistic, cultural, state-seeking, state-having and various other adjectives can usefully be applied to nations and nationalism. I think that having more definitions, but each being more pared down, would be a lot more useful than the current catch-all definition of 'nationalism'. After all, if I can return to an earlier metaphor, both the bratwurst and the Cumberland are sausages, but they are quite different beasts.

There is somewhere here an explanation for the failure of state-nationalism or geographically-delimited nationalism to take hold in, for instance, Africa. I would contend that the transportation of European nationalist ideals by people such as Jomo Kenyatta failed in many cases because they were trying to import a new nationalism onto somewhere that had nationalisms already operating – what might be called tribal loyalties. These nations already had members spread out across externally imposed boundary lines and so would not readily conform to something that came to replace them with a geographic definition of nationality that excluded co-nationals.

This adds into dependency theory and complex sequencing; I will not go into that at any length other than to say that the political canvas against which a nation must develop, flourish, exist or fail have changed and will continue to change.

It may be too early in the day, but I wonder if new forms of communication and collaboration may open a conceptual door to new nations. The development of print capitalism is held to be a key moment in the development of nations by Anderson and others; could the internet do the same in future? I do not mean by communication, as this is the same as before, only faster, but by collaboration – Wikipedia, for instance? It is an imagined community and has political aims (or, at least, some of its principles have political and philosophical implications) that could, conceivably, have some sort of sovereignty over how its members act.


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A motto for Britain

Talk is going around about a motto for Britain - apparently Mr Brown welcomes a debate about a motto and the BBC News Magazine is looking for suggestions. The best option is, I think, not to have a motto. The United Kingdom is the only country that I can think of, now that the USSR no longer exists, that doesn't use the geographical name for itself - France, Germany, Turks and Caicos and so on. I know that technically it's 'the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland', but no-one really calls it that. It'd be nice to keep with that idiosyncrasy.

One of the most famous national mottoes is France's liberté, égalité, fraternité. It was introduced at the time of the French Revolution as a way of setting the new regime apart from the old. Herein lies the problem in choosing a motto: why now? There has been no revolution, no great change and we've been plodding along for some time now without a motto. It is an attempt to create a 'new Britishness' that is simply not there to be created and would, I think, annoy one set of people if it were too 'politically correct' and annoy another set if it were too 'patriotic'.

Equally, it would be very hard to come up with something worth having. I don't think that "liberté, égalité, fraternité" would be opposed by many people nowadays but it was (literally) revolutionary at the time it was coined. How do you sum up a state made up of four states, one of which might leave and one of which might join another country, that, having had just about everyone in Europe invade it at one time or another, is the original mongrel nation?


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Fred Thompson and spilling blood for liberty

The base of Fred Thompson's comments about the USA having spilt more blood for liberty than any other state is ridiculous and, where it is going, dangerous.. Most Americans alive today were not alive in 1945; they are at least one step removed from it. Rather more, though, were determined not to fight in Vietnam, even though there was a draft. Thompson cannot claim the one without the other. Equally, he cannot ignore one part of history (referring to my first paragraph) while accepting another part unless he has a damned good argument for a delineation.

I wonder if Fred Thompson includes in Americans who died for liberty all those who died in the American Civil War; I wonder if he counts every lash felt by a slave; I wonder if he counts every victim of a lynching. I wonder if, in the teleological march towards modern American liberty, all the deaths of American Indians count as having been towards liberty.

Lots of political approval ratings subtract the negative from the positive. I wonder if Fred Thompson subtracts from those who died for liberty those who died in the Mexican-American War, or who were tortured to death by graduates of the School of the Americas, or the Philippines or countless other, half-forgotten battles. I wonder if the number is still positive.

I would add that claiming that the modern US polity is stronger because some people who happened to have been born on US soil died a few decades around is an argument so poor as to be beneath contempt, particularly when many of those who died were blacks who were denied the liberties they were sent overseas to fight for.

I would also say that many of the wars were not wars for liberty. To call WW1 such a war is, I think, mistaken; it was the last of the imperial wars and was as much about defending the interests of the elites in the various combatant states as it was about liberty, even if it was dressed up in the clothes of righteous indignation.

