A New Year message for this blog’s remaining reader, whereat your host rambles a bit

Hullo Brian, hullo Sue. You know, in a very real sense, what with it being the New Year and all, it’s as good a time as any to check in.

You’ll have noticed that this blog has been on an extended sabbatical. No, I’m not dead, just been doing other things. But I do notice that the absence of my golden words from the blogosphere has been overinterpreted in some quarters, which I suppose is my own fault for going on an unannounced sabbatical. Moreover, the occasional query as to when I was coming back has now become a minor clamour. So, while I usually avoid explaining myself, much less providing mission statements, here’s something by way of an explanation.

Running a blog with a regular – at times prolific – level of posting over an extended period of time can be tough, and it’s certainly time-consuming. It’s especially tough if you’re blogging individually, rather than on a group blog where you can slack off for a while and hide behind the work of others.

And you know, at times, the real world intrudes. There are times when family and work have to take precedence. I’ve also been involved in an extended writing project which, believe it or not, is not available on the web. This meant that, if I was going to get anything done, I needed to exert a bit of self-discipline and avoid the temptation to whack up a daily blogpost.

Besides which, the main purpose of this blog has always been to entertain myself, and provide an outlet for various rants. If anyone else got some value out of it, that was a bonus. There are two conclusions following from that. One is that, if blogging ever stopped being fun, I wouldn’t have much of a motivation to do it; and at times it’s got to be a bit of a chore. To balance against that, I am an incorrigible troublemaker, as if you didn’t know.

The second conclusion is that, this blog being mostly (not exclusively) a bit of fun, well yes, it could always be idiosyncratic and has often been tongue-in-cheek. Hence the blend of high politics, low culture, slightly risqué humour and straightforward whimsy. This is something that I think some readers have always appreciated, but has been lost on those who either didn’t get the joke or else were just congenitally hard of reading. For instance, I’ve been a constant disappointment to those leftist readers whose idea of a good political blog was one that produced large quantities of stentorian Marxist-Leninist agitprop. Why they didn’t simply go elsewhere instead of hanging around the comments box complaining and demanding that I write the sort of stuff they wanted to read, I’ll never know. I suppose it can be taken as flattering.

Something similar applies since I’ve been writing more on religious matters. Allow me to go into this in a little detail, if you will. I’ve never considered myself a Catholic blogger in the sense that, say, Jimmy Akin is a Catholic blogger. Jimmy does apologetics, and does so very well indeed. I’m capable of doing apologetics, but I don’t really have the temperament for it. Partly it’s a simple journalistic instinct of going where the interesting stories are, deploying whatever knowledge and insight I can bring to matters. And I can’t deny that the possibility of a CathoLeaks service appeals mightily to my mischievous side.

But yes, I am invested. I do have axes to grind. And my basic agenda isn’t all that mysterious. If I may briefly outline it:

  • I’d like to see good governance in the Church. One of the most frustrating things about Catholic affairs is the uselessness of ecclesiastical bureaucracies. Not merely in terms of the sexual abuse scandal – though that shines a particularly harsh light – but much more generally. Any reasonably informed Catholic knows that incompetence and maladministration are rife in the Church, and that there’s a serious leadership vacuum at the episcopal level. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a utopian. I don’t demand that all of our bishops be inspiring leaders, competent administrators, intelligent theologians and articulate spokesmen in the public square. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope that a few of them might tick at least one of those boxes. Cardinal Ouellet, please take note.
  • I’d like to see better liturgy. Again, I’m not one of these super-traddies who rejects the Novus Ordo and all its works and pomps. I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a bit of quality control. Fewer out-of-tune guitars, fewer tie-dyed polyester vestments, fewer earthenware vessels and fewer godawful Yoof Masses would be a start. And the Traditional Latin Mass (not to mention the rather beautiful Gaelic liturgy) to be made readily available for those who want it.
  • I have a low tolerance threshold for sectarianism. This may to some extent be a north of Ireland thing, in that I’m more sensitive to sectarianism and less willing to let it go by unchallenged. But the papal visit to Britain brought into rather sharp focus how Romophobic tubthumping has become acceptable, even trendy, in polite society and particularly in left-liberal circles. One positive aspect to that may be that an increasing number of Catholics are willing to speak up, rather than studiously pretending not to notice anything as their parents’ generation might have done.
  • Finally, attacking the hypocrisy of the Tablet is its own reward.

