10 Dec 2004

Make money fast

I’ve not been keeping up with the American blogs as closely recently, so it may be that many of you have heard this story already, but it seems that some people have found a way to make money blogging:

Little over a month ago, the first Senate party leader in 52 years was ousted when South Dakota Republican John Thune defeated top Senate Democrat Tom Daschle. While more than $40 million was spent in the race, saturating the airwaves with advertising, a potentially more intriguing front was also opened.

The two leading South Dakota blogs – websites full of informal analysis, opinions and links – were authored by paid advisers to Thune’s campaign.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the National Journal first cited Federal Election Commission documents showing that Jon Lauck, of Daschle v Thune, and Jason Van Beek, of South Dakota Politics, were advisers to the Thune campaign.

The documents, also obtained by CBS News, show that in June and October the Thune campaign paid Lauck $27,000 and Van Beek $8,000. Lauck had also worked on Thune’s 2002 congressional race.

Both blogs favored Thune, but neither gave any disclaimer during the election that the authors were on the payroll of the Republican candidate.

(Via Amy Sullivan at Political Animal, who also has some experience with one of the bloggers concerned)

Now, the South Dakota campaign is probably a special case - after all, it worked out that the total campaign spend came out to over $100 per actual voter, so there was a lot of money floating around trying to find a way to be spent - but it could well be a harbinger of things to come with many more bloggers being taken on in more professional roles. After all, I got the story from a ‘professional’ blog, created when a magazine took on the former Calpundit to write for them.

I do wonder if this will become widespread in future campaigns, though, mainly because one would think that if you have to pay people to get good stories about you out there, you have to doubt how successful you’re going to be in convincing the voters - who you can’t pay to have good opinions of you. As I said, this may be because - even in American politics - there comes a point when you’ve just got too much money in your campaign fund and every crazy idea (’‘Hey! Let’s pay these guys cash to make a few hundred people scattered all over the country think we’re great!‘) that someone comes up with can get money it probably wouldn’t have received in a campaign with tighter budget limits. After all, why pay someone for something when you can get them to do it for free?

Nick got away with this at 11:42 pm

Oh my god! They killed Jesus!

Jamie began a campaign against the Jedi Knights yesterday. Now he steps it up with some actual evidence:

On my masthead is the bold statement that Jedi Knights killed Our Saviour. This may seem a little excessive.

Think again. Jedi Knights live for thousands of years. I have seen nothing in biblical or other sources of exegesis that establishes positively that Jedi Knights were not present at the Crucifixion. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Like yourselves I have seen many pictorial representations of the Crucifixion and the events leading up to it. All the significant characters have beards and long, flowing robes.

Ask yourself: how do Jedi Knights dress?

I feel I must support his campaign by linking to this important evidence about atrocities reportedly committed a long time ago in a galazy far far away:

It is said that the Empire rules by terror, but what is less well known is that it is simply trying to re-establish the law and order which existed previously. The Old Republic’s terror weapon was the Jedi, a self-chosen, self-perpetuating, unaccountable body. The mere mention of their name was sufficient to quell rebellion. (The terrorists would have you believe that it was a Golden Age when no one wanted to rebel, but the latter source makes it clear that this is a lie. People were simply too terrified to rebel.)

In what way is that different from the Death Star? Is it not misguided to oppose the one while trying to reinstate the other? The only reason to do that is because one intends to be in charge in the “new old republic".

Nick got away with this at 5:40 pm

From one den of vice and sleaze to another

Or, Question Time to prime time…

So, Charles Kennedy is to appear on an Eastenders Christmas Special and I can already hear the warming up of the siren chorus preparing to tell us that he’s not serious. This, of course, is because taking a couple of hours out of his day to appear on one of the nation’s most popular TV shows is utterly wrong, because politicians shouldn’t dare to make themselves popular by actually letting the people see them.

