Thursday, August 31, 2006

Birthday Blog

As it is my birthday, I am not feeling particularly energetic so I will answer the Inner West boys quiz instead:

Hitchens: Christopher or Peter?- Christopher for calling out Galloway
2. Blair: Anthony Lynton Charles or Eric Arthur?- Orwell every time
3. Bush, George: W. or H.W.? - Gooseberry
4. Clinton: Bill or Hillary? Bill- he isn't dangerous any more
5. Testament: Old or New? New- never been a fan of burning bushes
6. Rugby: League or Union? Union- Scotland sometimes win
7. Do you owe more to Athens or Jerusalem? Athens
8. Pete ‘n’ Dud or Derek and Clive? Pete n' Dud
Name your favourite...
9. Novel- Tess of the D'Urbervilles
10. Short-story/novella - Heart of Darkness
11. Poem - Adlestrop
12. Play - Copenhagen
13. Work of non-fiction- The Captive Mind, Czeslaw Milosz
14. Religious text (can include specific books) Psalm 121
15. Song - A Mas a Man for a' that
16. Piece of classical music (including Opera)- Beethoven 9th symphony
17. English language film- The Hours
18. Non-English language film- Cyrano de Bergerac
19. Museum- British Museum
20. Art Gallery- The Louvre
21. Painting, sculpture or installation -Sunflowers- Van Gogh
22. Piece of public art- Wallace Monument, Aberdeen
23. Building- Houses of Parliament, London
24. Religious building- The Pantheon, Rome
25. Bridge- Forth Rail
26. British city (excluding London)- Edinburgh
27. European city (excluding London)- Tallinn
28. World city (including London)- London/Tokyo
29. Train journey- Edinburgh-Aberdeen

Self Explorations
30. How would you describe yourself politically? Classical Liberal/ Dissident
31. Is there a maxim or moral code by which you measure your conduct? "Above all else to thine own self be true"
32. Should the state of Israel have been founded? Yes
If so, is it in the right place? Yes
33. Are you old fashioned, or modern? Modern
34. What publications do you read?
35. What author of fiction has influenced your beliefs?
36. Have you ever been in love? Yes
37. Where and when were you happiest? On the Camino de Santiago 2000
38. Do you have faith? And if so, in what? Yes- too long to explain in a pocket quiz
39. Would you take back something important that you've said or done? Maybe
40. If you had to lose your sense of taste or be deaf, which would you choose? taste
41. What languages do you speak? French, Polish, some Italian, German, Estonian,
42. Can you read music and/or play a musical instrument? No
43. If you had to destroy one of the World's great monuments, which would it be? Mount Rushmore always seemed pointless
44. If in some point in the future you were to undertake an undergraduate degree, what would you study? Maths

Complete the following statementNoam Chomsky is... mistaken

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another bloody meme

OK Simon and James at Inner West

1. Name one book that changed your life.

The Captive Mind By Czeslaw Milosz - Made me see the real nature of Communism when I read it at 14.

2. One book you've read more than once.

I re-read books quite regularly- I recently went back to The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. LeGuin- a slightly guilty pleasure, but fun nevertheless.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island.

Encyclopedia Britannica - especially the beautifully written 1911 edition- at least I would learn a lot of practical stuff.

4. One book that made you laugh.

The first time I read Spike Milligan's Puckoon I laughed like a drain, but Round the Horne scripts also have the same effect

5. One book that made you cry.

I do love Thomas Hardy- Probably The Mayor of Casterbridge might have had this effect, but the only thing I truly remember doing so is Psalm 121:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

6. One book you wish you'd written.

"Love Letters to Small Countries"- I really must get round to finishing it too

7. One book you wish had never been written.

The protocols of the Elders of Zion is fairly evil.

8. One book you're currently reading.

Haruki Murakami "The Elephant Vanishes"

9. One book you've been meaning to read.

The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. My ex-girlfriend's favourite book- maybe that is why I have not finished it

Fear itself

What is the very worst that the people so far questioned in the UK could have inflicted against us?

OK, let us assume that they could have seized control of ten aeroplanes- say Jumbos- carrying about 450 passengers. Let us further assume that each mission was "successful"- so they kill a maximum of 4,500 people over the Atlantic. Horrific.

