There are many times when I see something good on Instapundit. Now, if it were most other blogs I would have no compunction about giving it a mention on the In Brief bar. But this is Instapundit. He hardly needs the publicity and, anyway, my guess is that most Croziervision readers take in Instapundit on a daily basis, so I am hardly providing a service. Indeed, there would almost seem to be something rather oleaginous about linking to him. Even worse, if I did, I feel (given the amount of good stuff he puts up) that I’d never link to anything else.
I get the impression that this is not an unusual feeling which would go a long way to explaining why his posts are so rarely linked to.
OK, so if Instapundit is off limits what about other, big blogs like Samizdata, Tim Blair, Norm Geras, Harry’s Place and Tim Worstall? Here, things start to get a bit more complicated. Again, I am pretty sure that most of my readers will take in Samizdata once a day. Hey, a large proportion write for it. But the others I am not so sure about.
Update Some interesting feedback there. Obviously, this stuff does matter so perhaps I will start linking to the behemoths of the British Blogosphere. Still not sure about Instapundit though.
I’ve had a go at a couple of design modifications which you can see here. Essentially, they are to centre the blog on the page and to make the background darker. I like them but would appreciate your views before going live.
Plastic Mickey. Don’t blame Billie Piper for burbling away all un-noticing: how conscientious are you in regularly checking up whether your nearest and dearest have been plasticised?
Update. And Stumbling and Mumbling stumbles into the sadly neglected area of Whonomics.
Update II It just doesn’t stop. One day they commission a new series, the next Eccleston says he won’t be in it.
Regarding British blogs:
En tête de liste, le blog de Guido
According to Radio France
Last week I was half thinking of writing a piece about the then-forthcoming new series of Dr Who. I was going to call it: “Dr Who: it’s not looking good”. My argument was going to be that it was going to be awful, it would flop, that this would be the excuse to consign it to the dustbin of history and that all of this was entirely intentional - science fiction in some way not fitting in with the BBC’s Weltanschauung.
In defence of my argument I was going to mention that the Doctor was to be played by Christopher Eccleston, his assistant by Billie Piper (former pop star and the former(?) Mrs Chris Evans), that it had been written by Russell (Queer as Folk) Davies and that it had a large budget. To assemble such a bunch of talentless (though respected) clowns in the same place at the same time and to deny them the excuse of no money could only be the consequence of pure malevolence. It was if the Master had become science fact and found work as a BBC producer.
Well, I was wrong.
This morning I sat down to watch Rose, the first episode of the new series. To say it was good doesn’t do it justice. It was superb. It was better than I could ever have imagined it to have been.
It was: fast-paced, funny, well-filmed, well-acted, observant, unpredictable, realistic (yes!), self-deprecating. It brought the programme bang up to date (if not beyond) while retaining all its traditions: the Tardis, the music, the sonic screwdriver, regeneration. The special effects were superb.
They’ve clearly spent a lot of money on it. Usually, this is bad news. Team America: World Police (although a good movie) clearly suffered from too many dollar bills chasing too little plot. Dr Who didn’t. Nothing seemed wasted. Every penny seemed to propel the story forward.
I’ve been trying to puzzle out how it was they got this so right. I imagine that the long break since the last series went out in 1989 was a factor. It gave a new generation the chance to re-invent it, to question every aspect of it and to give it a new feel. I also got the impression that after the (ahem) 1996 Dr Who movie there was an element of “we must not fail”. (Indeed, it’s funny to think how similar in many ways the two were - the difference between success and failure is slight indeed.) And I think there was also a deep desire to keep the tradition alive. To a large proportion of the people involved in producing, writing and directing the new series, Dr Who was something that they were brought up with, like Wimbledon and England World Cup exits. The ball was being thrown to them and they had to make damn sure they caught it. Fortunately, they did.
PS James Hammerton also seems to have liked it.
Laban Tall throws a comment-grenade into my ”NuLab ideology” trench:
I think the guilt [over being British] bit comes from the total collapse of Christianity (see Rowan Williams for full details).