Yes, appearing on Eastenders and being good enough to be regularly invited back to Have I Got News For You is clearly the mark of an unserious politician. Serious politicians do things like this:

“Ms Aguilar told the Blairs to bow and pray to the four winds as Mayan prayers were read out…Within the Temazcal, a type of Ancient Mayan steam bath, herb-infused water was thrown over heated lava rocks, to create a cleansing sweat and balance the Blairs’ ‘energy flow’.”
Ms Aguilar chanted Mayan songs, told the Blairs to imagine that they could see animals in the steam and explained what such visions meant. They were told the Temazcal was like the womb and those participating in the ritual must confront their hopes and fears before ‘rebirth’ and venturing outside. The Blairs were offered watermelon and papaya, then told to smear what they did not eat over each other’s bodies along with mud from the Mayan jungle outside.

Of course one would think that Blair - public-school educated and able to put on an almost convincing Estuary accent - would fit in quite well with the cast of Eastenders but he knows that real political seriousness requires mud, papaya, animal visions and screaming out loud to signify the pain of rebirth.

Nick got away with this at 11:39 am

Life imitates gaming

It’s the sort of thought that leads to the Dork Tower, but as I was reading about the new South American Community of Nations (there’s a sceptical view here), one thought kept coming back to me - ‘Cuzco? Isn’t that the capital if the Inca Empire in the Fantasia version of Europa Universalis?’

I keep wondering if they’re teaming up to get revenge on me for the time I swept through South America with my Catalunyan armies…

Nick got away with this at 12:37 am

09 Dec 2004

Do they know it’s awful?

It’s a modern dilemma:

You want this record to succeed, because you feel for the plight of the refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan and this project is funding aid projects on their behalf. However, you hate this recording and feel your musical ego looming and refusing to be bruised.

The solution is here.

Nick got away with this at 1:43 pm

European Weblog Awards

I’m sure most of you check out Fistful regularly anyway, but if you don’t then you might be interested to know that nominations are now open there for the first European Weblog Awards, with nominations now being taken for Best European Political Blog and Best UK Blog (other categories will follow over the next few days) so head over there and make your nominations.

This isn’t a plea for anyone to nominate me - for a start, Fistful itself can’t be nominated in the awards, and while the blogs of us individual members can be, I don’t want to be nominated as everyone would cry ‘Fix’ if I got shortlisted.

Nick got away with this at 1:30 pm

20 minutes into the future

Via Alister, who got it from someone else, as it’s been doing the rounds recently:

Operator: “Thank you for calling Domino’s. May I have your national ID number?”

Customer: “I’d like to place an order.”

Operator: “I must have your NIDN first, sir?”

Customer: “My National ID Number. Erm, haud on, it’s 6102049998-45-54610.”

Operator: “Thank you, Mr. Smith. I see you live at 1449 Great Western Road, and the phone number’s 494-2366. Your office number at Lincoln Insurance is 745-2302, and your mobile number’s 266-2566. Email address is smith@home.net. Which number are you calling from, sir?”

Customer: “Eh? I’m at home. Where did ye get all this information?”

Operator: “We’re wired into the NSD, sir.”

Customer: “The NSD, what is that?”

Operator: “We’re wired into the National Security Database, sir. This will add only 15 seconds to your ordering time". (more…)

Nick got away with this at 12:35 pm

Chomsky’s view

I’ve not been actively involved in the debates, but I’ve noticed that Noam Chomsky is one of those figures that gets various bloggers agitated either for or against him. Those of you do pay more attention to these things might like to note that the latest issue of The Liberal magazine features an article by/interview with Chomsky in response to some of the criticisms made by Paul Berman in his book Terror And Liberalism (from which an extract was published in the magazine last month - accessible from this page here). I assume the Chomsky piece will be up on the site at some point too but you could always buy a copy of the magazine if you want to read it before then (or even subscribe - it’s a new magazine and needs support to keep going!)

Nick got away with this at 1:08 am

08 Dec 2004

Important financial news

While other blogs may give you in-depth analysis about the state of the Dollar against the Euro (though if you want that, try the Economist), I always get my economic information from The Onion.