WW2 is slightly different, as for the Europeans it was a war for survival and so it is hard to distill the purity of any motives. That does not apply to the US, although you could say that, as part of the justification for the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that it would reduce the length of the war, that the people who died in those two cities also died for liberty.

As it happens, I'm quite the Atlanticist, but I dislike nationalistic tubthumping. It may well be true that more Americans have died for liberty than children of any other state. That matters not a jot; while we may learn a lot from past wars, it does not mean the current or next wars are 'for liberty'. More worryingly, it promotes a nationalistic tone that can only be damaging in international relations. It leads to idiocy like calling for Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to be denied entry to the USA in order to attend the United Nations, as Thompson is currently doing. Ahmedinejad is undeserving of anything more than, as Christopher Hitchens would have had it, selling pencils from a cup, but he is the leader of a member state of the United Nations and no less offensive than some of the other people - Fidel Castro included - who have visited the US from time to time.


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92nd best left-of-centre blog

I am absolutely delighted and more than just a little surprised to have read on Iain Dale's blog that I am, it would seem, the ninety-second best left-of-centre blog. I'll aim for thirty-eight next year...




Quote of the day

"The majority of laws are only privileges, which is to say, a tribute by all to the convenience of a few"

-Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments



We're all Bloggerheads now - part two

I hadn't really heard of Alisher Usamnov until today; I'd seen his name mentioned on a couple of blogs, but he was barely on the radar. I suspect the same was true for quite a lot of Arsenal fans - perhaps heard a bit about him, maybe read about him on a blog, nothing more.

His SLAPP against Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads has backfired spectacularly. MediaGuardian has picked it up and Boris Johnson's site is down, too. With no disrespect to Bob Piper (whose politics I vastly prefer to Johnson's and whose site has also gone down), the prospective Tory candidate for Mayor of London is pretty high profile. I'm sure this will make the Evening Standard, which will alert Londoners straightaway to Usmanov's, ahem, position regarding free speech.

Mr Eugenides sums things up well:
I don't give a shit about this character, or Arsenal FC (no offence to any Gooners out there); nor do I share all or even most of Tim Ireland or Craig Murray's politics. But that's far from the point. If you can be silenced for calling a businessman a crook, then you can be silenced for calling a politician a crook, too. Then it's everyone's problem.
(emphasis added).

Bloggers also react because it immediately affects them; while I don't want to diminish the importance of what Usamnov has done, I wish as many people would support the Iraqi interpreters.

I hope that this will raise awareness of SLAPPs, as the case of the McLibel Two did. However, I rather doubt that it will prevent Usamnov from gaining the blocking stake in Arsenal that he desires unless pressure is put on existing shareholders not to sell to him because of his contempt for freedom of speech.


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We're all Bloggerheads now

One of my favourite blogs, Bloggerheads, has been taken down because of the actions of one Alisher Usamnov. From Chicken Yoghurt:
Tim Ireland’s Bloggerheads site is currently down after his webhost pulled the plug. You can thank the latest Russian (that should be Uzbek) billionaire to reach the UK. The details will come out in due course.[...]

This also means that the family of websites that Tim and Clive (whose site is also down) look after are also currently AWOL. So if you’re missing the online presences of Craig Murray, Bob Piper or prospective candidate for London mayor Boris Johnson, now you know why they’ve gone.

Sufficiently worrying is this that Iain Dale (another blog I like), who does not at all get on with Tim Ireland, has written in support of Bloggerheads.

Other people talking about this: Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth (109).

