The Early Days of a Better Nation

Friday, August 29, 2008

Geek bleg

So, I've just had a Windows Vista Service Pack take an hour to install and another hour to revert changes, having failed to install. I'm reduced to teeth-grinding fury. (Especially as the latest Norton update for Windows Vista also just failed to install.)

So, I'm willing to consider Linux. I'm not interested in any version that requires endless faffing about under the hood. I just want software that actually fucking works.

Some of my readers must know what to recommend. What do you recommend?
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Monday, August 18, 2008

War with Russian characteristics

The Exiled continues to be, as its strapline boasts, Mankind's Only Alternative. There's the usual sensitive, caring analysis by the War Nerd, an interesting backgrounder by Mark Ames, and a stunning photo-essay on (or from) the Russian Army in action. (Nothing too shocking, but there are images of dead and injured people.)

Update, Thursday 21 August: Feh. You can see the originals (and then some, including grimmer images) in higher resolution here. (Via a comment on this post at the Tomb.)
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Guns of August

Just how many ironies of history are concentrated in the above BBC picture of Georgian reservists in Gori, near a statue of Gori's most famous son, the author of Marxism and the National Question?

Useful analysis and links to more analyis and news are provided by veteran reporter Chris Floyd here and here. Another useful summary here. The same blogger has more. (Via.) Yet more, with background.

If this dispute escalates, well ... it's been nice knowing you, and in case you're wondering what hit me, it was probably the naval dockyard at Rosyth.

Back to the bloke on the plinth.

His above-mentioned pamphlet argues for 'the right of nations to self-determination' and against 'cultural-national autonomy'. In practice its author (a former Georgian nationalist poet who became a Bolshevik) implemented a policy that looked for the most part awfully like 'cultural-national autonomy' under the guise of 'self-determination': all the nations and nationalities and ethnicities of the Russian Empire were given the trappings of actual or embryonic statehood (including, for the Union Republics, the formal right to secession), but in practice what they (mostly) had was the right to local use of their own language, customs, colourful costumes, etc, while actual political control remained firmly in Moscow. The government of a republic could at any time exercise its right to secede from the USSR, but the CPSU and the KGB made sure that no government at all likely to do so would ever be elected.

When the CPSU and KGB lost their grip, all the large and small components of the Soviet Union had a national or ethnic state apparatus already in place (this matters, because otherwise the various nationalists would have had to construct new states from scratch) and most of them quickly self-determined themselves out of the union. But quite a few of them had, like Georgia, smaller ethnic proto-states inside them and/or straddling their borders. For interested outside powers near and far, the question of just which unit counted for 'self-determination' and which for 'territorial integrity' became purely and simply a question of whose ox is gored. This whole dynamic played itself out in Yugoslavia too.

Future multi-national republics might do well to avoid the mistake made by the author of Marxism and the National Question. Languages, customs, costumes, dances and cookery, yes. But for the rest, the component nations and nationalities of multinational states should be left not so much as a line on a map.
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Friday, August 01, 2008

'Science fiction,' said the robot, 'has become science fact!'

That's the opening line of The Night Sessions. The robot in question is an airliner cabin 'trolley-dolly', described thus:
The trolley locked, the trolley-dolly halted. It had an oval head with two lenticular eyes and a smile-shaped speaker grille, and a torso of more or less feminine proportions, joined at a black flexible concertina waist to an inverted cone resembling a long skirt.

P.S. Two reviews of the book are now online, both good.
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