Was Suez Worse than Iraq?

by Harry on March 11, 2007

Right now it’s incredibly hard to read about Suez without thinking about Iraq, and it’s a mark of Peter Hennessy’s confidence that Iraq will long be remembered as a disaster of epic scale that he repeatedly draws comparisons between the two events in his marvelous new book, Having it So Good (UK), (US). The book is a history of Britain in the 1950’s, and I’ll impose a brief review on you later. Suez doesn’t dominate the book, but it is the pivotal moment of the decade if not, in fact, the whole postwar period in terms of Britain’s relationship with the world. And the parallels are striking. In both cases, it is clear that a small handful of policymakers were determined to undermine the targeted dictator, and were not about to be deflected by stupid facts. In both cases democratic scrutiny simply didn’t operate; neither Blair/Bush nor Eden were subject to the kind of hard questioning by their cabinet colleagues that should have stopped them, or at least forced them to act less precipitously. And in each case, as we know only too well in the case of Iraq, neither politicians nor military had any kind of long term plan.

But surely, surely, Suez was nowhere near as disastrous in terms of human carnage? Surely, because the Americans acted so, well, correctly, forcing the Brits to back off, the day was saved, if not for Eden, for the world? Surely my title question is ludicrous? That’s what I’d have thought. (Eszter, at least, might want to read on.)

[click to continue…]

You Can be the Ethicist Again

by Harry on March 11, 2007

Randy Cohen has caught up with CT, and is looking at the issue of whether it is ok to use online information to make judgments about applicants to college (not grad school, as we did). He says it is not. Not to be mean, but his judgement includes an extraordinarily bad analogy:

You would not read someone’s old-fashioned pen-and-paper diary without consent; you should regard a blog similarly.

Here I am, writing on a blog, using my own name, hoping that somebody might be stimulated or entertained, or best of all influenced, by what I write, and Randy Cohen thinks that nobody should be reading. The analogy is, in fact, with a diary that I publish and give away for free. I can see there might be a problem with selective reading of blogs (trying to find dirt on someone one wants to reject anyway) and certainly admissions officials should have some sort of protocol for this, but people who make embarrassing comments on their own blog under their own name in public should expect that other people might read and be influenced by them. Writing a diary which one keeps under lock and key seems sufficiently different that anyone who gave a moment’s thought would get it.

Han Shot First

by John Holbo on March 11, 2007

Crooks & Liars links to that fine old Smashing Pumpkins video, “Tonight, Tonight”: the George Méliès, “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” homage.

Anyway, if you’ve never seen the Méliès original, you should be aware YouTube has got it, too (part 1; part 2) – the 14 minute epic; the first science fiction film.

Purists take note. What we’ve got here is a hybrid version: round about minute 11, when the the first selenite appears, the voice-over indicates that “the fantastical being rushes at the astronomer, who defends himself”. Obviously this is from the digitally remastered Lucas edition of 1904. In the film itself – unremastered, 1902 material – it is clear the astronomer strikes first, aggressively exploding the alien with his umbrella.

Oh, hey! The Internet Archive has a free, downloadable, higher quality version. If you’ve never seen this landmark of cinema, check it out.