Conrad Russell, RIP

I read the news today over at Nick Barlow’s, and I’ve just seen the obituary in The Times:

His opposition to new Labour was absolute and unforgiving. Though he refused to defend the hereditary right of the Lords – “I can’t get up and assert that hereditary peers are legitimate and I’m not going to” – he believed that the House of Lords system worked more often than not to temper the excesses of Parliament. When Tony Blair proposed that peers should give up their speaking privileges in return for lunching and dining rights in the House, Russell was withering. “He is literally asking us to sell our birthright for a mess of pottage,” he said. “This does no more than confirm me in my opinion that he is a smooth man. Were he to ask me to sell my birthright for a House of Commons elected by a voting system that makes it truly representative of the people, he might get a different answer.”

One of the Virtual Stoa’s favourite Liberal Democrats.

Campaign Songs of Yesteryear

At the APSA I picked up a copy of a CD of “Presidential Campaign Songs, 1789-1996” released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. It’s a very interesting record, for all kinds of reasons, but rather than talking about those reasons I thought I’d just post the words to “Why Not The Best?”, by John L. Turner.

I heard a young man speaking out just the other day;
I stopped just to listen to what he had to say;
He spoke straight and simple — by that I was impressed.
He said, “Once and for all, why not the best?”He said his name was Jimmy Carter and he was running for President,
And he laid out a plan of action — made a lot of sense!
He talked about the government and how it used to be, for you and me;
That’s the way it ought to be, right now:
Once and for all, why not the best?

He spoke plain and simple and I began to understand
I was listening to quite a man, talking to me.
I began to see…
We need Jimmy Carter!
Why settle for less?
America —
Once and for all, why not the best?

We need Jimmy Carter!
We can’t afford to settle for less,
America —
Once and for all, why not the best?
Why not the best?
Why not the best?

Other highlights include “Huzzah for Madison, Huzzah!”, “Get on a Raft with Taft” and “Keep Cool and Keep Coolidge”. Sadly, the disc’s producers couldn’t find a song commemorating Chester Arthur.


The Red Sox swept the Angels in their Divisional Series, and the Yankees knocked off the twins last night, sending the right teams through to contest the American League Championship Series over the coming week.

Actually, I’m not sure it really counts as an American League Championship Series unless it’s the Sox against the Yankees, in much the same way as it isn’t really an Ashes Series if it isn’t England vs Australia.

(The Australians beat India just now, but with luck that’ll just set up another series like this one.)

Nick Cohen

I observed in August that it was a good sign both for the World of Blogs that Britain’s finest political columnist, Nick Cohen, was clearly spending time not only reading the blogs but giving them generous mentions in his published prose. The trend continues in today’s column, in which he reports on recent conversations with my friend and colleague Mike Smithson of

The rest of the article is pretty good, too, and the conclusion is quite sound.

Unsolicited Fashion Advice

What with one thing and another, I’ve been in women’s clothes shops more often than usual in the last few days, which allows me to issue this Fashion Advisory.

Women of Britain! Save money by avoiding the grotesque pink and purple shades that seem to dominate this year’s Autumn collections. They’re really disgusting. Marks and Spencer and Laura Ashley appear to be particularly egregious offenders in this regard, but I think there are others, too.

Unsolicited Lifestyle Advice

Make quite sure you rinse the descaling solution out of the coffee machine very, very thoroughly before making yourself another cup. Despite following the written instructions more pedantically than usual and pumping a lot of fresh water through my Gaggia machine after yesterday’s descaling, the first mouthful this morning was the most disgusting thing I’ve tasted in a very long while.

The back of my throat has, fortunately, more or less recovered.

Hodgskin Serial, continued

Sorry about the long delay between episodes six and seven. Perhaps we can get back on track. Now, where were we?

Labour Defended, &c., Episode Seven

[Previous Episodes: One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six.]

Without troubling myself to quote more passages from these authors, or to transcribe the opinion of other writers, I shall proceed TO EXAMINE THE EFFECTS OF CAPITAL; AND I SHALL BEGIN WITH CIRCULATING CAPITAL. Mr M’Culloch says, “without circulating capital,” meaning the food the labourer consumes, and the clothing he wears; “the labourer never could engage in any undertaking which did not yield an almost immediate return.” Afterwards, he says, “that division of labour is a consequence of previous accumulation of capital;” and quotes the following passage from Dr Smith, as a proper expression for his own opinions.

