Author Archives: Paul

A strained Senate needs help, but the aid has been embargoed
“Great is the power of habit,” Cicero told us, “it teaches us to bear fatigue and to despise wounds and pain.”  Cicero was, of course, a Roman senator, dead for some time now.  However, with a little imagination, he could be thought to be talking about the American Senate of today, which, like any good political institution, is fatigued, wounded, in pain, and, mostly through habit, refusing to do anything about it. Read More

Being the hip young thing that I am, the other night I found myself listening to Radio 4. Cunningly avoiding the Archers, the Moral Maze and discovering what LPs this week’s has-been pseudo-celebrity would listen to while gnawing their arms off on a desert island, I tuned in to Dave Gorman’s Genius, a show where inspired-although-a-bit-daft ideas were appraised by Mr Gorman’s guest, Geordie linguistic legend Sid Waddell.

One enterprising fellow had the audacity to take on the premier barge-pole topic of capital punishment, and presented an idea worthy of the show’s name. Read More

“For one should not declare one’s intentions, but should seek to get what one desires anyhow. There is, for instance, no need in asking someone for a weapon to say ‘I propose to kill you with it’, since you can satisfy your appetite once you have the weapon in your hands.” —Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses, 1.44

The incomparably humourless Gordon Brown stands, statuesque and secretive, in the centre of the chaos enveloping his party. The man whose seductive shadow he has been skulking around in for the past decade has all but moved aside. Read More

Is the only thing to look forward to the past?

History is a pretty place. Sure enough, the fields were soaked with blood, inequality was worse than it is in modern-day Brazil, life expectancy was about 25 and the streets were plagued by, well, plague, but it was populated almost entirely with heroes. Read More

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. —H. L. Mencken, “Bayard vs. Lionheart”, The Baltimore Evening Sun, 26th July 1920

Political blogs, whatever their outlook, however honourable their intentions and however many hours are wasted in their creation, exist to arouse the amour-propre of the author through the medium of explaining how the writer of the blog is smarter than the politicians they are writing about. They thus operate in exactly the same way as the more important and influential main-stream self-fellators. Occasionally, the blogger or media commenter may even be right; people often get lucky, after all. Read More

Dealing with politicians is a troublesome business. The psychological impulses that create and define your average politico are inherently hard to control. And given our quirky little political structure, it’s not like we can hold them to any sort of meaningful account. It makes little sense, however, to get particularly angry about such a situation. Politicians are like Mr Muscle: a geeky-image-driven product that deals with the jobs that, as a society, we believe we have better things to do than worry about. And you’d feel a little silly shouting at a kitchen-cleaner. Read More