I think we should view this in context: last year the death toll on British roads was 3221. In the USA the death toll from road accidents in 2005 was 43,443.

Now, according to New Republic, the USA regards the UK as a hornet's nest of terrorism- Pontiac, I notice, gets off without censure.

At the end of the day, Osama Bin Laden lives in a cave. He is not an evil genius- he is a delusional maniac- a poor little rich boy who was sent round the bend by seeing the violence of the Anti-Soviet Afghan war.

His follwers are delusional "Islamic" nobodies- they may be mad or bad or both, but mostly they are just sad- losers in the lottery of life. These are not and should not be treated as bigger enemies than Hitler. If we think that they are then I really think that both History and Maths should be better taught in British schools!

We live with risk every day, and we have clearly changed our behaviour since 2001: "the terrorists have won". However, if we continue down the line of restricting freedom then maybe we have already proved our decadence by our inability to count- that we have lost our sense of perspective.

"Thewaarontear"! George Bush's insult to free people- and the biggest danger to democracy since the end of the Cold war.

It is not what the terrorists can do to us that we should be afraid of- it is what our fear of terrorism can do to our society that we should worry about:

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

Friday, August 25, 2006

The People in exile

Perhaps as a result of this, there is a new joke in Poland:

"Under Communism things were very bad, but at least we had hope- there was a government in exile in London.

Now we have the government back in Warsaw- but now it is the people who have gone into exile in London."

DTi goes from useless to malign

I see an interesting story in the Telegraph- The Department for Trade and Industry- DTi- apparently has "doubts" about globalization.

This government department should have already been abolished (as the Lib Dems proposed at the last election).

This ministry is a giant make work project for civil servants and a bureaucratic job killer for everyone else. The fact that they even contemplate rowing back from free trade suggests that the case of total abolition is now more urgent than ever.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Connections

During the 1970s the BBC produced some of the most interesting and challenging series. Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man, David Attenborough's Life on Earth and Kenneth Clark's Civilization were all thoughtful televisual essays and many of them continue to have a resonance to this day.

In the same mould was a series that focused on complexity theory in history. James Burke, the BBC's science correspondent created a series called Connections .

To a great degree, Burke, by talking about the random walk of historical progress underlined the fact that few, if any, could truly understand the path that their actions would lead to. The interconnectedness of science, politics and culture reflected Burke's view of history as being driven by isolated events, which by circumstances become connected. This increase in possible connections causes the process of innovation to not only continue, but to accelerate. Burke poses the question of what happens when this rate of innovation, or more importantly change itself, becomes too much for the average person to handle and what this means for individual power, liberty, and privacy.

For me, the only way to respond to an increasingly connected world is to rely on a set of fundamental principles that limit the ways that groups may influence or control individuals. For example, on principle, Liberals oppose ID cards. On principle we believe that the controls of the state should be strongly limited, which is why we oppose ID cards -they are an unwarranted intrusion into private privacy. When I hear the "since you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" argument, I tend to lose my temper. Individual liberty is not the gift of the state, rather the state is a concession by free individuals with the aim of greater liberty and prosperity. If the state fails to serve the individual it quickly becomes a tyranny.

Burke understood, a generation ago, that privacy and liberty could be challenged by technology and that new ways would be required to protect both. Connections was acclaimed in its time, now it begins to look prescient.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Terror and Hope

August 23rd is the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. This was a secret and criminal treaty that divided Eastern and Central Europe between Hitler and Stalin. It allowed Hitler to invade Poland a week later, without any fear that the USSR would intervene, and it allowed Stalin to crush the independence of the Baltic Countries and to seize half of the corpse of Poland for itself. Stalin also had a free hand to seize Bessarabia and turn that Romanian speaking land into a Soviet satrapy. Thus this monstrous bargain inflicted occupation and slavery on millions. All of course secret, since the Soviet authorities denied that any secret protocols existed- even when the German treaty text was published after the war.

Fifty years later. Millions of Estonian, Latvians and Lithuanians formed a chain to link Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius- the Baltic Chain. This protest was one of the high points of the singing revolution.