So, there you have it. Will I be coming back on a regular basis? I don’t want to make rash promises, but there is still plenty I’d like to say – plenty that needs to be said, and that I’m not sure anyone else is rushing to do. People keep asking me when I’m coming back. Titus Oates has been having much too easy a time of it in my absence, and I’d hate to think that Ma Pepsi having the Tablet office swept for bugs was all in vain.

Besides, like I say, born troublemaker and all that. So watch this space. And for those of you who’ve hung around, and especially those who’ve left positive feedback, thanks. It really does mean a lot.

Rud eile: I really shouldn’t have to say this but evidently I do – if you’re going to leave comments, play nice. It’s never been an ambition of mine to own my own bearpit.

Here’s tae us, wha’s like us? Damn few, an’ they’re aw deid!

Let us see if we can find some disturbances in the Force. Here’s something from our old friend Titus Oates of the National Sanderson Society:

The first thing I want to say is that the Protest the Pope campaign is not anti-Catholic. Some Catholic bloggers have tried to portray us as some kind of off-shoot of the Orange order, but this simply isn’t true.

That’s right, the leader of the most bigoted anti-Catholic organisation in the British Isles is upset because some people may think that his latest anti-Catholic campaign is, er, anti-Catholic. Wherever could they have got that idea? Perhaps by reading the NSS website? Or being aware of Mr Oates’ habit of conducting personal vendettas against even the most humble papist who hoves into his line of vision?

I do notice, incidentally, that over the last couple of weeks the No Popery Coalition has been featuring disclaimers on its propaganda claiming that it isn’t anti-Catholic. This rings a little hollow, since the Coalition hasn’t withdrawn any of its wilder assertions or toned down the Guy Fawkes language, but a month ago they weren’t even bothering with a token disclaimer. Evidently a nerve has been hit.

Oh yes, there was this other comment from none other than Ma Pepsi:

Catherine Pepinster, editor of the influential Catholic weekly the Tablet, offers a more nuanced assessment. “If you developed an interest in British Catholicism by reading the various ‘Catholic’ blogs that have sprung up in recent years, you would conclude that we are in the midst of vicious cultural wars,” she says. “But when you get to the parishes, nobody seems to be at anyone else’s throat.”

Well, there was that unfortunate episode in Blackfen, of which Ma Pepsi is well aware. But beyond that, and yes, we do know that the Peppermint Spinster is in the habit of railing against these pernicious “web-logs”, but could this be Ma admitting that she actually reads them? Presumably she means the destructive role played by blogs like this one, or this one, or indeed this one here.

Finally, while we’re in trumpet-blowing mode, the Dale fella has been releasing his big list of the most popular blogs in the sphere. The safest bet there is for Slugger to top the Norn Iron standings, which it deservedly does for yet another year, but it’s with great aw-shucksitude and no little astonishment that your humble host finds himself in the runner-up position. Do take a look at some of the others on the list, for there’s some powerful stuff there:

1 (1) Slugger O’Toole
2 Splintered Sunrise
3 (3) A Pint of Unionist Lite
4 (2) Three Thousand Versts
5 (5) A Tangled Web
6 Open Unionism
7 (14) Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland
8 (10) 1690 & All Thon
9 (7) Bobballs
10 (6) Ulster’s Doomed
11 Ultonia
12 Bavarian Orange Order
13 (8) Devenport Diaries
14 Alan in Belfast
15 Hand of History
16 (18) O’Conall Street
17 Jeff Peel’s Diary
18 Burke’s Corner
19 (20) The Dissenter
20 East Belfast Diary

Notable that much of the energy in our local ‘sphere is with moderate unionism, a political creed that’s nain too healthy in meatspace. But if it’s providing some good reading on the blogs, I’m not complaining.