For 1400 years we acknowledged our human frailty. ‘My sin is ever before me’.
We’ve binned that in a couple of generations in exchange for the basically hippy notion that man is perfectible (hence Sure Start schemes and social workers). But it’s too deep in the psyche to eradicate, and emerges in the form of
‘We are all racists, sexists, homophobes, natural polluters etc’.
On some areas (eg the environment) we’ve even got the lost primeval Eden.
Which is fairly deep stuff. The implication being that we should all get back into church.
Even as an atheist I can see that Christianity shifts the goods and atheism doesn’t. I regard the Industrial Revolution as the greatest thing to happen in world history. And it happened in the West: the Christian West. On the other hand I regard Hitler, Stalin and Mao as the worst things to happen in world history and they were all atheists.
Even today, as Mark Steyn keeps on pointing out, it is the more Christian parts of the West eg. the Red States, that are making the running while the more secular parts eg. Europe and the Blue states that are starting to croak.
This is not to imply a causal connection - I don’t know if one exists or not. The real question is do I feel lucky? Do I feel so sure that Christianity is redundant and that atheism’s failures are just bad luck that I am prepared to see Christianity jettisoned? Anwer: no. Frankly, if comes down to a choice between listening to Ian Paisley and starvation it’s a fairly easy decision.
And it is for that reason that even a dyed-in-the-wool atheist like me is keen to preserve all that Christian stuff: bible study, oaths, Christmas and Easter and a whole bunch of other day-to-day stuff that is so familiar that you don’t even notice it. Just don’t expect me to believe it.
Ernest Benn writing (if memory serves) in the 1910s:
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.
Mark Steyn in the Telegraph:
In practice, a culture that thinks Terri Schiavo’s life in Florida or the cleft-lipped baby’s in Herefordshire has no value winds up ascribing no value to life in general.
Is that true?
Blognor Regis has his list (Jacques Tati indeed) so I thought I’d produce one of my own. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise how difficult it was going to be. Now a Bottom 10, now that would be easy: Napoleon, Johnny Halliday, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Richard I etc. But a Top 10? You’ve got to remember that Hergé, Plastic Bertrand and Hercule Poirot were all Belgian (and in one case, fictional). And Monica Bellucci, Italian. I also made it difficult for myself by not peeking at anyone else’s list. How could I have missed Catherine Deneuve? Fool, Crozier.
But I got there in the end:
Chares Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu
General Joffre - anyone who can get through an entire world war without once missing out on his 8 hours sleep gets my vote
The Lumiere Brothers - without whom ”Come Play with Me” would never have been possible
The Eurotunnel Shareholders - lost their shirts so that we could load up on cheap booze and fags in comfort and speed
Whoever came up with the Citroën DS
Whoever came up with the Tour de France
Goscinny and Uderzo
Simon de Montfort - bit dodgy, owing to him being a complete psychopath, but did give us a Parliament.
Non-trivial Solutions has it in for New Labour:
Blairism is pragmatic, reactive government. It’s headline-hunting, poll-watching, focus-group-monitoring, ideology-free mush.
I hear this a lot and I think it’s highly dangerous. Not only is it wrong but it encourages people to underestimate the enemy which is always bad news.
I think, on the contrary, that New Labour is highly ideological. At it’s root is a coherent set of ideas which inspires many, if not most, of its actions.
This set of ideas does not (yet) have a name. The phrase “political correctness” is sometimes used but New Labour’s ideology goes way beyond that rather vague description. The fact that it’s ideology is nameless intrigues me. It may be intentional: a way of smuggling in change without anyone noticing.
By the way, when I say “coherent” I do not mean “sensible”.
So, what are these ideas? Here are a few:
1. Don’t fuck with the economy. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that - it’s more like “don’t fuck with those parts of the economy that we know produce wealth.”
2. We are all members of groups eg. women, gays, blacks. All groups, on average, are the same in all respects. Women are as strong as men. Whites are as good sprinters as blacks etc. Any difference in outcomes between these groups is the result of prejudice.
