Selected Reading (15/07/09)

July 15, 2009 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Misc. | 6 Comments
  • To add some analysis which runs contrary to my rather downbeat assessment, Peter Bergen reckons Afghanistan is more winnable than people think.
  • Meanwhile, Eric Martin reviews the situation for himself.
  • In the 21st century, there are half a million slaves living in Mauritania.
  • I said a few posts back that Mother Jones’ collection of dissenting pieces on the war on drugs was worth a read. If you can’t be bothered to read everything, this editorial makes the central argument really well.
  • Thomas Mucha looks at the political violence & civil unrest which has sprung up around the world since the global financial crisis.
  • Laura Woodhouse describes how a lack of confidence can sometimes be an impediment to cracking accepted stereotypes & gender roles.
  • Bill Conroy on the American lobbyist hack who’s started shilling for the junta in Hondouras.
  • It’s a bit old, but awesome culture mag PopMatters turned 10 at the end of last month. To celebrate, they revisited some of the most memorable albums of 1999 and pondered what they revealed about pop culture at the turn of the century.
  • And since we can’t be doom-laden all the time, here’s a happy story about a 15-year-old flying an 87-year-old across America.


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  1. This are a blog that I’ve been reading recently:

    Not really sure what I’m doing there- but I do like the life/culture posts, although not so much the political ones.

    I respect the fact that she has thought deeply about things as really matter, which the likes of Iain Fale, Paul Staines, etc. plainly haven’t (I also think many on the left are guilty of such, but I hope neither of us are). This is why I read blogs like Heresy Corner, & any other blogs from people who have a wide hinterland of interests.

    Originally it was one of them blogs I read just to wind myself up, out of some weird instinct to enrage myself, but now I think I quite like it.

    I just hope this isn’t somehow God’s way of winning me over to him. Because really, I’ve had a few changes of mind in my time but if I became religious I’d have to stop blogging as asquith altogether, resulting from the sheer embarassment of making such a huge u-turn. :)

    • Cheers for the tip – I’ll be sure to check it out.

      I do genuinely enjoy reading stuff by conservatives and libertarians etc. I don’t think I’m a particularly demanding reader – all I really want from bloggers is honesty, willingness to engage with dissent, to challenge themselves, and to engage with others in good faith.

      There are tonnes of folks like that across the pond, and very few of them over here, and that’s shame. There are reasons for it, of course. In the states, blogging has become professional, and nowadays the top bloggers double up as journalists, scholars and media pundits. As it’s a bigger country, there are also more media outlets, pressure groups, think tanks and the like, and that means there are more funding outlets for professional bloggers.

      Over here, pretty much everyone bar Dale, Staines & Sunny has a ‘proper job’, and the pressures of working 8 hours a day whilst also trying to have a social/family life means that you’ve got much less time to blog with. Now, if you’re intent on blogging about politics, want said blog to be widely-read but only have a heavily-rationed amount of time to do so, what sort of posts are you going to write? Easy: you’re going to pick whichever story out of the papers gets your gander up, put your own forthright, snappy partisan slant on it and then spend a bit of time baiting your online opposition. It can take less than 30 minutes per post, and you can use the rest of the time for being human in the world.

      All of which is fine, and I don’t judge anyone for using their blogging time that way. But speaking for myself, it rarely interests me, makes me think or makes me want to contribute my own thoughts. So I just go elsewhere.

      Now, I’m hardly some gilded blogging angel; I can be awfully off-hand with some people on LibCon, and I don’t engage in the threads there (even my own) as often as I should. Even on here, I’ll fall short of my own ideals and wince when I see something I’ve written next to that Orwell Prize badge on the sidebar. I guess the one thing I do have going for me is that I don’t seem to sit in any particular club; there are quite a few Lib Dems who think I represent The Left, and quite a few socialists who think I’m a liberal. For reasons passing understanding, I view this as an achievement.

      Anyway, I suppose the trick is getting to know the person doing the writing, understanding why they’re doing it, and seeing what they’re like on their best (and worst) days.

      As for the God thing; well, you’re writing to someone who grew up next to a church and was an alter boy right up until the age of 18. Two years later and I was an atheist, but it’s not religiosity that’s the problem; it’s the invoking of a creator to deny freedoms to other people. I’m very confident you’ll not fall into that trap, so there really wouldn’t be a need to change your name.

  2. You needn’t worry- I myself have far too much petty spite, I have diagnosed it as my main failing, yet it’s a rare day that I can resist various forms of berating, gloating, etc. I won’t judge you or anyone else, except to say that you don’t strike me as having ever disgraced yourself. I think that’s part of what comment boxes are for: I regard writing posts as a totally different form of activity to commenting, in this regard.

    I wasn’t so much referring to time spent blogging as to charachter- The Anchoress seems to hardly spend any time at all reading/writing- as to a real interest in human life, insight, generally having broad horizons, which a person either posesses or doesn’t. The likes of Alix Mortimer, for example, have achieved this, & it’s a proper rarity. I am glad that I seem to get on well with people of this stamp.

    PS- Sorry it’s a bit too late in the evening to flesh out my hazy sort of thoughts :)

  3. Just a quick one – the Mauritania link is currently linking to, er, Popmatters. Have you got the correct link, please?

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