The Null Device


An Independent piece claiming similarities between Tony Blair and Mussolini:

For a start, Blair extols the virtues of the Third Way, which was the phrase coined by the Fascists, no less, to describe their alternative to capitalism and communism. Blair began as a left-wing pacifist and became a right-wing warmonger. He is dictatorial and ignores Parliament if he can and he is a master of propaganda (spin). He is also a bit of a musician - always a dangerous sign in a politician - and plays the electric guitar. So was Mussolini. He played the violin.
People, especially people on the left, tend to forget - presumably because it is inconvenient to remember - that Mussolini was a revolutionary socialist before he was anything else. They forget, too, that he founded Fascism not as a right-wing dictatorship but as a left-wing revolutionary movement that provided an alternative first to socialism then to communism.

It then goes on to compare Mussolini's Corporate State with the New Labour Third Way of corporatisation and neo-liberal economics. And then there's both statesmen's gift for spin:

A phrase Mussolini often used to describe the Italian parliament was that it was "invincibly nauseous". Fascism transformed political participation from an isolated act involving the ballot box into a daily act of religious faith. Blair has not - heavens, no - abolished democracy as Mussolini did, but democracy has diminished under Blair. The Opposition languishes in torpid impotence. The Prime Minister appears increasingly to resemble some whacky kind of cult leader. He avoids debate in Parliament if he can. He talks to the people direct, via television, as Mussolini did via the piazza. Mussolini was famous for his balcony speeches - his "dialogues with the crowd". A modern Mussolini would not need to do anything so obvious as to tackle democracy head on. He could just side-step it with spin.

(via FmH)

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Charlie Stross has a rant up titled "Ten reasons why I do not read HTML email".

While I don't take as hard a line on it as Mr. Stross, I pretty much agree with the sentiment; HTML email is wasteful, a nonstandard kludge mandated by the Microsoft/Netscape marketing departments and rarely if ever does it do anything text can't do. I also use Mutt as my mail client; reading my mail involves logging into a UNIX machine I have a shell account on and running mutt; this means I'm not tied to reading my mail where I keep my (hypothetical) copy of Outlook/Eudora/Apple Mail and don't have to depend on webmail systems (which are, at best, a compromise; they're good if you're backpacking through Outer Mongolia or something but not something you'd want to use from day to day).

The problem, however, is that a lot of non-spam email is HTML-only these days; especially with Hotmail (which is surprisingly popular with people who aren't UNIX geeks; and I'm not going to be so haughty as to only correspond with fellow techies and penguinheads) now sending HTML only by default. So after spending some time trying to ask non-technical users to switch to plain text because I'm one of the last few remaining mortals to not use a web browser to read their mail, I configured my mutt client to automatically convert HTML to plain text, by piping it through lynx -dump. Since lynx doesn't do images or Javascript, this avoids "web bugs" and various spammers' tricks.

I still don't read mail with JPEGs/Microsoft Word documents/&c. though. And when Microsoft Trusted DRM-Mail or whatever comes in, I won't read that.

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