Nick got away with this at 6:25 pm

An adaptation to be worried about

Well, if my last post has convinced you of the merits of Chris Weitz and eased your worries about His Dark Materials, then here’s a replacement bit of Hollywoodization to add to your list of ire - Paul Abbott’s State Of Play is being turned into an American film. Though, seeing as Abbott is going to get an Executive Producer credit, but won’t be writing the script, I suspect the film version will contain a reporter, a politician and an oil company, but not much else of the original.

I think it will also suffer because one of the strengths of the original, beyond the story, was the cast, and I’m not sure that any Hollywood version would be able to match what Morrissey, Simm and Nighy achieved in the original. But then, they’ve been supposedly making a film version of Edge Of Darkness for almost twenty years, so I won’t hold my breath waiting for it to come out.

Nick got away with this at 2:39 pm

Darkening the well

The Times proves it has its finger on the Internet pulse by discovering a month-or-more-old web interview with Chris Weitz and using it to try and create a scandal about the proposed films of His Dark Materials. Unfortunately, it seems to rely on a pretty selective reading of the interview, where Weitz states (emphasis added):

First let me say that I have visited with Pullman and spoken with him about this subject at great length. His feeling, and I say this with absolute certainty that I am not unfairly paraphrasing him, is that the “Authority” in question could represent any arbitrary establishment that curtails the freedom of the individual, whether it be religious, political, totalitarian, fundamentalist, communist, what have you. This gives me a certain amount of leeway in navigating the very treacherous issues that beset adapting HDM for the screen.

New Line is a company that makes films for economic returns. You would hardly expect them to be anything else. They have expressed worry about the possibility of HDM’s perceived antireligiosity making it an unviable project financially. My job is to get the film made in such a way that the spirit of the piece is carried through to the screen, and to do that I must contend not only with the difficulties of the material but with the fears of the studio. Needless to say, all my best efforts will be directed towards keeping HDM as liberating and iconoclastic an experience as I can. But there may be some modification of terms. You will probably not hear of the “Church” but you will hear of the Magisterium. Those who will understand will understand. I have no desire to change the nature or intentions of the villains of the piece, but they may appear in more subtle guises.

And guess which part the Times skirted around? That Weitz has talked to Philip Pullman about this. For what it’s worth, I think various people in the media are assuming that the HDM films are going to be the equivalent of Bakshi’s Lord Of The Rings, rather than Jackson’s. Reading the interview again, I’m actually quite optimistic about the films because Weitz, in the common parlance, gets it. See, for instance, him talking about the issue of the severed children:

And, thematically, sometimes I am very concerned about the difficulties of conveying the idea of “severing” – the reason being that a severed child look like a normal child to us. I don’t want to force the audience’s reactions by making the severed child look like a zombie; the power of the idea must come from our recognition of the spiritual horror of the act itself within the context of the world.

I think that the issue that gets people most worked up about Weitz is his track record - American Pie and About A Boy - but, as others have pointed out, if the type of film you’ve made, rather than how good they are, rules you out of making future films, then the director of Bad Taste and Brain Dead would have ranked far down the list for Lord Of The Rings (and B-movie schlockmeister Albert Pyun would have headed the list). And those worried about Hollywoodization might want to note that Pullman’s own choice to play Lee Scoresby is Samuel L. Jackson. (more…)

Nick got away with this at 2:20 pm


In one of my first comments on the new blog yesterday, Alison suggeste that I might be interested in working in election observation. It’s an interesting idea, and I’ve been doing a bit of research on the subject. For those of you interested, the FCO’s page on how they recruit British observers is here - they subcontract it to other organisations like ERS - and the OSCE’s section on election observation is here.

It definitely seems interesting and I probably will apply to get on the list of observers in the New Year - though I suspect I’ll need to do some work on my foreign language skills - but I won’t be applying to go to Ukraine, first because I’ve got lots of work and other commitments around Christmas, and secondly because I don’t think I could convince myself that I was going as an entirely independent and neutral observer.