It is a triumph of the human spirit that such terror eventually gave way to such hope, and such hope gave way to such success.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Meme of Three

Jonathan Calder has tagged me with this meme...

1. Things that scare me:

Conventional Wisdom
That Dubya still has two more years
Roller Coasters- absolutely hate 'em

2. People who make me laugh:

PJ O Rourke
Graeme Garden
Emo Philips

3. Things I hate the most:

Commies
Beligerent stupidity
Sprouts

4. Things I don't understand:

Hebrew
Why the West deals with a Russia that fails to show contrition
Basketball

5. Things I'm doing right now:

Writing a term sheet for a transaction in Poland
Thinking about another coffee
Thinking that I won't tag anyone else on this meme

6. Things I want to do before I die:

Make a pilgrimage to Solovetsky
Write a book that explains myself
Take a chance on someone

7. Things I can do:

Recite Estonian poetry
Speak rusty Polish
Walk long distances

8. Ways to describe my personality:

Sardonic
Serious
Surreal

9. Things I can't do:

Walk slowly
Speak Welsh
Trust Commies

10. Things I think you should listen to:

The 9th symphony of Beethoven
The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams
Most things by Capercaillie

11. Things you should never listen to:

Commies
Conventional Wisdom
Cliff Richard

12. Things I'd like to learn:

How to write better
Fluent Estonian
Enough seamanship to get a skippers certificate

13. Favorite foods:

My Mother's Lemon Pudding
Saltimbocca all' Romana
Japanese

14. Beverages I drink regularly:

Beer
Green Tea
More Beer

15. Shows I watched as a kid:

The Apollo Moon Missions
The Magic Roundabout
Rhubarb and Custard

16. People I'm tagging to do this meme:

Nope- I won't pass it on

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Survey of Liberty

I finally found the survey that compiled a rating for overall liberty from a variety of other surveys, such as the Random House survey (Click on the Heading for the details).

Estonia is the freest country in the world- not a shock to those of us who know her!

Then:

Ireland
Canada
Switzerland
Iceland
Bahamas
UK
USA
Cyprus
New Zealand

Of the leading EU economies, Germany is 21st (behind Latvia), Spain is 34th (behind Cape Verde), Italy is 41st (behind Botswana) and France is astonishingly 48th (behind South Africa).

Horrifyingly, Russia is 124th- even Saudi Arabia is freer than the Russian Federation.

In last place- North Korea- 122 places behind the democratic South.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Losing Russia

It is 15 years since the beginning of the August coup which ultimately led to the breakdown of the Soviet Union. The arrest of Gorbachev which took place on August 18th 1991 triggered the immediate disintegration of the USSR as the various Republics sought to escape from the attempt by hardliners to reimpose a more centralized order upon the disintegrating state.

Since that time Russia, as the legal heir to the Soviet Union, and as the inheritor of most of its territory and all of its nuclear weapons, has struggled to come to terms with the Soviet legacy.

The Second Chechen war continues, in all its brutality. The frozen conflicts in Transnistria, In Abhazia and In South Ossetia have remained unresolved. Russia has still not ratified its border treaty with Estonia.

Domestically, the Russian army has continued the brutality of its Soviet predecessor, with hundreds of conscripts dying and thousands being horrifically mistreated. Russian demographics remain very bad, with low life expectancy and poor quality of life contributing to low birth rates. The result is that the Russian population is falling very rapidly. Meanwhile the population of unstable regions like the North Caucasus may actually expand- adding to the political pressures there.

Meanwhile, in the face of such difficulties, the Russian body politic seems to have returned to a centralized and authoritarian model. The choice of a former KGB officer to be President has undercut any chance of a moral reform of the country, that still struggles to address the issues of the Stalinist past. Political freedoms have been curtailed, the freedom of the press in particular has been essentially eliminated. In the face of these unwelcome changes, many commentators, myself included, have been increasingly hostile to the Moscow government.