Farewell Horseman

It’s with some sadness that I learn, via Mick, of the sudden death of one of the pillars of our local blogosphere. I refer of course to Horseman, the anonymous genius behind the gloriously named Ulster’s Doomed!, who passed away on Monday. I never knew the man, but he’d been a fixture for so long you got a strong sense of the voice and the mind.

Horseman was idiosyncratic in some ways, being strongly nationalist but also of a right-of-centre, anti-statist bent. His particular interest was in demographic shift, and the way in which unionism has gone in little more than a generation from a secure majority to a bare majority and would appear to be heading towards a mere plurality – something that in itself has been a major background factor in changing the rules of the political game here. Sometimes mocked as a one-trick pony, he did have a good trick that he did well, bringing intelligence, rigour and wit to his chosen subject, an area that in other hands could have been dry as dust. I’m sure that when the results of next year’s census come out, many of us will feel the lack of Horseman poring over the numbers – perhaps someone might feel inspired to take up his work, though it would be tough going to match the master.

So, farewell then, Horseman. We’ll miss your acerbic graphs and mordant spreadsheets. By way of tribute, here are links to a few of my particular favourites from the Ulster’s Doomed! back catalogue, a greatest hits if you will. You could do much worse than head over there and rummage around in the archives yourself.

Is unionism a cargo cult? (17 April 2007)
A political generation (18 November 2008)
Belfast City Council
(23 November 2008) – part of a series of district profiles, and you know how we like those…
The Glorious Revolution and Mary Stuart
(13 February 2009)
UCUNF and the Irish language (27 May 2009)
Who votes for Alliance, and why? (12 June 2009)
Scotland (26 June 2009) – check out the pic!
Allister’s speech as a word cloud (9 November 2009)
1930: the County Mayo librarian case (8 December 2009)
O’Loan sent to detention (25 May 2010)

Seven figures

Things have been a bit slow around here, I know, due to, well, other things to do and a bit of general tiredness. That said, and though I don’t usually do statporn, it is a bit bracing to see the hits counter pass the million mark. Frankly, given how esoteric a lot of the material is, it’s astounding. But thanks for dropping by, and let’s see if we can carry on with entertaining, informing and provoking for a while yet.

Oh, and enjoy the vid. Why do they never play stuff like this on I Love The Eighties?

Search of the week

And so it’s a welcome return for our popular occasional feature, as a brief perusal of the site stats shows up some interesting searches. For example, there have been several today for sarah carey nude, presumably from horny teenage Blueshirts who really shouldn’t be allowed internet access.

While we’re on the salacious, someone is looking for debee ashby basque – if that’s Dave Osler, be careful about goading me or you might get an actual post on Debs’ contours – and someone else is looking for lisburn sluts. Meanwhile, a googler asks the question what country’s women has the nicest tits? I would say that was very much a matter of individual taste.

On more political themes, someone is interested in george galloway kylie arse, and a student of left sectariana wants to know about david hugh vipond (cpi-ml). Someone is looking for history of greeks non payment of taxes – that might be an extensive history – and someone else for inuits fought in world war – I’m sure some did, probably in the Canadian army.

I was also quite taken on getting a search for the great cornholio, but there can be only one winner, and that is the googler who came here looking for john rees men at work. I had no idea the renowned Leninist guru was an aficionado of 1980s Australian pop music, but why not? Imagine my disappointment, then, on learning that this refers to an entirely different John Rees who used to play bass in Men At Work. Still, any excuse:

Cocktail time

I’ve just heard that friend and comrade Madam Miaow is on the longlist for the blogging category of the Orwell Prize. For a very well deserved slot in the final fourteen, congratulations are in order. Also from the extended family, a big shout out to Dave and Laurie; and (as a viewer of Law & Order) I should also mention that Jack of Kent and PC Bloggs are among my regular reads. Best of luck to all concerned.