Nick got away with this at 9:18 am

07 Dec 2004

Lawyers for UKIP

I wondere a while ago how long it would be before every UKIP MEP ended up in court on some case or other. So the news that Kilroy may be taking the party to court over his leadership bid really comes as no surprise. We’re starting to edge closer to the possibility of a good old fashioned factional split between the Knapmanites (or Faragists) and the Silkists, with the possibility of two separate parties forming, each claiming to be the true inheritor of the mantle of swivel-eyed loonism in Britain. Who wins? Mr Justice Cocklecarrot decides, and the lawyers of Britain all wait for the money to roll in.

Nick got away with this at 7:50 pm

Galloway: More views

Alister Black has written one of those things you didn’t know you needed till you read it - an explanation of George Galloway’s political views in a couple of paragraphs.

However the key to understanding his actions lie in his politics. There are a number of strands to comrade Galloway’s politics. A left Arab nationalism is an important strand, a sympathy for the former Stalinist regimes and their politics is another and an attachment to the Labour Party is the third. George has never been a member of the old style Morning Star CPB or CPGB, but can be seen to be broadly in the category of fellow travellers that they had in the LP. He supports the ‘British Road to Socialism’ and rejects alternatives to London control and the unity of the British state.

All of this has left George with a dislike of the SSP almost from the beginning. He doesn’t like ‘trots’, those who were critical of the Stalinist regimes. He doesn’t like what he would term ‘nationalists’, those who want to see the break up of the United Kingdom and the creation of a Scottish Republic. He also hated the fact that the SSP stood against New Labour whilst he was still in the party. In fact he devoted a portion of his speech at the last Westminster elections to attacking SSP members as ‘thugs’ (they had heckled his ‘battle bus’ as it toured the constituency asking for votes for the Labour Party.)

Read the rest for an interesting examination from the SSP perspective (no pun intended) of how Galloway seems to be burning his bridges in Scotland. On a less serious note, the Honourable Fiend finds a fictional look-and-act-alike for him.

Nick got away with this at 4:22 pm

Surprised? Not really

Via Lose The Delusion, can you guess which British political party voted against the European Parliament’s resolution on Ukraine calling for free and fair elections there? Go on, it’s not hard. (link from another party’s website, because they don’t seem to be mentioning it on their own)

Nick got away with this at 12:59 pm

In a past life, I was obviously very evil

Because it seems that Wolves are about to appoint Glenn Hoddle to be the new manager - because the last time we appointed a former England manager at Molineux, he was so successful, as long as you ignore the remaining stuck in the First Division, the playoff collapse, the falling out with senior players to such an extent there were rumours of fights in the dressing room. Still, Hoddle’s well known for not antagonising players, holding strange beliefs or making inflammatory statements to the media, isn’t he?

If I wasn’t a Wolves fan, I’m sure this would be fun. As I am, I think I’m going to go hide in a cave till it’s all over.

Nick got away with this at 9:13 am

The third horseman of the Ukraine-alypse

I was wondering the other week about who would be the next person to ride into the fray over Ukraine crying that it’s none of our business and we should leave poor little Vladimir alone. I predicted Galloway, but he was clearly too busy with his libel case. In retrospect, it’s obvious that I should have looked over the Atlantic to the utterly predictable Pat Buchanan. (found via The Argus) And just to prove it’s the full trifecta, he even references Steele and Laughland’s pieces in the Guardian as proof of his global conspiracy theory, though he even goes one step further by claiming the OSCE was in on the supposed fix. (From what I recall, Laughland et al have implied this but never stated it outright)

My favourite line of all comes at the end, though:

the U.S. media appear to have gone into the tank for global democracy

You say that like it’s a bad thing, Pat.

Nick got away with this at 8:43 am


Created in a much shorter time than I thought possible, here’s the new look for What You Can Get Away, now powered by WordPress rather than Blogger, so when something goes wrong and I can’t post, it’s entirely my fault and no one else’s!

Don’t worry, the old posts haven’t disappeared, you can still find them here, should you want to. I won’t be copying them over to WordPress - there didn’t really seem that much point to it as that would just destroy all the old permalinks to them. I’m still adding in all the old links to the sidebar, so if you were on there and you’re now missing, don’t worry, you should be back on there eventually.

So, enjoy the new blog, and I may even have some proper content later on today.

Nick got away with this at 7:56 am