3. Britain is guilty. Big time, long term. Hence, tradition is to be despised.
4. While capitalism can shift the goods it cannot shift the safety/equality/niceness. Therefore, the state must intervene in the form of gun bans, minimum wages etc.
Funnily enough, I am not quite sure where schoolsnhospitals fit into all of this. I suspect they don’t. If they were already in the private sector there would be no great rush to nationalise them.
However, I think just about everything New Labour does can be seen through this prism. It gives its supporters a guiding light (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor). It means that whenever a “problem” arises they can identify, more or less immediately and without being told, both the “cause” and the “solution”. This is particularly useful in the case of New Labour’s acolytes in the media and elsewhere.
So, ideologically-rich mush, then. And I really think it’s about time it had a name.
Happy St Patrick’s Day!
This was the line that caught my attention:
British papers need not worry — as yet. Such much-cited blog triumphs as the toppling of Eason Jordan, the CNN executive, and the humiliation of CBS’s Dan Rather would not have needed the web to expose them in Britain. They would have been splashed across every tabloid. The American press remains timid. The Patriot Act suffered nothing like the press mauling given to Tony Blair’s control order legislation.
Remember Piers Morgan. The internet didn’t figure. Up to now I have assumed that where the US leads the UK will (eventually) follow. But maybe not.
Of course, this does beg the question why the tabloids (and indeed the broadsheets) don’t lay into the BBC more often.
The IRA can be defeated
In comments to Brian’s piece on the IRA (which links to here - thanks Brian) I see the re-occurrence of that old canard that the IRA cannot be defeated by military means alone.
Yes it can.
It has to be. If democracy cannot defend itself against its enemies then it is doomed. Now, I might have all sorts of doubts about democracy but it’s the best thing we have right now and a damn site better than the fascist alternative of the IRA.
The strongest objection of the opponents of force is the claim that we tried it in the early 1970s and it didn’t work. Well, certainly something didn’t work. But that was not the first IRA campaign. There were others notably in the 1920s, 1940s (yes, really) and 1950s. They were all defeated. So, the question has to be: what was different about the 1970s?
First of all, there was the disbandment of the B Specials. This led to a loss of intelligence and it becoming much harder to patrol the border.
Secondly, there was the creation of no-go areas - areas which the police did not enter and where the IRA could operate with impunity. This allowed the IRA to organise effectively. It also further deprived the security services of intelligence. This meant that when internment was introduced many of those who should have been detained were not and many of those who shouldn’t have been were.
Thirdly, no pressure was applied to the Irish government. This meant that the IRA was allowed to organise in the south. It also meant that when internment was introduced it was introduced only in the North and not in the South.
Fourthly, the UK government progressively watered down internment after Bloody Sunday I. I can’t quite remember the details but I seem to remember they got the courts involved and released a whole bunch of people.
Despite this (and this is one of the great secrets of the early 1970s) and even in its watered down form, internment was working. How do we know this? Partly, because then-IRA member Sean O’Callaghan says so and partly because of the numbers of dead.
The claim is often made that internment acted as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA. If that is true why is it that on previous occasions on the introduction of internment violence had gone down and not up? If it is true how come the number of dead went down in 1973? Where were all these eager, young and freshly-trained terrorists?
Defeating terrorism is an ugly business - a lesson we are currently relearning - think Guantanamo Bay, think Abu Ghraib. But it can be done.
Starting tomorrow, the BBC are reshowing this classic 1965 documentary series. It is one of my favourite TV programmes of all time. Let’s put it this way, when I heard it was available on DVD I bought the set. Then, I bought the DVD player. It’s great strength is that at the same time as having no agenda it manages to avoid sinking into cliché Well, that’s one of its great strengths - interviews with survivors and stacks of archive footage and a haunting soundtrack are another.
Whether the BBC will be able to screen all 26 episodes remains to be seen. It tried a couple of years ago but the airings seemed to peter out about half way through.