Yet the West now does face a crisis in its relations with Russia, but it is a crisis that is at least partly of its own making. Cynical, and Ruthlessly pragmatic, the Putin government has not taken kindly to receiving lectures on corruption from such figures as Tony Blair (embroiled in the cash for honours scandal) or on intervention beyond its borders from the USA (embroiled in Iraq). Furthermore, in such areas as eliminating US bases in Central Asia, Russian policy has been clear, and the goal has been achieved very effectively. The West, by contrast has struggled to understand what it wishes to achieve in Russia.

The Western powers need to establish some clear basis for negotiating with Russia. Having made it clear that Russia may not join the EU, it can not be surprised if Russia seeks to establish its own power network. The fact that this includes many enemies of the West- from Chavez in Venezuela to Lukashenka in Belarus is not necessarily an ideological position, but merely a statement that Russia's rulers still believe in a zero-sum game in international politics: our gain is your loss.

The priority is to settle the borderlands of Russia- a very firm line must be drawn to protect The Baltic, Ukraine, and Trans Caucasia. This should include the settlement of the frozen conflicts that eliminates the capacity of Russia to make mischief. However the West must now try to create a quid-pro-quo. Russia has legitimate issues in the North Caucasus, and NATO should try to be helpful in dealing with the Chechen conflict. As far as Western energy security is concerned- the west should be pragmatic about the creation of the Russian national energy champions, but firm about the geopolitical threat that cutting gas supplies may pose. The Baltic Pipeline should include spurs to the Baltic and Poland, and Germany must bear in mind that the weakening of the energy security of the eastern half of Europe creates a real risk of the disruption of NATO- it must not happen.

For the future, Russia has the capacity to be helpful in Iran, and could be drawn into the process of containment of that dangerous and unstable regime. However the West must not let itself be played off against China in the growing struggle for global energy. The US-Chinese partnership was a key strategic component in the end of the USSR, but China herself is become unstable as the long economic growth curve slows down, and the legitimacy of the CPC is increasingly challenged. The threat of Chinese weakness is greater than the problems caused by the economic resurgence of that country.

Russia, fifteen years on, is a difficult strategic partner- the West should be sceptical of Russian motives in most of its dealings, but not dogmatically so. Conflict is not inevitable, and it is now the right time to address the key points of friction.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Losing Liberty and Security

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both" Ben Franklin.

After traveling to Warsaw and back this week, I can honestly say that the security procedures that have been enacted are pointless and farcial.

In the name of safeguarding our security, travelers are now subject to the kind of intrusion that no free person should have to undergo. We are constantly told that "the terrorists must not change our way of life!". Apparently, they already have.

Since we know that we can never be 100% safe from terrorism, we have to decide what is an acceptable level of risk.

I believe that in their futile search for complete security, our political leaders are corroding our liberties.

I believe that this process must be stopped immediately.

The risk of any single individual being hurt or killed in a terrorist outrage is very small- the risk to our freedom from these pointless restrictions is now certain and is already unacceptable.

We should be watching the results of the Police investigations very carefully- if this turns out to be another Forest Gate, then John Reid, the Home Secretary, should be instantly dismissed.

His political grandstanding, based on fear, which is dubious now, would be totally unacceptable then.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Time to control taxation

A few weeks ago, the Lib Dems put forward some outline ideas on taxation that involve cutting the headline rates of income tax. I welcomed those proposals then. Last week, more detailed proposals were put forward, which continue the theme. Indeed the substantive proposals are extremely well thought out.

To my mind there is not much doubt that the Labour taxation plans have got to the point of pain. The salami tactics that they have used, while less eye catching than a straight forward increase in tax rates, have substantially boosted government revenues. Unfortunately the other side of the equation- spending- has been less well judged. The government has not set in hand effective ways to control and administer spending, neither on health or welfare nor on education. Part of this is the fact that they refuse to recognise that individual circumstances make blanket spending commitments highly inefficient. The result has been a general increase in costs, but a sharp fall in overall productivity.

Thus Liberal Democrat tax plans should be seen in a wider context. Firstly, the burden of administration is now too expensive- this was part of the thinking behind our proposal to abolish the DTi, but this was not the only area where we intend to deregulate. In large areas of administration and regulation we have proposed the wider use of sunset clauses and the retirement of irrelevant legislation. The cost of doing business in the UK should not rise any further, and if at all possible should be reduced. This includes the cost of doing government business.