Update 23/09/07 2334: other people blogging on this include: 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street, Laban Tall, Martin Bright, Spy Blog The Exile, poons, Jangliss, Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?, Imagined Community, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Poldraw, Disillusioned And Bored, Error Gorilla, Indigo Jo, Swiss Metablog, Kate Garnwen Truemors, Asn14, D-Notice, The Judge, Political Penguin, Miserable Old Fart, Jottings, fridgemagnet, Blah Blah Flowers, J. Arthur MacNumpty, Tony Hatfield, Grendel, Charlie Whitaker, Matt Buck, The Waendel Journal, Marginalized Action Dinosaur, SoccerLens, Toblog, John Brissenden East Lower, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Black AM, Boing Boing, BLTP, Gunnerblog, LFB UK, Liberal Revolution, Wombles, Focus on Sodbury…, Follow The Money, Freedom and Whisky, Melting Man, PoliticalHackUK, Simon Says…, Daily EM, From The Barrel of a Gun, The Fourth Place, The Armchair News Blog, Journalist und Optimist, Bristol Indymedia, Dave Weeden, Up North John, Gizmonaut, Spin and Spinners, Marginalia, Arnique, Heather Yaxley, The Whiskey Priest, On The Beat, Paul Canning, Martin Stabe, Mat Bowles, Pigdogfucker, Rachel North, taking the total to one hundred and ninety three.


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Kucinich for President... apparently

According to, I have an 83.33% match with Dennis Kucinich. Other matches are Barack Obama (71.67%) and John Edwards (67.5%). Hillary comes in at 65.00%.

The full list of my matches is:

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (D) - 75.83%
Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) - 71.67%
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) - 69.17%
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards (D) - 67.50%
New York Senator Hillary Clinton (D) - 65.00%
Delaware Senator Joseph Biden (D) - 62.50%
Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd (D) - 58.33%
Texas Representative Ron Paul (R) - 41.67%
Businessman John Cox (R) - 31.67%
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) - 30.83%
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) - 24.17%
Arizona Senator John McCain (R) - 23.33%
Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R) - 20.00%

My answers were:

Abortion rights – yes – medium
Death penalty – no – high
No child left behind – no – low
Embryonic stem cell research – yes – low
ANWR drilling – no – low
Kyoto protocol – yes – low
Assault weapons ban – yes – medium
Gun background checks – yes – high
Patriot act – no – high
Guantanamo – no – high
Water boarding of captives – no – high
Citizen path for illegal – yes – medium
Border fence – no – medium
Internet neutrality – yes – high
Iran sanctions – no – medium
Iran military action – no – medium
Support Iraq war – unsure – medium
Increase minimum wage – yes – high
Same sex marriage – yes – high
Universal health care – yes – high
Free trade – yes – medium
School vouchers – no – medium
Privatizing social security – no - medium


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The decline and fall of The Independent

If you consider yourself of the leftwing persuasion and want a high-brow newspaper, you'll take The Guardian; its opposite number, identifying more firmly with the Tories than Guardianistas do with Labour, would be The Daily Telegraph. At the bottom end of the scale (well, just above The Daily Star) would be The Sun for the right and The Daily Mirror for the Left. The middle-brow for the right can choose between The Daily Mail and The Daily Express, which I know is like choosing between syphilis and cholera.

The middle-brow gap on the left has been filled, it would seem, by the Independent. I hope it does not try to ape the Express or the Mail; there can be good news coverage without being as dry as the FT. As it happens, I agree with Jeremy Paxman about the Indie - "if any paper chooses not to be part of the pack, it’s the Indie". Although the Indie is not running with the pack, it can still be headed over an unfortunate cliff. I rather suspect that Mr Blair's attack on the Indie is because of its rather trenchant attacks on the former PM, particularly as it is a non-Tory newspaper. A point that both Blair and Paxman have made is the need to separate hard news reporting, features and opinion. Unfortunately, the Independent frequently puts Robert Fisk on the front page.

Fisk is a serious journalist and one of the few westerners to have had a media interview with Osama bin Laden (in fact, on three occasions, in 93, 96 and 97, which suggests that he'd cottoned on to the man's importance before the formation of the Bin Laden Issue Station in 96); his writing is engaging, polemical and usually pretty factual. It is, though, his personal account; Fisk is on record as not believing it possible to be objective, and that therefore you should be subjective as a reporter. While it might be very worthy of the feature section and his opinions perfect for the later pages, it should not be at the front of a newspaper.

