There was a silly story the other day about a company boss who had threatened to fire any employee who didn’t vote Conservative on 8 June. Silly because a secret ballot means you aren’t obliged to fess up, to your boss or anyone else, so who’d be so dumb? But also because the email that the boss in question sent was clearly very friendly. ‘Hi Everyone,’ John Brooker wrote to his staff on polling day.
On Saturday night the Home Office website went offline for seven hours. The hacker group Anonymous took it down, they said, as a protest against the government’s planned new surveillance legislation. The plan, we learned earlier in the week, was to introduce a bill that would allow the security services continuous access in real time to all UK phone calls, emails and web traffic. It sounded scary, but most people stopped worrying about it after it became clear that nothing concrete would be known about the proposed legislation until the Queen’s Speech in May. There were also vague promises that the law, which would now be published in draft form only and open to consultation, would include the ‘highest possible safeguards’. ‘All we’re doing,’ Nick Clegg said, ‘is updating the rules which... allow the police and security services to go after terrorists and serious criminals and updating that to apply to new technology.’ ‘Let’s be absolutely clear,’ David Cameron said. ‘This is not about what the last government proposed and we opposed.’ He was very nearly telling the truth.
Two new book proofs have arrived in the office: And: Both are to be published by Faber early next year. One is a history book, the other a novel. Guess which is which.
Basil Davidson, who died on 9 July, wrote 14 pieces for the LRB in the 1990s, including this record of his time in the SOE.
Jeremy Harding will be writing about Davidson here on the blog soon.
Translators are often ignored or overlooked, and that is an injustice. Therefore I call your attention to the work that has gone into this passage, from Antonio Negri and Raf Valvola Scelsi's Goodbye Mr Socialism: Radical Politics in the 21st Century (Serpent's Tail, £8.99): Iraq was the American attempt to get its hands on Empire, an attempt at a coup d'etat by means of permanent war, now a constitutive element of imperial development. It is clear that the problem of who commands the global market was tabled and progressively developed from the end of the Soviet system. Bit by bit, the Americans have elaborated a unilateral and exclusive vision of their command of globalisation.
Theo Tait on Gordon Burn's last book, Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel, from the LRB of 5 June 2008: Gordon Burn’s work takes place at a point where fact and fiction, public events and private lives, fame and death all meet. Burn, who died last Friday, wrote pieces for the London Review on John Cheever (the ‘gut-spilling’, the ‘ear-scalding exhibitionism’) and Robert Stone (his ‘stoned rap’, his ‘junky jabber’).
Microsoft says that its brand-new search engine, Bing, delivers results that are just as good as those of its competitors. But Bing is no mere imitator, slavishly copying those that have gone before. Just compare a search for 'Bing market share' on Bing with the same search as performed by what Microsoft coyly calls the 'market leader’. Despite the undoubtedly unprejudiced algorithmic approach of both technologies, the results look very different.