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Showing posts from October, 2007

Tyrant lectures Democrats

As the bloated entourage of the Saudi King decamps to London for a full State visit it is hard to suppress the gag reflex.

The Saudi regime corrupts all who engage with it. The disgraceful way that the UK has attempted to brush under the carpet the allegations of bribery against British Aerospace can not disguise the fact that the perfumed princelings of the House of Saud will always demand their cut.

Meanwhile the austere version of Islam- Wa'habi - that the House of Saud proclaims has created the murderous perversion of Osama Bin laden and his deranged acolytes. The oppression of women, and the barbaric punishments that a twisted and corrupt system of justice inflicts upon Arabian citizens are merely the most egregious examples of a backward and tyrannical state.

This vile regime, greeted with open palms by the British state already manages to lecture the British about terrorism. Of course the British know about terrorism because we have been victims of it. The House of Saud knows …

How (not) to win friends

I see DC managed to infuriate the Lithuanians through a rather crass remark over the weekend.

On the one hand it seems a bit petty to get cross, but on the other there are 100,000 Lithuanians who Cameron clearly thinks are a bunch of layabout dole scroungers.

In fact they are mostly hard working, church going types.

Judging by this letter, they may have a sense of humour too:

"Dear Editor,

I see that David Cameron has suggested that one legged Lithuanian lesbians should not receive lottery or Arts Council grants.

I am pretty surprised that such bias can be openly expressed by a British Political leader in this day and age.

Admittedly, no one in the 100,000 strong Lithuanian community currently resident in the UK is aware of any one legged lesbians amongst us.

However, we are sure that should such a person exist and they had the relevant artistic talent then they would receive their grant based on the same criteria that a one legged lesbian Conservative would, namely through the quality o…

The Political Class

I don't usually connect to Iain Dale, but I did find his interview with Peter Oborne extremely interesting.

The emergence of a political class is something that has left me profoundly uneasy.

Thomas Sowell's book, The Vision of the Anointed also, albeit from an explicitly right wing American point of view, evaluates the political effect of the clannishness of "liberal" politics- with the subsequent advent of American neo-conservatism, it seems appropriate to apply his strictures across the political spectrum.

I will write further on this, but watching Peter Oborne was a breath of fresh air.

Constitutional reform is an urgent issue, not a theoretical one.

Serious Money

Senior Officials from the Fed are now saying that the losses in the US sub-prime market are already over $ 200 billion. There is the expectation that the losses will grow to the half a trillion dollar mark. The write-offs at individual Wall St firms are gigantic: Merrill Lynch announced losses of $7.9 billion yesterday. Bank of America saw a 93% fall in Investment Banking earnings, as they were forced to take over $2 billion in charges. What should really scare people is that as far as the US policymakers are concerned, the biggest losses are probably not in the United States. Nothing is clear, but European baanks may be sitting on losses that are even larger.

Meanwhile, the costs to the United States of the Iraq and Afghan wars are becoming a little clearer. The latest estimate is that by the time the hapless George Bush leaves office, in January 2009, the direct costs alone will have exceeded $ 1 trillion. The indirect costs remain opaque.

After the pasting in the credit market, Ameri…

Putin's self defeating ordinance

I see that Vladimir Putin has decided to impose food price controls.

Not only will it not work, it will start to distort the rest of the Russian economy- the emergence of a Soviet style black market is one real possibility, the other is increased smuggling as producers naturally seek a better market price overseas (and try to avoid the excess tariff).

This political meddling in the most basic market will cause more problems than it solves. It also warns us that the gains of globalisation are fragile.

On the other hand, with such economic illiteracy prevailing in the Kremlin, it probably reduces significantly the potential strategic threat of Russia to the West. After all, it was the economic suicide of Soviet Communism that allowed the West to prevail in the cold war, despite the many strategic advantages that the USSR was deemed to possess.

Top 100 Most Influential Liberals

Stephen Tall has started an interesting thread over at Lib Dem voice:

Who are the most influential Liberals in the UK?

Well, I can certainly make a case for many individuals, but I am interested to hear what other people think (Omissions or errors are my own and these are people who are British and are either open supporters of the Liberal Democrats or are thought to support the party (some may be controversial... :-) ).

HM The Queen
Nick Clegg MP/Chris Huhne MP
Vince Cable MP
Graham Watson MEP, Leader of ALDE
Lord Rennard- Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
Sir Menzies Campbell QC MP
Amartya Sen- Winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics
Lord Ashdown of Norton sub Hambdon- former High Rep to Bosnia and Party Leader
Simon Hughes MP
Martin Wolf- Respected Economist and journalist
Richard Dawkins- Militant Atheist
Shami Chakraborty- Head of Liberty (formerly NCCL)
Adair Turner- (former Head CBI)
Charles Kennedy MP
David Laws MP
Lord Steel of Aikwood
Lady Williams of Crosby
Lord Navnit Dholakia
Lembit Op…

Decisions, Decisions

I am quite upbeat about the choice that faces the Liberal Democrats this leadership election. I am also pleasantly impressed with the choices on offer for the European Parliament candidates list and more provincially,the Mayor and Assembly for London.

