Thursday, December 28, 2006
Oh, and a (again belated) welcome to DK back to town after his exile in the Socialist paradise north of the border.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Aux Armes Citoyens!
The Great Game
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
Those crazy libertarians over at Samizdata once quoted a line (or possibly even coined it) about prostitution:
Prostitution is a combination of sex and the free market; which are you opposed to?
It's a poser really. The cop-out answer is surely that, provided prostitutes are genuinely choosing, unco-erced, to sell their bodies, then it is a transaction between consenting adults, harming no-one outside the transaction and, as such should not be criminalised.
But is it as simple as that? Is it the case that legalisation and regulation would put a stop to the abuse and trafficking of women? It is a fact that a significant proportion of the prostitutes in this country are here against their will, held in what amounts to slavery. Can it be right to legalise prostitution if that means the tacit acceptance of effective slavery?
The problem I have here is that a visceral 'squick' reaction is making rational analysis difficult. I can see the argument that says that legalisation would be, in fact, the best way of sorting out some of the grosser abuses, but there's definitely an irrational opposition.
Via Iain, word reaches me of the death of Frank Johnson. I only barely caught the end of his editorship of the Spectator, but I always enjoyed his sketches, which seemed to lack the nastier edge often present in such things. I hadn't realised quite the extent to which he was a 'power in the land' in the early days of Thatcherism, but I'm pleased to hear about it. It's always nice to read someone who's funny and right at the same time: too often the two seem to be incompatible.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
On blogging; or the art of irritating as many people as possible
The comment thread is compulsive viewing, with most of the heavyweights weighing in at one point or another, but it also sheds light on one of the central difficulties of blogging. Damien states in the thread that "I wish I could say I hadn’t seen its like since I was an undergraduate" but that sadly it's all too common these days. However, during the course of the argument he also employs one of the classic JCR debating techniques, the sneery hyperbolic rhetoric used to disparage the other's argument.
Don’t curl your toes like that, dear reader; this is part of the Web 2.0 revolution, the new coffeehouse culture, the revival of satire. It’s punk all over again, but, unlike the Sex Pistols, Chicken Yoghurt and The Devil’s Kitchen—crazy names, crazy guys—really will smash the system this time (rather than leave Yes touring stadiums 30 years later with a separate pantechnicon for their money and Johnny “Rotten” appearing on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here).
Hey, it's a usually good, usually funny way of attacking someone's argument and I'm not knocking it as such. The use of the 19th century 'dear reader' is a particularly nice touch - what could distinguish the writer more from the sweary Kevins of the 'bloggertarian' persuasion (which is, incidentally, a very good neologism).
But the problem is that this sort of sneery attack on specific bloggers is no more attractive than those bloggers' own addiction to opprobrious epithets. I don't particularly have a dog in this fight: I read and enjoy all the above blogs, and can find something to chuckle about in all of them too. For what it's worth, I find the attacks from Damien on the three bloggers above arguably more unpleasant than the bad language in a DK post on Gordon Brown for example. I think also that, in so far as he argued from the specific Justin post to a wider theme of shoddy blogging, he misses the point that while it is certainly the case that swearing in and of itself does not make for good or enjoyable reading, its presence in an otherwise cogent piece does not rob that piece of its validity.
Ultimately we can't all be like Oliver Kamm, and post, with slightly ponderous majesty, impeccably well-researched arguments complete with a bumper stack of footnotes. For those of you who like that thing, and I'm one, Kamm is a great blogger. It's not the only way of blogging though.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Prestige, deterrence and great big toys for great big boys
In reference to the Trident post below, it strikes me that much of the debate as to the validity of the nuclear deterrence is a re-hash of old arguments over old technology. The battleship, first properly evidence by the Dreadnought class was debated in very similar terms. Possession of a battleship fleet was what marked out the major powers, the Empires, from the also-rans. The were massive, expensive, technologically cutting-edge and, in a sense beautiful.
Yet they were ultimately never very good at what they were principally designed to be for. The only time in naval history that battleships confronted each other in a fleet action, the battle of Jutland, the results were deeply unsatisfying. The advent of the submarine and the aircraft carrier were to render the battleship effectively obsolete, although the USS Missouri was still in service in the first Gulf war.
They were ultimately a defensive weapon, a reaction to the possession of similar ships by rival powers. Their utility in time of war was strictly limited, see the demise of HMS Repulse, and their political importance always outweighed their military effectiveness. And the public loved them. "We want eight and we won't wait" was the demand of the press in the great naval scare of 1910. I'm not sure we're so enthusiastic about the modern day equivalent.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The Reptile recognised...ish
Rofl or similar
One way of putting it
Then there's the vexing matter of polls, which show Hillary - in general election match-ups - besting every Republican but New York's ex-mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and Senator John McCain.
So, the polls are saying that against either of the two galloping front-runners for the Republican nomination, Hillary is coming second. Remarkably, Ms vanden Heuvel appears to be using this data as evidence that Hillary is indeed electable. This is like asking 'is Gordon Brown electable?' and saying "Brown polls ahead of every party leader except Cameron and Menzies Campbell," not exactly a clinching argument anyway.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
A fork in the road...
In defense of David Cameron
For small mercies oh Lord...