The Great War, 2.20pm, Mon 14 March 2005, BBC2, (40mins)
I agree that I didn’t say much about how democracy is good for freedom, but I do say that civil wars are bad for it. Do you disagree with that?
Indeed, I don’t. Should have made that clear. Civil wars, nay all wars are bad for freedom.
Brian then draws a distinction between freedom during war and freedom afterwards. He was thinking mostly of the former, though it occurs to me that it is the thought of the latter that keeps the former going. We put up with the horror of war because we believe that the world will be a better place afterwards.
It occurs to me that democracy (or other cracies and isms) are not the only answer to the question: how do you prevent violence? Another option is law. Another option is property. Of course, they are related. Democracies produce law (though they are not the only source). Property rights cannot exist without laws to defend them. But the point is that where you have the rule of law everyone knows where they stand. Although we tend to think of the law as something that only deals with its transgressors, its role in telling us what we can and can’t do is probably far more important. Similarly, where you have private property that tells us what bits of the world we can play around with and what bits we can’t. The point is that where people know what is theirs and what isn’t you get less violence.
I am not quite sure if this is related but often when we have a chat, Brian will talk about the importance of debate. It is at least one of Brian’s theories (and I agree with him on this one) that debate has been key to the West’s military successes. If debate is good for the fighting of wars then it is probably good for other things to including the political system. It is difficult to think of a political system that enshrines debate better than democracy.
UPDATE. So law means that you know where you stand? Tsk, tsk, Crozier. Not anymore it doesn’t.
Brian Micklethwait extols the virtues of democracy. Or, at least, he appears to. He claims that democracy is good for freedom. Unfortunately, unless I’ve missed something, he never makes good on that claim.
What he actually says is that democracy prevents civil wars. The implication (I don’t think he actually ever says this) is that civil wars are bad for freedom.
First of all, democracy does not always prevent civil wars. Think Ulster, Euskadi (aka the Basque Country) and, of course, America in the 1860s.
Actually, that last example, occuring in a country in which (I think) there was a restricted franchise - and not just for slaves - does beg the eternal question of just what a democracy is.
Secondly, I am not happy with the equation: preventing civil wars = good for freedom. Some civil wars are good for freedom eg English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, the American War of Independence.
(The American War of Independence was, indentally, at least in part, a civil war. Not every colonist was a rebel.)
I am also not happy with that equation because even if one accepts that civil wars are bad for freedom they are bad in a general purpose way rather than a specific way. Civil wars are awful. Let’s put it this way: even communists think they are a bad thing.
Hmm. It occurs to me that by bringing up those “good” civil wars I am doing Brian a disservice. He is making the point that where the option is available democracy is better. Of course, in the examples I give the option was emphatically not available.
UPDATE. Incidentally, from a “how do we promote freedom” perspective this is all rather academic. If libertarians do badly under democracy right now then they aren’t going to do any better by taking up arms against the state. The only real course of action is to keep on trying to spread the ideas and hope for the best.
The Millau viaduct is simply mindblowing. You may know in advance how big and how high it is in terms of numbers, but when you see it it really blows you away. I have seen a lot of great works of engineering, but I cannot remember the last time I saw one that was simply as awe inspiring as this one.
Now, Michael is a guy who knows his transportational stuff and not one prone to hyperbole, so when he says something is mindblowing - it is.
From the ”cutthroat world of Bavarian railway blogging”
We’ve been here before:
When industries leave Sweden for Eastern Europe or China a lot of people ask what Swedes are going to do in the future. We don’t know of course. About three quarters of all the goods and services we use today didn’t exist in any form 100 years ago. And the jobs of the future will be to produce and sell things that don’t exist today.
Droughts are really boring, so are famines. Just loads of people hanging around looking miserable and living in crappy tents. Earthquakes are OK..
Read on, it gets worse.
DumbJon warms up with:
Jeremy Vine has always struck me as the type of bloke who is more than usually likely to be found hanging around primary schools.
Before moving on to:
This was the Beeb’s definition of balance: 10 minutes of unhinged ranting about Bush balanced by 10 minutes about A N Other