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THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO A NEW SITE.

PLEASE GO TO.................www.clivedavis-online.com
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THE LAST POST

I suddenly feel quite sentimental about leaving Blogger, in spite of the problems I’ve had in the past. I’d still recommend it to anyone who wants to test-drive a blog. The good points definitely outweigh the bad.
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OFF-LINE

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been busy setting up the new site. Should be ready later today.
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PICTURE PUN OF THE DAY

Yes, definitely a cracker.
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DINOSAURS R US

The Telegraph notes that Michael Howard's campaign manager, Lynton Crosby has been given a tour of the heritage trail
:

Lord Strathclyde and the party treasurer, Jonathan Marland, took Crosby to Brooks's Club so that he could see something quintessentially English before returning to Australia.

Very quintessential. No wonder voters believe the Conservatives belong on another planet. I've always thought Howard's main problem is that he comes across as a star turn at the Cambridge Union. As he ponders the Tory leader's decision to bow out, columnist
Charles Moore also thinks there is something of the mortar board about him:

Never forget that Michael Howard is a product of student politics - the early 1960s student politics of the Cambridge University Conservative Association, when he vied with John Selwyn Gummer, Leon Brittan, Norman Lamont, Kenneth Clarke and Norman Fowler for the paper hats of undergraduate office. This coup that he has committed against himself is a classic CUCA manoeuvre - secretive, conspiratorial, overcomplicated, probably calculated to benefit some chum or other, so clever that it is stupid.

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JAZZ CONCERT OF THE YEAR?

Ahmad Jamal at the Barbican last night. One hour and forty-five minutes of bliss. And he played "Poinciana" too.

He was a key influence on Miles Davis - Diana Krall loves his music as well - but lots of people still say "Ahmad who?" If you want to make his acquaintance, try these two live albums.
|||Clive|||http://www.clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/05/jazz-concert-of-year-ahmad-jamal-at.html|||5/07/2005 12:03:00 am|||http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6074196&postID=111546387928913745|||location.href=http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6074196&postID=111546387928913745;|||0||||||5/06/2005|||111539577659887389||||||
TWILIGHT OF THE OPERA

Judy Garland meets Hamas? Crooked Timber's Chris Bertram is still scratching his head over the Coliseum's latest Wagner production:

If a producer can give us a new insight into a work of art, or make it come alive or a modern audience, that is ok by me. But this wasn’t anything like that. It was gratuitous and exploitative. (This was signalled before the performance even started by the programme, which contained photographs of the Twin Towers burning, a severed hand amidst post-Tsunami debris, and cows being burnt in Britain’s last episode of foot-and-mouth disease.) The culmination of this urge to grab hold of any random news image or bit of popular culture for shock value was the portrayal of Brunnhilde as a suicide bomber in Act 3. In between we were treated to Siegfried as rhinestone cowboy and Brunnhilde as Judy Garland (opening of Act 1) and Hagen as game-show host (wedding in Act 2). Why does Judy Garland metamorphose into a Palestinian suicide bomber?! I have absolutely no idea.

Utter crap.

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RUDDERLESS

Just when I was beginning to think I'd mis-underestimated Michael Howard, he decides to announce he's leaving. I know the parting of the ways had to come sooner or later, but why couldn't he have stayed quiet, gently shuffled the deck, and watched Labour take the heat for a while? Baffling. Columnist Daniel Johnson is dismayed too. He suggests the Tories might done better to have stuck with Iain Duncan Smith after all:

It is a myth that Howard relaunched the Tories with new policies that were attractive to the electorate. What he did was to strip out any policies that might have appealed to the kind of liberal middle class voters who defected to Tony Blair in 1997....Duncan Smith had intended to emphasize the contrast between Tory and Labour economic and social policies, but also bury the negative image of the Tories as the “nasty party”. He wanted a combination of big tax cuts to appeal to self-interest, plus “compassionate conservative” self-help policies for “the vulnerable” to appeal to middle-class altruism...