Talented, successful, interesting people.

As for the leadership:

Chris Huhne is a successful businessman with a brain. As an economics journalist he was an insightful commentator for The Independent. The way that he set up what has become Fitch IBCA- the rating agency- reveals a clear business brain. He is internationally aware- in addition to having been a MEP, his wife is Greek. He is also thoughtful about the issue of Land tax, which I believe is an area that merits substantial investigation by our policy wonks. Chris has been highly impressive in promoting the green agenda inside the Party and outside.

His downsides? Well, relatively small. Arguably his name Chris Who-he? would probably be the joke of the cartoonists and his slightly gr…

"..but how you played the game"

As a Scotland supporter, I know the pain of defeat better than most.

The defeat of English footballers in Russia was not pleasant (Even for me- Russia is one of the few countries where I would happily cheer on England).

The likely defeat of the Red Rose in Rugby inevitably followed- and of course, naturally the players were disappointed to fall at the last rung of the ladder they had climbed.

The reaction of some England supporters was not pleasant- and that of the press even worse. At the end of the day, the virtues of sport are not always in the winning.

Likewise the failure of Lewis Hamilton to win the Grand Prix World drivers championship in his rookie year has been greeted with screeds of maudlin drivel from the press.

So instead of a quiet pride in the achievements of the underdog English Rugby team, and the Rookie driver, there is a palpable sense of anger and frustration in England this morning- this is not what sport should be about at all: it is ugly and wrong.

Must all the Corint…

A Ray of Hope

As the results continue to come in from the Polish elections, two things are already clear:

Firstly that turnout has risen sharply, to 55%- which is the highest since 1989;

Secondly that the country has decisively rejected the ultra-nationalist Samoobrona- Self Defence and the ultra-Conservative LegaPolskichRodzin- the League of Polish Families. Even more crucially, despite the benefit that the ruling PiS- Law and Justice- have gained from the demise of their erstwhile allies, it is the Liberal opposition, PlatformaObwytelska that has stormed to victory.

The Liberals were supported by the young generation of Poles, who found the backward looking pugnaciousness of Prime Minister JaroslawKaczynski extremely difficult to take.

The fact that the outgoing Prime Minister is the twin of the surviving President, Lech Kaczynski, will undoubtedly make life difficult for the incoming Prime Minister, Donald Tusk. However the scale of the victory of Civic Platform is so large that Mr. Tusk can claim a…

Be careful what you wish for

Many Conservatives were saying to me over the past few months that with a different leader they could see the Liberal Democrats returning to contention in British politics. Indeed many of said that they could easily support the Lib Dems, "if only you had a X as leader instead".

Several have mentioned Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne as being potentially a far greater threat to Cameron than Ming Campbell. Of course they did not think that Ming would leave the leadership so soon- any more than I did.

The media has led a pretty unpleasant campaign to denigrate Ming Campbell as "too old" or "too weak". At Brighton, although the party was quite happy with Ming as its leader, the fact is that in every single one of 74 interviews Ming was asked about his age by the press and broadcast media. In the end, in the face of this extraordinarily heavy fire, the poll ratings of the Liberal Democrats began to be hurt. In the end, as a true and loyal Liberal Democrat, Ming decided…

Alternative Futures II : The United States

The United States remains the key economic and political player on the Planet. Nevertheless, we can see a series of changes that, if continued, could have very profound effects. In some senses the United States seems almost caught in a perfect storm: the economic, political and military preponderance that the end of the cold war seemed to have allowed to the US was challenged within a very short period.

The dramatic economic growth of China, coupled with a drive for ever greater military and technological strength has already eroded the American military advantage. However the relationship between the largest country and the largest economy has been linked by the relentless purchase of American securities by Chinese institutions. However, repeated bubbles have failed to increase the economic efficiency of the America, and the consequence has been that cheaper money merely fuelled a consumer credit boom. One of the most dramatic changes in the global economy over the past 30 years is …

Alternative Futures I Introduction

As any student of the ideas of Nassim Nicolas Taleb would know, the idea that we can accurately predict the future is laughable. Randomness is built in to the structure of the Universe, and certainly into the structure of society. This is not to say that we have no data about how some effects may come from specific causes. However, any prediction must be tenuous and solely made in broadest outline- the more detailed a forecast, the more inaccurate it tends to be. In addition, most systems, even on a planetary scale, are open- so that, for example an ill-timed asteroid could render all forecasts at any but the most macro scale completely irrelevant.

