Cue Drumrolls

by Henry on March 17, 2004

Congratulations to Kevin Drum for having effectively “taken over”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ the Washington Monthly’s website with his rather excellent blog. I note for the record that I “argued”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001372.html last month that hybridization with blogs was likely the way forward for magazines of opinion. Clearly the proprietors of the Washington Monthly agree. It’s a magazine that has been doing quite well the last year; I suspect that its links to the blogosphere (through Josh Marshall and Nick Confessore) have already been helping it get the word out to potential subscribers. More power to them.

Worst Ministers since the War

by Harry on March 17, 2004

Oliver Kamm has a fun post (and ensuing discussion) giving his nominations for the worst UK ministers since the WWII. Some of his nominations are obvious — Michael Foot for worst leader of the opposition (not, of course, a ministerial post, but you get the idea), Anthony Eden as worst prime Minister (though Churchill is overrated, and why have Major rather than Callaghan as runner up?). Others seem to get the nod simply because bad things happened on their watch, which it is not really reasonable to blame them for — like Nick Brown for Agriculture, and Byers for Transport. They handled their crises badly, to be sure, but is it fair to condemn them rather than the numerous lightweights who never had a crisis to handle? Other still mystify me perhaps because of my ignorance — why is Douglas Hurd the worst FS? One of the commentators rightly takes Kamm to task for leaving George Brown off the list — maybe he just deserves a special award of his own. Finally there are nominees who are simply political: Shirley Williams, I presume, is blamed for comprehensivisation despite the fact that it was set in process by her predecessors Tony Crosland and Margaret Thatcher (yes, that’s right, that Margaret Thatcher). I believe (though somebody could correct me) that more LEAs went comprensive under the preceeding Heath government than during Williams’s time at the DES, and the evidence against comprehensive schooling is mostly hype. Why not John Patten, a truly awful education secretary, and surely at least more deserving of runner up than Kenneth Baker? (not that I have any agenda against him…).

Some sense on Spain

by Chris Bertram on March 17, 2004

When I first started blogging, I struck up a fairly cordial on-line relationship with Iain Murray of “The Edge of England’s Sword”:http://ism.politicos.ws/MT/ despite a pretty wide gulf in our politics. I’m afraid I’ve not read much I’ve liked by Iain in quite a long time (especially on global warming). So it was a pleasant surprise to find that Iain has “a column on the Spanish elections”:http://www.techcentralstation.com/031704F.html published in that bastion of lunacy TechCentralStation. Despite working with a Rumsfeldian New/Old Europe framework the column is a very useful corrective to some of the foaming at the mouth which we’ve endured from US-based commentators and bloggers over the past few days (see Matthew Turner “for some of the worst examples”:http://mattysblog.blogspot.com/2004_03_01_mattysblog_archive.html#107947336635790262 ). Credit where credit is due.

2 Bed, 1 Bath, Appalling Vista, £3,000/year

by Kieran Healy on March 17, 2004

Can someone in the UK confirm the accuracy of “this report”:http://www.sundayherald.com/40592? (Via “Jim Henley”:http://www.highclearing.com/archivesuo/week_2004_03_14.html#005165.)

WHAT do you give someone who’s been proved innocent after spending the best part of their life behind bars, wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit? An apology, maybe? Counselling? Champagne? Compensation? Well, if you’re David Blunkett, the Labour Home Secretary, the choice is simple: you give them a big, fat bill for the cost of board and lodgings for the time they spent freeloading at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in British prisons.

On Tuesday, Blunkett will fight in the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the right to charge victims of miscarriages of justice more than £3000 for every year they spent in jail while wrongly convicted … spokesmen in the Home Office say it’s a completely “reasonable course of action” as the innocent men and women would have spent the money anyway on food and lodgings if they weren’t in prison. The government deems the claw-back ‘Saved Living Expenses’.

Is this a step in the calculation of compensation money prior to paying it to the victims, or an attempt to grab some of that money back after the fact? (Is that distinction even relevant?) The _sang froid_ of the British Legal Establishment never ceases to amaze. Maybe they could take it out of “Lord Denning’s”:http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~mponeill/law/utilitarianism.html estate. He “said”:http://www.highclearing.com/archivesuo/week_2004_03_14.html#005165 he wanted to be remembered in good works.

Influencing Al Qaeda

by John Quiggin on March 17, 2004

Much of the value of a blog like Crooked Timber is in the comments threads, but the signal to noise ratio is inevitably low, especially when flame wars erupt. I thought this point by Donald Johnson responding to Chris’ post on the Spanish election (and disregarded in subsequent comments) was valuable enough to justify more prominence.

If al Qaeda has the capability to plant bombs and kill hundreds of people, they’re going to do it however they interpret the Spanish election. They might plant their bombs before elections if they think they can influence them, or they might plant their bombs where there are large crowds on some special date, or they might choose some big symbolic target again, like the Pentagon or the WTC. The point is to stop them, not to worry about how they might read election results except to the extent that understanding what they think might give clues on what their next target is going to be.

Exactly right. The idea, that by doing what al Qaeda (supposedly) wants[1] we are sending a message that will influence them to do more of the same directly contradicts the overwhelming evidence that al Qaeda is unconditionally committed to terroristic war against us, and cannot be dissuaded from it (evidence that has been stressed more on the right of the blogosphere than anywhere else). They cannot be influenced, only incapacitated.

fn1. This applies equally to the Spanish election result and to Bush’s decision to pull US troops out of Saudi Arabia.

From the Irish

by Kieran Healy on March 17, 2004

It’s St Patrick’s Day, and I’m thinking about terrorism. So here is a poem from “James Simmons”:http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/s/Simmons,J/life.htm.

From the Irish
Most terrible was our hero in battle blows:
hands without fingers, shorn heads and toes
were scattered. That day there flew and fell
from astonished victims eyebrow, bone and entrail,
like stars in the sky, like snowflakes, like nuts in May,
like a meadow of daisies, like butts from an ashtray.

Familiar things, you might brush against or tread
upon in the daily round, were glistening red
with the slaughter the hero caused, though he had gone.
By proxy his bomb exploded, his valour shone.