But would IDS ever have overcome the charisma gap? I doubt it, although I'm very curious to see what happens with his think tank. Johnson, meanwhile, sees dangers in Howard's immediate legacy:

[H]is failure as a leader is likely to be compounded by his intention to change the rules of the leadership contest to replace him. The very idea that a leader should be allowed to rig the system to ensure that his own nominee is elected should be a non-starter. But Howard will probably get away with it. If he cannot now be king (by the next election he will be nearly 70), he has set his heart on being the kingmaker. And because he knows that the “Notting Hill Tories” (a liberal, privileged coterie whom he has sedulously promoted) are unlikely to be chosen by the party members, he wants to restore the exclusive right to elect the leader to the parliamentary party. This was the system that overthrew Margaret Thatcher in 1990, an act of matricide from which the party has never quite recovered.


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GUIDE LINES

The on-line behemoth, Wikipedia gets an unflattering review from Slate. The criticisms seem a little over-done to me. But they're mild indeed compared with the lashing that the New Criterion hands out to the latest giant tome from the Cambridge University Press.
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THE MORNING AFTER

Mixed signals everywhere. The Tories were never totally credible, but they made the beginnings of the comeback that should have started, but didn’t, four years ago. The Lib Dems’ much-trumpeted "decapitation" strategy didn’t work, but they picked up votes all the same. I think Tony Blair deserved to win, judged solely on Iraq (which is, it goes without saying, the reason so many voters turned against him). Will he be dumped by Labour MPs after a few months? I honestly can’t see it happening - he’s steelier than he sometimes appears. (How astute will Gordon Brown look when the economy dips, as the Economist says it will?) But if Blair is forced out, Iain Murray foresees a silver lining:

I have a suspicion that this election restores business as usual. If Brown moves Labour to the Left, centrists will return to the Tories.

Worst news of the night? George Galloway’s win. (Although it’s hard to shed too many tears for Oona King, the woman who described the US as a f***ing f***ed-up power.") Good news? Jack Straw held out against anti-war sentiment in Blackburn. And the Tories now have a black MP.

I hope Stephen Pollard entered his national results prediction in Norm’s book. He stands a good chance of winning. I’ll draw a veil over mine.
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MEDIA COVERAGE QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Emily Bell, in the Guardian’s election blog:

The BBC - which is currently demonstrating that unique funding is a short road to ridiculous overspending on strange election geegaws - is getting what look like enthusiastic 6th formers to paint in all the constituencies on a giant floor map. It looks a right mess, and as one youth put it "It's very difficult - the constituencies all have funny names and we don't know where they are", which is a great endorsement of the improvements in education over the last eight years.

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GALLOWAY WATCH

Early signs that the Bethnal Green vote is leaning towards him, although Red Pepper thinks otherwise. I hope Rageh Omaar has his tin helmet with him.

For the national picture, a useful map here.

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CHORUS LINE, PARTY LINE

There I was, enjoying Janie Dee's breezy performance at the Shaw Theatre when she broke off from the song and dance to recite Harold Pinter's poem, "God Bless America". You know, the blood-soaked one that rails at "The Yanks in their armoured parade..."

I'm not really surprised by this kind of thing any more. Just a couple of weeks after 9/11, I heard Kate Dimbleby cover Randy Newman's "Political Science" (a brilliant number, even if you don't care for the sentiments). As soon as she'd finished, she tore down the Stars and Stripes which had appeared at the back of the set.

That really did shock me. Now, I almost expect it to happen.
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THROUGH THE NIGHT

Well, it looks as if my poll prediction bit the dust early on - unless the exit polls have taken a Kerry-esque turn.

There's the promise of spirited live-blogging in the comments section of Harry's Place, with Peter Cuthbertson in the blue corner. A tempting alternative to watching Peter Snow wave his arms around, and certainly a lot more interesting than hearing Joan Collins burble away on ITV's celebrity panel.

