The Literary Internet

I got pointed at a kind of ‘interactive fan club’ for Angry Robot Books this week (cheers, Skuds). I have one of their titles sitting in the to-read pile, Moxyland by Lauren Buekes. When I get around to reading it, I’ll stick a review on here. Meanwhile I’ve signed up to the ‘Robot Army’. Seeing as I can’t get Firefox to work on one of my laptops, I’ve swapped out the links on the Ads bar on the left.

Meanwhile, I also stumbled onto something far more web-literate. Shadow Unit is a project which is based on the web, and is structured sort of like a TV series (indeed, it’s based on a unit of the FBI down the hall from the Behavioural Analysis Unit that is portrayed in Criminal Minds). There’s a wiki set up for it, and there are even character owned blogs which are updated in real time. It’s like, well meta!

I found it, by the way, because one of the project’s key figures, Elizabeth Bear, was guesting on Charlie Stross’s blog. Both writers are pretty interesting to read – especially in the light of various squabbles between publishing houses and Amazon over who who gets to profit most from the work of writer…

Hey look! A bandwagon!

But one that I have no shame whatsoever in jumping on to.

As mentioned in my previous post, Alisher Usmanov has been accused of using his influence to get Fasthost to suppress criticism of him, resulting in the taking down of not only Craig Murray’ and Tim Ireland’s blogs, but also those of Boris Johnson, Bob Piper and other innocent bystanders.

This exertion of corporate financial muscle to try to stifle people’s opinions has had the effect of bringing far more interest in the activities of Mister Usmanov, who has a shady past and (perhaps more worryingly) a large stake in Arsenal FC.

And this is (as of the time of this post) the list of 251 blogs which have spoken out against the heavy-handed use of lawyers to shut down free speech:

Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth, 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street, Laban Tall, Martin Bright, Spy Blog The Exile, poons, Jangliss, Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?, Imagined Community, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Poldraw, Disillusioned And Bored, Error Gorilla, Indigo Jo, Swiss Metablog, Kate Garnwen Truemors, Asn14, D-Notice, The Judge, Political Penguin, Miserable Old Fart, Jottings, fridgemagnet, Blah Blah Flowers, J. Arthur MacNumpty, Tony Hatfield, Grendel, Charlie Whitaker, Matt Buck, The Waendel Journal, Marginalized Action Dinosaur, SoccerLens, Toblog, John Brissenden East Lower, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Black AM, Boing Boing, BLTP, Gunnerblog, LFB UK, Liberal Revolution, Wombles, Focus on Sodbury…, Follow The Money, Freedom and Whisky, Melting Man, PoliticalHackUK, Simon Says…, Daily EM, From The Barrel of a Gun, The Fourth Place, The Armchair News Blog, Journalist und Optimist, Bristol Indymedia, Dave Weeden, Up North John, Gizmonaut, Spin and Spinners, Marginalia, Arnique, Heather Yaxley, The Whiskey Priest, On The Beat, Paul Canning, Martin Stabe, Mat Bowles, Pigdogfucker, Rachel North, B3TA board, Naqniq, Yorkshire Ranter, The Home Of Football, UFO Breakfast Recipients, Moninski , Kerching, e-clectig, Mediocracy, Sicily Scene, Samizdata, I blog, they blog, weblog, Colcam, Some Random Thoughts, Bel is thinking, Vino S, Simply Jews, Atlantic Free Press, Registan, Filasteen, Britblog Roundup #136, Scientific Misconduct Blog, Adam Bowie, Duncan at Abcol, Camera Anguish, A Very British Dude, Whatever, Central News, Green Gathering, Leighton Cooke (224), , Skuds’ Sister’s Brother, Contrast News, Poliblog Perspective, Parish Pump, El Gales, Noodle, Curly’s Corner Shop, Freunde der offenen Gesellschaft, otromundoesposible, Richard Stacy, Looking For A Voice, News Dissector, Kateshomeblog, Writes Like She Talks, Extra! Extra!, Committee To Protect Bloggers, Liberty’s Requiem, American Samizdat, The Thunder Dragon, Cybersoc, Achievable Life, Paperholic, Creative-i, Raedwald, Nobody’s Friend, Lobster Blogster, Panchromatica (251).