“Before labour can be divided, ‘A stock of goods of different kinds must be stored up somewhere, sufficient to maintain the labourer, and to supply him with the materials and tools for carrying on his work. A weaver, for example, could not apply himself entirely to his peculiar business, unless there was beforehand stored up somewhere, either in his own possession, or in that of some other person, a stock sufficient for his maintenance, and for supplying him with the materials and implements required to carry on his work, till he has not only completed, but sold his web. This accumulation must evidently be previous to his applying himself for so long a time to a peculiar business.'”

The only advantage of circulating capital, is, that by it the LABOURER is enabled, he being assured of his present subsistence, to direct his power to the greatest advantage. HE has time to learn an art, and his labour is rendered more productive when directed by skill. Being ASSURED of immediate subsistence he can ascertain which, with his peculiar knowledge and acquirements, and with reference to the wants of society, is the best method of labouring, and he can labour in this manner. Unless there were this ASSURANCE there could be no continuous thought, no invention, and no knowledge but that which would be necessary for the supply of our immediate animal wants. The weaver, I admit, could not complete his web, nor would the shipwright begin to build his ship, unless he KNEW that while he was engaged in this labour he should be able to procure food. A merchant certainly could not set out for South America or the East Indies unless he were CONFIDENT that during the period of his absence he and his family could find subsistence, and that he would be able at the end of his voyage to pay all the expenses he had incurred. It is this assurance, this knowledge, this confidence of obtaining subsistence and reward, which enables and induces men to undertake long and complicated operations; and the question is, do men derive this assurance, from a stock of goods already provided, (saved from the produce of previous labour,) and ready to pay them, or from any other source?


Slippery Slope

Like PooterGeek, I’ve become bored of the internet persona who goes by the name of David Duff, who has posted forty or fifty comments here over the last four weeks. Some of his comments have been fun to have around; the majority have been annoying, trollish, provocative without being interesting, offensive, or on behalf of points of view it isn’t worth anyone’s time to be discussing here (creationists, General Pinochet, Adam Yoshida, et cetera). On this and various other blogs his comments have evinced sexism, racism and homophobia, and attempts to engage him in some kind of dialogue have provoked his distinctive cocktail of irrelevant and false claims and his characteristic double-standards. I know “David Duff” is probably a joke of some kind. It’s just not a very good joke, and it’s now wasting more of my time than I should like.

So he’s earned the distinction of being the first entity not-obviously-a-spambot to be banned from the Virtual Stoa, eighteen months after installing the enetation comments system we use here. I’m banning the various IP addresses he’s been using from the site; if anything does get through signed “David Duff”, can other readers please refrain from responding while I get round to deleting it; and if someone does take to posting the same kind of stuff under a different name, I’ll probably wipe that, too.

UPDATE [11.40am]: What a surprise… The tedious work of banning DD’s IP address strongly suggests that that the person who does “David Duff” has been using multiple names when commenting at the Stoa, including “mikey” (the chap who makes jokes about Stephen Pollard being fat), “fatty” (oddly enough) and “G”. None of these “people” ever had much of interest to say, and I don’t think we’ll be missing their contributions to discussion here.

UPDATE [11.50am]: Matthew Turner writes: “Nearly three years of David Duff free blogging, and the day you ban him he starts commenting on my site…!”

UPDATE [11.55am]: Ah, clicking “block IP address” on Duff comments also has the effect of suppressing them from appearing in the comments boxes themselves, which will make following a few recent threads a bit difficult. (I thought you had to click “delete” to do that.) Still, it’s no great loss. I hope none of you mind too much.

UPDATE [4pm]: First, “mikey” notes in the Comments that he’s not “David Duff”, provides a technological explanation of why I might have thought otherwise which I’m not competent to assess, and seems to have a blog here, which, at a glance, doesn’t have many Duff-like qualities. So I’ll happily admit that that guess of mine was probably wrong, and apologise to Mikey “Fatboy” Delgado for the error. I know I wouldn’t like to be mistaken for David Duff.

Second, I’ve just seen that David Duff has posted this at Matthew Turner’s blog:

I wonder if you would be kind enough to pass on to Chris Brookes that he has no need to put up an electronic bar, I would have left him in socialist tranquility if he had said so directly.More important (to me, at any rate), is my polite request to him that he make clear publicly in his next post my absolute assurance that I never, repeat, never write anything under any name other than my own. (My writing style, ‘a poor thing, but ’tis mine own!’)

I apologise to you for prevailing on your ‘postal’ services in this matter, but obviously, I cannot contact him directly.

Only two errors in this short piece, a trivial misspelling of my name, and a false claim that “obviously, I cannot contact him directly” (when my email address appears on every comment I post at the Stoa and elsewhere). But David wanted this posted, and I’m happy to oblige. And now, with luck, we will never have anything to do with one another ever again ever.