Lemuel @CT on non-electoral activism:

More pacifically, I would like to see a National Debtor’s Union that would organize collective mortgage strikes, destigmatize bankruptcy, block evictions from foreclosed houses, etc. There is no reason for the banksters to agree to any meaningful financial reform, or any more stimulus, until there is a plausible alternative that looks much worse for them.


Liz Phair writes an impressive review of Keith Richards’ autobiography.

A rant from Rhian:

I was born in the 1980s. I grew up to get away from them. The only good thing about getting older was, I fondly deluded myself, that at least it wouldn’t be the fucking, fucking 1980s anymore.

And now what have we got? A Tory Prime Minister, unemployment through the roof, pointless wars abroad, strikes, bankers still raking it in and now a fucking, fucking, fucking Royal Wedding that we’re all expected to take a blind bit of notice of because it’ll take our minds off how SHIT everything is. And we will, of course.

Sofie Buckland has apparently restarted blogging. Many years ago she wrote an excellent blog under the name of Volsunga — then removed it, and I’m possibly the only person left fondly remembering it, and hoping for a comeback. Maybe this time?

Be alert!

The German interior minister has lately been warning of imminent terrorist attacks.

Berlin’s senator for the interior has built on this with an impromptu guide on how ‘we’ can spot the terrorists in our midst:

If you notice that 3 people have moved into the neighbourhood, looking a bit strange, keeping to themselves, only talking Arabic or another foreign language that you don’t understand, then you might want to think about notifying the authorities

Depressing, isn’t it? This bigoted idiocy is from a minister in Germany’s most liberal and broad-minded city. He’s even from an ostensibly centre-left party (the SPD, which admittedly has lately produced an impressive stream of high-profile racists).

Worst is, he’s just being unusually blunt in expressing the general logic of calls to public vigilence.


non-specific call to report ‘suspicious behaviour’ will get people disproprtionately reporting people they already distrust. In the political climate of the past decade, that’ll often mean arabs. But more generally: is there any liklihood of getting warnings of genuine terrorist plots, rather than just a mass of paranoid fantasy?

[Things I’d love to read on this topic: the police on how much useful information they get from these campaigns, compared to time-wasters. Statistics on what things/people get reported. Memoirs of a Home Secretary or similar, explaining what the hell they were thinking — whether it was cynical political manipulation, or if they believed they were being useful]

ETA: not entirely convincing retraction here

LJ/Kazakhstan: dirty deals edition

Actually, it looks like I’ve misunderstood the LJ/Kazakhstan timeline. It’s more like this:

– Oct. 2008: Kazakhstan blocks livejournal

– 8. Nov 2010: Livejournal suspends the account of rakhataliev, a critic of the Kazakh president and ex-husband of his daughter

– 15. Nov 2010: Kazakhstan unblocks Livejournal

Which puts things in a


different light. It’s pretty hard to look at that timeline without suspecting some kind of tit-for-tat between LJ and the Kazakh authorities.


There’s a commission in the US, investigating the BP oil spill. Last week, the chief counsel said:

To date, we have not found a single instance where human beings made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,

I find this utterly bizarre. However angelic BP might be (?), surely it’s impossible to run an engineering project on this scale without trade-offs between cost and safety? Won’t there always be another layer of expensive and marginally-useful checks that you could add?


dolboeb: Alcoholism is scarier than fascism. Survey asks Russians what issue most concerns them:

  • 56%: inflation
  • 53%: alcoholim and drug use
  • 46%: unemployment
  • 44%: standard of living
  • 15%: economic crisis
  • 13%: salary

LJ unblocked in Kazakhstan

I began a new Russian course a fortnight ago, which gives me a good excuse to spend more time reading Russian-language Livejournals.

The importance of LJ in the Russian-speaking world probably isn’t obvious from the English-speaking side. Pick any Russian journalist, writer or (non-corporate) public figure under 35, and there’s a decent chance they’ll have at least a nominal presence here*. LJ is home to independent journalism, to political discussion and organizing across the spectrum, to essays on art and culture, and generally to a large chunk of the Russian-speaking public sphere. That and the cat pictures, of course.

So it’s nice to read that LJ has just been unblocked in Kazakhstan. The block was imposed in 2008, apparently because the president’s estranged son-in-law rakhataliev, had been using it to criticize him. [LJ helpfully disabled the account in question, but apparently without any effect]

Now it’s been unblocked, apparently as a result of lobbying by the glitterati. Or so says e-grishkovets, Russian writer/actor/director Yevgeni Grishkovetz. He put on a play in the Kazakh capital last month. The president saw it, so the following day the political elite duly turned up

en masse

, all wanting to talk to him. Grishkovets knew what to do:

“I said that…I regret that many of my acquaintances, as well as Kazakh citizens I don’t know, are unable to take part in the life of LJ; that it is nonetheless a significant resource, whose users include not just me, but many other important and famous people, communication with whom is important for many people in Kazakhstan”

A month later, the Kazakh government has unblocked Livejournal. Quite possibly coincidence, of course, but in any case a Good Thing.

* Other Russian sites are comparable in volume of users, but IMO less politically important. Or maybe that’s just my pro-LJ bias speaking.


Liz Phair on Keith Richards’ autobiography

Pulled by the poppy and pushed by cocaine, Keith acquires a taste for working unholy hours in the studio that damn near kill his colleagues. He goes round the clock and considers it mutiny if anyone toiling with him leaves the deck. “I realized, I’m running on fuel and everybody else isn’t. They’re trying to keep up with me and I’m just burning. I can keep going because I’m on pure cocaine . . . I’m running on high octane, and if I feel I’m pushing it a little bit, need to relax it, have a little bump of smack.”



When someone writes the definitive essay on fandom – I mean, when someone sits down and explains the insanity of it, the way it is a black hole of time that means I sit here for long, long minutes trying not to grin so hard my face hurts and simultaneously cry like a child for no real reason, the way it can make total strangers loathe or adore each other in a way very few other things can, the fragmenting into groups, the shipping (WHY DO WE DO THIS. WHY. I was born doing it, and don’t understand), the giddiness, the stars in my stupid hopeless eyes, the conventions, the cosplay, the meta, the joy and pain it’s possible to experience through reading one sentence connected to one’s current whatever-it-is – when someone writes that, will you let me know, so I can read it, and understand?