Mr Usmanov, how very dare you!

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A War on Errorism

Some science news. In fact, check out the rest of Tom Hamilton’s blog let’s be sensible to see how Daily Telegraph pundits who right on education can’t tell the difference between ‘half’ and ‘all’, and thing that degrees in advanced computing like Artificial Intelligence are useless, how ‘Dave’ thinks that a bare knuckle fight is a departure from Punch and Judy politics, and the things a wide range of idiots will say.

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Arise Sir Salman

Not being a great fan of patronage and peerage, I’m not usually enthused by the Honours Lists. They are a way to recognise valuable individuals, particularly the local charity workers who may otherwise be unknown. However, it also means the usual list of old polticians, civil servants, military officers and employees of the Royal family getting a gong simply for having done a job.

This year’s Queen’s birthday list saw the knighthood of Salman Rushdie. It would be unremarkable for an esteemed author (not just a Booker, but the ‘Booker of Bookers’) to be honoured, except of course that there is more to his history.

When The Satanic Verses came out, he was accused of blasphemy (how a non-Muslim can be accused of blasphemy seems odd, surely any member of a religion that denies Allah’s place as the indivisible god of all creation is also a blasphemer). Famously, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini condemned him to death in a fatwah.

Of course, this sort of thing undermines the idea that Islam is a religion of peace, or that it is robust enough to withstand criticism. Like the Danish cartoons affair of 2005/6, a deliberately provoked overreaction led to violence.

Today the Pakistani parliament did their best to calm tensions – by condemning the knighthood in a debate which included a government minister suggesting that it could justify suicide attacks. The Muslim Council of Britain called it an insult.

The real insult is actually the idea that people of a faith can dictate to everybody else what to read, what to say, or what to think.

While I have no problem with Muslims as people, and regard all religions as equally valid, I think that one’s beliefs are ones own affair, and should not be imposed on other people simply because they stem from a religion. That includes institutional control like a theocratic government and most definitely includes the threat of violence (or the justification of violence).

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Cohen, what are you doing?

A while ago I noted that Nick Cohen, writer and polemicist, had chided the ‘Left’ for only concentrating on how bad the Iraq war was and ignoring the plight of the Iraqis themselves.

Indeed.

At the time, I noted that Nick’s website only seemed to include plugs for his book, and no mention of the sterling work that he does to actually support Iraqi trade unionists. I checked again today, 3 months later. I notice a new article by Cohen that he plugs in Democratiya. Oh good, I thought. Except that it is not about Iraq at all. It’s a review of Paul Anderson‘s Orwell in Tribune (which was out last year).

So what does Nick do for the Iraqi Trade Unionists, when he’s not busy self-promoting and writing about his obsessions with the ‘Left’? He even manages to bring his thesis into the review.

A Scottish SF writer who makes you think, but isn’t Iain M Banks

Although he is, apparently, a friend. Ken MacLeod knows his stuff when it comes to left-wing groupuscles. I read The Star Fraction a few months ago, and immediately bought The Stone Canal to devour in a few sittings.

He seems to enjoy discussing the variants of socialist and liberal/libertarian thought. The other day I looked him up on Wikpedia and found his blog – The Early Days of a Better Nation Currently it isn’t being used much, but check out the post on Saturday, January 27, 2007 – it starts off discussing Mao, and winds all over the place but in a fascinating and coherent way.

I’d give my arms to be able to writet like that.

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Harry Barnes on Iraq & Nick Cohen

I added Harry Barnes’ Three Score Years and Ten to my blogroll a while ago, and his latest posts demonstrate the calibre of the man:

Firstly, he critiques Nick Cohen’s What’s Left in quite a bit of detail. He’s been extremely thorough in showing where he agrees with Cohen, where he doesn’t, and most importantly, with good arguments.