The other side of the coin is personal taxation- as more fees are collected by the Labour government, and such financial packages as student grants are phased out, the overall burden on the tax payer as increased quite sharply. The time has come to cut the overall burden of personal taxation. In particular, income tax rates should now be cut.

The next question is how to make up the short term funding gap. This, we have proposed, can be done in the short term by increasing taxation on polluting and energy inefficient activities. In my opinion this can only be a short term policy- since if successful, it would automatically reduce revenue. The longer term goal will have to be to get government to function within tighter financial limits.

I see Tory bloggers trying, ostentatiously, to either rubbish or ignore these proposals.

They fear them because they know that they are credible, substantive and effective, and they are right to be afraid- anything the Conservatives now talk about in tax or environmental policy is just going to look like "me too".

Mind you the policy-free vacuum that is the Blair-lite Tory Party increasingly lacks credibility across the board.

The Boy who cried Wolf

As I am caught up in yet another "critical security alert", I can not help wondering about the way that this has been reported.

All these reporters are happy to quote unnamed "security sources".

Are these the same sources whose judgment on Iraq we have so recently learned to question?

If the majority of those who were arrested last week are released as they were after the Forest Gate Police raid, I for one will be extremely critical about the way that this is being handled.

John Reid has been quick to take the credit for the work of the security services. If they are wrong- will he be so quick to take the blame?

I have to fly again tomorrow- what joy!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dot.ee

I spent the weekend in the Estonian countryside. Firstly on the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa and then in the family summer house of some friends on the mainland.

During the inevitable saun party I start to chat with the rest of the family (even the youngest speaks English that is more than respectable for a seven year old).

The teenager of the family, despite an unhealthy obsession with the thriller film genre, turns out to have a nicely subversive sense of humour. We discuss the extraordinary pace of technological change in Estonia. I remark that I was in the first generation to grow up with colour television.

We, the post baby boomer generation seem to have struggled a little with our identity. "Generation X" grew up in the 1970s and 1980s and did not see the dramatic party of the 1960s- only the hangover from that party. However, I ask this rather poised young man what he thinks defines his generation. Immediately he responds that growing up with the internet has been part of their self definition. He points out that the use of the internet amongst Estonian teenagers is essentially universal. He says that its is a specifically Estonian way of use, to the point that he rejects the label the "dot.com"ers.

"Oh no!- we are the dot.ee generation".

I wonder what kind of country this generation will build?

I have just read in one of the local newspapers that a world survey collating different surveys of economic, press, and political freedom has just rated Estonia as the freest country in the world. I am not surprised, but I am impressed; it is only 15 years since Estonia was occupied by one of the least free political systems that has ever been used by humans against each other, and whose poisonous legacy continues to paralyze many of her neighbours.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Now let me get this right...

Coming through Gatwick yesterday... not a pleasent experience.

Gigantic queues to leave the country? Well, yes.

The latest moronic ukase from the Home Office- we should check everyone leaving the country so that we might just catch the odd illegal who should not have been there in the first place.

So let me get this right: tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people are going to be inconvenienced substantially and at considerable cost to the tax payer.

I ask the "border guard" how many"illegals" they have actually caught.

I will give you a clue... it is a round number.

Yep that is right- nil.

So, no cost benefit analysis, no perception of the real cost at all- just a government determined to make an empty gesture in order to be seen as doing "something" in order to tackle a "problem".

A certain occasional American visitor to our shores has the perfect word for this:

D'oh!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

If it's Thursday it must be...

Tallinn.

For the third time in four weeks.

Then to a wedding in Muhumaa (one of the Estonian islands). back next week.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

51st State

Simon Heffer in today's Telegraph has a splendid rant about the woebegone figure of Margaret Beckett- our hapless Foreign Secretary. It is rare that I agree with him, but his call for her immediate resignation is something I can totally agree with. She is, quite simply, not up to the job.

Her utter lack of interest in International Affairs is obvious, but then as "Yo Blair" is his own foreign minister, there is not too much for her to do. Interesting to see the British Prime Minister on such a transparent job hunt in the United States- interesting and frankly embarrassing.