Iain Murray is live-blogging too.
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CULTURE SHOCK

Back home in Portland after his trip to Lebanon, Michael J. Totten is still getting used to not fretting about car bombs and secret policemen:

When I wake up in the morning I still think I'm in Beirut and that these are some of the things I'll have to contend with during my day. Then I open my eyes and am first disoriented then shocked that I'm so far away from where I thought I was. I look at the newspaper and think: Iraq looks like a country that has some serious problems. But America is fat, content, and happy. Life in this country is experienced the way a cat experiences a nap in the sun compared to the way Middle Easterners live. I'll forget this in a week or so, but for now that's how it looks.

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FEVER PITCH

I live in a marginal seat, yet I’ve only seen a dozen posters all day on my travels. What does that tell about you this campaign?
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A TALE OF TWO PRESS PACKS

Janet Street-Porter, a guest at the White House correspondents’ dinner, was charmed by all that DC decorum (subscriber-link-only) :

I just couldn’t imagine it happening in Britain. America, the country we’ve spent so long mocking as a load of xenophobic, uncultured, obese simpletons, has turned out to possess in spades the one quality that has been missing at every level from our election campaign: good manners.

I know, it’s a bit ironic, coming from the pioneer of in-yer-face "yoof" TV, but we live and learn. Compare and contrast with Sarah Lyall’s account of the antics she witnessed at the recent British Press Awards.
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THE BIG DAY

In the end, I didn’t have a chance to do the arithmetic for Norm’s polling book, but my guess for the day is a Labour majority of 105. (Yes, I’m even more dubious about the Tory vote than I was yesterday.) Turn-out: 58%.
|||Clive|||http://www.clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/05/big-day-in-end-i-didnt-have-chance-to.html|||5/05/2005 09:30:00 am|||http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6074196&postID=111528192071807326|||location.href=http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6074196&postID=111528192071807326;|||0||||||5/04/2005|||111522447078012221||||||
SCHEER AGONY

David Horowitz’s memoir, Radical Son contains a portrait of activist Robert Scheer that reaches almost Dickensian heights of disdain. (The chapter on Bertrand Russell is a treat too.) Horowitz goes after his old comrade again in his latest Front Page column. The headline says it all: Is Robert Scheer The Biggest Ignoramus in American Journalism?
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A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

"Shaming", "shocking", "cardboard thin", "characterless", "sorry spectacle", "vanity project", "futile", "dodgy", "kitsch, cliche and doggerel", "writing that might have been left over from Lionel Bart's Oliver". . .

It’s safe to say that the Guardian’s critic did not enjoy himself at the controversial Royal Opera House premiere of "1984"

The newspaper ads will, of course, read: "Shocking...spectacle...might..." -- The Guardian.
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URBAN MYTH

The story of Tony Blair telling fibs about watching Fifties football legend, Jackie Milburn has long been a staple of the "He tells lies all the time" campaign.


Sadly for the Lib Dems and other monomaniacs, it turns out the accusation doesn't stand up.
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ONE DAY TO GO

I feel guilty for not having blogged more on the general election but, like a lot of other people, I haven’t been able to work up enough enthusiasm. I just can’t see Blair’s majority sinking below 85-90 seats. And I’ve certainly had enough of hearing John Humphrys and Jeremy Paxman doing their cranky old men act.

Is a boring contest for the centre ground necessarily a bad thing? Daniel Finkelstein certainly has a point.

A couple of things about the Tory campaign still puzzle me. Why does Michael Howard think that endless, unbearably folksy footage of him running up and down suburban streets is going to impress anyone? And, unless I’ve been dozing, why haven’t I seen him surrounded by all those ethnic minority candidates we keep hearing about? Wouldn’t that have been the obvious way to counter the accusations of racism? His campaign team seems intent on making things very easy for the other side. Or am I missing something obvious?

