January 9th, 2011


Delicious LiveJournal Links for 1-9-2011

  • 'I will not identify the minister unless he chooses to put up his hand. However I should clarify two points. Firstly, the reference to Tokaji wine was intended to give a sense of the flow of time and of argument over an extended conversation, not to imply that the minister's tongue was loosened by the flowing alcohol. My interlocutor was sober; which makes his admission all the more brave and interesting. The second point is: what precisely was the minister referring to when he acknowledged that the government had “fucked it up”? He has called me to explain that he was only talking about the government's presentation of its case: the timing of the law (on the eve of Hungary's EU presidency) and the failure to appreciate quite what a row it would provoke in the rest of Europe. He still stands by the need for the legislation and its substance. I accept his clarification.'
    (tags: hungary)
  • 'Over a long dinner assisted by the expertise of the specially-appointed “EU presidency sommelier” one minister first claimed the media law was no different from other European countries. He later admitted that it was, indeed, more stringent than similar laws elsewhere. “You have to understand, this is central Europe, where there is anti-Semitism and anti-gypsy sentiment. The government has to protect people.” By the time the sweet Tokaji dessert wine was poured he conceded: “OK, we fucked it up."'
    (tags: hungary)
  • "The reactions to WikiLeaks share one abiding characteristic, so obvious that it can easily be overlooked, namely an unwillingness to address with any sophistication or seriousness the complex and everchanging world that the US -- and all of us -- must now deal with. The prevailing and lazy assumption is implied but all too clear: that the foreign policy élite, and government, should be left to get on with the job, with whatever secrecy that they demand. ... So far WikiLeaks has produced a reaction all too symptomatic of our troubled democracy. Instead of informed debate, hysteria and told-you-so complacency. This reaction is perhaps the most important -- and devastating -- consequence of WikiLeaks, and the one that should give us the most pause."

Getting rid of Amazon; problems with The Book Depository

A year ago I deleted all my book reviews from Amazon. Yesterday and today, sparked by Amazon's antics in Illinois (which I first learned about from the estimable shsilver, covered in more detail here), I have invested a tedious but necessary hour or so into pulling all my Amazon affiliate links from my website. This doesn't hurt me very much - I see that I have earned the glorious total of £8.32 since 2005, so my personal finances can take the hit for my principled stand - and while the absolute monetary impact in lost sales to Amazon will be somewhat greater than that, I'm sure the relative impact is almost invisible. However, I think that they are not just incompetent but actively evil, and have no interest in supporting them any more than I have to.

I've moved most of my online purchase of new books to The Book Depository, at the recommendation of peteyoung, saare_snowqueen, and several Facebook friends. It's not without its flaws. Collapse )

I see that The Book Depository also has an affiliate scheme, but I'm not sure if I want to invest the time and effort into adding their links to my website, or any other space I control, until I feel a bit more confident that they are getting their act together. And I'm on the lookout still for competent alternatives.

Gibbon Chapter XXXIX: Theodoric and Boethius

Theodoric the Ostrogoth conquers Italy with the agreement of the Eastern Empire and consent of the local Romans; he co-opts two remarkable Latin statesmen, Boethius and Cassiodorus, to his regime but the former is executed. It's a well-written chapter - frankly a bit better structured than the somewhat rambling end to the original third volume - though the accounts are of a dull set of Eastern successions and then a competent but unexciting consolidation of power in Italy and points west by Theodoric. If anything I think Gibbon could have made more of the remarkable circumstance of Theodoric appointing two of the leading scholars of the day as his chief ministers. I expand on this point further.