Nevertheless, futurology can be at least interesting- if not truly informative- provided that you accept that, in Peter Snow's words; "it's just a bit of fun". The truth is, most assuredly, not "out there".

So, accepting all of the limitations that I describe, and at some risk of being drummed out of the Taleb fan…

Setting out a Liberal Future

I wrote in June about the challenges that faced Ming Campbell in renewing the Liberal Democrats. Those challenges will not be less under a new leader. In fact, although the media circus has painted the leadership in the blackest terms, Ming Campbell has many substantial achievements under his belt. He has renewed much of the organisational side, and most importantly he created a more open and collegiate leadership style. Whichever leader now emerges ought to continue those positive developments.

Sir Ming is a transparently decent and honest figure- and his competitive streak is for the pursuit of Liberalism and the success of the Liberal Democrats. I hope and believe that he will continue to put his immense talents and experience to the service of the party.

Ming Campbell deserves all the credit, for putting the party and its principles first.
Now, however, we must work out how the political battle must be rejoined.

From the beginning of his leadership David Cameron has tried to &quo…

So much to blog...so little time

As a new week begins, I see many things that I ought to be writing a bit about- I have begun to draft a list of the top 100 most influential Liberal Democrats- but now realise why Iain Dale gets paid (some) money to do these lists: though will try to get that particular story out before too long.

Meanwhile there have been a series of potential international crises that paint a very worrying picture for future global economic security. Although Ambrose Evans Pritchard's "We're all doomed" pieces can make him seem like the boy who cried wolf, there is no doubt that financial tensions, reflected in the UK with the run on Northern Rock, can have a critical effect on confidence.

At times I have wondered if we are in fact in 1928- with a systemic economic crisis upon us. The risks are not negligible and with both Chinese and Russian anti-Liberalism roaring compared to America, where the shock of failure in Iraq and the political constipation that the choice of Hilary Clinton…

400 Not Out

In the nearly two years since this blog first became a regular feature I have, slightly to my surprise, put up 400 different entries. They cover a lot of ground, although I notice certain themes coming back quite consistently: the future of politics, the need for both economic and social Liberalism, the threats in the international system.

Sometimes the entries are written on the run and doubtless many could benefit from tighter editing.

I think I am finding a consistent voice for myself: sceptical, thoughtful -I hope- and increasingly committed to an integrated view of political freedom.

I will be travelling to Belgrade over the next couple of days, and then going back to Aberdeen, where I look forward to seeing friends and family. As a result blogging may be a little sparse for a while.

I have just read through David Cameron's speech- and I notice that another theme is becoming considerable scepticism about the Conservative Party and especially its leader. I was slightly nettled by …

Internationalism and the Individual

Bishop Hill is a blogger who I kind of like, even when I disagree with him, because although sometimes his analysis is slightly eccentric, it is usually trenchant.

However one rant recently did catch my eye recently on Internationalism.

Following up on a blogger debate between Tristan Mills and the Nameless One at Devils Kitchen , the Bishop argues that because Liberal Democrats say they are Internationalist, they are in favour of World Government.

"Hard as it is to believe, internationalism embodies a belief that we need more government. That if we can just come up with some political structure to agree the correct course of action, out problems will be over. No matter that some of us might disagree with the chosen course - in a world of superstates it's hard or sometimes impossible to vote with your feet. We will be forced to go along with what our political masters decree.

It's not that internationalism is hard to reconcile with individualism. Internationalism is individua…

A warning from Russian History

Vladimir Putin suggests that he will stay in power as Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

Perhaps it is true. Indeed he has escaped the legacy of the Soviets and is looking back further to another era of Russian History.

However, I am reminded that one description of the Czarist system was:

"Autocracy, mitigated by Assassination".

An interesting form of Russian roulette from the out-going President.

Gold Bugs

Although Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is an avowed Europhobe, and will tag on to almost anything he writes a message of doom for the Euro, I found his article in today's Telegraph very interesting.

I am not an economist that argues that the only real store of value is in precious metal, indeed I don't believe it and have often found those who advocate a return to the gold standard to be rather swivel eyed and fanatical.

The root of the disagreement depends on a view on inflation. "Hard fiat money" advocates believe that inflation is always and everywhere a destroyer of wealth. Yet, a certain low level of inflation is a lubricant for economic growth. zero inflation or deflation is almost always a sign of profound economic problems.

Nevertheless the idea that Evans-Pritchard puts forward- that the Dollar collapse could trigger what he calls "competitive devaluations" is a real threat. Essentially his view is the US Fed is seems to be trying to head off recession by e…