Archive for May, 2008

Nazis and GM Corn

May 27th, 2008

See the maps over here, and the comments for important considerations about how burning more witches may help to stop climate change. [Thanks, SM.]

Scottish Beaver News

May 25th, 2008

Over here.

Eurovision Song Contest

May 24th, 2008

According to the website, the Latvian pirate song “is a story about the historical endeavours of our ancestors, and tells of their backbreaking lives, rebellious spirit, freedom, masculinity and tenderness while showing their patriotism and love for the planet earth, and an unquenchable thirst for adventure.”

Llabour and the llamas

May 24th, 2008

I clearly haven’t been following politics closely enough recently, as the news that Labour attacked the Tory candidate in Crewe & Nantwich for living near llamas has only just caught up with me, thanks to popbitch.

This is just weird. It’s not violently grotesque, the way the “make foreigners carry ID cards” leaflet was violently grotesque, but it is very, very strange. Everyone I know is strongly pro-llama. (I think that everyone I don’t know is strongly pro-llama.) And the slow take-over of the English countryside by camelids is very much to be welcomed.

In a genuinely socialist Britain, we would probably all live close to llamas, what with the disappearance of the distinction between the town and the country; and we wouldn’t need lawn-mowers any more. (Charles Fourier probably said something about this.)

Adam Smith, optimist

May 20th, 2008

Were the duties upon foreign wines, and the excises upon malt, beer, and ale to be taken away all at once, it might, in the same manner, occasion in Great Britain a pretty general and temporary drunkenness among the middling and inferior ranks of people, which would probably be soon followed by a permanent and almost universal sobriety.

Wealth of Nations, IV.3.ii.

Lesbians, IVF Treatment, Male Role Models, etc

May 20th, 2008

Under the Tories’ new plans, can lesbians just write “David Cameron”, “George Osbourne” or perhaps even “Andrew Lansley” in the bit of the form where they have to mention a “male role model”, or is it a bit more complicated than that?

Eurovision Excitement Mounts

May 19th, 2008

We have the first ever Eurovision entries from San Marino and Azerbaijan this time round.

Here’s San Marino, with “Complice” by Miodio:

Here’s Azerbaijan, with “Day after day” by Elnur Hüseynov:

Be aware that it’s possible that neither of these songs will get beyond this week’s semi-final stage.

I asked my friend Dan, who is an expert on (i) political philosophy concerning the rectification of historic injustice and (ii) pop music, and he reckons that Cliff Richard is the victim of historic injustice, having been cheated by Spanish fascists out of the 1968 Eurovision title that was rightfully his. I’m still not altogether clear who owes what, if anything, to whom. I was rather hoping we might blame Ruth Kelly, owing to her Opus Dei connections, but some people around me seem to think that’s a bit too tangential, all things considered.

All Shades of Opinion

May 13th, 2008

The Gaping Silence on the Italian Left.

The Polish Documentary Movement

May 13th, 2008

My brother Michael, over here.

Gordon Brown should probably resign, shouldn’t he?

May 12th, 2008

It’s not an especially striking opinion, but having bollocksed up the election last Autumn, the 10p rate this year, and now the local elections, it’s hard to see why he should hang around, and I’m already bored of reading “Brown prepares fightback” headlines on the news websites. It’s probably time for him to invent a non-existent medical complaint and retire to full-time fatherhood — and then we can have the leadership contest the Labour Party was denied last year.

Although I thought, more or less, that Brown deserved to become Prime Minister last year, after the long dark night of Tony Blair, I certainly don’t think he deserves any sympathy or indulgence now he is Prime Minister, or any excuses being made for what has been a pretty unimpressive go at the job.

I think that my maternal grandmother wanted there to be a general election campaign on all the time, and while I wouldn’t quite go that far, I do think that in general we should be having more votes and more elections than we do, and party leadership contests are an OK second-best substitute for more frequent general elections. (We should certainly, for example, have a new Triennial Act, to make sure that we get these.)

I’m not yet entirely fatalistic about the prospect of crushing Conservative victory at the next election. When people try to tell me that the Government might be re-elected, they tend to say that British governments always do badly in the mid-term polls, but I’m inclined to believe that that’s nonsense. But here are two (fairly banal) observations.

One is that after about eight years or so of Thatcherism, I sometimes wondered what the point of a two-party system was if the other party didn’t get a turn from time to time, and it’s probably true that those non-Tories who had thoughts like that in the late 1980s and 1990s should be fairly sympathetic to people of any or no party affiliation who might be having similar thoughts today. If we’re going to have two-party politics, I’d rather that the parties alternated every five to ten years or so, than that they had these incredibly long runs at Government, which just leave everybody pissed off.

The other is that a lot of sensible people think that (with the wisdom of hindsight, admittedly) the Labour Party was lucky to lose the election in 1992, given what happened to the Tory victors almost immediately afterwards; and I wonder whether the re-election of the Labour Party for a fourth term in power might not necessarily turn out to be altogether a good thing for it over the longer term.

(Alright, maybe I am entirely fatalistic.)

[See also my old colleague Mike Smithson.]

[Oh, and Ed Balls is an honourable man. (So are they all, all honourable men.)]

Virtual Stoa Agrees With Ratzinger Shock!

May 10th, 2008

Ever since I started reading the Vatican’s excellent website about ten years ago I always thought it odd that you could get it in English, French, Portuguese, and so on, but not in Latin. Now the BBC is reporting today on the launch of the Vatican’s Latin website and suggesting the Pope’s enthusiasm for Latin might be the reason for its belated appearance. I’m quite pleased with this. Not so pleased that I’ll forgive the Church for its appalling record on child abuse or contraception or for closing down Amnesty International groups in its schools in Northern Ireland because Amnesty thinks rape victims should be allowed to have abortions, or anything like that. But, still, I’m quite pleased.

Call for Papers: Harvard Graduate Conference in Political Theory, October 31-November 1, 2008

May 9th, 2008

I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but I did this one last year, and Josh asked me if I’d post this year’s version. It’s over the fold…