Michael Gove is Right.

by Harry on March 22, 2006

I rarely agree with Michael Gove, but am, like him, mortified by the prospect of Marmite being sold in plastic (scroll down past the weird stuff on punk to “Love it, Hate it…”; sorry I’m late on this, I just got the cutting from my mum). I usually plan my transatlantic trips to coincide with the time I anticipate a domestic Marmite crisis, and have it for lunch most days still (it’s not an acquired taste for me, I’ve loved it since I can remember).

As for scraping the last bits out of the jar; I’m a bit disappointed in a future Tory cabinet minister not knowing what to do: pour in a little boiling water, shake it up, and use the liquid for stock, sir. They should put that on the jar, perhaps.

White smoke at the Economist

by Henry Farrell on March 22, 2006

So it looks as though John Micklethwait, currently US editor, is probably going to be the new editor at the _Economist_; the final decision is due to be announced tomorrow. It’s down to a two man race between him and Ed Carr, and not that many people are betting on Carr ( in contrast to a few days ago, but that’s a “different story”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/03/12/hows-about-them-efficient-prediction-markets/ ). To the surprise of many, Clive Crook didn’t make it to the final two, which is unfortunate in my books – Crook is somewhat conservative for my taste, but also a good journalist who would have made a very decent editor. Ed Carr, from all I’ve heard, would be a fine editor too, but things don’t sound good for him.

I have to say that my first reaction is to wonder whether it’s too late to cancel the recent renewal of my _Economist_ subscription. I expect the _Economist_ to be vehemently pro-market, but by reading certain kinds of stories with a skeptical eye, and by skipping past certain others, you can find a lot of value in its pages. It has a clear ideological bias, but it isn’t usually actively dishonest. But Micklethwait, together with his scrofulous sidekick Adrian Wooldridge, was responsible for _The Right Nation_ which is one of the lazier and more dishonest books on American politics that I’ve had the misfortune of reading in the last few years, and for the _Lexington_ column which has shown a pretty reliable track record as a purveyor of Republican talking points. There are still a lot of very good people working for the magazine – but I worry that it’s about to undergo a quite substantial deterioration in intellectual quality.

Update: It’s Micklethwait as expected.

Bird mimics

by Chris Bertram on March 22, 2006

The British Library has just released a “CD of bird mimicry”:http://www.bl.uk/acatalog/wildlifecds.html?EMK_LK01_pubshopx_bl_home_wildlife from around the world. Both the “Independent”:http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_technology/article352784.ece and the “Times”:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2097400,00.html have articles, and the Times has a few soundclips (I liked the German bullfinches best, though the modem-connecting blackbird is startling.)

Smear and distortion

by Chris Bertram on March 22, 2006

I’m somewhat reluctant to enter into the debate started by the “John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt article in the LRB”:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html about the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. Certainly I don’t know enough to judge the accuracy of many of their claims. But I can read, so I can read both what the article says and what hostile critics say about it. Norman Geras “reprints”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2006/03/a_reply_to_mear.html a letter of protest to the LRB by Jeffrey Herf and Andrei S. Markovits. Here is Geras’s comment on the letter:

bq. I add just one comment of my own relating to this sentence: ‘American Jewish citizens have a right to express their views without being charged with placing the interests of Israel ahead of those of the United States.’ Yes, and Jewish citizens anywhere and everywhere likewise, mutatis mutandis. It is high time that the suggestion that somehow Jews are especially disqualified from having a voice in the affairs of whatever nation they belong to (lest they come to be a sinister cabal) was banished from acceptable political discourse. By that I don’t mean it should become a criminal offence; I mean merely that it should be regarded and roundly condemned by everyone of progressive democratic outlook for what it is: at best, a disgraceful exercise in the operation of double standards; at worst, anti-Semitism.

One might get the impression from all that that Mearsheimer and Walt had asserted that “Jews are especially disqualified from having a voice ….” In their article, however, they write the following:

bq. In its basic operations, the Israel Lobby is no different from the farm lobby, steel or textile workers’ unions, or other ethnic lobbies. There is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway US policy: the Lobby’s activities are not a conspiracy of the sort depicted in tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For the most part, the individuals and groups that comprise it are only doing what other special interest groups do, but doing it very much better.

Mearsheimer and Walt are entitled to take the view that US foreign policy is biased towards Israel and that part of the explanation for that is the effectiveness of the pro-Israeli lobby. Critics might legitimately counter by saying that such a bias is justified, or that there is no such bias, or that the lobby is not as effective as they say it is, or some combination of those thoughts. (One might have similar arguments, of course, about the historical influence of the Irish diaspora on US policy and attitudes towards the British in Northern Ireland. Again, it was entirely legitimate for US citizens of Irish descent to lobby their elected representatives as they did. Similarly there might have been good reasons to deplore the effects of that influence, reasons that might be embraced by people not in the grip of visceral anti-Irish prejudice.)

Pol Pot or Christopher Hitchens?

by Belle Waring on March 22, 2006

1. “Since he is of no use anymore, there is no gain if he lives and no loss if he dies.”

2. “I shall go on keeping score about this until the last phony pacifist has been strangled with the entrails of the last suicide-murderer.”

Easy, right? The less bloodthirsty one is Pol Pot. (As Brother Number One famously mused “Look at me now. Am I a savage person?”) It’s only fair to note here that Christopher Hitchens is not, in fact, a genocidal maniac. Well, not someone who has actually killed anyone, that we know of. It’s also nice to know that Pol Pot has a myspace profile. (His interests include taking control of Kampuchea and social experimentation. Music? DK, obvs.)