Friday, March 28, 2008

On Democratic divisiveness

The Democratic party's chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean today called on superdelegates to choose their preferred candidate by July 1.

Dean says there is 'no point' in waiting all summer before the party decides between Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. It is hard to argue with Dean's view. Should the party wait until its convention in August it will give the nominee only just over two months to go toe-to-toe with John McCain. With McCain currently the only serious candidate confirmed for November's election, he holds potentially a clear five month head start in appealing to the nation to make him president.

The Democratic party nomination contest has long
since turned nasty and there is little sign of the apparent enmity abating. This week Hillary Clinton has faced accusations that her revisionist recollection of a trip to wartime Bosnia was a cynical measure to gain political capital. While Obama's association with a lunatic man of God continues to damage his own campaign. The only sniper fire Clinton must evade comes from within her own party. The Democratic contest, which until recently was making headlines as the most exciting in years, now risks turning into a nasty, drawn out slugging match which can only play to the Republicans' advantage.

The Republican party has picked a candidate who is not a favourite with some of their own grandees. None the less, already they are getting behind him because he's who they're stuck. He has already begun visiting foreign countries and has come to Britain, met Gordon Brown and ludicrously claimed to be a descent of Robert the Bruce. By August they will have great momentum and McCain will have spent half of the year persuading Americans why they ought to give him their vote. Clinton and Obama will, if a decision is not reached by July, spend half the year persuading the remaining 350 undecided superdelegates why they would provide McCain with the best challenge. However, by then I fear McCain will be out of range of even the sharpest sniper.

On blogging inactivity

A column in last week's New Statesman struck a chord with me:

Blogs are like gym memberships - it's keeping them up that counts
It was a damning indictment of my record as a blogger. Bored in Brussels, with nothing but my laptop for company, I decided to check on my blog. Perhaps I was half-thinking about posting some photos; perhaps I just wanted to see who was linking to me. In the end, my intentions didn't matter. The blog had gone.
How could this have happened? Simple: I had forgotten to renew my domain name., once (I like to think) a bustling hub of the digitally informed, was now an advert for a domain registration service. Although it was distressing to think of all the lost page rank - Google goodwill that once meant my blog was returned third on a search query for "Becky" - what was more distressing was that I hadn't even noticed.
They say there's a new blog created every second. But that's an empty statistic. Blogs are like gym memberships - it's not creating them that's important, it's keeping them up. Once, it was a badge of honour to have a blog (hand-coded in HTML, naturally) which it was clear you hadn't updated in five years. It meant you had been there at the start, before off-the-shelf blogging software became commonplace. And long enough to have started, got distracted by something more interesting (a multimillion-dollar web start-up, say) and stopped blogging. But that was 2004. Now an expired blog just looks sloppy.
When Machine-envy started, it too was hand-coded in HTML. It didn't need to be - I was just showing off - and later it migrated to the custom blogging system WordPress. Although I have tried to encourage co-bloggers, my stipulation that they must use their real names puts most off, the only taker being the in-house tech support. His post on installing Linux on a Nokia mobile remains, to my despair, the blog's most popular post. An unconscious motivation behind my own neglect, perhaps? In any case, the last time I posted to Machine-envy was on 30 December 2007, when Egypt announced its intention to extend copyright to the Great Pyramids, lengthening the law's effect by almost 4,000 years. The time before that was August.
I could at least take heart that I'm not the only one to forget. In 2003, Microsoft failed to renew the domain name for its email hosting service,, despite, like me, receiving reminders from its registrar. But just as I was starting to believe I could get over this episode pride intact, the emails started coming. Friends, readers and random correspondents got in touch: did I know my blog had disappeared? Was there anything they could do to help?
In the end, it was all much simpler than I'd expected: half an hour's conversation with my domain registrar service, and the blog was back online - with only a one-point page-rank drop. But the episode has taught me a valuable lesson. What's that? To find out, just read my blog . . .

Becky Hogge

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On swearing oaths

We at Pamphleteer towers are steadfastly against any moves to enforce school leavers to swear allegiance to the Queen. More so, given her own grandchildren aren't all that proud to be British:

One of the less reported quotes from returning hero, Prince Harry.