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Independent Minds



have moved their blogs to LJ today. Livejournal may be creaky, ancient, and possibly steam-powered, but compared to what the other UK newspapers are using it’s space-age technology. It has threaded comments, for a start, which might give us a chance in hell of ignoring the inevitable flamewars.

Still, they managed to thoroughly botch the launch: bits not working, nothing to help their old readers adjust to LJ, and – most impressively – a near-total absence of new content today. It’s hardly inspiring when only a couple of the journos can cough up a post for that first day – when, for once, somebody might be reading.

Presumably, it’ll improve over time. Meanwhile, has anybody found anything genuinely interesting on the Independent blogs?

It’ll all be clear in hindsight…

I told myself I should write something about the economic crisis, to clarify my bewildered head. There’s no shortage of detailed news from the front lines, but this feels like one of the rare cases where understanding the detail doesn’t lead to understanding the whole. Or maybe that’s just my lack of a finance background speaking.

Last week, for , I read through a series of Esprit articles on the subject, economists and intellectuals lining up to fit it into their schemas. Day by day, I read newspaper articles on the latest twists and turns, listen to the podcasts from NPR. Each level makes a sort of sense in its own terms (there’s much I’m sceptical about, but I’m too ignorant to join in the arguments at a higher level than parroting the last thing I read). But somehow, I can’t fit both the details and the big picture into my head at once.

Probably that’s good: in a few years, the party lines will have been retrospectively drawn up, we’ll all know who to label heroes and villains. For now, we’re all as baffled as each other.


By the way, part of the reason for the dearth of posts is that I’m also writing:

  • At Metblogs, about Berlin
  • At Eurozine, reviewing French journals for the fortnightly review, and doing occasional translations
  • At Livejournal where, as always, most posts are friends-locked

All that remain here are the dregs; the posts too dull, too long, too confused or too obscure to go elsewhere. Appealing, eh?

In cheerier news, I’ve finally got round to half-reviving the comments; I’m hoping OpenID will give me at least some hope of weeding out the spam.

Germany in Central Asia

I’ve not written – or read – much about Central Asia recently. But since I’m now living in Berlin, I can’t help thinking about German policies there. And…I haven’t yet figured it out. First some background. Later,

Germany is more concerned about Central Asia than is the rest of Europe. It used it’s 2007 EU presidency to drive through a European policy towards Central Asia; official websites and documents talk up the region. The government has poured several hundred million Euros into Central Asia in aid and inter-government activities, and Berlin hosts more than a few gatherings of Central Asian politicians and professionals.

Nor is Berlin’s interest in Central Asia entirely unexpected. The East German legacy means some ties with the rest of the former Soviet Union, especially since Stalin deported millions of Germans to Central Asia. Besides, German foreign policy has traditionally aimed to dominate countries to the East: Kazakhstan may be further afield than usual, but this is the era of globalization.

And yet, the media and public attention to this is almost non-existent. That’s only to be expected, although the genuine goverment interest might give you slightly higher hopes. And it’s a pity, because German Central Asia policy is substantially different from the policy of any other country, and it would be interesting to see it batted about a bit more in the public sphere.


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Warren Ellis fans: what should I read by him? I loved


, but I’ve been pretty disappointed by every other Ellis I’ve looked at. Freakangels seems to have nothing unexpected in it;

Global Frequency

was cardboard characters rushing through repeated “race against time, then a big gunfight” plots.

Crooked Little Vein

: I plannd to buy it, but standing in the bookshop, flicking through pages of wooden, cliched text, I abandoned the idea.

Has Ellis done anything as good as


? Or, while I’m at it, are there other comics so blisteringly fantastic that I should dump Ellis and go read them instead?

Also, guys: witch-hunts are bad, mmkay?