Sidney Blumenthal, operator

Of course the Clintons would never stoop to race baiting tactics themselves.  They leave it to their operators to do that – people like Sidney Blumenthal, the man Bill relied on to clean up the Monica Lewinsky mess.

I have personal experiences of how Blumenthal operates.  His niece applied to do a Master’s degree in the program I was in charge of in London.  Unusually, I was sent an applicant’s file not from the Admissions Office, as always was the case, but instead straight from the Office of the LSE Director — at that time Anthony Giddens.  In the file was a handwritten note from “Sid” to “Tony,” making the case that accepting his niece to do a degree at the LSE would be a wonderful opportunity to “continue to deepen our trans-Atlantic ties.”

I was just trying to figure out why the file came from Giddens and why that mysterious note was included, when the phone rang.  It was David Held, notorious important-person wanna-be.  “Did you see the application from Blumentahl’s niece?” he asked.  “Yes,” I replied, “it’s right here on my desk.”  “Well, you should consider it very carefully,” Held continued, “Just read the name again.  It’s BLUMENTHAL, OK?  That Blumenthal.”

Of course I didn’t miss out on such an opportunity to take the moral high ground.  I wrote an email to Blumenthal, Giddens and Held and informed them all that I was in charge of admissions and that I resented any external meddling.  It was totally out of order to slip handwritten notes into a file or to make phone calls pressurizing me.  Besides the niece’s grades were far below what we usually were prepared to accept.

I heard back from Giddens within a few hours and he was very apologetic and could not for the life of him understand how that note got included in the application.  Blumenthal and Held never got in touch.

This, I guess, is how the power elite reproduces itself.

Free at last


It’s February 1st and I no longer work at the LSE. I wrote a letter of resignation to Howard Davies. There’ll be a pdf here of courseand here it is!

I worked at the LSE for some 12 years. Much of it was great. Above all to get a first proper job, to have a monthly salary, to develop courses and to interact with students, to have reading and writing as a career. Meanwhile Diane and I started our adventure together, in our new house, with one kid after another. What in life could be better?

On the darker side: the LSE version of the British class-system and the pretentiousness of some colleagues in the Government Department. They always suspected that I didn’t take them seriously, and they were right of course. Then the whole blogging and free speech issue — everyone from Howard Davies down trying to shut me up. Sigh. Deep sigh.

My new university, NCTU, is a great improvement in these respects. It’s not a commercial venture, they are not dependent on student fees, and they don’t give a damn what I say in my blog. Besides I like living in a country where I’m forced to learn things every day. Learning things, after all, is what my life’s about. London has already receeded behind the horizon.

But the real excitement is happening away from academia. We are looking for a Chinese-style house up in the mountains outside of Hsinchu. We’re going to keep goats and grow papaya. The kids are getting settled. Rima is already fluent in baby Chinese and Saga is quickly becoming a Chinese teenager. We look forward to many more years here. Again, what could life offer that’s better?

“I put down my robe, picked up my diploma,
Took hold of my sweetheart and away we did drive,
Straight for the hills, the black hills of Dakota,
Sure was glad to get out of there alive.

And the locusts sang, well, it give me a chill,
Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.
And the locusts sang with a high whinin’ trill,
Yeah, the locusts sang and they was singing for me,
Singing for me, yeah singing for me.”

Bob Dylan, 1970.

New morning

This is the blog which temporarily achieved local fame in and around the London School of Economics in the spring of 2006. I got into a lot of trouble for what I wrote on these pages. The full story is told here.

I like to think of this blog as an educational service I provided to the LSE and to members of the British establishment. My aim was to teach them a thing or two about the meaning of freedom of speech. I think I succeeded reasonably well.

I live in Taiwan these days and work at NCTU, a university in Hsinchu, an hour south of Taipei. Hsinchu is known as the “windy city” and it produces delicious noodles. I miss London sometimes, and I miss my LSE students, but I’m glad I made the move.

I just finished a book about blogging and freedom of speech, “A Blogger’s Manifesto.” The chapters are available online. Don’t steal the book, download it. Or buy it from Amazon or in book stores when it comes out in October 2007.

I’m not updating these pages any more, but I’m still reading comments so please leave one. In the one year of its existence this blog had 97,467 visitors.

yours always,


P.S. Btw, my new blog, “Too Many Mangoes,” is now up and running.

10 days to go

The fall semester has now finally ended even in my part of the world. We’re off for a six week New Year’s break! It was a long slog, and I must admit I was pretty fed up already around December 24/25. That’s just the way I was conditioned. But we made it in the end.

New Years itself is not until February 17. Diane got us tickets to Macao and Hong Kong for two weeks. Despite all my years in Asia, I’ve never actually set foot outside of Hong Kong’s airport. Everyone says two weeks is too long but I can see a prolonged visit to HK Disneyland coming up. Let’s hope I can fight off my Marcusean instincts. Why always be so cynical about everything?

Btw, only 10 days to go before I finally resign from the LSE. I resigned in my mind a long time ago — see more below — but the paperwork must be updated. Besides, I’d like to start my new work for real before I quit. That’s happening on February 1st. I’m thinking of what to write in the letter to Howard Davies. Something short and sweet. Perhaps you have some suggestions?