On the radio, I just heard that David Davis looks like winning his seat. Good news, for a change. If he hangs on, and George Galloway loses, I'll be a reasonably happy man tomorrow night.
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CAMPUS FOLLIES

Austin Bay recommends Roger Kimball's New Criterion essay, "Retaking the university: a battle plan". With the Ward Churchill case uppermost in his mind, Kimball examines “the predictable result of institutions that have gradually abandoned their commitment to education for the sake of radical posturing.” It’s a long read, but the article gets down to specifics towards the end. Here’s one proposal that will definitely cause a stir in the quadrangles. Worth considering in light of the AUT fiasco? Or an example of throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

It is time to revisit several large issues. The issue of tenure, for example. An arrangement that was intended to protect academic freedom and intellectual diversity has mutated into a means of enforcing conformity and excluding the heterodox. For those few conservatives who have managed to obtain tenure, it doubtless functions to protect them. But for the faculty in general it seems to have become a prescription for political correctness and lassitude.

BTW, Patrick O’Brian fans will also want to read the NC’s piece on the
"Master and Commander" novels. I never managed to finish the first in the series. Loved the film, though, so maybe I should try again.
|||Clive|||http://www.clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/05/campus-follies-austin-bay-recommends.html|||5/04/2005 09:57:00 am|||http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6074196&postID=111519704459153422|||location.href=http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6074196&postID=111519704459153422;|||0||||||5/03/2005|||111515854544194334||||||
QUOTABLE

By the time we reached Bentheim, Mr Norris had delivered a lecture on the disadvantages of most of the chief European cities. I was astonished to find how much he had travelled. He had suffered from rheumatics in Stockholm and draughts in Kaunas; in Riga he had been bored, in Warsaw treated with extreme discourtesy, in Belgrade he had been unable to obtain his favourite brand of toothpaste. In Rome he had been annoyed by insects, in Madrid by beggars, in Marseilles by taxi-horns. In Bucharest he had had an exceedingly unpleasant experience with a water-closet. Constantinople he had found expensive and lacking in taste. The only two cities of which he greatly approved were Paris and Athens. Athens particularly. Athens was his spiritual home.

Christopher Isherwood, "Mr Norris Changes Trains"
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STAR POWER

A Hollywood anecdote from one of Terry Teachout’s readers. Before the cameras began rolling on "Chicago", Renee Zellweger and her co-stars were asked to give the producers a little preview:

So the cast—Reilly, Zeta-Jones, Zellweger, Gere—assembled for a run-through in some performance space or other, and took seats onstage, with the producers down below. Reilly noticed that Zellweger was REALLY scared; he leaned over and said, soothingly, "Don't worry, Renee, it's just like a play...we're onstage and they're the audience."

Zellweger looked at him, and said, quivering, "But I've never been in a play!"

As TT says, "If it's not true, don't tell me ......"
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COMING SOON. . .

It seems like ages since I said I was planning to move this blog to a new site. Deadlines and formatting complications held everything up, but I hope to make the jump this week. Fingers crossed (again).
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RIGHT - AND WRONG - ON IRAQ

Labour activist Alan Johnson issues a rousing call for a sensible left-wing, anti-Guardianista strategy on Iraq. But along the way he makes some very odd assertions about neocons. ("They talk of freedom and democracy, they may even sincerely want it…") It’s always hard to generalise about neo-conservatism, because it's such an amorphous, contradictory beast. Yet surely the one thing that has got neocons into trouble with traditional cons is their passionate belief that democracy is a universal, not a purely Western or American value. As for the claim that they don’t understand "the pivotal role of civil society", neocons spend most of their waking hours reciting Tocqueville.

There’s nothing sinister either in arguing for US primacy, either, in a world where the EU bows down to China and Russia is slipping back into its bad old ways. (What does Alan Johnson's "doctrine of the international community" mean in practice? Would left-wingers necessarily be happier if the UN was based in Beijing?) And how many neocons really "dream" of a US-led military intervention in Iran? Michael Ledeen is the leading voice on the subject of how to get rid of the mullahs, and to the best of my knowledge he wants the US to support a popular uprising. Nor does being a neocon mean opposing a two-state solution to Palestine.