Your humble scribe is not there, but is in the shortlist for the News and Current Affairs category (sponsored by dediserve) at the Irish Blog Awards this weekend. The other finalists in the category are Ireland’s cleverest man David McWilliams, Human Rights in Ireland, Bock the Robber and Maman Poulet. One will not, unfortunately, be in Gaillimh for the big event; but big up everybody in any case, and good luck to the nordies entered – not many of us, sure, but quality over quantity. And while youse are all partying, I will be having a nice quiet weekend with a cup of tea, a chocolate gravy ring and some Dr Feelgood (or it may be King Crimson, one never knows) on the music box.

And, while we’re in backslapping mode, Kerry has made a Top 10 political blogs list in the Grauniad, and His Hermeneuticalness has passed two million hits. Irie!

Meascra na mblaganna

Did we miss out on doing a blog roundup last week? I see we did, so it’s a good time to do one now.

Not from the blogs, but interesting nonetheless: UDA supremo Jackie McDonald says the Orange Order should forget about marching down the Garvaghy Road. Given the *ahem* supportive role that the men in dark glasses have previously played to the men in bowler hats, this has some significance. Unsurprisingly, the Orange think Hard Bap is being unhelpful.

Liam is unimpressed by the Norn Iron health authorities producing glossy leaflets instructing the monoglot Ulster-Scots speaker in how to wash his hands. Bobballs has some thoughts on TV’s Mike Nesbitt going up as the Official Unionist candidate in Strangford – has unionism found its own George Lee? And Jude weighs in on the Willie O’Dea saga.

Over at Liberal Conspiracy, there’s been an entertaining barney going on whereby Laurie Penny opinionates on destructive behaviour on the left, while that nice wee man Mr L Tombs responds with a defence of the SWP. Neither piece is unproblematic if you really want to pick at the problem, but if you take it in general terms, I think both of them have a good point.

On the ongoing matter of Amnesty, Moazzam Begg and Gita Sahgal, I have to mention the sterling work being done by Sunny and Harpy, but a special shout out to Flying Rodent, who’s just done a definitive summary. Meanwhile, Jamie has a thought experiment on how a Chinese embassy staffer would view this.

In the world of music, Madam Miaow has been to see Beck and Clapton at the O2, and further laments the pending sale of Abbey Road studios. Liam takes a dusty view of famous human rights campaigner Sting’s trip to Uzbekistan. And the sometimes deeply weird L’Osservatore Romano gives a list of the Vatican’s top 10 albums for a desert island, including Revolver and Thriller (fair enough), but then going straight to the bottom of the barrel with U2 and Oasis. Father Z is not impressed.

On matters of speech and legality, which we have had some reason to think about lately, Third Estate argues against Peter Tatchell’s case for statutory press regulation; Jack of Kent has a preview of Simon Singh’s appearance at the Court of Appeal; and Lucifee concludes her brilliant series on libel law.

Clare is running for election; Unknown Conscience has an impressively chunky reflection on New Labour and education; Salma Yaqoob has an article on British Muslim women; and Stumbling Chris deplores the cult of youth in politics. Update: I’d unaccountably missed this excellent coverage of the Edinburgh SDL march. (Thanks, Dave.)

On boingboing, so you’ve probably already seen it, but this study of the sexual practices of MIT students caught my eye. In particular, the concept of “floorcest”, which seems to be a taboo against getting your leg over with someone on the same floor of your dorm building. That’s one for the anthropologists.

Finally, an appeal. Have you seen this wee man?

Meascra na mblaganna

I’ll be doing an overview of the latest developments in local politics separately, but there’s still plenty of interest in this blog roundup. To begin with, we have the sad news of the death of Tomás Mac Giolla, formerly long-time president of (Official) Sinn Féin and latterly the Workers’ Party, at the age of 86. Garibaldy has an obituary, WorldbyStorm notes a remarkably candid interview, and Conor reproduces a clip of the great man at last September’s Desmond Greaves School, in one of his final public appearances.

For jaw-dropping moments, Madam Miaow is not taken in by Alistair Campbell’s tearful performance on the Andrew Marr show; almost as offensive are comments by the egregious Lorna Fitzsimons, noted by Neil. Across the pond, Gryphen takes a look at the Crazy Woman’s speech to a convention of racist lunatics, while Jacob Weisberg is taken to task.