The perception is made worse amongst bloggers because of the verb 'to fisk'; I don't think it's entered mainstream usage, though.

The Guardian has been doing very well out of an imagined community built around Comment is Free and it has influence beyond the number of its readers, as does the Telegraph; the Sun has sheer weight of numbers and both it and the Mirror have the advantage of speaking to the perceived bases of the Labour and Tory parties. It is no surprise that I consider the Mail and the Express to be execrable, but not just for their jingoistic, occasionally factless, rabble-rousing 'news', but because their journalists are not - in my opinion - as good as those on the Sun or the Mirror; they are stuck in their mindsets and ways with no appreciation for that situation and no desire to leave it1.

It might be possible for the Independent to have more of a magazine feel about it and still have a purpose as a daily newspaper; however, it seems to be going the way of the Mail and the Express with features such as 'Personality: What makes you the way you are?' which has the ominous line:
What kind of personality are you? Take this test to discover the truth.
The truth about my personality? I thought that was why I had a psychiatrist...

That article featured not in the magazine or review, but in the run-of-paper. My objection - and I'm rather sad about this, because the Independent used to be my newspaper of choice - is that you are not going to get a serious psychological analysis from a daily newspaper that costs seventy pence and that people who look for serious psychological analysis from a seventy pence daily newspaper are not going to give you the weight of the Guardian, particularly when the market is cornered by the Express and the Mail.


1 - Yes, Melanie Phillips. Having changed once your political position does not mean you will change again. I've heard it said that journos for the Sun are the best in the business and grasp stories more quickly than anyone else. That may be so; however, it seems to me (in my admittedly limited experience) that they grasp the story sufficiently for them to be able to write a story on it - the in-depth knowledge is not there and their news reporting is not factual. Equally, a newspaper is not just the factual reporting. Compare the comment and analysis in a tabloid to that in a broadsheet; compare the letters pages.

PS: An interesting link:

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3:10 to Yuma

I just went to see 3:10 to Yuma, the remake of the 1957 film with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe as the main characters. I greatly enjoyed it and would happily see it again; I'm not sure whether it will become a classic, but it is a very good film.

**Spoiler warning**

The end of the film is perplexing; you can understand why, after the journey they'd had together, Ben Wade (Crowe) might want to wish the best for Dan Evans (Bale), even to the point of allowing himself to be to be transported to Yuma prison - from which he had escaped twice before. It is harder to explain, at first glance, why he would shoot his own gang and then, Dan Evans already being dead, voluntarily go to Yuma.

Earlier in the film, when highlighting Byron McElroy's character flaws, Wade quotes Proverbs 13:85 - "every man's character is good in his own eyes". McElroy, who works for Pinkerton, a sort of proto-security company, justifies his murder of Apaches, including children, as preventing further murders. Wade clearly sees it as little more than genocide of people considered by McElroy to be heathens and perhaps soulless.

It is, then, possible that Wade sees himself as good in his own eyes. The way he manages his gang is brutal - when a younger member of the gang fails to notice a Pinkerton surviving an attack, he shoots him dead without a second thought. His justice, though, is not so very different from the justice of the frontier; rough, ready and deadly. Seeing the hypocrisy in the approved society of the day as represented by McElroy, he sets himself up in his own violent but unhypocritical form of justice. An attractive woman that Wade takes to bed and Evans' younger son both have to move to dry environments because of chest complaints; perhaps that, too, was a motivation for Wade to move to the west. Perhaps another force majeure made him leave and he was unable to repent (and then move to Mexico) as he would have had no means of sustaining himself.

When his aim - keeping Dan Evans alive - fails and he kills his gang, he has effectively committed two crimes; perhaps it is for those that he so calmly surrenders his weapons and himself.

As I mentioned above, 3:10 to Yuma is quite a bloody affair, but necessarily so. It effectively captures the hardship and violence of the frontier. It does not, to my mind, capture the slowness or the boredom of that life. Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy captures the waiting that is sometimes involved in the Wild West. This is partially done in scenes such as the Union prison camp but more so, in the vein of Lawrence of Arabia, in scenes such as the Mexican stand-off and the long, scenographies that show the expanse of the west.