Nevertheless the Post-Blair era will be upon us soon- and the question that will loom larger in that era is "Can the UK ever have a foreign policy that is independent of the United States?".

After all, our so-called "independent nuclear deterrent" is dependent on servicing carried out in Savannah, Georgia. Our signals intelligence system, GCHQ, is essentially transparent to the US agencies, especially the NSA. The United States maintains large bases across the UK- notably at Mildenhall and Lakenheath in Suffolk that are in fact, though not in law, sovereign base areas. Our Military capability is dependent on close cooperation with the US military. British arms and aerospace companies are reliant on contracts with the US military. All of this is in addition to the large scale British investments in the United States (BP, buying Amoco, for example).

Of course this is all very well, since most of us are quite happy about our close alliance with the USA and our membership of NATO. However, as the "Yo Blair" stuff has shown- we are patronised and ignored both by the US and everyone else. The fact is that in such areas as Israel, the US and Britain have quite different approaches. Many regard the position of the Israeli government in the current crisis as irrational. However, as the result of our essentially craven position vis a vis the US, we have not made any official public criticism. As Blair makes the arrangements to leave office and spend more time with his lecture notes, his legacy of foreign policy positions that are always totally aligned with Washington should now be questioned and, if necessary, the assumptions that have been underlying them should be challenged.

It would be nice to have an independent British foreign policy again- and better still to have a competent Foreign Secretary.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The wit of PJ O Rourke

The US occasionally throws out a great wit. Mark Twain and HL Mencken come to mind. The modern equivalent is P J O'Rourke. His ascerbic and wise comments are particularly apposite coming from a Liberal perspective, although his attacks on American Liberals (Leftists, rather than Libertarians) are pretty sharp: "People ask me if I've ever been called a Nazi. I answer that no one has ever had dreams of being tied down and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal."

Other stupendous quotes from PJ:

Politicians are always interested in people. Not that this is always a virtue. Fleas are interested in dogs.

Popular culture has always been moronic. It has to be, by mathematics. I mean, one-half of the population is by definition below median intelligence.

Your money does not cause my poverty. Refusal to believe this is at the bottom of most bad economic thinking.

There's a difference between information and knowledge. It's the difference between Christy Turlington's phone number and Christy Turlington.

The larger the German body, the smaller the German bathing suit and the louder the German voice issuing German demands and German orders to everybody who doesn't speak German. For this, and several other reasons, Germany is known as 'the land where Israelis learned their manners'.

Because of their cuisine, Germans don't consider farting rude. They'd certainly be out of luck if they did.

The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then get elected and prove it.

To grasp the true meaning of socialism, imagine a world where everything is designed by the post office, even the sleaze.

Even the bad things are better than they used to be. Bad music, for instance, has gotten much briefer. Wagner's Ring Cycle takes four days to perform while "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by the Crash Test Dummies lasts little more than three minutes.

Never wear anything that panics the cat

Fretting about overpopulation, is a perfect guilt-free— indeed, sanctimonious— way for "progressives" to be racists.

I guess the argument of contextuality is that anything is okay as long as it's done by people who are sufficiently unlike you.

Idealism is based on big ideas. And, as anybody who has ever been asked "What's the big idea?" knows, most big ideas are bad ones.

In Japan people drive on the left. In China people drive on the right. In Vietnam it doesn't matter.

On Friday, June 12, 1992, 110 heads of state gathered at Riocentro. They were indistinguishable in dress and deportment. Where was biodiversity when we needed it?

People with a mission to save the earth want the earth to seem worse than it is so their mission will look more important.

Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Stepanakert, capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region, rioted over much needed spelling reform in the Soviet Union.

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life; but only a fool trusts either of them.

There are just two rules of governance in a free society: Mind your own business. Keep your hands to yourself.

There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible.

I am a journalist and, under the modern journalist's code of Olympian objectivity (and total purity of motive), I am absolved of responsibility. We journalists don't have to step on roaches. All we have to do is turn on the kitchen light and watch the critters scurry.

Humor is a terrific tool for explaining things, especially when what you're explaining is frightening or dull and complicated

Genius...