Galloway wins!

by Daniel on December 2, 2004

Gosh, my pet issues are piling up today! George Galloway won his libel case against the Telegraph.

The week before last I suggested that “Galloway wins, but wins small as he is in large part the author of his own misfortune by cuddling up to Saddam so much.” Well, he won, but he didn’t win small – £150k is a lot of money given that UK libel awards are de facto capped at £200K these days. Basically, I suggested at the time that “much will depend on the judge’s interpretation of a Telegraph editorial at the time which contained the phrase ‘there is a word for taking money from a foreign power … treason'” and it did. The judge decided that the Telegraph had crossed the line between neutral reporting of (after all, pretty damning) facts, and putting the boot into Galloway. This more or less amounted to malice, and the word “qualified” in “qualified privilege” is there to indicate that you can’t use this defence to make statements motivated by malice.

If the Telegraph had won this case, we would have the public interest defence for newspapers established, and the British press would have been that much freer from our ludicrous libel laws. So it’s a bit of a bummer all round.

Galloway’s name is not cleared by this (nor could it be; the truth of the allegations was not an issue in the trial because of the Telegraph’s use of the privilege defence). There are still big questions outstanding over the funding of Galloway’s charities, which are being investigated by Parliament. The really irritating thing here is that the Telegraph threw away a potentially very strong story simply because they could not resist the temptation to throw a load of nasty abuse at a prominent lefty and anti-war figure. This is a lesson which I hope that the pro-war side will pick up (and one I’ve commented on in the past ; it’s simply not on to claim that people who disagreed with you about the specific rush to war in March 2003, did so because they were supporters of Saddam Hussein. That’s not an honest way to carry on the debate, it’s unpleasant and it is, apparently, in the strictest sense, malicious.

Congratulations really go to Tim Lambert, who has been playing a fine game of whack-a-mole with respect to Lancet study denialists. The state of the game, as far as I can see it is pretty much as we left it at the last CT summary; the Lancet editors mischaracterized the 100K excess deaths as civilian, but the study itself is sound science. The only methodological critique I regard as currently having any validity is that the clusters were selected based on 2003 census data without adjusting for population movements since the war; this could have resulted in an overestimate or an underestimate; what I’d call an “unknown bias in an unknown direction”. By Sod’s Law (a statistical regularity), this critique was made in the CT comments thread about five minutes before the post fell off the front page; I’d be very interested in continuing that discussion.

But anyway, another party not usually associated with the blogosphere has entered the fray; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. And their critique is … to be honest, not very good. Detailed comments below the fold.

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Xmas specials

by Henry Farrell on December 2, 2004

Via “About Last Night”: , SF author John Scalzi presents us with the “ten worst Christmas specials ever”: Starting with Dorothy Parker and gang.

bq. An Algonquin Round Table Christmas (1927)

bq. Alexander Woolcott, Franklin Pierce Adams, George Kaufman, Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker were the stars of this 1927 NBC Red radio network special, one of the earliest Christmas specials ever performed. Unfortunately the principals, lured to the table for an unusual evening gathering by the promise of free drinks and pirogies, appeared unaware they were live and on the air, avoiding witty seasonal banter to concentrate on trashing absent Round Tabler Edna Ferber’s latest novel, Mother Knows Best, and complaining, in progressively drunken fashion, about their lack of sex lives. Seasonal material of a sort finally appears in the 23rd minute when Dorothy Parker, already on her fifth drink, can be heard to remark, “one more of these and I’ll be sliding down Santa’s chimney.” The feed was cut shortly thereafter. NBC Red’s 1928 holiday special “Christmas with the Fitzgeralds” was similarly unsuccessful.

Ayn Rand’s ‘A Selfish Christmas,’ the lost Star Trek special (‘A Most Illogical Holiday’) and the David Cronenberg Canadian Christmas special (‘The virus causes Santa to develop both a large, tooth-bearing orifice in his belly and a lustful hunger for human flesh, which he sates by graphically devouring Canadian celebrities Bryan Adams, Dan Ackroyd and Gordie Howe on national television’) also excel.

Anne Applebaum can’t tell left from right

by John Q on December 2, 2004

Columns in the Guardian by Jonathan Steele and John Laughland, asserting that demonstrations against the rigging of the Ukraine election were a Western-funded plot, have been the subject of a lot of criticism here and on other blogs. As far as Laughland is concerned, Chris gave us a good rundown on his views and assocations (which could broadly be described as lunar right) some months ago, and there’s more, in the Guardian itself, from David Aaronovitch.

Now we get this column from Anne Applebaum claiming that Steele and Laughland are part of a leftwing plot

The larger point, though, is that the “it’s-all-an-American-plot” arguments circulating in cyberspace again demonstrate something that the writer Christopher Hitchens, himself a former Trotskyite, has been talking about for a long time: At least a part of the Western left — or rather the Western far left — is now so anti-American, or so anti-Bush, that it actually prefers authoritarian or totalitarian leaders to any government that would be friendly to the United States.

Applebaum is generally well-informed and, while she does not name either Steele or Laughland, she says “Neither author was a fringe journalist”, which implies some familiarity with their positions. In any case, she presumably reads The Guardian. Why then doesn’t she acknowledge that the views they put forward draw the (minuscule) support they have attracted from the right as well as the left ?

UpdateOver at my blog, commenter Alex points out that Applebaum used to work for The Spectator which has published Laughland fairly regularly.


by Kieran Healy on December 2, 2004

Eugene Volokh “complains”: that a recent draft of one his papers is missing something:

bq. Verve. “Energy and enthusiasm in the expression of ideas . . . . Vitality; liveliness.” My writing was the usual lawyerese, flabby and clausy. The substance was getting there (though it still needs a lot of work), but it was missing vigor, concreteness, punch. So I’ve been doing Vervification Edits as part of my substantive editing passes.

“Verve” is a good word for the quality he’s after, but I think “brio” is better, if only because its roots are mostly Italian and those people know how to live it up. In Jonathan Coe’s terrific novel, _What a Carve Up_ (published in the United States as The Winshaw Legacy) the narrator phones in a book review. Its chief complaint is that the book’s author “lacks the necessary brio” to carry off the story. Unfortunately something goes wrong in the transcription and the published version claims that the author “lacks the necessary biro,” instead. Just as debilitating to the writing process, to be sure, but as a critical observation of character perhaps not so incisive.

I’m recovering from a bad cold, so I’ve been feeling a little short of brio myself. I have three papers to draft, a review to write and a book manuscript to revise (I sign the contract this week). So if anyone has any strategies for revivifying oneself, let me know in the comments.