The one point I’d partly agree with Johnson on is that neocons, by and large, have become enthusiastic free marketers. Although Irving Kristol, the real godfather of the neocons, (don’t believe all those conspiracy theories about Leo Strauss) used to insist on giving only two cheers for capitalism, my impression is that he’s now happy to offer the full quota. But that doesn’t mean he’s some sort of grind-their-faces-in-the-dirt plutocrat. Irwin Stelzer sums it up in the introduction to his recent anthology: "Neocons tend to distinguish between Franlkin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society." In short, they approve of the former, but think the latter undermined the lives and values of the working poor.

Kristol expands on this point in one of the essays in the book, calling for a welfare system "consistent with the basic moral principles of our civilization and the basic political principles of our nation. The essential purpose of politics, after all, is to transmit to our children a civilization and a nation that they can be proud of. This means we should figure out what we want before we calculate what we can afford, not the reverse, which is the normal conservative predisposition."

I think a lot of Labour Party members would agree with him on that. I’m not trying to argue that neocons are flawless (although I think post-war Iraq might have gone more smoothly if they’d had a bigger say in the main decisions) only that they have more in common with the Left than some people like to think.

All credit to Alan Johnson, nevertheless. I’m more than happy to give him two cheers.
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ON STRIVERS' ROW

In the New Republic, Reihan Salam - co-blogger at The American Scene - comes to the defence of the straight-talking Bill Cosby, and takes chunks out of radical academic Michael Eric Dyson. Seems Dyson thinks Tupac Shakur is a better role model than Mr C. Salam is having none of it:

There is another more odious species of elitism, one that Dyson's tract embodies from start to finish. That is the elitism that celebrates not the petty-bourgeois but rather the enlightened clerisy. It is the elitism that has only scorn and derision for the contemptuous working poor folk we've discussed, but that very nearly celebrates the dysfunctional poor as rebels against a deeply corrupt social order.

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STANDING TO ATTENTION

Campus conservatives in Rhode Island are in trouble for sending up the annual V-Day celebrations inspired by “The Vagina Monologues”. As Christina Hoff Sommers explains in National Review,
“P for Penis” Day and its mascot “Testaclese” didn’t go down too well with the authorities:

[College Republicans] papered the school with flyers that said, “My penis is majestic” and “My penis is hilarious.” The caption on one handout read, “My Penis is studious.” It showed Testaclese reclining on a couch reading Michael Barone’s Hard America, Soft America.

“Testaclese” tipped the scales when he approached the university Provost, Edward J. Kavanagh, outside the student union. Apparently taking him/it for a giant mushroom, Provost Kavanagh cheerfully greeted him. But when Testaclese presented him with an honorary award as a campus “Penis Warrior,” the stunned official realized that it was no mushroom.

Hat tip: Emanuele Ottolenghi, who, on a much more serious note, also has a piece in NR on the repercussions of the AUT’s Israeli boycott.
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A PLAGUE ON ALL YOUR HOUSES

Melanie Phillips has a must-read today:

Labour pretends to be progressive, but in fact its agenda is one of social control, reducing the public to serfdom as more and more depend on the state for either work or welfare.

What’s needed is to take Neil Kinnock’s famous warning not to be old, poor or sick under the Tories and show that currently it is the old who are being abandoned by the inadequacies of state-run policing, the poor by state education and the sick by state health care. But who will do so? Labour is the problem; the Lib Dems don’t understand what a problem is; and the Tories run away from the problem, because to tackle it means taking great political risks over such things as welfarism, Europe and the cult of public sentimentality.

"Progressive" is a word that makes me feel uneasy. It always reminds me of standing ovations for Erich Honecker, and a school magazine article I read when I was twelve, confidently announcing that the future belonged to Emerson, Lake & Palmer. We all know what happened to progressive rock, don’t we? For a definition of what the term should really mean, see Melanie P’s essay, "Why I Am A Progressive", first published in the New Statesman and now available on her web-site.
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A NEW STAND-UP STAR IS BORN

Move over, Margaret Cho. I'm not sure Laura Bush's hilarious press dinner speech has had much coverage in the UK. You can watch it over at Jackson's Junction.
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