Michael Foot – A Life

by Harry on December 1, 2008

Talking of the 70’s, I just finished Kenneth Morgan’s biography of Michael Foot (UK). When I was about half way through, I told a good friend that it made me think worse of Foot, and this despite the fact that Morgan himself, while appropriately critical, is obviously a huge admirer. Now I’m done with the whole life (well, nearly the whole life, surely) I think better of him.

The book is full of surprises – even if some of them are ones that you vaguely knew before, but hadn’t really believed. His friendship with, and sponsorship by, Beaverbrook, was just the tip of an iceberg. I didn’t know that Foot became, in later life, a close friend of Ian Gilmour. I did, somehow, know that he was a friend of Enoch Powell’s, but it is surprising nevertheless, and what is particularly surprising is that they seem to have become friends, on Foot’s initiative, shortly after the “rivers of blood” speech (Radio 4 had a very good evaluation of Powell last year, during which the son of some Tory MP told about how his parents, previously good friends of Powell’s, turned Powell away from the door the day after the speech, and never spoke to him again, which indicates just how unacceptable the speech was). They collaborated closely both on defeating House of Lords reform (Foot wanted it abolished, not turned into a House of place-men), and, obviously, opposing entry to, and then staying in, the EEC. Another close friend was Randolph Churchill, who twice challenged him in Devonport; they became friends, apparently, during the first campaign, when Foot and Jill Craigie would frequently give Churchill rides back from events where his Conservative election workers, who disliked him, had abandoned him. The second campaign was, apparently, vicious, and yet the friendship remained solid. A lifelong Republican, who has refused any and all honours, he became friends with the Queen when he was party leader, and also with the Queen Mother, who apparently admired his good sense in wearing his donkey jacket to the Cenotaph for the Remembrance ceremony. There’s better still: some MI5 report is quoted as saying the Foot, Benn, Mikardo, Driberg, Heffer, Hart, Castle and David Owen were “Labour MPs who are believed to be Communists and are in positions of influence”. Brilliant.

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More on Peter Singer and Jamie Bérubé

by Michael Bérubé on December 1, 2008

I started blogging just under five years ago, and for the first few months, I kept marveling at my brand new toy.  The record of this marveling, unfortunately, is still in the blog archives for all to see: there are entire posts that read, <i>Whoa!  Check it out!  Somebody responded to something I wrote!</i> and <i>d00d!  Twenty thousand readers in one month!  Inconceivable! This Inter-net is an amazing thing!</i>  Yes, I really did hyphenate “inter-net.”  It was supposed to be really funny, you see, like something from the early twentieth-century issues of <i>The Onion</i> in <i>Our Dumb Century</i>.  Because whenever I want to suggest in shorthand that someone my age or older is clueless about new technologies, I refer to the “auto hyphen mobile,” after <i>Our Dumb Century</i>’s “auto-mobile,” and . . . oh, never mind.

The point is that sometimes, the internet really is an amazing thing, in which you write <a href=”http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/wandering_back_in/”>a blog post</a> that takes issue with Peter Singer’s characterization of the capabilities of people with Down syndrome, and then find, a few weeks later, an email from Peter Singer in your inbox.  Last month, Singer wrote to say he’d come across my post about the <a href=”http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/cdconference/”>SUNY – Stony Brook Cognitive Disability conference</a>.  He said he was delighted to hear that my son Jamie has a wide range of abilities, intrigued to learn that Jamie understands a range of theories about why humans eat some animals and not others, but sorry that neither Jamie nor I appreciate Woody Allen movies — though he admitted that the recent ones have been disappointing.

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Insulting the Vatican

by Henry Farrell on December 1, 2008

I’ve been puzzling over this “post”:http://www.stephenbainbridge.com/index.php/punditry/kmiec_as_ambassador_to_the_holy_see/ by Steve Bainbridge for a few days. Steve vigorously denounces a suggestion by Michael Winters that Douglas Kmiec be appointed ambassador to the Vatican, saying that such an appointment would be an insult to the church.

I take it that, as a general rule, one should not choose ambassadors whose appointment will insult the country to which they are credentialed. One would not expect Obama to appoint a known anti-Zionist as ambassador to Israel, for example. Yet, while Winters and other pro-Obama US Catholics might delight in tweaking the Holy father by appointing Kmiec as ambassador to the Vatican, it would be tantamount to sending Norman Finkelstein to Israel. Doug Kmiec chose to turn his back on a life time of support for conservative and, in particular, pro-life causes to endorse Barack Obama. … Since the election, Kmiec has further angered pro-life Catholics by, among other things, his recent love letter of praise for Edward Kennedy. … His main role in public life now seems to be giving cover to pro-abortion rights Democrats. The Vatican has made clear that a Kmiec appointment would be most unwelcome … Obama may have won the vote of a majority of America’s cafeteria Catholics. Even so, to appoint Doug Kmiec as ambassador to the Holy See would be an insult to both the Vatican and to “serious, loyal” Catholics everywhere.

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Last Gasps

by Kieran Healy on December 1, 2008

This article is mostly about the Bush Administration’s rush to put a new workplace unsafety rule in place:

The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job. The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health.

Because we all know businesses oppose cumbersome federal regulations, right? Except when they can be made maximally cumbersome, and thus wholly ineffective. But the best part of the article is later:

The Labor Department rule is among many that federal agencies are poised to issue before Mr. Bush turns over the White House to Mr. Obama. One rule would allow coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys. Another, issued last week by the Health and Human Services Department, gives states sweeping authority to charge higher co-payments for doctor’s visits, hospital care and prescription drugs provided to low-income people under Medicaid. The department is working on another rule to protect health care workers who refuse to perform abortions or other procedures on religious or moral grounds.

Other rules under review include an OSHA rule that CEOs be allowed to kick a small child, kitten or puppy at least once per day or after particularly stressful meetings; a DoE directive encouraging nuclear power stations to seize public school playgrounds for temporary waste processing; and the permenantizing of a Department of the Interior Program allowing pilots of fire-fighting aircraft to practice drops in the off season in built-up areas using otherwise idle stocks of waste engine oil, sewage or medical waste as needed.