Tony Banks is dead

by Harry on January 8, 2006

Speaking completely selfishly, for me the worst immediate outcome of the 1997 Labour victory was Tony Banks’s inclusion in the government. I had not anticipated it (I gather that he, too, was “gobsmacked”), and I realised instantly that it meant he could no longer be a participant in the World Service’s Talking Politics program; his participation had been the icing on the cake, as it were. Very sorry to hear of his death, and my thoughts go out to his family. The BBC obit violates the norm of not speaking ill of the dead by mentioning his favourite football team. A cute account of his wit is here.

Update: A much fuller obit in the Grauniad.

Spitting Images

by Henry on January 8, 2006

I’ve been reading Hendrik Hertzberg’s “Politics: Observations and Arguments” (“Powells”: , “Amazon”: ) over the last couple of days, and I’m greatly taken by it – witty and intelligent political journalism. I was particularly taken with his coined term, the “expectorate,” which refers to those “journalists, consultants and spin doctors,” (and today, one would presume, bloggers) who manipulate or present expectations about who is winning or losing in American politics. It deserves to be more widely known. Are there other coinages out there deserve wider circulation? Off the top of my head, I can think of Kim Stanley Robinson’s term ‘mallsprawl’ – much catchier and more evocative than the anodyne and uninformative “Edge City”, but “scarcely known”: to the wider public. Philip K. Dick’s ‘kipple,’ junk that seems to reproduce itself, has done somewhat better (it has a “Wikipedia entry”:, but not as well . Any others?

Sauce for the gander?

by Chris Bertram on January 8, 2006

There’s been much discussion in both the mainstream media “and the blogosphere”: about the possibility of an attack on Iran by either or both the Israel and the United States in order pre-emptively to destroy any Iranian nuclear weapons capacity. As is well-known, the “United States National Security Strategy”: contains the following doctrine:

bq. The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction — and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

Given the more or less open preparation for an attack on Iran, it is hard to see how such a doctrine could not now be invoked by Iran to justify a pre-emptive strike against Israel (or, indeed, against the United States). I wonder how far the bloggers who are advocating (or pre-emptively justifying) an Israeli attack on Iran would be willing to concede the legitimacy of such anticipatory self-defence by Iran? My own view is that such an attack on Israel would be criminal, but I’m not sure that the hawks could consistently agree with me about that. Indeed, given the supposed _imminence_ of an Israeli/US attack on Iran — as compared to the more long-term and speculative threat Israel faces from Iran — Iranian pre-emption looks more justifiable ( at least, _by traditional just-war criteria_ ) than an Israeli attack on Iran.