Monthly Archives: August 2006

It’s now a few days after Lords Reform Day and Paul has already written another, well-worth-a-look piece here, which makes this attempt to fulfill my pledge by writing a related article a little late. Still, hopefully it’s of some relevance and interest…

The idea behind Lords Reform Day and its sponsor organisation, the Elect The Lords Campaign, is fairly obvious: to the extent that we have any kind of checks and balances on the laws passed by our combined executive-and-legislature at all, they’re provided by a mottley crew of retired worthies, ex-MPs and political donors (plus a couple of bishops for good measure); and this doesn’t make for representative government.

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Sometimes our ‘saints’ need to be disrobed. 

Gunter Grass, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, has recently admitted to serving in the Waffen-SS during the last days of World War Two.  This story is being dressed up as exposing Grass as a hypocrite.  I argue that the story is does nothing of the sort.  But it does contain the spectacle of another, similarly moustachioed Central European 20th Century living ‘saint’ inadvertently flashing the gallery the some of the more vulgar parts of his character.  This post is not about the revelations volunteered by Grass, but the reaction of Lech Walesa to this stone being ploughed to the surface.

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In August 2002 Craig Murray set off to Uzbekistan as HM Ambassador. For those of us a bit vague about the aftermath of the USSR, it’s bordered by Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, Kazakhstan, and what’s left of the Aral Sea after the appalling ecological impact of its massive cotton industry. Alongside cotton it produces natural gas, vast amounts of minerals, and tobacco. It’s a country full of resounding place names, among them what were once called the Oxus and the Jaxartes rivers and the cities of Tashkent and Samarkand.

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When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do? – John Maynard Keynes

If you wanted to encapsulate in a single incident the reasons why the voters in just about every major democracy are losing faith in their politicians right now, you could do worse than to go back to Washington University, St Louis, on October 8th 2004. There, during the second of the three presidential debates with Senator John Kerry, President George W. Bush was asked what his three biggest mistakes as President had been.

He couldn’t think of one.

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