A particular example is when the elder of Evans' sons sees Wade's gang approaching Yuma; I would have preferred a scene such as in Lawrence of Arabia where Omar Sharif approaches over the dunes.

That having been said, Crowe continues admirably in the tradition of Lee van Cleef - an anti-hero (rather than antihero) - that delights in killing while being both erudite and polite.

The relationships carried on in the film are what elevates this above an interesting, western shoot 'em up. The main one is, of course, between Wade and Evans and its intensity adds to the believability of the final scenes. You are left feeling that, while Wade and Evans will never be friends, they are both victims of circumstance. Who knows, they might even have played football on Christmas Day. Ultimately, the film revolves around an unwilling hero and an antihero, dual but imperfect protagonists that are deeply compromised through the situation in which they find themselves. The absence of a Hollywood hero (and, fortunately, a Hollywood ending) meant I left the film having enjoyed myself tremendously rather than angry at a film having been thrown away for sentiment's sake at the last moment.

**End spoiler warning**

Final thing: I don't like tag lines. Sometimes, it would be better not to have them. 'Time waits for one man' has nothing to do with the film. It's silly. It looks out of place on the poster. There's no need for it. Stop it.




Thames Festival

I've just come home from the Thames Festival with Alice, which was a lot of fun, with a carnival, floats, performers, food, stalls, fireworks and an altogether lovely atmosphere. Of that, more later, along with photos, but in the meantime here is one with which I am pleased.

and one in a similar vein from Alice:


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Child labour? It's great

The Daily Mail Lite, aka Metro, writes on page eight to say that Dickens had it all wrong and that, in fact, child labourers in Victorian England were happy little scamps. Admittedly, they were, according to a report of the time, in "evident poverty, want of clothing and, in many cases, sufficient food" and were paid the princely sum of "four shillings a week - equivalent to about £8.82 today".

Three points. The Metro, unsurprisingly, is rubbish journalism; they do not even mention the possibility that there were problems with the surveys carried out in the 1840s that, despite a lack of sufficient food in many cases found children working in factories to be happy. Perhaps they were even made to say that to keep their jobs. Yes, the article says they were interviewed away from their bosses, but an overworked, undernourished child is unlikely to be in a position to resist.

Child labour is a real problem. "Light-hearted" articles like this serve to trivialise the problem and give people glasses rose-tinted enough to buy the products that keep the trade going.

The Metro is given away to commuters in London; it is not, though, anything other than a rag with gossip and celebrity news. It has no competition in the free, morning market and so has no impetus to do anything that provide news as cheaply as possible.

I think the article may be causing some embarrasment to Metro; it doesn't appear on their website.


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We can't turn them away

I was delighted to receive a response from my MP, Mark Field, that was supportive of the Iraqi interpreters.

The body reads:
Thank you so much for your letter of [date] regarding the asylum applications of Iraqi interpreters who have worked for the British Army.I appreciate and understand your worry about the future of the interpreters, particularly as we have not yet received a firm commitment from the government on the issue. You may be interested to know that I have already been contacted about this matter by a number of other constituents, including a Major in the Army who was concerned about the future of his own interpreter.

I wrote to the Home Secretary some weeks ago to request information on the stance the government will be taking on the interpreters' applications and to ask for my concern to be registered. Unfortunately I have not yet received a reply from her, but I anticipate her responding within the thirty day time bracket we have to allow for ministerial correspondence.
There will be a cross-party meeting, organised by the online campaign for Asylum rights for Iraqi employees. It will take place in Parliament in Committee Room 14 (St Stephen’s Entrance) from 7-9pm on Tuesday 9th October. Please arrive early to avoid hideous disappointment, etc.

In the meantime, you can find background information here courtesy of Dan Hardie, replies from MPs here from Chicken Yoghurt and a list of supporting bloggers on Bloggerheads.




Back soon...

Unfortunately, pressure of work means I haven't had any time to post.

I hope to post this weekend; if not, I'll be back the following weekend.



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