It’s been a good week for reviews. Malachi does C4’s Mo Mowlam biopic, while Coatesy tackles Francis Wheen’s Strange Days Indeed. Fight Back! covers what looks like an interesting book on the Colombian FARC. And you always get good international stories from the PSL: there’s Venezuela cancelling Haitian debt (quite a while before the G7), coverage of Cuban relief efforts in Haiti, and the continuing story of Vieques residents’ battle against the US military. Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Vietnam celebrates its 80th birthday.

Leaving aside the media shitstorm around Pope Benny’s address to the English bishops, there are plenty of other juicy religious stories. The Scottish bishops have just had their ad limina, and as Mulier Fortis notes, got off without the coded rebuke aimed at their English counterparts. Rocco looks forward to the Irish bishops’ upcoming crisis summit in Rome. Meanwhile, Rankin’ Dave Cameron is attempting to bring the C of E’s doctrine into harmony with contemporary moral attitudes, as Ruthie reports; Cranmer is unimpressed, as is His Hermeneuticalness. Will gives us the SP on the race to be the next Presbyterian Moderator. And, in the funniest blog post I’ve read for a good while, Paulinus has a plan of almost Baldrickeque cunning for slapping it up Titus Oates. Fr Ray reckons it’s a good idea, while his commentariat are a bit more sceptical.

Here’s a good piece on the politics of climate change denial; Anton despairs of tabloid headline writers’ treatment of John Terry; Red Maria is annoyed at the Ukrainian government’s award of a posthumous honour to Stepan Bandera; and Professor Billy McWilliams is richt scundered at the lack of Ulster-Scots content at the Ulster Museum.

Links has a critical assessment of Slavoj Žižek, while Luna17 returns to Gramsci, this time on the united front. Socialist Resistance carries an opinion piece on recent happenings in the SWP. Aaro Watch has the ongoing Nick and Martin saga. I’m very taken by Jamie’s ascribing to New Labour of the practice of Chinese legalism. And finally, I’ve just seen this rather strange piece from the Cleverest Man In Ireland. Any suggestions as to what David actually means would be gratefully received.

The rogues’ gallery, and a wee bit of meta-blogging

Well, the entries for the Orwell Prize are out, and your humble host is among the 164 eligible contenders in the blogging category. I stress, of course, that the OP is self-nominating, and the fact that you’re an entrant doesn’t betoken anything beyond your ability to fill out the online form. We shall await the longlists for a sense of what’s being looked for.

Nonetheless, I recognise a good lot of those on the list. It’s nice to see some of the extended family there, of course, and some of my regular reads are there too. There are only a couple that I recognise as downright stinkers, although somebody must like them, and there are lots that I look forward to discovering. Besides, how often are you likely to find yourself on a list with such elevated company as Peter Hitchens or Stephanie Flanders?

And if we look amongst the entries, we can see some of the features of a successful blog. Of course, blog ipsus loquitur, and you find your own way to make it work, but it helps to have a particular selling point – maybe not a unique one, but one you do well. The two aforementioned are actually good examples, especially since quite a few traditional journalists are clueless about new media when not actually hostile – someone somewhere else paraphrased Orwell in this sense as “Freedom of speech, if it means anything, means journalists not having to be told they’re wrong.” Peter Hitchens, on the other hand, despite his carefully cultivated image as a reactionary fogey, embraces interactivity – being a man who loves nothing better than to argue about political ideas, he’s a blogging natural.

Another approach is taken by Stephanomics. You’ll know Stephanie Flanders from her regular appearances on the BBC news where she talks about productivity figures or quantitative easing. But there are limits to what you can say in a ninety-second package on the evening news, and Steph likes to use her blogging space to show off her economics expertise and go into the sort of detail about her field that the TV medium doesn’t really allow for.

Particular knowledge about your field does help with building up the audience. If you want to know about legal issues, Jack of Kent is your man. If you want to know about matters religious, Archbishop Cranmer is a must. (Despite my well-known taste for traditionalist Catholic blogs, I’ll cut some slack to a conservative Anglican.) Anton is great at skewering tabloid culture. PC Bloggs is deeply entertaining about the forces of law and order. More locally, Chekov can tell you everything you ever wanted to know and more about the strangely fascinating world of UCUNF.