Secondly, he demonstrates how Cohen has ignored people like him who opposed the Iraq War, are critical of the US and UK occupation and yet offer support for Iraqis, particularly socialists and trades unionists.

I have, following Harry’s posts, gone here: http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=202 to do a small bit.

I notice that Nick Cohen has been too busy promoting his book to publicise the efforts of Trade Unionists to support their Iraqi counterparts in the matter. It’s easy to be ‘leftier than thou’ isn’t it!

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Book Review

Not by me, but by Harry Barnes, Labour ex-MP. He lays into Dawkins’ The God Delusion. On Three Score Years and Ten, he explains why he finds the book so disappointing

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Who’s Left? (or ‘Whose Left?’?)

Nick Cohen has just written a book. It’s a very good book with a lot of words in it. Well, I suppose that must be the case because it’s being knocked out at a much higher price than his older books.

Lots of people have a view about it, and some of them have even read it (and it seems that most of them are his mates who helped him by proof-reading it), I haven’t read it but that won’t stop me from having a strong opinion and ramming down your interweb pipe, like a good McMabawb.

I have read the bits that the Observer published as a teaser, and it was these, and thinking about Cohen et al, that prompted the McMabawb piece. Specifically when he talks about his growing up in a family where they carefully chose their oranges, lest they come from a ‘dodgy’ country like South Africa, Israel or the USA. Well, most working class people, even those on the ‘left’ had other things on their minds regarding oranges, like that apples were a darn sight cheaper for one.

The last few days has seen endless verbiage from the ‘Eustonistas’ and their enemies in the ‘still anti-war’ brigades, and I’m feeling very frustrated.

Frustrated because as much as the ‘muscular left’, (or ‘belligerati’, ‘decents’ or whatever) point out that they are right, they spend about 20 times as many words explaining why the SWP/Respect etc are wrong. The same is the true in reverse of course. In between, those of us who don’t live in a Manichaean white-v-black existence, are pointing out that both are wrong (and so getting attacked by everyone).

Meanwhile, some simple truths get ignored.

1) The ‘Left’ is not, and never has been, a homogenous group with the same views. If it was, it wouldn’t be in this stupid squabble in the first place.

2) Arguments like this are an open goal to the ‘Right’, who will not hesitate to use one or both sides to push their own agendas

3) Just because someone opposed the Iraq invasion to the point of going to a demo, does not mean that they ‘marched in support of a fascist regime’. Equally, just because someone opposes the actions of certain ‘insurgent’ groups in Iraq and shows some support for the UK and US servicemen placed in danger, does not make them a ‘fanatical neo-con imperialist’.

What’s wrong with all these people? They is mad, I tell you, mad.

And I see another comment on Cif with the words “Bliar” or “Islamofascist” I think I’ll scream.

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More from MMVC

Now that Steve from Make My Vote Count has read my article properly (and he admits that he didn’t read it properly the first time – I’d say perhaps in a half-arsed manner?), he has given a more robust response.

I do understand his points. I did put a further in, but it takes them a long time to get round to approving posted comments. It might appear tomorrow.

One part of his piece that I did think was a good idea was this:

Anyway, i’d rather have a system that flips yours on its head, where popular impact is felt at the stage of policy formulation and debate, with the public acting like an expanded legislature. This creates a better politics because politicians have better, or at least more informed, policy options to choose from. And the public can’t simply complain of having legislation thrust upon them from above, as fellow – arbitrarily chosen – citizens have had a role in formulating it. Such a system still manages to retain a clear line of command, where ultimate responsibility for decisions lies with (relatively) transparent, accessible and public individuals who are ultimately (and most importantly) accountable for their actions to the electorate.

Yes! A ‘citizens jury’ which can go through upcoming legislation and ask questions or suggest changes. Sounds fantastic. It’s supposed to be how policy is formed in the Labour Party (policy forum meetings for members discuss various options and they get passed on and debated by delegates before being presented to Conference).

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