It also helps that all these people can write. You could be emeritus professor of blogging at Oxford University, and it wouldn’t do you any good if you wrote like some slobbering imbecile from Have Your Say. Maybe the Orwellian dictum of making an art of political writing is a bit highfalutin, but you should at least aim to be an enjoyable read. And apropos of this, I’ve just come across these Ten Commandments, which may be worth pondering. (Via.)

Now to more political business. As the 27th most influential Labour blogger (according to Total Politics), I am frequently asked how the left of the blogosphere can make itself more effective. There’s recently been some interesting commentary on this theme here, here and here, and I have been meaning at some point to come back in detail on this. But I do have a few thoughts that I’d like to touch on here.

Statisticians recognise three types of error. There’s the false positive (type I); there’s the false negative (type II); and there’s the wonderful type III error, where your answer may be correct but isn’t meaningful because you’ve asked the wrong question. The Man Who Invented Blogging used to have a theme of asking why the left was so useless at blogging, and concluded that this was because the internet was natural territory for the entrepreneurial right. This is a type III error.

In the first place, Iain always conflated “the left” with “Labour”, meaning that a highly successful blog like Lenin’s Tomb – not to mention a whole thriving culture of socialist blogs outwith the Labour Party – simply failed to appear on the radar. Secondly, I think it is an error to ask why the left doesn’t have an analogue to Iain Dale, Tim Montgomerie or Guido. As Phil explains:

But there is a certain blindness to the conditions that made the big three of Tory blogging so big – a mix of a less crowded blogging market place and pre-existing relationships with insiders that allow Iain and Guido to break Westminster gossip, and for ConHome to steal a march on policy announcements are better explanations than self-serving bollocks about the internet being natural Tory territory.

This is true, and there’s a further point to be made in that many Labour heads (but not, say, Kerry, who does understand social media) were in thrall to this narrative – they saw what the Tories had and wanted their own. Hence the misguided search for a “Red Guido” which led to the Draper debacle. Recently the centre-left has been getting its act together by doing different things – the evidence-based policy-centred approach of Left Foot Forward is particularly appealing. Generally, I like the idea of the progressive (centre-left as well as socialist left) blogosphere being a pluricentric ecology rather than revolving around two or three big stars.

Which is not to say that the left can’t learn from the right. Some of the bigger left-of-Labour blogs have much higher traffic than specifically Labour-identified ones, but there are still bad old leftist habits. One thing that’s impressive about the Tory bloggers is that, though they have disagreements, they don’t escalate into nuclear polemic – they do recognise each other as being on basically the same side – and also, they link to each other assiduously. Compare that with the far-left blogs, where in some particular cases, a mixture of sectarian dogmatism and personality clashes leads to long-running feuds, and in one or two cases putatively socialist blogs that do little except run furious denunciations of other socialists.

The question of linkage comes into this, too. On this, I’d say it depends what tasks you set yourself. Lenin’s Tomb rarely does links, but that’s reasonable enough given it’s really about providing a platform for Richard’s (consistently excellent) writing. On the other hand, sites like Socialist Unity or Liberal Conspiracy, which are centrally to do with coalition-building and putting together a broad community of online progressive politics, do quite a lot, and so they should. I don’t see that everybody should be linking all the time, but a culture of backscratching rather than backstabbing would be an improvement.

There are happy mediums. It’s like saying your comments box either has to be an unmoderated bearpit, or be so heavily moderated that it starts to look like the Pravda letters page. Managed correctly, the comments box is your friend, pulling you up on factual mistakes or sloppy argumentation, and helping you clarify your argument. This is especially so if, like me, you have a tendency to run freewheeling – and sometimes half-baked – think-pieces that end up in unpredictable places, and the process of writing – and the further process of feedback – can be a great help to thinking things through.

There is also, if you’re willing to be laid-back enough, a chance at cross-pollination of ideas. In the real world, members of rival left groups don’t all that often get the opportunity to discuss politics in an in-depth way with each other, and non-party leftists even less so. Online, that can happen at any time. And, as a countervailing force to keyboard rage, you can take a catholic approach to discussion. There are those on the dogmatic left who will argue that the Labour Party, or the Greens, or Respect, are politically unsupportable. Fair enough, you can argue that in a formal sense, but it’s much harder to say that they are outside the realms of dialogue. Spending time arguing with people who don’t agree with you is the best proof against sectarianism; sitting in small rooms with people who agree on everything often has the opposite effect.

Finally, it’s important, when you’ve decided what to do, to follow through with it. I can immediately think of one ambitious centre-left blogger who talks the talk about coalition-building, and is even quite eloquent on some constituencies that might be excluded, but who has a shocking record of blanking potential allies, and will basically not engage with anyone who isn’t either (a) part of a very small coterie of mates, (b) incredibly sycophantic, or (c) a complete moron who can then be easily demolished. Apart from being bad manners, it actually contradicts what the writer has ostensibly set out to do. You know, even if you can’t easily come up with a winning strategy, there is enough intelligence out there to avoid actively self-defeating strategies. One would hope. Sin é.

Meascra na mblaganna

It’s a good long while since we’ve done a blog roundup here, which in itself is a good enough reason to do one now. Here are a few stories from around the interwebs that have caught my eye in the last week or so.

The big news has been Mr Tony Blair’s demonstration of ham acting at the Chilcot Inquiry. A big shout out to the indefatigable Madam Miaow for being able to sit through it all and give us a balanced assessment; George Pitcher’s reflections on this have been genuinely excellent; and Chris has a thought on sincerity and egotism.

Locally, the P&J negotiations are ongoing, but there has been consternation at Reg Empey dipping his toe into the “unionist unity” quagmire. Mark has an assessment, whilst Chekov says Reggie’s got some ‘splainin’ to do. Meanwhile, Daithí reports that Ballymoney council are still hostile to erecting street signs as Gaeilge.

I was just mentioning a few days ago Pope Benny’s call on priests to get blogging. Via Father Z, the Catholic Herald takes this opportunity to big up priestly bloggers, in particular His Hermeneuticalness. Elsewhere in the world of religion, the Salvadorean hierarchy is campaigning to get Archbishop Romero beatified; Sandro Magister has details on Catholic-Orthodox unity discussions; young Damo points us to this wonderfully bitchy pisstake of the ageing hippies behind “Stand Up For Vatican II”; and while Cranmer is unamused by the latest outburst from Pope Dawkins, George is a bit more sanguine:

Dawkers is a great recruiting officer for faith. He repels tolerant atheists and inspires uncommitted inquirers to look further into what he so ludicrously and entertainingly misrepresents. I think he should be made an honorary bishop.

Yesterday was Ken Livingstone’s big Progressive London hootenanny. Sunny and Andy were there and give us reports, while Adam is droll on the matter. Elsewhere on the left, the RCN has a thought-provoking analysis of perspectives for the Scottish Socialist Party.

The PFLP has a tribute to Dr George Habash on the second anniversary of his death, while Phil at Progressive Alaska reflects on how difficult an issue Palestine is for American progressives. Tabloid Watch does a brilliant deconstruction of how the Daily Star uses reality shows to manufacture lurid front-page splashes that turn out to be complete bollocks. And in fashion news, Tesco bans the Lower Falls Tracksuit.

Finally, in tune with this blog’s unerring instinct for the lowest common denominator, I couldn’t resist this story, via Jamie:

Australian Classification Board (ACB) is now banning depictions of small-breasted women in adult publications and films. They banned mainstream pornography from showing women with A-cup breasts, apparently on the grounds that they encourage paedophilia, and in spite of the fact this is a normal breast size for many adult women.

Now, sophisticated journalistic techniques (Google) reveal that this isn’t quite true. The Aussie censors are in fact cracking down on the “barely legal” genre featuring actresses who are over 18 but look younger. In any case, the only Aussie porn star I can think of is Angela White, and given her proportions she has nothing to worry about. In fact, she’ll probably be in the inevitable Fosters ad about how everything’s bigger in Australia.

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